Engaging Well with Teachers
In the not-too-distant past the idea of questioning a teacher would have been unthinkable. They knew best and were to be obeyed without hesitation. Questioning what the teacher said may even have led to a caning!
Thankfully this doesn’t happen anymore, and often raising questions with teachers is a great way to dig deeper into a subject. But it can also be a way to challenge teachers when they voice untrue or unhelpful views about Christianity in the classroom. It might be passing comments that imply the Bible isn’t reliable, or that Christians are intolerant – or it might be bolder claims like ‘Science is the only way to know anything’. Whatever form it takes, these kinds of comments may challenge your faith and they might impact your classmates’ views too.
But how can you challenge false assumptions or unhelpful comments from a teacher? Here are a few quick tips to help you do it well.
Hopefully it’s obvious, but you won’t get anywhere by being rude. In the Bible, the apostle Peter tells believers to speak 'with gentleness and respect' when defending their faith (1 Peter 3:15). Speak to your teacher with the respect they deserve and they will be more likely to listen.
Pick the right time
The middle of a busy lesson is probably not the right time to challenge something a teacher says. They may see it as confrontational or disruptive and may respond defensively or shut you down entirely. Often speaking to the teacher at the end of the lesson or during a break is better.
questions are better than arguing back
It’s easy just to blurt out ‘You’re wrong!’ or to start an argument with your teacher. Questions are better than arguing back. If a teacher says ‘the Bible isn’t reliable’, ask ‘Why do you think that?’ rather than ‘You’re wrong (or stupid or annoying or whatever you're tempted to say to wind them up)’.
Ask good questions
Most teachers are interested in their subject and enjoy students pushing back with thoughtful questions. If you’ve spent time working out your questions, it shows that you are taking it seriously and not just trying to cause trouble. For some examples of questions to ask in response to specific issues, check out the rest of the articles in this series.
Don’t expect to change their mind – it’s very unlikely. And it’s not your job to convince your teachers to become Christians. A more realistic aim is simply to make them think again, and perhaps cause them to be more thoughtful in their comments in future.
There’s much more to think about when engaging with a teacher – and our other articles engage with questions that might come up in specific subjects. But hopefully these tips will help give you the best chance of having a meaningful conversation with your teacher.