An anticipatory vibe brought a smile to my face the moment I walked into the room. Mrs Harris, the special religious educator, had magically morphed the classroom into a boat that was floating on a wild stormy sea. Jesus was there so the children knew they were safe.
Special Religious Education (SRE), commonly referred to as Scripture, is defined as Christian education in public schools. Parents and carers of children who attend NSW public schools have the right to nominate for their children to experience free Christian Faith Formation from a registered religious representative of an approved religious group. The NSW Department of Education mandates that on average, no less than 30 minutes and not more than one hour of meaningful teaching time per week should be allocated for SRE.
The hot topic of SRE in public schools has caused great debate around our country, with many teaching federations demanding it should not be a mandatory requirement of departments of education.
So, while the wise grown-ups of this world are busy arguing among themselves about whether or not God’s story and the Christian teachings of love, hope and faith are important values to be explained to our young people, the children attending SRE lessons are having a wonderful time. They are learning about a part of the Christian-Judeo tradition that will always be integral to the way we evolved as people.
The Maitland-Newcastle Diocese has 86 dedicated SRE teachers who travel far and wide to provide creative and engaging lessons to young people in our public schools. These amazing men and women, often retired, are brave warriors on a battlefield and vigorously pursue the mission they have been called to perform. It is not a job for the faint-hearted, but relies on a gentle courage to engage young people in a discussion about faith and life, God and heaven and the big question, “why are we here?”
To ponder these ideas in an inclusive, open and faith-filled way is not easy and I believe SRE teachers have been gifted the unique ability to do this very “special” job.
Mrs Harris, SRE teacher of 30 years, says it is an honour to be able to teach the young people something about which she is passionate. “My faith,” she said. “My main aim is to make sure all the children who I teach know that they are loved by God, especially in times of adversity. To know in their hearts that he is always by their side.”
Eleebana Public School principal Lucinda Farrell, supports the inclusion of SRE in her school.
“Jenny has been an important part of the Eleebana Public School community for over 20 years providing SRE to hundreds of children. Jenny is to be commended on her work as our SRE coordinator for the past 10 years. Her support for our school, our staff and most of all our students is very much appreciated,” Ms Farrell said.
I felt a huge sense of admiration for all SRE teachers as I left the classroom. The time freely given in training, planning, preparation and clever execution in the telling of God’s story is truly remarkable. It’s God, it’s life, it’s education ... it’s just the vibe of it.
If you are interested in becoming an SRE teacher, contact your local church to see how you can get involved.