The big difference between what I was trained to teach (high school chemistry and science) and what I get to teach now (religious education at a Unitarian Universalist church) is that in the high school setting I was accountable for making sure my students could memorize a huge set of facts, much of it minutia that would be forgotten as soon as it wasn't needed anymore. I wasn't asked to make them love science - although that would always be nice - or to ensure that when they looked at the world around them they could see just how amazing it is. As long as they passed the tests and did well on their science WASL at the end of the year, I had done well. Oh - and as long as I made sure they weren't too loud or rowdy in class, of course - gotta maintain that classroom discipline!
Now, there is no real set of facts to learn. Sure, I hope the kids will come out of the program knowing something about UU history, some Bible stories, and something about world religions. Sure, I hope they know the mechanics of meditation and the democratic process - but I don't think any of that is what I'm really trying to teach.
Religious Education here is all about Wonder and Awe. If we feel those two things, we are experiencing our lives and the world around us in a religious way. I don't care if you are an atheist who loves hard science or a theist who believes in a personal God - the point to me is that you look around you with Wonder and Awe. Either way, the Universe is a pretty amazing place, a place to be experienced with wide eyed amazement.
How do you teach a feeling? Well, you sure can't test it with some multiple choice, fill-in-the-bubble exam. All I can do is listen to them, look at how they live their lives, and have a little faith of my own that it makes a difference to show children this way to see the world.
I am so blessed and privileged to have found this calling, to surround myself with Love and Wonder and Awe instead of test sheets and class averages.