Rachel, part of the Transit Network, is a high school art teacher in Bradford. She shares her story about living out her faith in the workplace.
"God was my shelter and comfort during the most difficult part of my life..."
How do you know Jesus? I've grown up with Christian parents who always taught me about how much I was loved by God, but it was only when I was 13 and attended a Youth Alpha Course that I really discovered that Jesus was my saviour. It was at that point that I committed to following Him. At the same time my parents were going through a very sad and messy divorce but I was strengthened and upheld, able to support my mum and sisters, only by the grace of God. He was my shelter and comfort during the most difficult part of my life, and walked along side me and gave me strength throughout.
What are the key challenges you face day to day in your workplace? I'm a teacher in a big bustling secondary school on the far side of Bradford. Teaching is a fantastic profession; everyday I have the opportunity to have an influence on the pupils that come through my classroom door. We also get to make beautiful artwork together!
"I am called to be salt and light in the lives of those children and to love... encourage and affirm them."
Being a Christian as a teacher can be strange; I can't overtly share my faith with my students, though that conversation has come up quite a few times with them. Instead I see my role as a follower of Jesus to love those pupils, despite the lack of homework, the scruffy uniform or the bad behaviour. The biggest struggle for me comes when I am most tired and impatient, when I am desperate for a holiday to arrive and my class are simply not following instructions. I am called to be salt and light in the lives of those children and to love them despite all that, and to encourage and affirm them whilst they are with me.
"I know that my hope is fixed on something far greater than lesson observations, paperwork, results and Ofsted."
How does looking to God make a difference? Most recently I have been really convicted to not become jaded and cross. It's very easy to allow yourself to sink into the struggles, criticisms and complaints of staff around you on a daily basis; actually I know that my hope is fixed on something far greater than lesson observations, paperwork, results and Ofsted. I am trying, in God's strength, to be positive and a light in that busy and pressurised situation, to be full of grace with my colleagues and pupils and to witness to them through this. It is certainly not easy!
How does St G’s support you? I have a fantastic group of people around me in my Small Group, ranging from other teachers to other public sector workers and people working in businesses. All of us handle different pressures on a daily basis, but within our group we can recognise the gifts God has blessed us with in each other, and bring our own wisdom and experience to share.
My small group challenge me on a weekly basis to stand taller for God, to proclaim Him in my actions and attitude at work and to love my pupils even more greatly that I already do. We also are very lucky to share great food and wine each Thursday!
"God was my strength, He gave me the words to speak..."
Where have you seen God working? Our school suffered a terrible tragedy in the autumn of last year, when one of our Sixth Form students and her family were killed. For me it was a bit of a turning point in my career, suddenly I went from being any other recently qualified teacher to a member of staff pupils sought out and turned to during one of the most painful experiences of their lives. I had to be a stronghold and a grown up, even when all I really wanted to do was to curl up into a ball and cry. God was my strength, He gave me the words to speak, the sensitivity to know when not to speak and the space to grieve alongside my pupils. I feel like that experience gave me a greater understanding of the daily struggles that some of my pupils go through, and helped me to see beyond the pressure of results and exams and ask them how they are before making snap judgments.
"Jesus taught us to love as we would hope to be loved, and for me teaching really is about this."
How would you encourage other teachers and young professionals to seek to work for God in their workplaces? As a teacher I am blessed to work directly with real, living breathing people, who feel, who fail and celebrate. I would encourage anyone in a profession like mine to do as Jesus did and see each person as an individual with their own story, and to meet them where they are at. Jesus taught us to love as we would hope to be loved, and for me teaching really is about this.
What can St G’s pray for you, and other teachers? To continue to be patient! As the pressure mounts as we get closer to exam season and the end of the year it is easy to become more and more bogged down by the politics of education. I would appreciate prayer to continue to recognise my pupils as exactly who they are and to love them and encourage them as Jesus would. If can manage that I'd be very pleased!