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?
If you fear any sort of negative backlash I'd just tell the kids that you'd rather not discuss your personal beliefs.
I work with 4- and 5-year-olds and occasionally get asked if I believe in god. My typical response is the truth along with reminding them that it's ok for different people believe in different things. Or sometimes I don't answer the question and instead put the question back on them by asking what they believe in and why. So far my responses have never gotten negative backlash but I do fortunately live in a very liberal community.
Also... a couple weeks ago I heard this conversation between two kids in my class.
Kid 1: "My dog's in heaven because it died."
Kid 2: "What's heaven?"
Kid 1: "The place dogs go to get dead."
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 wonder if that kid thought "Great, she's infected, too!"
How about "Are you freakin' kidding me!???"
Ha! This made my day. Thanks
and lose your job
I don't think lieing to them is the right way to go about it, either keep it kind like some have said (I don't but it's okay to disagree) or dodge the question in some way as others have said. I'm a firm believer in never faking belief :P
I personally would have told her “No” and moved on. If you say it with confidence, the students will be able to pick up on it. If any follow-up questions came as a result of saying No, use your power as the teacher to shut them down and move on with the lesson. Something as simple as “this is not an appropriate discussion for the class” or “We are discussing Greek mythology, let’s please stay on topic.” I wouldn’t take it as an opportunity to talk about religion or separation of church and state. If you feel the need to address that, work it into another lesson, but those sorts of tangents can derail a lesson rather quickly… Unless through some wizardry of masterful teaching you can make it completely relevant to Greek mythology. It was just a harmless question asked by a naive child and I would treat it as such.
So, I would not lie, but I wouldn’t open it up for discussion either. State your opinion as if it’s no big deal and the children will treat it as such. Children should see that someone they like, respect and look up to (You, their teacher) can be devoid of religious belief and still be a superior role model.
I wouldn’t take it as an opportunity to talk about religion or separation of church and state. If you feel the need to address that, work it into another lesson, but those sorts of tangents can derail a lesson rather quickly…
I realize that teachers are required to work in certain lessons, but when you have an opportunity to relate your subject to a real-world issue like religion in schools, which the students are clearly interested in, I think it should be addressed head-on. Greek mythology, while somewhat interesting, has much less practical relevance today.
I really think it depends on the school system you are teaching in? If it's a public school there are very strict guidelines as to what you can and cannot teach. However, if it's a private school, and depending on how much flexibility you have in writing the curriculum, you could very easily incorporate the god myth into a theme that includes other myths about gods and creation etc...The montessori school that my kids goes to does this. The monotheist god myth and religions are taught amongst all other creation myths including american indian, greek etc...In terms of your personal answer, again it depends on the school system. A huge can of worms can be opened once the word gets out you don't believe in god. If you lived in texas, this would be grounds for dismissal followed by burning at the stake. I don't think hiding your non-beleif is something you should do either way. As other's have mentioned, you could easily skirt the question without compromising your views. You could always use this catch phrase "Johny I have been advised by my counsel to invoke my fifth amendment right and not answer your question"
I once had a born-again girlfriend, (big mistake) and I tried this tack when she tried to get me into discussions about religion. Unfortunately, she blew up when I made the comparison between Xtian mythology and say, classical Greek myth. All the Xtian stories are PROVEN HISTORICAL FACT!!!eleven!1!! Making such comparisons is as heretical as anything from an Xtian point of view.
No shit about the worms. A student once asked me what church I went to. I answered, "It depends on where the wedding or funeral is going to be." I thought it was funny. The knuckle-walking parents didn't. I've been labeled an atheist ever since. For three years running, our graduation speaker was one of the local preachers who preached a down-and-dirty christian sermon complete with shouts of "Amen!" from the sheep. Dismissal is a little difficult but they can always find "grounds" if they look hard enough. My saving grace is a)that I'm a very good football coach and b)the system was recently burned by a teacher dismissed for bogus grounds because of unpopular beliefs. My son is a very good lawyer and they know that.
As I read your post I was reminded of the Victor Hugo quote – “There is in every village a torch - the teacher; and an extinguisher- the clergyman”. Although it is not my area of expertise I have observed that when children ask me what I believe or think about a subject, they are more concerned about starting a conversation than getting a direct answer.
If they were to ask me “Do I believe in God” I would ask them what they mean by that. What are their concepts about god? What do they think and why? Explain the difference between the religions and the history of the gods no longer praised. The point is to make them think for themselves. If pushed about your views just say as a teacher you have to stay neutral but that your students’ views are more important in the classroom. Answer the question with a question – “So what do you think?”