I am really enjoying the world cultures and world religions unit of Geography & History of the World right now. We start each class by reading a This I Believe narrative from NPR's podcast series turned books. The students read a narrative, and then answer the following questions:
- What does this narrative tell us about what the writer believes?
- Why does the writer give this value significance in his/her life?
- Can you relate to the writer? How so?
- Do you share the same beliefs or values as the writer?
- What do you admire about this writer's value(s)?
- What will you take away from this writer's value(s)?
Our conversations have gone far beyond the content standards to general lessons about kindness, compassion, respect, and treating others with dignity and worth. I don't recall anyone having these conversations with me as a freshman in high school (although that certainly doesn't mean they didn't happen). If conversations about values such as these took place in my life as a high school student, they would've happened in church. I wonder if my perspective on these values might have been different had I learned these values through a lens of being kind to other humans simply because they are human (as opposed to because Jesus taught me to.)
The students' insights about how they relate to the narratives is quite insightful about who they are as people and where they are on their life journey. I have challenged them at the end of each discussion to consider how they might be better or changed because of our conversations about whatever the selected narrative of the day might be. Even asking this question forces pause to consider a bigger purpose in reading these narratives (beyond "so I can learn worldviews"). I invite you to share in this journey with us by checking out the students' takeaways on Twitter. Search #mswhiteGHW and/or #takeaway to see the students thoughts about what they are learning and taking away from the stories of other real humans who value things like empathy, sacrifice, service, honor, etc. despite their varying religious perspectives.
Things to come: We are looking forward to a World Views Panel Discussion at our school on 9/22/15, where panelists from a variety of world religions/views come share who they are and what they believe. Also, as we wrap up this unit of study in a few weeks, be on the lookout for the students' own This I Believe statements in podcast form. I will post details upon publications.