Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bishops and Telescopes

As I said in an earlier post, I believe it helps the kids to learn when they figure out what words originally meant, and it helps them to think across categories instead of just within them, which is a good life skill. Because the Christian lexicon contains so many Greek words, we cover a lot of Greek. At the start of the year, it's all Greek to them, but once they get the hang of figuring the Greek out, only the Greek is Greek...see?

For example, at least one class period is needed to cover the Church hierarchy: the Pope, Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. I use that class to show the kids something about how other denominations are organized as well, but this post will cover just one part of that class material.

They already know about Jesus>Peter>the Popes, so that's the starting point.

OK, tell me, where'd Peter get his authority? Jesus.

And when Peter died, was that it? Did the authority disappear? No, they picked another pope.

Yes. By the way, in Rome they don't say Pope, they say Papa. Why is that? Because he's the father, the papa.

Yes again, because fathers have's today's trick question, what language does 'Papa' come from? Italian! Ha! Good guess, but wrong. It's Greek, the Italians got it from the Greeks! But yes, the Pope is the Holy Father.

I write tele-scope on the board. Now, who knows what a telescope is? Everybody knows. Do I use one to see my toes? No, to see things far away, like the moon!

Yes, to see far things, and what do I use to see things that are real small, like germs? A microscope! I write micro-scope. So what does tele mean? Far away! And micro? Small! And scope? Umm, see? Yes! My, my, geniuses at work; how'd y'all learn all this Greek?

I write epi-demic. What's an epidemic? When everybody gets sick! Yes. It's a disease that covers all the people. In Greek epi-demic means over-people.

Now I write epi-skopos (επίσκοπος). I mention that Greek uses a k for hard c. I think using the k makes it more interesting.

OK, what's epi mean again? Over! And skopos? To see! And if someone is an epi-skopos what are they? An over-seer! And are overseers the monkeys that get told what to do? No, they're the boss, they tell the monkeys what to do! (Monkey is just a fun word to use....a little laughing keeps kids energized at 7pm on a schoolnight).

Yes. An episkopos, an overseer, is someone who is in charge. Who's in charge of St. Mary's? Fr. Newman! Yes. Who's in charge of the diocese, all the Catholics in South Carolina? Bishop Macaroni! That's very funny, his name is Guglielmone, goo-lyel-MO-neh. It's Italian. But we're not talking about Italian tonight, we're talking about...Greek! That's right.

So the guy in charge of the diocese is a bishop, which is how we say episkopos in English. By the way, quien aqui habla Espanol? How do you say bishop in Spanish? Obispo. Yep. Obispo. I write bishop and obispo under episkopos.

Y'all can see how the old word changed into the new words over 2,000 years. That's how old the job of Bishop is, about 2,000 years old. The New Testament talks about bishops a lot, and what language was the NT written in? Greek! Yep. And the Old Testament? Hebrew! Yes, mostly Hebrew.

Bishops are so important to the church that the word bishop shows up in the NT six times. Which shows you that there were bishops even before the Bible was finished. Now, you may meet people who go to churches that don't have bishops. They may tell you bishops aren't necessary. But you can tell them bishops are in the Bible, so the Bible agrees with the Church.

OK let's review a bit, who takes care of Jesus' flock while he's away? The Pope! How do we say that in Greek? Papa! And who helps the Papa take care of the flock? Bishops! And what's this mean (pointing at episkopos)? Overseer!

Honorary sons & daughters, y'all tore it up tonight! I'm impressed.

Teaching tactics covered in this post:

Ask questions requiring answers in small increments, with an occasional big jump. Big questions are always prefaced: "ok this next question may not be easy, even for mature 6th graders such as you..." be ready to compliment good, if unsuccessful attempts to answer, and if they flail, don't let them lose momentum, provide big answer info as needed for them to do the rest. Too many big jumps, they lose the momentum of success. Be brisk without losing them. I envision I'm a wave, the kids surf on me. I lift and push, faster is more energizing, but the wave can't outrun the surfers nor be so big & fast that they fall. Nor, God forbid, be so slow they can't surf at all.

Use the board. The blackboard, not the surfboard. Write or draw something every few minutes. It's ok to draw badly.

Repeat the right answers to orient toward the next question. Adjust or add info to a correct answer to better direct the kids to the next question. Also do this to remind them of something learned earlier, e.g. sometimes I'll use the key to refer to Peter's authority, other times, feeding the lambs, but rarely both.

Make them connect old information to new information; on-the-fly reviewing is good in itself, plus it's better to understand things as part of a whole than in isolation. As I said in an earlier post, IIRC, I want to give the children a cadre, a framework of knowledge on which future facts can be located and made sense of.

Connect Faith knowledge to other knowledge. Faith shouldn't sit in its own box getting stale.

As a general rule, anything understood in isolation is not really understood.


Dear blogreader, did you think this post was going to be about Galileo? Wrong! Trick title!

Big House

The 6th graders love Hebrew, they love Latin, and they really love Greek. Just ask them. Many of the kids are already learning word stems in school, so the prior sentence may not be an exaggeration. Learning what words originally meant can help the kids understand and retain concepts covered in the course material.

For example, in discussing "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain" and "Honor Thy Father & Mother," among other examples I use the word Pharaoh:
Hey who saw Prince of Egypt? What was the bad guy's name? Ramses.

Yes...what was his job? He was the Pharaoh.

Mmmm, that was what people called him. What was his job? Being the king, ruling Egypt.
Yes. Now if we were speaking to the king could we say, hey Ramses, howya doin'? Sure is hot today in Egypt isn't it, Ramses? Laughter: no that wouldn't be right.

Why not? Well, he's the king. Yeah, so? So you have to show respect.

OK, so one way we show respect for someone's authority is to show respect for his name. By the way, Pharaoh doesn't actually mean King. Egyptians had another word for king (Nisut, if you must know). Pharaoh means Big House. (פרעה Par`oh)

Why would Ramses be called Big House? Because he lived in a big house, a palace.

Yes. And the point is that the Egyptians and the Hebrew slaves had so much respect for Ramses that they wouldn't call him Ramses, or even call him King, but only refer to him by where he lived.

And it's that same way with God, except we owe God way more respect than Pharaoh. That's also why we don't call our parents, or priests, or other people with authority by their first names.

And in Jesus' day nobody would even say God's name, which we know is YHWH (written on the board, not said), so we're not going to say it out loud, either. They'd say the "LORD," or the "Blessed One" to avoid saying His name, just in case they might accidentally show disrespect, such as by belching in the middle of saying it. Imagine Moses saying, "All praise & honor to thee, oh Yah...brraAAACK...weh, oops, sorry."

So when you think about the 2nd & 4th Commandments, try to show respect for everyone, but especially your parents and God. And what is a simple way to honor someone, especially your mom, dad or God?
By using their names respectfully.