Blessed, Refreshed, Resourced & Encouraged

On 21st March we held an event, in partnership with the Milton Keynes Bridgebuilder Trust [MKBT], which aimed to ‘bless, refresh, resource & encourage’ Christians in Education across Milton Keynes.

We were joined by 18 attendees, representing 9 Churches & 11 schools/institutions/organisations. Delegates included teachers (current, supply & retired), teaching assistants, deputy headteachers, assistant principals, administrative officers, KS3 coordinators, a reading recovery teacher and private tutors. We were also joined by the MKBT Office Manager and a Trustee.

The evening started with refreshments (yummy cakes, freshly brewed tea & real coffee and the option of apples, of course) and time for delegates to introduce themselves and chat. We then assembled to introduce the plan for the evening and the presenters (myself & Rachel Foster, Primary Schools Worker for MKBT). The primary audience for the evening was those involved in teaching, but the event was also intended to bless the whole range of roles involved in the Education Sector. We wanted to say a big ‘thank you’ to Christians involved in Education, for the long days and late nights, for their hard work (blood, sweat and tears) and for enduring stress and occasionally despair.

I shared some of my reflections from my school days, the adults who stood out among the many I encountered. Some for the right reasons (tailored teaching, excellent personal care and attention) and others for the wrong reasons (because I was a hormonal adolescent – but enough about that).

I included this video by Taylor Mali, which seemed to catch the mood of those present:

In preparation for the event I had been asking friends, family, colleagues and, occasionally, strangers about their experiences at school and what made individual adults stand out to them when they look back now. Their reflections helped to shape part of the evening. I shared two testimonies with them:

Lauren (pseudonym)

  • The person she reflected on was her 6th form tutor and A-level Psychology teacher.
  • ‘she understood that I didn’t want to talk about the issues I was dealing with, but realised that I was depressed and self-harming’
  • ‘forced me to sit down with her and organise an action plan – helped me stick to it’
  • ‘took walks with me during lunch breaks just to chat about how things were going’
  • ‘treated me more like a daughter than a student’
  • ‘was concerned with my welfare as well as being an awesome teacher’
  • ‘she let me take naps in her office when I had insomnia’
  • ‘she stayed in touch with me for a few years after school to see how I was doing’
  • ‘generally took care of me when I was unable to take care of myself’
  • ‘I definitely wouldn’t have made it to Uni without her support’
  • ‘and may not have even made it out of A-levels alive’

Alison (pseudonym)

  • She reflected on her secondary school RE teacher
  • a ‘consistent presence during six years at secondary school/sixth form
  • ‘an amazing teacher who knew and loved her subject’
  • ‘she genuinely cared for the young people in her class
  • demonstrated personal care and support during a key crisis point in Alison’s life
  • above and beyond what was/is expected
  • long term support, care, encouragement – two years after the crisis
  • ‘two of the toughest years of my life’
  • ‘she helped me to believe in myself, because she believed in me’
  • ‘her constant encouragement and reassurance enabled me to achieve my A-levels when they seemed to be impossible’
  • ‘she inspired and encouraged me to follow the path of higher education’
  • ‘I will always be massively grateful to her for that’

I followed up by reflecting on my own experiences of pastoral care & support at school.  But then pointed out that simply providing great pastoral care isn’t what makes a Christian teacher distinctive from any other teacher. We would be pursuing that later.

We moved on to briefly introduce the resources which we’d provided around the room which delegates were free to browse and take away as they wished. Rachel started us off by explaining the role of the Bridgebuilder Trust and detailing some of its projects, then I introduced the following resources:

Then we broke for further refreshments and delegates had time to chat together and browse the resources.

When we reconvened we spent some time considering what makes Christians in Education distinctive by exploring Ephesians 2:12-18. I summed this up with the phrase ‘I AM @ work’ – that God is at work in each one of us, through all our interactions & relationships. [Further notes on this section can be made available if desired.]

Then Rachel led the part of the evening where we commissioned the delegates to go in the name of Jesus and continue their ministry in the Education sector and prayed for them. The evening closed with further chat, and delegates completing feedback forms about their impressions of the evening. They were overwhelmingly positive, and have given us a great deal of food for thought about future events. Plans are already in motion…

‘If a doctor, lawyer, or dentist had 30 people in his office at one time, all of whom had different needs, and some of whom didn’t want to be there and were causing trouble, and the doctor, lawyer, or dentist had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some conception of the classroom teacher’s job.’

Here are a few images of the set-up – I didn’t get any once the delegates arrived as I was busy chatting…