Back to school
Rachel Kirker is the interviewer and Joanna Griffiths is the interviewee.
What is your name and where do you work?
My name is Joanna Griffiths and I work in Carnaghts Primary School, near Ballymena.
What difference does it make that you are a Christian teacher?
My rule of thumb is Micah ch6v8, which says:
‘’ He has shown you, O man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you; but to do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’’
In my job as a teacher, I need to ‘’do justice’’, but how does this actually play out in reality? The answer is that I need to be fair to and with my pupils, colleagues and their parents:
-sometimes they require a straight answer to a question; I need to give it without prevaricating,
-sometimes it is down to me to settle a dispute between two children; I need to take the time to sort it out without swatting it away as an unnecessary distraction,
-sometimes it is within my remit to give praise; I need to give it, not grudgingly or sparsely, but generously and wholeheartedly. It matters to children, and they know when we’re not sincere,
-sometimes children need to be punished for wrongdoing; this requires a proportionate, measured response which has as its intention, the poor behaviour not becoming established,
-I always need to be consistent, meaning what I say and saying what I mean.
As a Christian teacher I also need to ‘’love mercy’’. How does this play out?
-I need to remember that every child is precious to his/her family and that if I must correct his/her behaviour, I need to find a form of words which says what needs to be said in a way that I myself would be able to receive it.
-as a young teacher, I expected too much of little children and I have since realised that I need much more patience when working with them.
-to a little child, the teacher is the sum total of world authority. The teacher can dictate what he/she eats at Breaktime and when he/she goes to the toilet! I need to be gentle with them.
-children make lots of mistakes; I need to be careful how I correct them without giving them negative opinions about themselves.
-I need to accept the love that they offer to me through the chats and the pictures and the nic-nacky gifts. These are their personal responses of love and respect towards me, and for that reason they are valuable and treasured.
-I need to remember that one day I was the child who forgot my homework, or talked when I should have been working, or stole the sweets from the teacher’s cupboard.
Finally, how do I walk humbly with my God?
I always need to remember that:
-I was the one who needed Christ to speak directly to me, telling me the home truths I had to hear,
-I was the one who needed Christ to settle the dispute between my Father and me,
-I am the one who has received the love of God. He has told me that I am precious to Him and he delights in me,
-I am the one who has been disciplined by Christ and brought to repentance,
-I am the one with whom He is forever patient and he understands my frailty,
-I am the one He is gentle with, and he knows that I love Him,
-I am the one who always makes the same mistakes, but He doesn’t call me names,
-I am the one that Christ loves to hear speaking to Him, asking for help and talking to Him.
What is it like for a pupil to be a Christian?
I am not in a position to speak definitively about this. I think it would be an excellent question which many young people here could answer fully. Let’s ask them! However, there are two things which I would like to say:
1.It is very much harder to be a Christian pupil in school now, than it was for me, growing up in the 1970’s and 1980’s. You do have the Spirit of Christ in you and he will give you the strength to be His witnesses.
2.I would like to take this opportunity to encourage all school and university students to start going to SU or CU at the outset of term. Even if you’ve been in school for years, start going to SU/CU this year. Nail your colours to the mast at the beginning of term.
And for university students, you do the same; nail your colours to the mast immediately. Make CU membership your top priority and go to church regularly. Get involved from the start. Don’t leave it for three or four months.
I would like to finish by drawing your attention to Esther Ahn Kim whom Francis Chan speaks of in his book, ‘’The Forgotten God’’. Esther was imprisoned in Korea during WW11 from 1939-1945. She had anticipated her likely imprisonment when she refused to worship at the shrines, so she prepared herself for imprisonment through fasting, prayer and memorization of scripture to which she knew she would not have written access. Not only did she survive the ordeal but she personally shone in the darkness, because of her attitude towards everyone in the prison. Every day she asked God:
‘’Who do you want me to love for you today?’’
We can all apply this to our working and ordinary days.
And finally, Philip Keller writes in his book, ‘’Lessons from a Sheepdog’’, a true story of transforming love:
‘’In working with Lass, this lesson came home to me again and again. It is not the spectacular, nor the sensational for which the Master looks. He seeks instead for me to simply be faithful wherever He places me in His all-wise plans and purposes.’’