As a preamble to one of the last few lessons of the Hebrew tutorial I led on Ezekiel’s Oracles against the Nations (OAN), I showed the students the following anecdote (excerpt taken from http://tragicfarce.com/2012/09/06/gog-and-magog-are-at-work-in-the-middle-east-bush-told-chirac/):
But before Chirac could elaborate on that point, Bush veered into another direction.
“Jacques,” he said, “You and I share a common faith. You’re Roman Catholic, I’m Methodist, but we are both Christians committed to the teachings of the Bible. We share one common Lord”
Chirac said nothing. He didn’t know where Bush was going with this.
“Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East,” Bush said. ‘’Biblical prophecies are being fulfilled.”
Gog and Magog? What was that?, thought Chirac.
“This confrontation,” Bush said, “is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people’s enemies before a new age begins.”
Chirac was bewildered. The American president, he thought, sounded dangerously fanatical.
After the call ended, Chirac called together his senior staff members and relayed the conversation.
“He said, ‘Gog and Magog.’ Do any of you know what he is talking about?”
Blank faces and head shakes.
“Find out,” Chirac said.
Well, guess whom the French government contacted to find out who Gog is? Just so you know, Gog appears quite prominently in Ezekiel 38-39. From what I gathered from the web, the government had got in touch with one biblical professor teaching in France and Switzerland. And I was lucky enough to meet this kind professor once when I was presenting a paper at a graduate meeting. But that is not the point of showing this anecdote! The point is that the biblical literature plays a vital role in the Western religion, culture and politics, which, for better or worse, can inevitably bear immense influence on the Eastern world. As this excerpt reflects, having an appropriate understanding of the OAN matters,and it can even become a matter of life and death!
Of course, the Hebrew tutorial was not much concerned with modern-day politics, but focused on the textual translations and analyses of the relevant biblical texts. The last Hebrew lesson took place on 05.02.2015. At the end, the number of students who persevered in getting up early and attending the class at 08:15 every Thursday morning in the freezing winter dropped from a few to TWO! The remaining two were one sweet German girl and one handsome Swiss guy! To be honest, even if there were some visiting students in the class from time to time, the amount of students in this tutorial, which required Hebrew as a prerequisite, could not be compared with the considerably higher amount of people attending the “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament” I once co-led in the Chinese Christian Congregation in Göttingen (one lecture from the latter can be glimpsed here). A few semesters ago, six research members and I also co-taught one advanced seminar course belonging to the same faculty at the same university. There were seven of us, and the number of students who showed up at the end of that course amounted to three. In light of this, I was extremely happy and grateful when there were still two precious students at the end of this tutorial. Yep, I am an easily satisfied person 🙂
Before the last tutorial, I wrote the admin an email and asked for the evaluation forms for the students to fill out. The admin replied that “das Fach ‘Altes Testament’ wird in diesem Semester nicht evaluiert.” So I decided to make my very own evaluation forms for the students. Here they are:
I did enjoy every moment of my teaching last semester. Not that I did everything perfectly. The students were kind enough to only mention two areas of future improvement. First, as mentioned by one of the students, I have to act more effectively with time. The tutorial was supposed to run from 08:15 to 09:45. I was always in the class before 08:15, but then I tended to get too excited with the students, so that I usually ended the class at 10:00 instead of at 09:45. This could be inconvenient for the students who wished to rush to the next class which began at 10:15. So I need to learn to stick to the schedule in the future. Second, as mentioned by another student, it was really easy for me to fall into the trap to quickly give out answers after I had gathered one student’s opinion and before another student could step in to offer his/her opinions. I am thinking that maybe counting from 1 to 20 silently during the interval is a good way to allow more students to think deeply and gather the courage to voice out their opinions.
That said, the students also gave me some real encouragements in the feedback forms! Nothing thrilled me more than the students who had found my way of teaching Ezekiel interesting. I was so glad that I could help them understand this “crazy ” prophet a bit more! 🙂 Well, the two diligent students liked the way Hebrew and the history of research were taught in the tutorial. You know, it was really awesome to find students who were patient and persistent enough to dig deeper into this technical stuff. Apparently, I was good at creating cosy and comfortable classroom atmosphere. Despite my occasional eagerness to dominate the classroom discussions, I also actively involved the students in the discussions. And I also gave good library/learning advice and showed them that there’s a bigger world outside the lectures. All in all, their feedback did brighten up my days! It was really fun getting to know you guys! And hope that you will all go very far in this field of study ~~~
Please forgive me to do this last show off. One of the students later told me that my tutorial was one of the best in the last semester. And another gave me one delicious Swiss chocolate as a token of gratitude! So delicious was it that I ate up the whole chocolate but forgot to take to take a picture of it 😦 Can you believe it? I forgot to take the picture of the chocolate!!! I only remember that there was a swiss flag on it, but It was a really awesome chocolate. In order to commit it to my memory, I decided to “historically reconstruct” it on a piece of paper. 😉 Here is the “historical reconstruction” >>>
Lastly, to my future employer, I am still preparing myself to be a great teacher in the future. When the time comes, when I am ready to knock on your door and ask you to offer me a job, please do take into consideration what I have shared above, ok? 😉