Thought For The Week - 30-01-23
They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.
Dear Colleagues and Friends,
If any of you have spent any time with me recently, you will have heard me say how much I enjoy my job. The fact I can bring my faith and my experience in education together is amazing. My job brings great variety, which suits me as I get easily bored doing the same thing over and over again. It does mean I have to be organised, though – luckily, I love to write a list! I have lists that started back in September that are messy and half-completed; I have lists for one part of my job and lists for another; I have lists to keep track off my lists – I’m sure I’m not the only one who works like this! However, what I realised is that for me at the end of the day, if I’ve ticked lots of things off my list of things to do and someone asks me how my days has been I’ll say ‘it was great’ as I feel I have accomplished something. That’s how I judge my day – by how many different thigs I can tick of my list, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, but there are days where things don’t get ticked off my list for various reasons and these days can feel less successful. Less productivity = less successful.
Last week, one of the things on my list was a visit to see a headteacher. Whilst we were speaking, it occurred to me that sometimes it is just important to be present, to be there with someone, and not simply to tick off tasks from a never-ending list. The value of the visit, I realised, wasn’t that it enabled me to reduce the list, but that I was there with someone who needed me there. There was power in my presence.
I have the joy in my job of being able to celebrate schools’ successes. I’ve been to different events, spoken with staff and leaders and been able to celebrate amazing things that happen in school. I’ve also had the privilege of walking through things with schools that are not so good. I call it a privilege because while the situations may be challenging, it is a privilege that people allow me into their lives and their schools at that point. These things are very rarely on the list because they’re not always predictable. In fact, being alongside people at these times doesn’t always feel productive – these situations don’t just get ‘ticked off’. They take time and effort, and it often feels like I can’t do much to help. I can’t take away people’s pain, I can’t take away the situation that people are going through, I can often feel quite impotent. You may recognise that feeling perhaps with some of the families that you work with, with all the difficult things people walk through.
This why the power of presence resonates so much with me as I try to work my way through my lists. The idea of just showing up; the idea of just sitting and listening (something I’m not always very good because anyone who knows me knows I’m a talker). Just showing that you are there and people are not alone I’ve come to realise is far more important than ticking something off my list, far more important than feeling I’ve accomplished something.
We see that in the Bible with Jesus. He didn’t always take away people’s problems. Often, he just sat and ate a meal with his friends and disciples. After he rose from the dead, there is a passage that talks about Jesus appearing to the disciples and eating in front of them. There were no miracles, no teaching – just being together (Luke 24: 36-49). There was power in his presence; amongst all he was on earth to do, his focus was people: their joys and their sorrows. In amongst all the busyness of school life and of life outside of school, we should not underestimate the power of our presence in challenging situations: the power of sitting with a parent who is struggling, the power of sitting with a child who can’t regulate themselves, the power of being alongside a colleague who is in tears. We also shouldn’t underestimate the power of presence in joyful situations to share in someone’s hopes, to celebrate in someone’s achievement. So, when perhaps we haven’t felt as productive in the day as we thought we would be, just take a moment to see where your presence has been felt and the difference your presence in that situation has made. In the end it comes down to something very simple: love, our love for one another, our love of God, our love for our surroundings.
This week the Called, Connected, Committed email that came out from Andy Wolfe included the following:
If I tirelessly teach five outstanding lessons a day, and see my students make excellent progress against their targets, but have not love, I am only a broken window or a wall covered in graffiti.
If I create a perfect climate for learning, have excellent meetings with parents, and resolve all the problems of the day through focused toil, but have no love, I am only an uneaten school lunch or a messy office.
If I give all I have to my school and work a seventy-hour week, grading, planning, preparing, and evaluating, and have the most perfect colour-coded action plan to guide my path, but have not love, I gain nothing. ‘Flourish Together- A Christian Vision for Students, Educators & Schools’- By Lynn E. Swaner and Andy Wolfe
So, let’s never underestimate how we show love and how the power of presence makes a difference.
from Lynsey Norris, Assistant Diocesan Director of Education