13 November 2005

Things I Meant to Write About Part 3

So one of my adventures here has been in teaching Bible to the sixth graders, which is a beautiful thing because they've reached an age in which questions are starting to occupy a greater portion of their minds. Plus their English ability also presents a harvest of teachable moments. I think. Anyhow, this allows me to posit some questions that younger, unquestioning learners would never trouble over.

On top of that, their bible lessons thus far have often and unfortunately taken the shape of an old testament story or something about Jesus' miracles, or simply an endeavor to instill a biblical moral teaching without first laying the essential ground work that the gospel is essential to our hearts. I don't know when it became okay to teach kids--or anybody--straight morals, leaving out the detail that they are incalculably loved by an all-powerful God, hence the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus--and call it bible study.

But that's not what this post is about.

This post is about bible lessons in my class. The casual theme of our bible lessons is "Who is Jesus?" I think I made this up at the end of our first bible lesson together, a few seconds before telling them as much. We talk about, you guessed it, who he is, and what he does. They have little books of blank paper where they draw pictures of who Jesus is. So far we've learned--and drawn--that Jesus is a friend, Jesus forgives, and Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Judging from the industry invested in these books, this is one of their favorite activities. In fact Bible is one of their favorite times of the week in general. Which is why it surprised me when I found blatant evidence of cheating on two students' bible work a few weeks ago.

It's not hard to spot counterfeit work in the ESL classroom. It's either the exact same inane mistake on two or more students' work or a struggling grammarian has suddenly blossomed into a flawless liguistic acrobat. Today we deal with the former.

This all arose of a Bible lesson that provided some interesting feedback from the students. After we learned that Jesus came that we might have life, and have it to the full, I asked, "What did Jesus mean by a full life: goods, family, happiness, etc.?...or is there more to a ful life?" Surprisingly, many of the students ended up writing that there was more to life. One even included the idea of suffering as a part of a full life. And then, at the bottom of the stack, two papers:

I think love, forgive, and the time.
I don't know what this means. I could stretch my assumptions of these kids' existential understandings, and I will say, yes, perhaps the original author had ahold of an idea of merit. Regardless: zero points for delivery. I can just imagine these two scrambling at the opening of class (you have to imagine the Chinese yourself):
Taiwanese kid #1: You got Bible done?
Taiwanese kid #2: Yeah
#1: Lemme see the answer to number four
#2: Uh, just write "I think love, forgive, and the time."
#1: You sure?
#2: Man, it's solid. Plus it's Bible. Who cares?
The weird thing is, I know which of the two wrote it and which plagiarized. The impostor was the better student. Needless to say, neither of them knew how to explain "love, forgive and the time". Zero points for Bible.