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Spring, eclipse, books and more

1 September 2016

Happy Spring Day and Happy New Year! Welcome to the new year 7525.

We had our Literary Coffee Klatsch at Cafe 41 in Eastwood Road, and to celebrate Spring Day there was also a partial eclipse of the sun, which we kept popping up to look at.

Pete Beukes checking on the solar eclipse

Pete Beukes checking on the solar eclipse

The eclipse was only partial where we were, but in some places people could see a full annular eclipse, where the disc of the sun could be seen all the way round the moon.

We tried the Greek coffee this time, but it somehow looked Turkish.

Greek (or is it Turkish?) coffee at Cafe 41

Greek (or is it Turkish?) coffee at Cafe 41

We chatted about many things, but the book part of our discussion was mainly about the role of books and stories in education.

Isobel Beukes told of training teachers in using stories in teaching. Trainee teachers were given children’s stories to read, and asked to explain how they could use them in teaching.

That reminded me of something that had been suggested by Father (now Bishop) Athanasius Akunda, when we were involved in a somewhat pemature attempt to start an Orthodox theological seminary in South Africa. We thought it would be better to start a kind fo pre-seminary school, where potential seminary students could have some preparatory training. Fr Athanasius suggested that one could teach theology through literature, and we tried it out in one of our classes.

We asked advice from people about what books could be used, and one of the suggestions made by the late Fr Thomas Hopko of St Vladimir’s Seminary in New York, was to use short stories by people like Chekhov, and in particular he mentioned “The Bishop” . So we asked the students to read Chekhov’s story, and also the story of the Martyrdom of Polycarp — the death of two bishops in different times and places, different cultures, different expectations, and to note the similarities and differences, and see what they could learn from the stories about what a bishop was.

Literary Coffee Klatsch: Val Hayes, Pete and Isobel Beukes

Literary Coffee Klatsch: Val Hayes, Pete and Isobel Beukes

Isobel’s story about children’s books also reminded me of a time I was asked to teach religion classes in school. It was St Paul’s Catholic School in Windhoek, and they asked me to teach the non-Catholic students. Teaching children, however, is not my thing. So I read to them from C.S. Lewis’s Narnia stories, and asked them to discuss the stories. These were children of 9-10 years old, and with such an age group I’ve been quite happy to acts as a consultant and advisor on how to run a youth group, but the “teacher-tell” thing is not for me, at least not with that age group. In a classroom situation the children are inhibited and reluctant to discuss things. The atmosphere of a youth group, with no teacher as an authority figure, is much less inhibiting.

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