This term, my teaching partners and I have struggled to a certain extent with teaching Grade 12 Religion and Ethics students about social justice.
We have centred many of our discussions around Jesus' words: 'I tell all of you with certainty, since you did it for one of the least important of these brothers of mine, you did it for me.' (Matthew chapter 25 verse 40)
A couple of weeks ago I implored them to live a generous life. Shane Willard said in relation to this that, "You see the face of God when you do something kind and generous for someone who can do nothing in return. This connects you to God. This shows you the heart of God."
Lecture after lecture, statistic after statistic, YouTube clip after YouTube clip, playing inspirational songs, blasting them with inspirational quotes and inviting inspirational guest speakers had us thinking our students had "compassion fatigue." The many blank faces staring at us week by week confirmed this.
In a "light bulb" moment one of the teachers suggested we needed a challenge for our students...and it grew from there.
The $5 challenge.
The guidelines are pretty simple:
$5 to change the world...
- Here is a seed of $5.
- Your task is to use this $5 to change the world.
- You can choose to multiply it before you use it.
- All we ask in return is a written reflection on what you did with it so we can show it was used appropriately.
You have one week to complete this task.
We had the students sign in before entering our lecture theatre. They were handed a sealed envelope and were told not to open it until we told them to. The $5 and the guidelines were sealed in the envelope. The students opened the envelope and the three teachers sat down, observed, filmed some reactions and relaxed for the first time in 5 weeks!
Nervous shuffling in seats.
Students began conversations. Students stood up and spoke in front of their peers. They began to form "syndicates" to try and pool their resources. Students began to work out how much they could add to their money. Students switched off. Students opened their laptops and continued doing what students do when they open their laptops. Students wanted to know whether they could positively or negatively change the world.
"Can I keep it?"
"Can I just give it to someone?"
"What do you mean "used appropriately"?"
"Can we sponsor a child for a year?"
"Will my reflection be marked? How much am I supposed to write?"
"Can we buy a chicken for a third world village?"
"Can we buy muffins to give away to the kids at the school across the road?"
And this is all I heard.
I will know in one week whether I have "taught" them anything.
What would you do with $5 to change the world?
Russell Modlin teaches English and Physical Education at a Christian School on the Sunshine Coast. He is married to Belinda and they have three children.
Russell Modlin's archive of previous article can be found at www.pressserviceinternational.org/russell-modlin.html