Come and See

‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’
He said to them, ‘Come and see.’

If you know me, or if you have read very many of my blog posts, you have probably figured out that two of my passions are spirituality and education.

In Matthew, Mark and Luke’s versions of the story, Jesus opens his ministry by fulfilling prophecy, preaching, or  working miracles.  In John’s gospel, though, Jesus begins his ministry by teaching. But that’s not the real hook for me.  It is more specifically how Jesus teaches that draws me in.  Just as it draws in his disciples and the crowds of people who follow him from town to town.

Come and See he says.

It strikes me how different that is from the prevalent educational paradigm in the United States.  Notice he doesn’t say please choose one of the following answers:

I am staying…
(a) in an inn
(b) with Aunt Sarah
(c) in a van down by the river
(d) in a fishing hut
(e) none of the above

He also doesn’t turn to them and say, “To ascertain my transitory abode, indicated by the antithesis of my not staying locale, assuming the current price of housing and the direction of the prevailing winds from the Sea of Galilee, write a five paragraph essay of 100-150 words on available architectural domiciles not in the unlocal area.”

No.  He said Come and See.

Jesus taught by immersion, by actions, by careful observation, by investigation, by exploration, by conversation, by storytelling.

Ryan, my 15-year-old, started high school this year.  He signed up for two Advanced Placement classes at a local á la carte style school for homeschoolers.  Since multiple choice constitutes a large portion of the AP exam, we have spent an inordinate amount of time this year replicating that process.  I think he has answered so many multiple choice questions that we could wallpaper every room in my house with the remaining  paper detritus. And the questions are meant to be tricky.  Anybody else remember those types of questions with great loathing?  The ones where one three letter word, or even a single letter, changes the entire meaning of the question?

And, apparently, many colleges won’t even look at the kids if they don’t have the requisite number of classes with the AP designation.  Rigor they say.  The easiest way for them to define rigor with absolutely no work on their own part. Why bother reading the essays these kids write, or looking at the meaningful extracurriculars, or interviewing the kids, if you can just boil each applicant down to a number? As if their worth as a person and the predictability of all future contributions they might make to the university, to their family and friends, to the workforce, or even to society as a whole could be summed up in the tidy little package of GPA, as adjusted, of course, for the number of rigorous AP classes taken prior to application.

As a homeschooler, I have been investigating the idea of teaching AP coursework using a more come and see kind of approach.  It can be done. But I think you have to give up on the idea that you are “teaching for the test.”  You have to trust that the students learn the material so well that they are simply prepared. Or maybe one three hour test, comprised of 60 multiple choice questions and a handful of free response, over an entire year’s worth of material is simply a ludicrous expectation in the first place?!? There are a handful of cutting edge groups working on project-based, exploratory learning. And I know there are great teachers out there.  We have encountered some of those this year, too. That gives me hope.

It seems to me that Jesus’s methodology of immersion, action, investigation, conversation, observation, and storytelling would provide a much more meaningful, lasting paradigm, an alternative to what is so affectionately called the “drill and kill” method of learning.

As Ryan has taken the AP Biology class, I have read each chapter in tandem so that I could be an effective study partner with him.  The material itself is fascinating.

I’ve come across articles in your standard grocery store checkout magazines that talk about, for example, the relationship between mitochondrial counts in muscle cells and a person’s long-term health and fitness. And, because of my reading, I can actually tell you what they are talking about. Without the class, I would never have given mitochondria a second thought!  Every class out there has practical, everyday connections.  Keep your eyes open. Discuss what you find.  Come and see.

When studying genetics, how much better will we remember Huntington’s Disease after listening to the story of one family and the angst they experienced when waiting to find out their test results on This American Life? There are real stories behind the heritable diseases.  These stories are told in television and radio programs on Nova or Discovery Channel or a plethora of other outlets.  Watch them, listen to them, understand that the research is about real people, real stories.  The research matters. Come and see.

Labs, labs, and more labs.  Hands on projects.  Field trips.  Immerse yourself in relevant experiences.  Discuss what you have seen and done. Make stories of your own come to life.  Come and see.

And then keep a journal.  Write a paper.  Give a speech. Craft a lab report.  Create a graph.  Paint a painting.  If we are working off of a Come and See paradigm, naturally, Go and Tell must follow.  Somebody has to write the gospel, after all. Somebody has to be prophetic, speaking tough truths.  And sometimes, if we do our job as educators well, our students might even be a part of creating the good news and unearthing world-changing truths!  And good news and great truths can be found in Biology, and in Human Geography, and in Calculus and Statistics, in Art History and Psychology, in Music Theory and Chemistry and Literature. And the list goes on…

I don’t mind hearing my children complain about how hard their work is.  But I never again want to hear my kids say, “I hate insert school subject here.” And I especially don’t want to hear them say “I hate school.”

And the best way I have found to avoid these phrases in my household is to follow the radical, counter-cultural, simple example set by Jesus.

Come and see.  Go and tell.  

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