On Teaching Christianly – Hospitality in the Online Classroom

Image by Andrew Tan from Pixabay

One of my favorite parts of professoring is all of the reading I get to do. Primarily, my foci are on the field in which I teach and on becoming a better teacher. Right now, I’m reading a book specific to becoming a teacher who teachers more Christianly. David I. Smith’s On Christian Teaching, which isn’t about teaching Christian subjects, or teaching subjects from a Christian perspective, but rather infusing Christ within the process of teaching itself.

The end of each chapter includes some discussion questions and reflection prompts. When prompts may be useful to others I will publish them here for discussion and your own reflection. Without further adieu:

Consider some basic aspects of teaching: goals, course content, relationships, instructional strategies, assessment. In which of these are you most likely to over- or underestimate the role of faith?

My move into full-time professoring happened in 2018. At first, I think the area I took for granted the most was the importance of relationships – particularly building a class culture of openness, intellectual humility, and proactive curiosity (both in the subject matter and in the students). In my mind, I knew how much I wanted to do a good job and for students to succeed, but that’s wasn’t clearly articulated, and I ended up coming off as too intense or unapproachable. (There’s probably a larger life lesson for me, here!)

A few year into my job, I think the areas I underestimate the role of faith are primarily structural ones. For example, are assignments hospitable? In other words, are the directions clear, is the grading rubric fair, and is feedback/grading helpful or punitive? From the student’s POV, are they feeling dread or excitement when logging in to the classroom?

Are they getting mixed messages from what I say I want for them, versus how the course actually treats them and their work?

If I speak in the tongues of humans and angels, but do not have love, I have become resounding brass and a clanging symbol.

I Corinthians 13:1 (Hart translation)

Smith’s prompt is a great reminder of the importance of integrity – meaning that our values and actions should align as one.

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