Saturday, April 11, 2020

Checking for Understanding Part One: Honor

In Catholic tradition, parents are the primary educators of the faith. In light of current events, that task now extends far beyond religious education. Parents are now the primary educators of math, science, art and music. They are on the front lines—teaching their sons and daughters history, reading, foreign language—you name it. So for those thrust into this new role here's one tip: check for understanding. In the most informal sense, checking for understanding asks you to assume nothing. The goal of this exercise is to gain a sense of what a student knows, perceived and thinks about an idea, theory, word or term. This is the first in an on-going series I will refer to as with this goal in mind.  Today's topic is honor.
We teachers seek ongoing feedback to monitor and improve student learning vis a vi ongoing formal and informal input. Checking for understanding, otherwise known as formative assessments are generally low stakes, which means that they have low or no point value. For example, I seek a thumbs up, sideways or down. I use exit tickets and  a single word summary. I find these strategies helpful in moving the class along at the right pace. They also provide a safe space for student feedback and questions. Any questions? Let's begin...

To me, honor is a formal word, especially when used as a verb. The 10 Commandments call us to it. We ought to honor the Lord our God as one. Growing up, I was reminded of the fourth commandment on a regular basis. Yes, mom and dad, I know I am supposed to honor you both. I had a strong sense of what it meant to honor a person, a legacy and a culture and a creed. The question is do young people today, too?

According to "Conversations of Conscience: Helping Young Adults Make Moral Decisions" by Michael Sacco
Over a decade ago, the sociologist Christian Smith led a research team with the National Study of Youth and Religion at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that examined the religious beliefs of over 3,000 American teenagers. Smith’s research shed light on the significant gap that exists between the faithful temperaments of the teenagers he studied compared to the generations that came before. When they reflected in their interviews about “grace,” they took it to be a character in a popular television show—not about God’s grace. When they discussed “honor,” they were almost always talking about taking honors courses or making the honor role at school, very rarely about honoring God with their lives or striving to live as honorable people. When they mentioned being “justified,” they almost always meant having a reason for doing something behaviorally questionable, not having their relationship with God made right.
I get to teach about honor because Eric Liddell, the subject of the movie Chariots of Fire uses the term often. Although students in Sports and Spirituality are not required to watch the entire Oscar award winning film, read about Liddell's life, his sacrifice and success and get a sense of his story in a clip "The Muscular Christian."
Liddell believes "to win, is to honor Him." He professes this belief after he shares with Jenny, his sister, one of the more beautiful quotes of all time.
I believe God made me for a purpose. He made me for China. But He also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.
To give it up would be to hold Him in contempt. You were right. It's not just fun. To win is to honor him.
Amen. I ask my students "What does it mean to honor God? Have you ever thought about way you honor God?
Perhaps you can ask the  same questions I ask for my students of your son or daughter. Check for understanding. The video clip for "Chariots of Fire" might not resonate with a certain age group but if they are runners, or of high school age—with the right context—I hope a meaningful and rich conversation with follow.

I encourage you to teach about "honor" for I believe it's a beautiful way to live one's life. Honor involves respect, dignity and integrity. To honor a person or God asks for nothing less. 

Photo Credits
Powerpoint slide (I wish they spelled his last name right....)

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