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The blog

My last blog

posted Friday 29th August 2014 by Robert Hall

Thank you for reading this, my last blog as Membership Director for ACT.  Maybe it’s a good time to ask where we, Christians in education in AD 2014 , are right now.

Beleaguered

This word means encamped around by an enemy.  Our nation is currently panicking about radicalism and extremism.  The obvious image which springs into the popular mind is aggressive armies, in Syria or Iraq, driven by ideology.  The idea that young people from the UK might be a part of these armies is very unsettling.  Humanists and secularists are keen to put this down to religiously motivated people and are quick to include Christians in this category.

Beaver away

So, how should we respond?  By continuing to do a good job.  Engage with young people.  It’s not always easy to get inside their heads but as good teachers we need to do so.  Try physically sitting where they sit.  What does the learning environment look and feel like?  Have a vision for these citizens of tomorrow which is greater than the vision they have for themselves.

Enter into professional dialogue with colleagues on curriculum and pedagogy.  How do we, collectively, make a difference in the lives of young people?  How do we, jointly, provide a balanced curriculum?  How do we, working together, provide opportunities for all the pupils we have?  How do we, as a school, instil a sense of hope?

Believe

‘Knowledge people’ understandably find it difficult to deal with unknowns, but Christians in education can cope.  This sentence perhaps sums up how we should be, ‘I don’t know, but I know a Man who does ...’  Faith teaches us to live with mystery, partial revelation and ambiguity.  The business of teaching and learning is not steady, uniform, predictable progression.  Despite the vicissitudes of the classroom, we can keep calm and carry on because we know in whom we have believed.

Bless

Pray for colleagues, pupils, parents, school leaders and politicians.  Pray that schools of a Christian character will be able to demonstrate convincingly the Christian difference within a hostile world.

Be blessed

As you enter the classroom, you are in a situation similar to any missionary.  Actively seek support from friends, colleagues, family members and fellow Christians in education in your fellowship.

I’d like to say goodbye with one of my favourite Bible quotations, from Colossians 3.16,17  

‘Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.  And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.’  NIV  UK

Of these verses Curtis Vaughan writes, ‘We must submit to the demands of the Christian message and let it become so deeply implanted within us that it controls all our thinking.’

The Message version has, 'Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other.  None of this going off and doing your own thing.'

Let this be true of you as you grow within the family known as the Association of Christian Teachers.

Thank you for your support and encouragement as we have grown together.   ACTuality started with a circulation list of sixty  and now has over one thousand eight hundred subscribers.

If you’d like to get in touch with me personally, you can reach me at  robert@roberthall.co.uk  For all ACT matters, contact clive@actforhim.org.uk

Robert Hall


When two worlds meet

posted Friday 25th July 2014     

When term ends and pupils say goodbye to their teachers for the final time, there will always be tears.  I am an emotional kind of guy and can be moved to tears very easily by a poignant moment.  Whilst watching the 2009 cartoon film 'Up', my grandchildren thought it strange that their grandfather was frequently wiping his eyes.

Let me tell you of two instances which trigger this reaction in me, as regular as clockwork.  In the closing moments of the pilot episode of Endeavour, the prequel to Morse, the police detective television series, Detective Inspector Thursday asks Morse where he sees himself in twenty years' time.  Endeavour looks in the rear view mirror of the car he is driving and sees the face of actor John Thaw who played the older Morse.

In the 2000 Carlton Television version of  E Nesbitt's 1905 story, 'The Railway Children’' Mother is played by Jenny Agutter, who played Roberta in the well-known 1970 film.  It's a nice touch and provides a sense of continuity, or maybe this was done to ensure publicity.  There is a moment when the children are off to explore.  Mother gives permission but warns them not to trespass on the railway. Peter admonishes his mother, 'But you went on the railway when you were young, didn't you mother?'

Both of these scenes reduces me to tears.  Why?  I think it’s because in each case two worlds, the present and the past, collide.  It’s the same when driving along a country lane in summer, I smell smoke from a bonfire which transports me back over fifty years to the world of my childhood garden.

The best example of two worlds colliding is of course, at the incarnation, when as Eleanor Hull's 1912 translation describes the 'High King of heaven, thou heaven's bright sun' came into Bethleham's ‘dark streets [where] shineth the everlasting Light, The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee ...'  Phillips Brooks continues, 'But in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in.'

I have used poetry to describe this, because the central event in history deserves good description.  How beautiful it must have been to witness the world of heaven touch the world in which we presently live.  This is the heart of our regenerated lives: 'ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven'.  Now that's something to marvel at.

My mother, a sensitive soul, would describe a spiritual moment like this, 'Someone’s just walked over my grave'.  In Russia they say 'An angel is passing'.  Let’s be sensitive to such precious moments, and if they bring tears of joy and wonder to our eyes, Praise God.

With acknowledgement to Henry Lyte, Eleanor Hull and Phillips Brooks.  

Robert Hall


Lessons from the fireman

posted Thursday 10th July 2014 by Robert Hall

Our language is indeed strange, as the term fireman can mean one who puts out fires, or the exact opposite, one who tends and encourages them.

I am fortunate to have in my house two things which come into their own in winter: an open fireplace and a cellar in which I store wood for the fire. The wood is gathered from various sources, including building materials discarded by my builder son. Even suitable garden prunings find their way into the cellar to be stored for kindling. The cellar acts as a place in which wood is sorted, sawn and split into appropriate sizes for the fireplace.

Some seasons ago I made a serious error. Cutting back an over ambitious rose bush I kept the thicker woody stems for kindling, forgetting that they would be almost impossible to handle without injury. I had to wear thick gloves which, as you will perhaps know, impair dexterity. So I fumbled about trying to avoid the thorns.

Although I have managed to burn most of the hazardous thorny kindling, I am always cautious about handling the thin sticks in the dim light of the cellar, lest I pick up a vicious thorny one.

The analogy is perhaps obvious. In Genesis chapter three we learn how a serious error of judgement led to far-reaching consequences. If only I had thought for a few seconds about the consequences of razor-sharp thorns in my woodpile!
The same is true in the world of work. Some colleagues and some pupils, cause severe pain and distress. We can try and take precautions like wearing very thick and clumsy gloves, but that reduces our potential dexterity. As the work of the fireman is all done by hand, so is the work of the classroom and staffroom. Thick and insensitive skins blunt our effectiveness, so we have to remove the protection and run the risk of pain and hurt if we are to have the best kind of influence in our school or college.

My prayer for ACT members is that in the struggles of the classroom and staffroom they will have the courage to minister sensitively and personally, even amongst troubled and prickly souls, though it means being vulnerable and taking risks. I pray that our God will protect his people from harm and that our heavenly Father will change prickly lives for the better.

Robert Hall


 

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