About Me

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Melbourne, VIC, Australia
2nd Grade Teacher at a school in Melbourne, Australia. My job: push kids to think. My passion: helping kids to tackle the life-long skill of searching for meaning, skills, answers and more questions.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

When a kid says, "I don't believe in this stuff."

When you expect kids to question, inquire, think and wonder, you make work for yourself.
 It'd be so much easier if these kids just accepted information on blind faith alone.  
But I didn't become a teacher to just 'give information' and expect total submission of thought.

I expect that my students question all the time.
They question - all the time.
Thanks be to GOD.

One of my favourite movie versions of God.
Picture (if you can) a chaplain who says at the start of a service, "You don't have to believe everything we talk about here today.  Just listen to the story and follow the overall message of Love One Another."  Our college Chaplain is one of the most incredible guys I've ever met, but even HE is making work for me....

Then a kid says in Chapel, "I don't believe in this stuff."


 Gibbo was sitting in chapel again, being totally passive and not singing any of the pretty cool songs we sing.  No matter what our AMAZING chaplain had said, young Gibbo had opted out.  He sat and waited for chapel to be over.

I slid in quietly next to him and whispered, 
"Why don't you get involved in chapel, buddy?"
"I don't believe in this stuff," replied the 9yr old lad.

I wasn't shocked.  Gibbo had already proven to be something of a deep thinker and a bit of a skeptic when it came to religion.  His questions about God (you can find in my first blog) showed him to be very unsure about the whole religion 'box-n-dice'.

What happened next was pretty amazing.
I asked Gibbo to tell me what he didn't believe, specifically.

What Gibbo DOESN'T believe.  

The big three sticking points in a 9yr old kid's mind:


6 days, huh?  Doesn't make sense to Gibbo.
 1.  That God created the universe in exactly 6 days + 1 rest day.
2.  That God created a guy called Adam and a girl called Eve.
3.  That Jesus rose from the dead and then disappeared into thin air.

Wow.  Heavy.  He'd wrestled with these sticking points and decided that he was 'out' because he couldn't reconcile these with his own rapidly growing understanding of the cosmos.

I whispered, "Fair enough, mate."  Then I asked Gibbo what he did  believe, specifically.

 What Gibbo DOES believe.  

The big three sticking points in a 9yr old kid's mind:


1.  That God created the universe, through the 'big bang' and that it took billions of years to get like it is now.
2.  That God created life on Earth, but that humans evolved from the monkeys and apes.
3.  That the stories about Jesus' life are just a little 'iffy' and that he's not sure what's really possible or true.

"Soooooooooooooo, Gibbo mate, what you're saying is that you believe the same things that I do?" I asked.
"HUH!?" replied Gibbo, in typical form.

 "Champ, do you believe in God?"
"Do you believe that God created life?"
"Do you believe that Jesus was a great man?"
"Do you follow the teachings of Jesus, to be a good person and love everyone?"
"Do you want to be a good Christian?"
"Do you think you're a bad Christian because you don't believe these specific stories?"


 A conversation with the whole class about what being a good Christian means:


I explained once more to Gibbo that he believed exactly the same things that I believe and that he was 'skeptical' about exactly the same things that I was 'skeptical' about.  He was stunned.

I returned to class with my 9 and 10 year old kiddies and asked the same questions to the rest of the class.
A large majority of them had felt privately that they were 'bad Christians' for not believing the symbolic stories from Genesis.  Yikes.

When a kid is taught to ask questions, to inquire and to wonder, AMAZING conversations about what it means to be a good person (let alone good Christian) take place.

Ten years ago, I saw year 12 students tell my year 4 boys (at a previous school) that, "Jesus died to save you from your sins!"
None of the students had any idea what that statement meant.
Nobody questioned.
I've taught many kids who felt there was something wrong with them because they couldn't figure that kind of dogma out.  I've spent a decade telling kids they weren't bad eggs.

A few weeks ago, it was the student who initiated the conversation by being an honest inquirer.

Gibbo now sings happily in chapel.  He and I have got a lot of time left this year to build our understandings - together.  Each kid in my class is expected to think for themselves and ask when something doesn't seem right to them. 

 I promise to be honest if they are.

1 comment:

Bruce Ferrington said...

Once again - nail on the head! Kids really can put in a nutshell what adults struggle to explain in a 12 volume encyclopedia.