Plates vs. Dates

Once upon a time I went to lunch every fortnight with a Christian boy.. on our own.. together. Sounds really romantic right? Except, it wasn’t a date and we never thought it was.

My friend and I became friends just after he became a Christian. We lived on college so we hung out together on a regular basis. When I moved away from college, I was working three jobs and studying full-time. I missed the regularity of hanging out with my friend, when we weren’t in a crowd of other friends and knowing where we were at in life.

So we set up a fortnightly catch-up. But then a weird thing happened. As soon as I told other Christians, who didn’t know me or my friend that well, that I had gone to lunch with my male friend, they’d ask if we were dating. When I told them we weren’t, they questioned my/his motives and left me feeling bewildered about hanging out with my friend.

Just because something looks similar to another thing, doesn’t mean that it’s the same. Contrary to what these people assumed, Christian males and females, can have platonic relationships that aren’t novel. That is, it isn’t special or unique. It isn’t unrequited love blossoming. It is a friendship.

However, much like dating, being platonic friends should be intentional. The year we started going on plates (platonic lunch dates), kicked off with my friend speaking to me about a conversation he’d had with someone who was pastoring him. He was challenged to make sure he wasn’t leading his female friends on. So, he took the advice to heart, and made it clear that when we hung out together, particularly on our own, that I was his sister in Christ and his friend. Nothing more.

When your opposite sex friends are honest with you, be honest with them and yourself.

If I had a crush on my male friend, and believed that our time together was a conduit for anything more; I would have told him then and there. If intentions are being set, then set them clearly.

Here lies a danger. When we’re being told that our desire isn’t another’s, we don’t want to say anything.. just in case.

The quality of our friendship and his honesty, meant that it was safe for me to be honest. And, if you’re comfortable in a friendship, it should be safe too. As Christians, we know that no one is devoid of worldly desires. We all struggle with different things and we shouldn’t pretend that we don’t. Therefore, it should be safe to share how you feel with someone who is your friend; particularly if they are a Christian.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. – Colossians 3: 12-14

If you’re being told that someone doesn’t share the same intentions as you, don’t respond unkindly. Your friend shouldn’t be worried about losing their friendship with you because of two different desires. However, do think of a clear way forward that protects their heart.

I never fell in love with my friend, anymore than him being my friend and brother. But I was never fearful of losing his friendship either.

But think of the children! 

As Christians we also need to be aware about causing other people to stumble. We do this by being wise in the areas that they struggle with. Whenever I talked about spending time with my male friend, I referred to our time where we went to lunch as a plate. People would ask what the heck that was, and I’d explain it. I made our intentions clear, so that others weren’t mislead by what we were doing. If they questioned my friend’s motives, I told them to go ask him.

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? – 1 Corinthians 8:9-10

But what if this intention changes?

Our plates continued well into the years that lead after. I honestly believe that if you’re really friends with someone, to the point you enjoy spending time together, then you should speak up when your intentions change.

The key difference to a plate and a date are your intentions. 

You wouldn’t like a covert date where the other person thought it was, and you didn’t. So, if you want your plates to be dates, you need to tell the other person. If they don’t want plates to be dates, then you should reconsider what your plates look like.

Christian girls can be just friends with boys. Christian boys can be just friends with girls. However, be clear and honest about what your time together is because a plate does not equal a date.

 

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But Why Do You Believe in Equity?

Recently, a friend asked me why I thought my teaching practice should be shaped by distributive justice (equity). So this blog post is the long answer, which I couldn’t manage on a Friday night over dinner.


 

Two students.

One from a family whose parents completed high school and obtained a tertiary education, they have books in their house, the student is helped with his homework which includes the reading of an age-appropriate book for English.

One from a family whose mother completed high school and works night shifts and a father whose literacy is where he left it in high school at the age of 15. His father tries his best to help with his homework but the book requires him to sound out the words aloud before he can help his child.

Which one is most likely to finish their homework to a better standard?

No one is equal in education. 

The answer to this? Equity.

Equity acknowledges that people are inherently unequal. Students are born with characteristics like creativity or an affinity for algebraic equations. Some are born with impairments, or disabilities. Others, lag behind academically. Others have been born into high cultural capital families.

So what is equity exactly? Well here’s the layman’s definition:

Equity is the provision of resources to those who need them in order to create a level playing field.

Equity perpetuates inequality to create equality. (Woah). It discriminates on the basis of need to enable fairness of chances in succeeding.

In education this can take many shapes and forms. It can be the employment of Teacher’s Aides, diversifying learning activities or changing expected learning outcomes. Really, it’s being aware of student’s weaknesses, strengths and diverse backgrounds then acknowledging that these will impact the learning experience of every single student in a different way.

As a classroom teacher, I will never be able to provide the funding needed to employ a TA, purchase specialist resources or a far reaching educational program. However, I can differentiate my teaching. This uses all that I know (and can find out) about the students in my class and then alters my pedagogy (everything teacher’s do) to cater for the needs identified.

An example is of these two export tables. One was given to Year 9 students who were reading at a primary school level, the other to those at or just below stage level:

diff 2diff

Note: I did six revisions of the readability of the export table, to change headings, simplify commodities, exclude the %’s traded, and the font.

Sometimes, this is time-consuming and often hard, so why bother?

I wrote this in a recent education assignment:

Differentiation requires learning objectives for all students to be the same, but ensuring tasks are tailored to meet the needs of individual students so that each have the opportunity to engage and learn.

What I really wanted to write was something far deeper and less secular.

The only thing that Christ treats equally is his love of people and hatred of sin. Jesus was sent to save the sick, not to call the righteous (Mark 2:17). Christ also treated those who were downtrodden with an unyielding compassion regardless of who was watching (Luke 7:37-50).

Although Christ’s love is far more pure, constant and unconditional that anything I can offer; my students are equal human beings who deserve me to care about them, however, I didn’t become a teacher to sit and watch students struggle when I could easily do something about it. I choose to discriminate my pedagogy so that a child who may fall into the cracks of the education system can achieve, even if it means another child’s worksheet hasn’t been read seventeen times for readability when they don’t need that treatment.

I also wrote this in the same assignment:

This [equity] is contrary to current discourse which requires teachers to be competent experts who are measured on the basis of standardized tests.

It is easy to forget equity when a standardized test like NAPLAN or an exam measures your ability to teach well. When differentiation is time-consuming and almost irrelevant to the national assessment of education, why use your time if the student isn’t even going to be able to read the question on the HSC test paper?

I wrote this:

That is, realizing how to cater for students is a life-long process, and I will not always be the expert, but that my praxis [way you teach] will be constantly reinvented.

 

What I meant was:

As a Christian, we are called to emulate the love and fruits of the Spirit that Jesus so awesomely displays to the world.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. ~ Galatians 5:22-26

Sure, a teacher can’t be expected to fix the world– it’s infinitely filled with brokenness, and almost every student will be marred by this (#Jesus can fix all: Luke 18:27; Job 42:2; Jeremiah 32:17).

Yet if I’m faced with the decision to have a two hour nap on a Friday afternoon, or change all my slides to black and white, so that the student I just found out was colour blind can read the explanations, notes and instructions; actual kindness demands me to forego the nap. Or, despite the great desire to discipline the student who stands outside the classroom he’s just been kicked out of whilst banging on the door, screaming to be let back in; self-control reminds me he has an additional learning need, where he can’t draw the connection between being punished (in this way) and his behaviour so I sit him down, ask him why he’s outside, what he should have done then explain it’s fair to be outside.

 

Short answer: Equity. I think it matters. Jesus.