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?
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.
FOR TEACHERS in the south it can be dicy, to say the least. My heart goes out to this teacher because I can imagine the fallout. "Mom, I asked the teacher if he believed in god and he said no/evaded the question/etc." some parents can make it a living nightmare for a teacher in that case. I have seen my own wife get fired under dubious circumstances from a school. The nudge-wink-good ol boy connections are stronger than blood. Sewing circle church ladies are more powerful than politicians in some towns. Hate to be so doom and gloom about it, but there you have it from a sincere person in North Carolina anyway. Best of luck to everyone in these difficult situations.
As a Brit, I find that completely and utterly staggering. If a teacher here were sacked under those circumstances, it would be a national scandal, and front page news. But actually, it just wouldn't happen.Even the most religious of parents don't expect their kids' teachers to be religious.
I never fail to be surprised how backward 21st century America can be.
Mike, Religion is mostly a matter of geography.Here in 'the states' & throughout the world. When someone 'comes on strong' about the late J.C., I might ask him / her wghat do they think they'd believe had they been born in the Middle East to Muslim parents. Then quietly wait for an answer. The same for India to Hindus, etc. Slowly but surely, it's changing here in the states. Even in 'the bible belt' there are many younger apostates. I was lucky, I read that dumb book over 66 years ago. It's the best cure for Xianity. I will die rather soon - a proud atheist.
Anyone who calls a book "dumb" deserves to die proud. This is an unconscionable position to take.