Every day in our classrooms, we are asked a million questions. Where do I write my name? How long does this have to be? Where do I sit? Most are easily answered quickly. However, every once in a while a question is asked that can be incredibly difficult to answer. This kind of question came up in my class yesterday. We have been learning about Beethoven in my grade three classes and during O Canada one of my students was staring at my poster of Beethoven on the wall. Once O Canada was over, his hand shot up and immediately he asked “ Is Beethoven in heaven?” The whole class sat in silence waiting for a response.
I took a minute to decide how to respond. My classroom is very diverse with many different cultures and religions being represented. I didn’t want to say an immediate yes and exclude those in my class that didn’t believe in heaven. I also didn’t want to dismiss the idea of heaven to those who hold it as a belief. There seemed to be no right answer to this question. So I decided the only way to handle this question was to acknowledge and respect the different beliefs that are represented in my student population.
I explained to the class that different cultures and religions have different beliefs about what happens to us after we pass away. Some religions believe there is a heaven while others believe in reincarnation. I also explained that some cultures or religions do not believe in an afterlife at all. We further discussed how our familial, religious and cultural beliefs make us all special.
We then had an amazing discussion about the music that represents our culture and religion. The students taught me all about the songs and instruments played in their Gurdwara and others told me about singing in the choir at church. I am really glad I took the time to answer the difficult question as the sharing that followed was so important to creating our community as a class.
As the class went on, I began to wonder why the initial question popped into my student’s head. I wondered if someone in his life has passed away recently. I quietly asked him the question after the students were busy working on their assignment. He told me that he just wanted to know.
I am very glad that he asked.