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Not just playing at soldiers

Not just playing at soldiers

posted Thursday 15th May 2014 by Gill Robins 
A conversation this week left me thinking about the challenges that we face in our work as teachers. As I look back over my teaching life and the changes that have occurred to the profession, I can see a very different challenge for today’s young teachers (my own adult children among them) to any that I faced.
I started teaching in the days when Christian values were still acknowledged as part of our social fabric and although ‘becoming a Christian’ was thought of as a bit extreme, nobody really objected much: viewpoints were tolerated, if not respected. In fact, during the years when I was at university and for many years beyond, intolerance was probably the worst sin anyone could commit, in human terms. 
But today, the picture is very different. Our society is economically driven by the twin engines of social mobility and economic success, ensuring that our education service espouses consumerist and materialist values. Where is the room for Christian values in this? The answer is, ‘Nowhere obvious’. And that, I think, is the challenge facing today’s young Christian teachers: how to teach from a Christian perspective, sharing values like respect, kindness, patience and generosity. For example, are we teaching children to read just to ensure their academic, and therefore economic, success? Or are we teaching them to read so that they can become independent explorers and thinkers, able to evaluate all that they encounter and make up their own minds about issues like belief, faith and values?
Throughout my teens, I used to spend my summer holidays working on an Open Air Mission team, which involved street evangelism each evening. I had a protected upbringing, so the first time we were accosted by an aggressive foul-mouthed drunk, I was badly shaken. When we got back to the church where we were staying, the leader said (and I’ve never forgotten it) ‘Gill, we’re in a war. We aren’t just playing at soldiers.’ 
The same is true of teaching today. Ephesians 6:12 tells us that ‘We are not fighting against humans. We are fighting against forces and authorities and against rulers of darkness and powers in the spiritual world’ (CEV). The forces of consumerism, materialism, secularism, humanism, and a world in which man has replaced God with himself, inform political decisions about education content. It requires a radical repositioning of our thinking to move beyond this and change the education landscape. I often tweet and write about What If learning – a way of being for a distinctively Christian teacher, as an answer to the challenge.
As always, God does not leave us to tackle this challenge alone. Ephesians 6:10 tells us to ‘let the mighty strength of the Lord make you strong. Put on all the armour that God gives, so you can defend yourself against the devil’s tricks’ (CEV). We work and teach in the Lord’s mighty strength, so however tough it seems (and it is tough) the Lord’s strength will be enough. This is true for every generation, regardless of the challenge. So if you are a young teacher, or if you are feeling daunted by godless values around you, trust the Lord’s strength. Don’t just play at soldiers. Work out what form   ‘powers in the spiritual world’ takes in contemporary society, then step out in boldness to meet the challenge with, and for, God.
Gill Robins

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