Monday, 30 November 2015

Save RE - From Itself? Again?


Yet again, disagreement features on Save RE. Previous arguments such those of 'the crucifixion jelly hand', 'teaching the Illuminati' and 'memes' were recalled as Rebecca Sefton blogged about why she was leaving Save RE (see <here>)

Save RE is a closed Facebook group with nearly 3000 members. It includes a wide variety of members including RE teachers, as well as advisers, faith reps, examiner etc. It was originally set up as a response to RE being left out of the EBacc. However it has grown as a place to share resources and discuss the subject. Neil McKain recently wrote about Save RE for RE Today (see <here>).

Here are some of my reasons why sometimes Save RE 'kicks off':

  1. It is part of the internet. As long as there has been an internet, there has been arguing. It's kind of just what people do.  Misunderstandings, lack of humor, misinterpretation of tone - all part of the internet, and particularly social media. Just because we are RE teachers, does not make us immune.
  2. RE teachers are defensive. People criticise our subject, we are having to defend it's worth to students, parents, SLT, the public, humanist trolls on Twitter (or is that just me?). We bring that 'trench mentality' to Save RE; helmet on, grenades at the ready.
  3. In our request for relevance and engagement (linked to 2), we do 'shock jock', gimmicky, sexy RE. When we share it online, there is great division on this type of teaching. The 'progressive' vs 'neo-traditional' sides can be evident, and are often irreconcilable. 
  4. People often share for praise and affirmation, not critical reflection. This is linked to 2 and 3. If you have spent time on a resource, or have what you consider a great idea, it is important to ask the question, "Do I want constructive criticism? Or do I just want people to say it's great?"
  5. RE teachers work bloody hard. Often in one person departments, supporting non specialists. There is no sounding board, where eyebrows would be raised. You use that idea, teach that idea, perhaps over and over, then share on Save RE. People criticise and it, and perhaps quite legitimately, it feels like a punch in the stomach.
  6. RE varies probably more than any other subject. For example, faith schools very different to community schools often. Budgets, staffing, school perception, approach, aims... Are we even talking about the same subject? Can we have meaningful conversations about what is good and what is not?
  7. Bias plays a BIG part in RE. We have an open forum to discuss religion, politics etc. Whether we realise it or not, whether we care or not, it is quite hard to not project a personal agenda. Catholic schools have no issue with confessionalism, but some posts on Save RE indicate much confessionalism in community schools. 
Perhaps this is also useful from Dawn:

Scepticism belongs to all subjects and all classrooms but it needs to be taught. Teachers need to be pleased to be challenged over an issue with students not defensive. As clich├ęd as it is, I genuinely think is one of the things we can do for students that will equip them for life. [see <here>]

Just perhaps with colleagues and strangers on the internet too!

Image courtesy of Weird Life

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