The next time you bump into a teacher at church, ask them how they’re going and take a moment to pray for them – because they need it.
In February, the NSW Teachers Federation reported that thousands of positions are vacant, the number of teachers resigning has doubled in the past two years and the number of people studying to enter the profession has dropped by 30 per cent.
In an industry where the workload is high and the opportunities to shape and influence young lives abound, Christian teachers need our support and prayer. We spoke to three about how their churches have cared for them.
When people just “get it”
There’s nothing specific Kate Haggar’s church does to help her. But one of the small ways the junior school teacher at Rouse Hill Anglican College has been blessed by her church, St Paul’s, Canterbury, is through being surrounded by people who “get it”.
“I’m very thankful to be in a Bible study group with a few other teachers,” she says. “I don’t think that was on purpose, but it’s been great to be in a Bible study with others who understand the particular things that make teaching hard and joyful.”
It isn’t just fellow teachers in the congregation who understand the challenges of her profession.
“When I started teaching last year, people at church were very caring – constantly checking in on how I was doing,” Miss Haggar says. “It felt like people have heard about how difficult the first year of teaching can be and wanted to make sure I wasn’t drowning.”
Space to share
For Julia Wee, having space to share the joys and difficulties of teaching with her church family at St Barnabas’, Bossley Park has made a massive difference. The high school Maths teacher once came close to leaving the profession due to challenging circumstances.
“Before my current job at Thomas Hassall, I was facing a really difficult time at my previous job, where my mental health deteriorated really quickly,” she says. “I shared with my Bible study and some close friends at church who were really compassionate, listened and prayed for me. After I shared, they also followed up with me on a regular basis to see how I was coping.
“It made me feel I could get through the situation despite the difficulties, and that church was a safe space where I could be really honest about how I felt and that people wouldn’t judge me for feeling this way... One particular person I shared with at church made me feel heard. They offered support in a way that made me feel relieved. They listened, rather than trying to solve the problem.”
Mrs Wee adds that teaching is a “hard profession” that demands a lot of physical, mental and spiritual energy, and suggests that church members can help support and care for teachers in their congregation “by asking them how work is regularly, offering prayer through any circumstance, and following up with what people say”.
A unique connection
For Broughton Anglican College’s director of teaching, Rahmi Jackson, the special relationship his school has with Campbelltown Anglican Church has had an incredible impact – not only on the staff and school community, but also in his personal faith.
As the college operates within the Campbelltown Anglican Schools network, its relationship with the church means that Campbelltown’s rector the Rev Jason Veitch is regularly on the grounds – leading staff devotions, praying for and with teachers, offering to meet one to one. He even runs Moore College’s Preliminary Theological Certificate course so teachers can grow in their knowledge of the Bible.
Two other schools also belong to this network – St Peter’s Anglican Grammar School and St Peter’s Heart.
“Part of our partnership is recognising that I’m a teacher, not a theologian, but my pastor is a theologian,” Dr Jackson says. “We are working together to get Christian education done well for the sake of the gospel for the students – promoting Christ, doing missions and ministry work, all heavily informed by the minister’s expertise. It’s an active partnership.”
He not only collaborates with Mr Veitch on school matters, but the two also met for a year to read the Bible together.
“We went through Timothy and Titus, and it was so enriching,” Dr Jackson says. “He’s done it with other staff at school, too. Jason has been generous with his time to teach staff the Bible through devotions, one on one and PTC. That’s such a blessing.”
Much to be thankful for
All three teachers agree that there is much to be thankful for in the profession. It is greatly encouraging to have church members join them in praising God for the many things he is doing in schools and in the lives of young people.
Dr Jackson is thankful for the way the prayers and partnership with Campbelltown Anglican allow for strong connections to be built between the school and church communities.
“This is a unique opportunity for the gospel, with Christian teachers and leadership supported by our local church. We have such a privilege to work together to reach students here. At church, they pray purposefully for the leadership, teaching and for the ministry and mission to reach students and families with the gospel.”
At Rouse Hill, Miss Haggar considers it a great blessing to work in a school that is unapologetically Christian. “I’m thankful for the opportunity to sow into the lives of children in a significant way. And I’m thankful that God has given me a passion and joy for teaching.”
Mrs Wee, at Thomas Hassall, adds: “I am thankful that I can watch students grow throughout the years... It is a real privilege to see what students do after they leave school and, for the students who are Christian, how they grow in their faith.”
How can I support Christian teachers and schools?
- Ask teachers how they’re doing and pray for them regularly
- Celebrate the joys and opportunities. Teachers have the incredible privilege of playing an important role in the lives of many young people
- Listen to how Christian teachers are going and give them space to share what’s hard and what’s joyful
- Don’t expect Christian teachers to automatically be involved in children’s ministries at church
- Be kind and patient during busy times in the teaching calendar, such as reporting season. Maybe even drop them a meal or two during these times
- Encourage Christian teachers to meet together, share experiences, encourage one another and pray
- Give thanks for the opportunities Christian teachers have to share the gospel in Christian schools
- Ask if and how your church can partner with local Anglican schools