Hanna de Jong-Markus

Beyond Right-or-Wrong Thinking 7 129 By gaining knowledge about the genesis of the various orthodox Protestant churches, the alumni developed more respect for other denominations and they discovered that “the Lord has His children everywhere” (participant in focus group 1). Swimming outside the water Regarding whether their teacher education sufficiently equipped them to deal with religious diversity, the alumni on the one hand said that they manage well in practice and thus did not miss anything. However, on the other hand, one participant (focus group 1) said: “It was like learning to swim outside the water during the teacher education. I learned mainly by just doing it in practice and by making mistakes.” Furthermore, the alumni found it especially difficult in their work practices how to act when there are different views among pupils, among themselves and parents, or among themselves and the school board or colleagues. These different views were, for example, about the acceptability of specific Christian songs, getting vaccinations, wearing earrings, and praying for sick pets. The alumni found it hard when they did not know (yet) what was accepted at their school or by parents. Over the years, they were better able to assess this and more inclined to engage in conversations and express their own convictions, but they continue to sometimes experience tensions. They want pupils to feel valued and do not want to intervene between pupils and their parents or between different families; but at the same time, they want to express their own or the school’s convictions. The alumni indicated that they would have valued receiving more tools from teacher education about how to have conversations in situations as these. Moreover, they suggested that it might be significant for teacher education to pay more attention to experiences from outside the trainee teachers’ own context. Those experiences can help trainee teachers deal with differences, because without these experiences “it remains to be seen to what extent you respond well to that” (participant in focus group 2). One participant (focus group 1) noted that teacher education is particularly relevant because, at the age when a student is attending university “you are still very much stuck in how you grew up ór you are still searching.” During the interviews, the researchers raised the possibility of an internship at schools with different ideological backgrounds. The alumni indicated that this would be good because one’s values and habits would be questioned. However, according to some of the alumni, it is also difficult to make it mandatory because it can be an intense experience if, for example, there is cursing at the school or little acceptance of the Christian faith. The alumni suggested organizing exchanges with students from other teacher education