Classrooms are places where people interact in a variety of ways; students work alone or together, they speak with or ignore one another, they consult others or arrive at their own conclusions, and they engage in dialog, discussion or debate. The call to love our neighbor is at the core of Christian faith, and can be expressed in the way teachers and learners interact with one another and with the ideas they are learning. The pattern of classroom interactions over time is a major contributor to the lived values of the students. Our values are shown and shaped in the way we interact with others.
As we organize learning in our classrooms, it is important to consider if students are regularly encouraged and given concrete opportunities to:
- value others by giving careful attention to their lives, ideas, and what they contribute to our understanding.
- build trust with others by engaging in honest discussion with a supportive tone.
- engage in activities that require collaboration with and dependence on others, and reflect on how well they are collaborating.
- commit to serving others and consider the damaging effects of focusing only on benefit to self.
- encourage others and express thankfulness for their contributions.
- practice forms of dialog that approach differences with patience and care.
All of these interactions are most likely to happen when they are planned for intentionally. This need not mean heavy-handed moralizing, which can quickly make the call to care for others feel forced and awkward. The goal is to structure learning activities in such a way that constructive forms of interaction are naturally required to complete them. We need to provide authentic opportunities for students to reflect on how they are treating and working with others around them.
Many FASTly activities focus on building and reflecting on caring patterns of interaction. These include, for example:
- engaging students in activities that require cooperation and negotiation for their completion, and discussing the collaborative process in a debrief. Activity: Paul’s Missionary Journeys
- explicitly teaching strategies for discussing contentious issues with others in respectful and attentive ways. Activity: How to Disagree
- involving students directly in supporting the learning of others through research on the group’s behalf, providing help and encouragement. Activity: “That’s a good question…”
- introducing students to ways of reviewing for tests that identify what can be learned from others and how each student can contribute to the success of others. Activity: Rotating Review #1
As you browse the FASTly activities, look out for other ways in which caring interactions with others are woven into the teaching strategies.