Speaking to the deputy head master in his mastermind headquarters, Dan and I were handed three thick binders spilling papers and slickers full of psychology notes. He said in the booming voice I had grown to know over the telephone months earlier, “There is no curriculum for the psychology course. Some of us tend to think it’s all rubbish anyways. You can sort through these files and design your own syllabus.”
And so began the absurd quest to make sense of educating foreign children in a foreign country. The first two days were not easy by any stretch of the imagination, as I didn’t and won’t have a classroom to myself but have to shuffle in between four of them. I had little idea where things were, how the information boards worked, where to photocopy, what curriculum’s to use, what the English meant when they said “right” for wrong reasons. But it was a challenge, a fun challenge, and that’s what I signed up for. English and Ethics all went swimmingly, and Psychology was a bit harder to get the ball rolling, but I have warmed up to the place and have all confidence that the term will be a success.
Cross Country started as well, and somehow, probably just my rugged good looks I think, I qualified to be the supporting coach for the top running team. These guys make lightning look slow, and if not for the poor kid who caught asthma on the second day of running, I probably would have been left in the dust as well. But this is what I signed up for – a challenge. We will be running 20 mile weeks for now and then will bump it up closer to race season in the winter.
I’ve also been trying to get plugged in with anything Christian over here. The chaplain is new this year and so we had a good deal to identify with during all of the finger food parties. His accent is deep and has a fascinating lilt when he pronounces “Old chum,” “Holy God”, “Christianity”, and “Spirit.” He runs all of the voluntary church services that run on sundays (they don’t force children to go, which I think is awesome) and teaches some philosophy and ethics. I have a feeling he and I will be friends. In addition to the priest, there is a student question / talk session called Christianity Explored that I went to. Small attendance and pizza as usual, I suppose, but it could be a promising group when I get some of my D’s out. Plus there are other reasons to praise the Lord, mostly in the few members of staff who worked and taught at camps run by Titus Trust, the fellowship that spawned the American version of FOCUS, with whom I matured as a high school Christian. These teachers know some of the FOCUS leaders I had back in the states. Plus they listen to Tim Keller. The world is smaller than we think.
I’ve also had the temptation to be proud of the lessons that have gone particularly well so far, proud enough to post the LP’s on here and show my clever worksheets to others. I always catch myself in remembrance that a) no one cares b) even if it is good, God has given me my brain capabilities as a gift which would be absurd to take for my own glory, and c) no one cares. But I have found myself teaching myself, believe it or not, especially in this Ethics class. In a discussion about human rights and the documents that led most of the Western World to adopt the UN’s UDHR and make those ethical rights into law, I began to ask the question “who says?” Who says human rights are human rights – where is the absolute authority to even make these sorts of claims to inalienability? It all comes down to leaps of faith really, I learned. I take a leap of faith to trust the Bible’s 10 commandments as my ultimate source of authority. Others have their other religions. And most of societies apathetic or unaware simply trust their cultures. They adopt the stance of culture as truth and transcendentalize what they have not logically tested, and blindly believe in the authority of their leaders. This is how millions of nazi adults were brainwashed to believe there was nothing immoral in eliminating a human race. Shows you the importance of reading your bible for yourself instead of just being an ant in a mindless ant-line. Can we trust out cultures? Absolutely not. Can we trust the ultimate authorities behind them? It all takes a leap of faith at some point. So the question then becomes, which worldview’s claims to truth contain the most logic and make the best sense of reality? And by simply debating a 16 year old, I taught myself something I had not considered before.
The weather is what was to be expected. Moderately cold, mostly cloudy, and miserably wet. Before I came, a friend from the area told me that Dorset gets the best weather practically of all of England. Having said that, he said – “Honestly, the weather is crap.” I have experienced that to be true, and have noticed the difference it makes on my mood. Five rainy days in a row will get to you, and being in a good mood for no reason other than the sun becomes less of a reality. But when the sun does shine, the valley opens up in all of its English splendor and proves this to be, even more than I expected, one of the most beautiful places on earth.
Took a saturday drive with teacher friends to the coastal town of Swanage on Saturday, where we walked through rock quarries, climbed bronze age farming hills and saw the 1,000 year old Corte Castle. Impressive history and impressive wild blackberries. Their cider and pasties (meat pies) aren’t bad either. It was the quintessential saturday drive in the English countryside – I could not have ordered it any better. Pictures soon when I get my photo cord. And today I took 80 13 year olds to indoor waterpark extravaganza, “Splashdown.” And we splashed down hard, to much adolescent rejoicing. But not to the joy of the kid who threw up in the bus.