Dragons into Princesses: Knowing the Self in “Strictly Ballroom,” Buddhist Bardo, and Christian Eros

2015-06-20 18.24.21This summer’s religion course in Bhutan with my HKIS students prompted this reflection on how all of us can take what we consider our lower selves and work with these energies to become better human beings. Our group is pictured here in Phobjikha, the most beautiful valley in Bhutan, walking from a 17th century Buddhist temple down to a 14th century one where we had the honor of observing and participating in a vestment consecration ceremony.


Religion at its best brings to the fore unconventional wisdom that lightens our load, that tells us that life is unexpectedly better than we could have imagined. What if what we considered our foremost weaknesses, our vices, the dark recesses of our hearts were in fact precisely the necessary catalysts for growth? Rainer Marie Rilke’s rich metaphors are especially poignant in this regard, “Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are really princesses who are waiting to see us act, just once with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love” (123).

Teaching religion, as I have been doing in a study-travel course about Buddhist spiritual practices in Hong Kong and Bhutan this summer, should bring such wisdom to light. Too often, however, it seems as if the essence of religion teaching can be boiled down to a simple admonition: be good. Can such a l0w-bar aim justify my students’ time? Put more positively, what benefit beyond conventional morality can studying and practicing religion offer my students? Continue reading

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Whole Students for a Whole World: Catching Integrity in the Social Conscience Classroom

DSC_3460 This is a picture of the 2014-2015 Humanities I in Action class on day 1 of our journey through the curriculum.  Now 10 months later as the school year comes to a close, we have recently completed our final exam and end-of-year heroic cycle ritual in which every student shares something of their story this year. As a class, we have become aware of the deep personal growth and the genuine sense of community that we have experienced collectively. 

Abstract: This small action research project addresses the question whether student integrity is enhanced by the study of contemporary issues in a socially conscious classroom environment. Student responses suggest that the social conscience approach appears to implicitly require integrity to enable students to come to an understanding of their own worldview, which is an explicit aim of the course.
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Teaching for Empowerment in South India 2015

2015-03-12 04.44.25In March 2015, Hong Kong International School students and teachers led a four-day Teaching for Empowerment curriculum with students who attend Concordia Ambur and Concordia Pernambut in south India. The two student leaders of the trip, Caroline Scown and Brittany Fried, also produced a facilitator’s handbook to assist HKIS students lead the local students through the program. Their handbook, the printing of which was supported by the Jim Handrich service learning fund, also proved effective on trips to the Philippines and South Africa. Continue reading

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“Christianity’s Hidden Driveshaft:” Cynthia Bourgeault’s Law of Three as Trinitarian Template of Transformation


When I first started teaching I wondered: where is the power of education? Or, to frame the question in Christian terms that remain my most natural mode, where is the power of Christ to transform lives? Somehow it seemed to me that Christian education should always be about the business of transforming people and changing society. But where was that power? Continue reading

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The Middle Way between Faith-Based and Secular Education: Teaching Spiritual Practices in a World Religions Class

2013-09-02 07.12.46Introduction

For years I have wrestled with how to teach religion at HKIS as a Christian school to a relatively secularized student body in a multicultural and multi-religious environment. The main issue was that while teaching from a primarily academic perspective made religion accessible and palatable to my students,  it did not speak to their deeply personal and spiritual needs. In recent years HKIS has developed some helpful statements that seem to thread this needle, and in a way that seems to work for my students. This blog entry shares these perspectives, and then shows how I apply this middle way approach to the teaching of my grade 9 World Religion class through the use of spiritual practices. Continue reading

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HKIS Hosts the 8th Annual Service Summit

DSC_3643On Saturday, January 10, HKIS hosted the 8th annual Service Summit. Our 90 9th graders heard presentations from our “Free the Children” speakers Mark and Joanna who  kicked-off the event with an inspiring keynote. Then they selected five break-out sessions to attend out of 27 presentations, most conducted by older HKIS students who had done their own successful projects. We are also proud to say that half a dozen alumni were among the presenters, showcasing their own causes that they remain involved in. Continue reading

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A Turn Towards the Vertical: Best Books and Resources of 2014

2015-01-11 03.27.38 Introduction

As I turned 50 last month, perhaps it’s not surprising that the best books/resources for me during this past year involved the spiritual life. As I’ve been writing for some time on this blog, this aspect seems to be the necessary complement to my emphasis on social conscience education. Continue reading

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