I'm a 6th grade Social Studies teacher. The topic of religion as a part of culture comes up all the time. Today during a discussion of Greek myths, a student (a 12 year-old girl with a sweet smile) asked me if I believed in god. I paused and said, "Well, sure."
I felt that I was having a discussion with a child about Santa or the Easter Bunny. I didn't want to be the one to tell the child that all the adults in her life have been lying to her.
This has been bothering me all day. When this comes up again - I'm sure it will - should I lie as I did today, or should I tell the truth?
My niece is learning about mythology right now. She has been raised as a non-believer, she loves these stories. She said she would rather believe in these myths of all these interesting gods and goddesses than the jesus myth. I wonder if this child felt the same. I know I love the myths, I have books, pictures on the walls of artwork of the gods and goddesses. It is more interesting than a man being tortured on a cross and all the faithless burning in hell. We, jokingly, talked about how Christianity should have made a better myth.
From now one, I wouldn't answer a question on your personal beliefs just because some parents go crazy when a child goes home with what their teacher said today.
lol. I agree, those other myths always appealed to me a lot more when I was a kid. Especially anything with animal gods.
I wonder why Christianity was the one that survived when all the cool ones died out. (Well, I guess Hinduism is still big.)
Maybe more boring=more realistic/believable. That's too bad. (I guess?)
Ask her which one.
Be honest with them. Tell them its up to the individual what they want to believe. If you lie to them, then you are putting yourself on the same level as religious people who will try to enforce their lies on the children.
That is simply not true. It is no one elses place to decide if anyone else should risk their job by revealing they are an atheist.
Because you're in a position of authority for these children I can see why revealing your (non)belief could be problematic. It's possible that conflict could arise if a child or children were to take that home to their parents, but only if the parents have a propensity to become inflamed about religious matters.
I think the best way to handle such a delicate situation is to, as others have suggested, is to explain that it is inappropriate, as a government employee, for you to reveal any of your personal beliefs (including religious and political leanings) to a student, for fear of unduly influencing them. You are in a position of influence, and even simply stating your beliefs to a student can cause them to question their parents' beliefs. Depending upon the religiosity of the parents, such a course of events has potential to come back and bite you on the butt.
That's my (arguably more than) two cents, anyway.
A school teacher is hardly a position of authority in all matters. Ouside of the subject he/she teaches, his/her views may influence, but are hardly considered authoritative even by the students that age.
In any case, the conclusion, belief or lack of it in a God, is much less important than the process of arriving at it. If the students are looking to pick one authority figure over another in order to choose what to believe, that is really unfortunate. If they instead learn a critical reasoning path to choose their beliefs that is a job well done.
Im in a similar state. Im British but Im working in Thailand in a Christian school, ironically. I teach to 10 year olds and when I ask them if they enjoy bible classes (taught by a maniac Indian girl) they all say they hate it apart from the singing. My kids are very intelligent and I can see that some of em have already made their minds up about the falseness of god. If Im right and they can see through all the bullshit and they come to me and ask the question you have been asked, Im not gonna lie. Im just gonna tell them I believe in only what is proven, and me being here today is enough to tell me that believing in myself is all I really need to get me through this life. And if I get sacked, so what. At least Ive been true to myself, and honest to my children.
Why are you working in a Christian school? Is it by choice or because of the lack of it?
The latter. Christian schools are regarded as the best schools in Thailand, even though Buddhism (which is a much cooler religion considering) is considered the main medium of faith in the country. I didn't even know it was a private school til I got here. I had a skype interview and they hired me straight away. I moved locations, over 400 miles within 2 days. The joy of travelling overseas. Most of the teachers are ok with their beliefs, but then we'll have a staff meeting and join our hands for prayer and I cant help thinking how retarded we must all look. I dont grasp my hands or close my eyes, I just look around the room pitying them. I can live with that, but if they ever ask me to say grace, something will be said that they wont want to hear!
I think your analogy to Santa and the Easter Bunny speaks volumes to the predicament that you find yourself in, and the attitude with which you are approaching it. Further, it's presumptuous to believe that you would be breaking her grip on reality by revealing that "all" adults had been lying to her. These are sixth grade students, not first grade students. They are old enough to understand the connotations of saying "It isn't really important what I believe." You are not in a position where your only options are to lie or speak truthfully, you are in a position of responsibility that requires you to speak moderately and in a deflecting tone. Try not to let it bother you too much, and just take the opportunity when asked the question again to instill in your students the idea that an instructor's personal beliefs do not have any bearing on the material at hand.