Thursday, November 17, 2016

Fun Teaching Activities

By Anthony:

There are so many good discussions that we have in class that I don't have time to tell you about all of them.  But I keep trying to tell you the most interesting things.  In this post, I want to focus on some of the fun teaching activities I've done recently with the students.

Just last night Sara and I hosted a game night of Bible trivia and Bible Pictionary.  We had 9 teams competing of 5 students each.  Right now there are about 60 students around the collage because the regular students are still here, and the modular students have also arrived.  They all take exams together next week.  So we gave them a break from studying exams.  It was fun, but we are not sure we will do it again - the students were quite rowdy and noisy and hard to handle!

  • Earlier on, Sara helped me lead a cross-cultural learning game with the mission class of students.  One group of students were the foreigners coming to visit a culture.  The other group of students were people of the host culture which had very difficult rules of communication.  For example, if someone speaks without waiting for 5 seconds of silence, you get offended and walk away.  The students who were visiting the host culture did not know all of the culture's communication rules and had to figure things out as they went along.  It was interesting, and the students learned how to be patient in cross-cultural communication, and how to learn from their mistakes.  Here is a photo:

  • In my New Testament class, we discussed the issue of Bible translation.  To help them understand the process of how we can end up with different versions today like the KJV and the NIV, I had them translate one Bible verse from English to Swahili.  It was really funny because even though they all had the same verse, each of the eight student's translations was completely and totally unique. 
  • It was also really fun in this same class, when I did one of the things I always look forward to in teaching- to have the students look up Mark 9:44 and 46 in their NIV Bibles.  Then I start yelling and cajoling them, wondering why no one is reading the verses I asked them to read out loud.  The verses don't exist. It made everyone laugh really hard, and then I was able to explain why those verses are in the KJV but not the NIV and how the NIV is more accurate, because the translators had access to far more ancient manuscripts than they had during the time the KJV was translated.  If this is new information for you, don't be afraid.  You can trust the Bibles we have, you can read all about it here if you are interested - About the NIV, and here - missing verses.
  • I had another really funny episode in class when I was talking about the history of biblical interpretation.  I was mentioning some of the types of biblical interpretation among Westerners, trying to read the Bible objectively (without the bias of faith), which led some Christians to reject the resurrection.  It was a good reminder to speak really clearly.  One student raise his hand and in a shaky but firm voice corrected me, "No, it did not happen like that.  You see, Jesus really died, and really rose again from the dead in three days."  He had misinterpreted and thought I was teaching against the resurrection!  I was so proud of him for being willing to challenge me in front of the class and proclaim the truth.
  • For those of you from the Christian Reformed Church, you are probably familiar with the Heidelberg Catechism and the Belgic Confession.  For systematic theology, I had my students read those to get some good quick summaries of the basic theology we were discussing in class.  I didn't know how it would go, but they loved it.  They made photocopies of the entire confessions.  In their words, "Reading it was so very sweet."
  • Recently we had a really busy week where I was working overtime, teaching my normal classes, and trying to teach other students in the evenings who had come only for a week.  Sara, being a great help to me, was willing to teach a review class for me to some of the students who were there temporarily.  The students were really impressed with this lady who was an agricultural expert but also has a masters from a theological college.  I'm impressed too!
We don't always just work really hard.  Sometimes we relax, and sometimes we even do fun things with the students.  Occasionally we jog together with the students, though the most people we had jogging at one time was 8 people.  Sometimes I play volleyball with the students right out in front of our house.  And we've even started to play ping pong with some of the students using a homemade net and table.  Here is one of our jogging groups minus one or two who didn't make it in the picture.

Here is a video to remind you that many of the students are really quite young.  They act like kids sometimes, both in good ways and bad.  They make me feel old!  In all seriousness though, because Sara and I and our friend Charles (the computer teacher) are pretty much the only staff living on campus, we end up doing some counseling, some scolding, some caring, and keeping people in line.

Other Class Discussions:
  • Students keep commenting about how much water I drink.  It's funny because I rarely ever see Africans drinking water at all.  It's like they don't need it.  So it's not surprising that they think I'm drinking constantly. 
  • Students really appreciate our punctuality in teaching, in keeping time.  As much as people try to say that African time and Western time are different but equally good, I'm convinced that African time is not truly helping anyone.  It is good that they value relationships over rushing around and being punctual, but I still believe we must be good stewards of the time God has given to us. The students have trouble keeping time, but it's one of the biggest compliments I've received here, that we keep time.  They really appreciate it, and they all wish and hope that they can change to keep time the way that we do.  It's the Westerners that write books about culture that say the two methods of time are equally good, but just different.  But if you ask Africans, they say that not keeping time is one of their biggest problems, and causes them so many difficulties, in family, church, and work.  I'd rather listen to what my African friends tell me, rather than the books about culture.  And they tell me that they don't want me to adjust to African time.  They want me to stay punctual and help them to learn punctuality as well.  So that is what I will continue to do.  (Don't worry, I'm actually pretty flexible and tolerant of African time in general).
  • Speaking of time, I was very happy the other day, that although I tried to get my theology class dismissed on time, that the students made me stay to answer their questions.  They are eager to learn!  We had discussed God's providence, suffering, evil, and prayer for 4 hours of class discussion over a couple days.  And then even near the end they still had 30 minutes straight of questions, so we got out of class really late.  But that was fine with me!   Then when we discussed election and salvation and grace, they grilled me with questions for 1 hour straight.  I love students who are eager to learn.
  • In theology, we also discussed what it means that humans were created in the image of God.  You might be surprised, but I did have students who thought God has a real physical body just like us.  Though it's possible they were just giving me a hard time.
  • In missions, when we talked about culture, we had a great discussion about church culture and rituals we do in the church.  There are a lot of rituals in the Anglican church, like bowing before the cross, and reading through liturgies that are pretty much the same every Sunday.  It was a powerful time of teaching, talking about how the rituals are not necessarily good or bad, but what matters is whether we are meaning what we are doing from the heart, and thinking about what we are saying. 


  1. It's so great that you are developing relationships with your students Anthony! I am convinced that students everywhere can be challenging and fun at the same time. So much energy...I wish I could have a little of that back. ;)

  2. I never knew there were 'missing verses' in the NIV. Interesting! You seem like a deeply caring yet firm professor for these students. It sure is fun to hear about your students and their reactions to you and your teaching. Thanks for sharing! Praying for Sara as she travels to Uganda. Happy Thanksgiving!