Michael sent me this article of great news this week. Very long time (really original) readers of this blog will remember my advocating before the Texas School Board, when I lived in Dallas, on behalf of accurate health textbooks. In 2004 only one textbook even mentioned condoms in the chapter on sex education. It was a travesty. This lower body of government had great power, and fundamentalists had realized it. At the time they were trying to pack the board (they only had three sure votes at that point, but were able to persuade others), which they were eventually able to do. Now, the power over textbooks has been removed from them. This has national implications, as any textbook marketed nationally had to be able to be sold in Texas. If it couldn't be sold there, it wouldn't make any money.
Despite this book being written for educators, it was first recommended to me almost a decade ago by a Christian educator in the congregation I was serving. A few years ago a ministry colleague loaned me her copy (and I'll finally be getting it returned to her).
There is good material that I can apply to the church and ministry and specifically to the teaching function of the pastor. Reading the book opened my eyes to some things I was doing incorrectly while also giving me insight into how to do some things better. Palmer is a Quaker and there are significant touchstones with theology and spiritual practice in this book which is not directly religious.
Of course there was much I skimmed over as not being completely relevant to why I was reading it.
For Palmer teaching is a pursuit of truth that the teacher and student engage in together. It is not about conveying a lot of information, but opening up horizons for students to discover things on their own. The teacher must develop the inner strength and trust to allow for exploration.
I would highly recommend it to all the teachers I know and think it is worth skimming for all the clergy I know.
Last Sunday was the first of a series of three Sunday morning adult education classes here at First Central on the atonement. Last year some folk from the class asked me to teach a class on the atonement. I spent six months preparing, reading lots of books, and developing a study guide. Then I set it aside for a few months between my preparations and when the class was scheduled. I've been looking forward to it, but on Sunday I did a poor job of presenting.
Now, there is an explanation. I came to the office early that morning to prepare for the day. I came so early I set off the alarm (I've never figured out how to disarm it here). Then, I got to work looking back over my sermon, as I usually do first every Sunday morning. It was not a long sermon, and I thought I'd be done quickly. I ended up revising it over three more drafts, which took the entirety of my prep time. I was running late for the class when I grabbed my things and headed that way, with no chance to review the lesson I had prepared earlier in the week.
My mind was distracted and quickly I realized that even my presentation was not laid out in the most engaging or interesting way. And I was fielding a wide variety of questions, which is normally the case here, but I wasn't as centered in answering them as I normally am.
One person asked a logical question of concern about the ancient notion of divinization and whether it was "new age." I responded more defensively than I should have. On afterthought I should have used that moment to play with the idea and open up dialogue about what this idea might mean. Instead, that would have been a tangent from my plans, so I answered hurriedly and inadequately and moved on.
I've already prepared my lesson for the class this week and think that I've done a better job of structuring it around the concerns and questions that might be raised. But the inadequate job I did last week led me back to some basics and thinking intentionally about some things that I often just assume, so I learned a lesson.