Training in Righteousness
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The joy of peer evaluation

This past weekend was the final class day for my seminary class on writing bible study curriculum. I have learned a fair bit, although the emphasis on training others to be bible study curriculum writers, I thought, took away from time that would be better spend on honing the skills of writing the studies themselves. 

On Saturday, we gathered with our four sets of flow questions, and broke into groups to do a dry run through them to see how they would be as a bible study. I think the idea was a good one, but the time constraints were too much. Three to four people in a group, each with four studies, and twenty minutes each? There was no way we were going to get it all done. And the studies were meant to take an hour, so they didn't actually get utilized in the way they were meant to.

When I was in school, I never liked group work much, and I didn't like it much on Saturday, because, ultimately, what happens is that someone's work doesn't get evaluated, and everything is rushed through, which is exactly what happened. I honestly did not come away with any feedback about the one study that was actually looked at for more than a few minutes.

I was in two sessions with a student whose studies were longer. I was told to ask 10-12 question, but apparently, we were allowed up to fifteen questions (something mentioned in the manual that I clearly overlooked), and this woman took advantage of that. This meant that her studies were longer. In the last session of the day, I was in a group of three. My study was the last to be examined, and after this woman's 15-16 questions, there was about eight minutes left for mine. It was rushed through, and in the end, the other student with the long studies pointed out that my application question at the end wasn't really an application question, because it didn't tell the student to do anything. I'm not even going to get into what I think about application questions, but at the end of the day, I didn't feel like the peer editing was all that fun. 

I think peer editing can be really great, but in such a large group, with such time constraints, I felt like it was not done as well as it could have been. And of course, everyone wants her study to be looked at and evaluated, and there were women who didn't seem to realize that time constraints meant we had to keep moving and not stop for dialogue. I did indeed learn from what others did, but I'm not really sure I got the most benefit from the exercise.

Probably the most frustrating part of the day was the end when we were going over the last assignment, which is a five-day homework plan for a topic. The writer of the sylllabus was not present, so it was left to the co-teacher to field our questions. It's hard to answer questions about a syllabus you haven't written. I left feeling rather confused, and faced an hour long drive home, which began badly, when I got on the highway and there was an accident, slowing down the traffic. It was my 28th wedding anniversary on Saturday, and I wanted to get home to spend tiime with my husband.

It was a day of feeling small, and I supposed we all need those days. It was meant to be a day of fellowship, and it was. We each brought something to contribute for the lunch, and that was nice. Time will tell what I have learned. It was a tiring day, and I was glad to get home.


The House of Prayer

From the Olney Hymns
Hymn 96, William Cowper


Thy mansion is the christian’s heart,
O LORD, thy dwelling–place secure!
Bid the unruly throng depart,
And leave the consecrated door.

Devoted as it is to thee,
A thievish swarm frequents the place;
They steal away my joys from me,
And rob my Savior of his praise.

There too a sharp designing trade Sin,
Satan, and the world, maintain;
Nor cease to press me, and persuade,
To part with ease and purchase pain.

I know them, and I hate their din,
Am weary of the bustling crowd;
But while their voice is heard within,
I cannot serve thee as I would.

O! for the joy thy presence gives,
What peace shall reign when thou art here!
Thy presence makes this den of thieves,
A calm delightful house of prayer.

And if thou make thy temple thine,
Yet, self–abased, will I adore;
The gold and silver are not mine,
I give thee what was thine before. 


Will I ever appeal to the ladies?

I've been spending a lot of time working on my assignments for seminary, which are due on Saturday. I'm nearly finished. Here is what I have completed:

Scripture worksheet (showing my study of the passage), one set of flow questions with answers, and one set of flow questions without answers for the following passages:

Philippians 1:1-18
Colossians 3:1-17
Esther 4:1-17
Luke 1:23-45

I received some feedback from my prof last week. She said my biblical obsesrvation and interpretation are solid, but she would like to see more "heart questions." Within our flow questions, we're to ask a variety: observation, interpretation, correlation, and application. Some of those have to appeal to the heart. I actually thought I was doing that, especially given that we're limited to 10-12 questions. Apparently, I need more.

I confess to be puzzled by "heart questions." I know that the Scripture must pierce the heart, and there is room for asking the student to ponder the text an ask how it addresses her life at the moment. I just seem to fail at finding a way to ask those questions well. I did my best with the heart questions, but at the same time, I didn't like some of them.

One of the things we have to do is ask a "warm up question," which is supposed to get the class thinking. The warm up questions have to be heart questions geared to the application. They're supposed to generate the ability for someone to respond with a "story," about herself. I found those questions difficult, because in all honesty, I don't know how I feel about the over abundance of sharing "stories" in a bible study before first really looking at the text. Maybe I'm far more narrow than I originally thought.

My warm up question for Colossians 3:1-17 begins with, "Imagine you're getting a make-over." I think it's lame, and I feel slightly ashamed for asking that. But a girl's gotta do what she's gotta do in order to get the assignment done.

I shared with my young moms yesterday that I had written that question, and the ones who come to my Sunday school class all laughed, and agreed that it was a question I would never ask in our class. One of the ladies said, "And we come to your class because you don't ask us questions like that."

And yet, some women love those kinds of questions. Me, I'd rather open up with a little review, or ponder on something interesting in the text. I took this class because I wanted to learn more about writing my own bible studies, and I have learned some of that. But what I've also learned (and I already knew, so thanks for the review!) is that I am not sure any bible studies I may write will appeal to a very large audience. I'm sure I come across as very heart-less because I won't ask a student to put herself in the shoes of a character and share her feelings. I'm reluctant to make very specific application questions, because I can't read into the hearts of my students, and I don't want to make my personal application their application. I just want to get them thinking.

This has been a lesson in learning to humble and gracious while still producing work I can live with. It will be interesting to see how my assigments are received.

The last assignment I must complete is to prepare five days of homework for a bible study on a TOPIC, which is my unfavourite way to teach. God is testing me, clearly.


Deep-wrought furrows

From the Olney Hymns
Hymn 85, William Cowper
The Sower

Ye sons of earth prepare the plow,
Break up your fallow ground!
The Sower is gone forth to sow,
And scatter blessings round.

The seed that finds a stony soil,
Shoots forth a hasty blade;
But ill repays the sower’s toil,
Soon withered, scorched, and dead.

The thorny ground is sure to baulk
All hopes of harvest there;
We find a tall and sickly stalk,
But not the fruitful ear.

The beaten path and highway side
Receive the trust in vain
The watchful birds the spoil divide,
And pick up all the grain.

But where the Lord of grace and pow’r
Has blessed the happy field;
How plenteous is the golden store
The deep–wrought furrows yield!

Father of mercies we have need
Of thy preparing grace;
Let the same hand that gives the seed,
Provide a fruitful place. 


Writing needs speaking

I've been working on a big assignment which is due on April 18. I have to do worksheets for four passages, with questions and answers. This is not as easy as one might think. I am limited to 10-12 questions, and for a passage like Colossians 3:1-17, that is limiting. If I was preparing to teach that passage, I'd have a lot more. I'm more an incremental teacher, building on small pieces. The approach this course is taking is that a good observation question should have many answers. A yes or no question is not good. I asked a yes or no question on my James assignment, and I was reminded not to. I don't know as if I agree with the general principle that a question with a yes or no answer is always a poor question.

Yesterday, as I was working on a passage from Philippians, I was struggling with my questions. The questions are supposed to be written in such a way that they direct the conversation. This means that I must be envisioning how the discussion will go. One thing I have learned from teaching is that often, the act of speaking can bring into the dialogue things that we don't think of sitting in the quiet of our studies, preparing lessons. Over and over again, while teaching, I have had occasions when, as I speak, something else comes to my thinking. The input of the class members, the discussion, and the act of responding often brings up something I never thought of. When I prepare for teaching, I will often talk through my lessons out loud to myself, and there are many times when more ideas will come to mind as I speak. I'm sure some expert out there could probably explain what kind of cognitive processes are going on in the act of speaking. Whatever it is, speaking often helps writing.

So, here I was yesterday afternoon, struggling with feeling that everything sounded so contrived and scripted, but I finally finished. I did manage to finish one assignment and am half done with the next passage. I stil have to work on a passage from Esther and Luke. I am wondering if I shouldn't be talking to myself as I think of these questions.