1. I wish that I'd done a better job of teaching. One of my great fears is that my classes will only reinforce the notion that the Bible is a boring book, tedious and impossible to understand. Teaching that engages students, that leads them to become invested in the subject, is not easy. Sometimes I do that fairly well. Other times I don't.
2. I'm confident that my students know and understand much more of the Bible than they did at the beginning of the semester. It recently got back to me that one of them commented, "He makes us work." I was glad to hear that. Without intimidating students, I want to set high standards for them. The Bible and Religion shouldn't be easy As, should they?
Anyway, on to the next challenge. Beginning in January, I'm scheduled to the teach five courses. Here they are, with a few notes about each one:
1. Introduction to World Religions
Few people on the planet can teach this course really well. I'm not one of them. Not even close. So this is the course where I abandon all hope of being the sage on the stage. I'm much more the guide on the side. Here's how it goes: First, we explore some definitions of "religion" and the growing diversity of religion in the United States. Then, one at a time, we take up
- Native American Spirituality
2. Life of Paul
Mucho fun, this is a sophomore-level course that Religion majors are required to take. But it doesn't count as a general humanities credit. What this means is, the class size is small and students tend to be motivated. There are so many ways this course might be taught. I haven't mastered my own approach just yet. Currently, we use the outline of Paul's life provided by the Book of Acts. As we go along, we study the letters at those points in time where Paul likely wrote them. After the Bible, the secondary textbook is F. F. Bruce's, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free.
3. The New Testament
This is a first-year level introduction focused on the content of the NT. For this course I've settled on a three-unit approach:
- Gospels and Acts
- Letters of Paul
- General Epistles and Revelation
4. General Epistles
This is a first-year, one-hour credit class that meets at lunchtime on Wednesdays. We eat, drink, and read. No textbooks. No tests. No term papers. Grades are based on attendance, quality of participation, and one-page written responses to questions about the biblical text. The more questions a student answers, the higher the grade. 15 good responses earns an A.
5. Intermediate Biblical Hebrew
In the Fall of 2007, sixteen students began a first-year Hebrew class. About five of them made it through the first two semesters, one year's worth of language study. At this point, two of those students are still standing for the second semester of second-year Hebrew. Mah Norah! (How awesome!) We're one Christian, one Jew, and one Bible Chair director. And I have to say, studying with Rhonda and Trent is one of the highlights of my week.
Having completed the first-year grammar, Biblical Hebrew, by Kittel, Hoffer, and Wright, we're currently making our way through Readings in Biblical Hebrew: An Intermediate Textbook, by Ehud Ben Zvi, Maxine Hancock, and Richard A. Beinert (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993).