Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Reflections on the Arid Classroom

In response to my last post "Anonymous" wrote: "I find if the teaching is more than good then classroom lessons are great, but usually theology teachers are dry." Signed, Ian

Alas, what does one say to that! Truth is that I have been thinking about this comment since it was posted on my blog. My first thought was that "Ian" might be one of my students and what he is really saying is that he finds my teaching dry. Fair enough - because as hard as I try I know that I cannot appeal to everyone or teach in such a way as to inspire all of my students to see what I see and to love the subject matter. I am well aware of my deficiencies as a teacher and I am continuing trying to improve the quality of my lectures and public speaking. 

On the other hand, maybe "Ian" is not one of my students and his comment reflects his own experience with dry theology teachers in general. If that is the case then I feel badly because for me there is nothing more interesting and profound than the study of God. In fact, as interesting as other fields of endeavor are they pale in comparison because they just do not possess the superlative grandeur required to captivate the mind and soul in ever-increasing measure.

If however, "Ian" is suggesting that most classroom lessons in theology are dry and that the antidote would be online study, I beg to differ. Online study - which is a form of self-study - is fine and while self-study must become part of a life-long habit of learning but there are few who can push themselves long and hard enough to really learn what they need to know. Most of us need a base from which to operate, and we need to be exposed to concepts and ideas that we might shy away from if left to ourselves. The only way to get around this in most instances is with some kind of "enforced learning" accompanied by research papers and examinations that force the student to grapple with difficult and sometimes abstract ideas.

Sometimes the problem is not the subject matter as much as it is the student. What is dry and boring to one may be the very opposite to someone else. Our predisposition to learn is determined by many factors and experiences in our lives. So whether we are talking theology or physics or anything else, we often get out of our studies what we put into them. Nothing is dry to the inquiring mind. What we need is a curiosity that moves us to ask questions and then to seek answers. After all, isn't that what learning is all about?

6 comments:

Ian Hugh Clary said...

For the record, that was not me! Though I may share the sentiments that some professors are dry, your classes never were!

Kirk Wellum said...

Thanks for that Ian! We should work to make "dry theology" an oxymoron!

Anonymous said...

Now that it's mentioned, I guess for me I have found your classes somewhat dry to be honest.

Kirk Wellum said...

I am sorry to hear that "Anonymous Ian." I guess I have some more work to do to make them interesting. Thank you for the feedback.

Renuka said...

True! You need to be curious to be able to learn. No lesson is dry or boring as long as we are eager to learn.

Brett Henderson said...

im not giving my name haha but ive been a student and felt it very dry for sure.