That's me. My position in the little army that is teacher's college. I believe I must now add to my present title. Sure, yesterday I was calling myself a radical religion teacher. Today, I think I need to add rogue to that. I've never been what anyone could call badass. Apparently, when it comes to education, I'm on the dark side of the force. I'm a rogue agent. Yup, WTF is about the first thing I thought too.
Tonight, I was presenting a religion lesson to my religion class. It was group thing. We'd taken one of my lessons from placement and tweaked it up a bit to fit the parameters of this particular assignment. The content was the same for the most part.
We got up. One member did the opening prayer for acceptance. One member explained our rationale. I explained the curriculum expectations, the Catholic Graduate expectations. Two members explained the background information really well, better than I ever could. And then I was up again. The lesson got a little controversial here.
The activity that I originally taught, that we decided to present to our class, was an activity in which students were to consider controversial issues (homosexuality, divorce, equal rights and cloning) alongside some quotes taken from the Bible. Some of the quotes were contrary to homosexuality, divorce, equal rights and cloning. Some of the quotes were positive regarding these issues. The point of the exercise is for students to consider the Bible and how it can be interpreted. The activity then leads into a class discussion about what the Bible says and what the students' interpretations and feelings are.
It should be said that this lesson was designed to be taught in a Catholic School and is being taught during the Christianity unit of the grade 11 World Religions class. I wouldn't try teaching this lesson to a younger group.
When the discussion wrapped up, I put on the "You Can't Pray Away the Gay" clip from Grey's Anatomy. We chose the clip because like the activity, there were Bible quotes being thrown around that were both for and against homosexuality. On top of which, it's a very powerful clip that underlines how two interpretations can still be correct.
The lesson wrapped up shortly afterward and my prof, who happens to be well placed in the local Catholic board, decided that she had cautions to add to ours. If we were to do this lesson in a school, we should:
- Tell the administration
- Have qualified people in the room while the lesson is being taught so they can answer student questions (like a priest or other religious official)
- Send a letter home to parents advising them of the content of the lesson
- Know our class and our students very well
She also suggested having a debate on homosexuality rather than showing the Grey's Anatomy clip. Yeah, never in a million years would I open that can of worms. A debate means that someone has to be against. I would never, even if I trusted the kids, allow those things to be said in my classroom. It's different when you're watching a clip and you know that the people are acting and reading scripts. To hear your peers quoting Bible verses at you, telling you that the way you choose the express love for another human being is a sin, well, no. Abso-fucking-lutely not (pardon my language). Gay kids have enough to worry about. All kids care about is what people think of them. Finish that lesson and ask the closeted gay kid to distinguish between what's being said and what's felt sincerely by their friends and classmates. Seriously. Just like I wouldn't do a debate on abortion for the same reasons. I would not want to be the girl who's had an abortion, which is traumatic enough, having to sit there, listening to my peers go over the biblical pros and cons of my actions. Talk about a gross lack of sensitivity! If my child came home and told me this had happened in his/her classroom, I would be livid. LIVID. And you can probably see that livid-Lauren isn't that pleasant to be around.
The discussion is different. Those who want to speak can. Those who don't, don't have to. It's a safe place for honest talking and respect for others and for others' opinions are enforced. It's controlled. It's incredibly difficult to control a debate. Try reigning in a teenager who has a point and wants to come up with a witty statement to stump or insult the opposing side. Particularly when the issues are this sensitive, this prominent and this complicated.
Moreover, could simply talking about these subjects be any more complicated? Can we inform any more people that this lesson is happening? I'm not telling students what's right, what's wrong. I'm asking them to think. I'm asking them to look at their values, their morals, their ethics and to consider their faith and how those values, morals and ethics fit within their faith. I'm asking them to interpret.
I'm glad I asked my group not to say that the idea was originally mine and that I have taught this lesson, successfully might I add. Even funnier, she thanked us for being brave enough to teach it...
Again, I don't think I'll ever be fit to teach in a Catholic board. I think she'd die laughing if she saw my application. Come to think of it, I don't know that I'll be fit to teach at a secondary or elementary level at all. I'm just too badass.