The Liturgical Classroom and Virtue Formation

In this presentation The Liturgical Classroom and Virtue FormationJenny Rallens of the Ambrose School (Boise, ID), describes the ways in which educators can employ traditions, practices and routines (rooted in church liturgical practices) in order to enliven and deepen education and cultivate virtue in students. Those educators who have read James K. A. Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom and Teaching and Christian Practices will find this presentation “required training” as Jenny has masterfully employed the insights of those books in her own classrooms.

Liturgies of Your Classroom
My dominate liturgies are One, setting up the class in a short burst of instruction (Rallens calls explanation) allowing for questions to be asked about its content and application every 10-15 minutes. Classes that may be longer than an hour, I often will attach a personal story, for example, to break up the time span of explanation to the students so that they find class both serious but humorous as well. Another liturgy I have used in the past is taking the first five minutes of class or at the end of class to ask the students how their weekend went, or what they are looking forward to. In the past, this has allowed for the class to get settled, learn about one another, and provides an experience to see their teacher cares more than only the class lecture and lesson, aka explanation.

Liturgies Practiced
Rallens idea of the liturgy is relative to the class and grade you are teaching (maybe because her examples all have something to do with literature and I am coming from a logical, historical and theological classroom setting). I do not see her fifth-grade example of experiencing a play while teaching Shakespeare to be as helpful in an upper school unless you have a class who in majority enjoys the fine arts. That may be common in classical education but is not the norm in other private and or public educational settings. What I mean by relative here is that the teacher needs to know the personalities of their students each year and within each class. The same liturgy’s experience the teacher provides his class will not always work year to year in applying the use of the topic’s explanation.

One of the liturgies I have implemented when teaching logic is the use of debate. I have taught Logic, an introduction to the informal fallacies and an introduction to building an argument to seventh and eighth graders in the past. Using debate allows the students to find fallacies within their opponents arguments and provides an opportunity where they can implement the use of building a proper argument for their constructive speeches in a debate. A second example of the liturgy is the use of a class covenant within my bible and theology classes. This allows for me to lay out a class structure that includes theological themes where the student might witness first hand the blessings and curses of following or at times breaking the rules of our class covenant.

Using Liturgies
History can use liturgies that place the student in the same ethical, moral, and historical setting where they have to discuss among their peers the situation and provide an answer on how they best would deal with the historical situation. Theology can use liturgies that apply truth to current day situation within the current moral decay of our nation. Logic can use the liturgies that apply the class content within a debate.

The way you learn what you learn is important for the student to both experience the truth and have it explained to them. Liturgy: To train affections, teach with experiences as well as explanations; The way we learn something is more influential than the something that we learn; The form of a lesson teaches as much as its content, or The way to a person’s heart is through their body. Thinking of the elective that I am schlepped to teach this coming fall semester on World Religions, one of the liturgies that come to mind is applying the various world religions of the Affiance, Yogic, and Abrahamic Traditions through the lens of a Christian worldview. For example; when covering Affiance primal religions on karma, provide real life situations for the students to consider where Christian’s allow for a pagan ideology such as karma to influence their Christian worldview. Allow for an assignment that grants the student and opportunity to share an experience within their own life where they may have allows world religion ideologies to indulgence their own Christian worldview and how they might re-consider their past experience.

Example Layout
Lectio: Chose and read a primary text from an African primal religion on karma.
Meditatio: Pray as we examine the texts and discuss its content in class.
Compositio: How do the texts and its ideology differ from a Christian worldview and theology.