Monday, October 03, 2005

Shattered Love for Literature and Teaching the Bible

Reunions appear to call for repeated rehashing of the conversations of previous reunions. My old schoolmates reminded me once again of everyone's expectations and aspirations for me all those years ago.

epitome of unfulfilled potential
Still bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I was enamoured with all forms of literature, mining the well-thumbed books of literary giants for the elusive Meaning of Life.

My fascination with literature paid off, unintentionally, in good grades. Teachers would hold me up as the best literature student amongst the GEP cohort in my year. My literature essay grades were usually the equivalent of 49.5 out of a total of 50 marks (49.5 because, as the teachers would explain to the class as they handed back our papers, there was no such thing as perfection in the world). Everyone photocopied those essays. A few prizes were won. Though far too young, I was a shoo-in for the Creative Arts Programme. "Great potential" read my report cards (beside the euphemistic "can do better" or the more truthful "sleeps in class" and "disrupts the class" for the rest of the subjects).

So it was not surprising that everyone expected that I would become a writer or a professor of literature (or most probably both, the former for love and the latter for bread).

This obsession lasted for some time until I encountered a literature teacher who did not take kindly to being bombarded with questions she could not answer.

After several sessions, she suddenly stood up from behind her wooden desk and shouted in frustration,"Look, you might be only 13 [shadow: she got the age wrong], but you've got the intellect of a 30 year old. Unfortunately, you also have the social skills of a 13 year old...or less...!!!"

I ignored the uncalled-for personal insult and tried to calm her down and appeal to reason,"Look, Mrs R, there's no need to yell. If you don't have an answer, that's fine. Just tell us. I'm asking because they seem to be very logical questions that flow from the text. See, all I'm asking is [i repeat the questions]"

Her face bloated red and she shouted even louder,"THESE ARE UNIVERSITY COURSE QUESTIONS! YOU WILL LEARN THEM IN UNIVERSITY!!!"

Then she slammed her books together and walked out of the classroom.

So died any love for literature abruptly and suddenly. I figured that literature did not hold much value for life if its teachers remained ignorant even after university and went on to astrophysics quantum physics other things.

Now that I teach the Bible, I am forever wary of doing unto others as Mrs R did unto me, because what is at stake is far more important and life-and-death and eternal than literature. What if some offhand remark on my sinful part turns off some similarly keen, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed newbie from the gospel?

Although it is unlikely that I would ever lose my temper like that, or feel any intense need to be defensive of my ignorance, with groups of non-Christians/new Christians, I constantly worry how my tone of voice and my challenging of the closely-held beliefs of others by the socratic method etc would affect their reaction to God and the gospel.

At the same time, I have to constantly remind myself that as important as teaching methodology appears to be, what is far more important is to remember firstly to teach the truth, and secondly to depend on God, who alone makes things grow (1 Corinthians 3).


At October 05, 2005 12:08 am , Blogger paddychicken said...

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At October 05, 2005 11:45 pm , Anonymous wb said...

I always knew you were good stuff! (:


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