Preparing for class
Preparing for class

Two weeks of teaching

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I must start this post with a confession. Despite the 20 years I have spent in school, I truly never realized just how much work it is to be a teacher. But to all my former teachers and all my friends who teach: it’s finally sinking in. Thank you for all the amazing work that you do.

It has now been two weeks since I taught my first class at the seminary here. I am teaching three subjects this term: New Testament I (the gospels and Acts), Church History I (500BC to 1500AD) and Introduction to Christian Doctrine (everything).

I live with a constant worry that I will just run out of things to say halfway through a class. But it seems that generally the opposite is true – when the class period ends I still have lots more I wanted to say. Those who spend a lot of time listening to me talk may perhaps be less surprised by this revelation than I have been. A lot of my learning has been figuring out how much information it is reasonable to try to cover in one lesson. And then trying to guess how much time my enthusiastic students will want to spend asking questions!

Theology is the class I was most nervous about. Trying to speak in a comprehensible way about God is, to say the least, challenging. And trying to discuss the finer points of Trinitarian theology is generally baffling in anyone’s first language – but my students are studying it in their third.

Yet for all that, theology is probably my favorite class right now. I organize my lesson plans around a bunch of questions, and then my students and I explore those questions together. I was a little nervous that my students might think this subject was rather abstract and less practical than some of their other subjects.

But that has been the opposite of my experience. I had thought I would need to convince my students that these questions are important – because they help us to know God more and love Him more, because they help us to live our lives closer to the way God wants us to live, and because our parishioners are asking these questions in their own hearts. But I don’t have to convince them.  My students are full of questions, and burning with curiosity about God, and excited to dive into Scripture to help them discover answers. (Or at least the hints of answers!) We question and explore and laugh and puzzle our way through together. Preparing for all my classes has been demanding, but amazing fruitful. Theology class is probably the hardest subject for me to prepare for, but once I walk into the classroom, I find that it is a place of particular joy and holiness.

Author: Elizabeth Locher

Elizabeth Locher is a deacon and teacher at Msalato Theological College in Dodoma, Tanzania. She and Ben got married in 2010, after her first year at Virginia Theological Seminary. Now she is thrilled to have the opportunity to be walking with Tanzanian students through the rich spiritual formation of seminary!

6 Comments

  1. :) Give us an example of a day’s Theology questions!

  2. Yes, yes! We’d love to hear what questions you are asking. It sounds wonderful and amazing. You are an awesome teacher and I’m sure class is going great.

  3. Tomorrow we will be studying the Mystery of the Incarnation. So here is a sampling of the questions we will ask:

    How could God be a human?
    How could a human be God?
    What problems arise when we emphasize one nature over the other?
    What does “nature” mean? What does “person” mean?
    What is Jesus’ inner life like – what is it like to be human and God?

  4. Wow! I really want to be in that class. Glad to see you are enjoying the challenge of teaching, Elizabeth.

  5. Dear Elizabeth: It is wonderful to read of your teaching. Your enthusiasm even at this distance is contagious. I am sure that those with whom you are studying will enjoy it. 5 of your Greeks from last year are reading, translating and exegeting the gospel and NT lections each week. We had a run on James which was like digging through mud…to be followed by….HEBREWS! We are definitely off the bunny slopes. Mark’s gospel provides welcome relief. Each time Mass is celebrated at K Street we pray for you and Ben and your share in the church’s mission. Every blessing. Tony Lewis, NT-VTS

  6. I was shocked to see that i was reading this at 5:32am in Abingdon, Va (*USA)
    and you had written it just minutes before. I so wish your Uncle Jake could be here to discuss this. Love to you and Ben, Aunt Wanda

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