Middle School History Teacher
St. Martin's in-the-Field Episcopal School
“The Episcopal Church welcomes you.”
Those signs, those welcoming signs, brought me, an adult seeking peace and hope, to the Episcopal Church 25 years ago. As a well-educated, over-thinking and slightly bitter human being, I still had a hole that needed filling. My church family gave me love, but they also gave me a job to do: service. My gifts and flaws were both welcomed and, as a result, I have never left this spiritual home. Moreover, I have found that the Episcopal Church family welcomes each and every one of us, no matter who we are, what we’ve done, or where we’ve been. Many of us have tough questions to ask, or rough experiences that make us question our faith. The Episcopal church welcomes our questions and stays with us while we wait for God’s answers. Our church doesn’t back away.
So, as an educator, why would I want to teach in an Episcopal School? I think the better question would be, “Why wouldn’t I?”
I’ve taught in secular schools where I loved teaching History and Pre-history, but I couldn’t mention my faith or my reasons for the contentment I feel, despite the mistakes of History. When my students were competitive, perfectionistic, or even arrogant about the extent of their knowledge of facts, I could only model a simple life and peaceful heart. I could never tell them where my anchor lies...what they were missing.
Conversely, in some religious schools, I would be able to teach a church doctrine, but have to ask my students to check their brains at the door in a History or Science class. The teaching of important analytical and critical thinking skills would be limited...simply not an option for this teacher educated in the liberal arts. To my way of thinking, questioning is essential to the learning process.
However, the idea of teaching in an Episcopal School? What a joy! What a dream for an Episcopal teacher! I could welcome my students of all faiths (or no faith), and yet also share the beauty of a hope in Jesus Christ. When I took the position of Middle School History and Sacred Studies at St. Martins-in-the-Field Episcopal School last summer, I had already spent years teaching Sunday School and Children’s Chapel at my home church. I had seen the benefits to young people of sharing communion and the journey of community. I had seen surprise on the faces of middle school students who thought I would bat down their frustration with organized religion. I had seen delight in the eyes of Sunday School students when I encouraged their respectful inquiry based in historical fact. I had also seen students who were taught by society to judge others (sometimes in the name of Christianity) gradually begin to love more and give more back after talking about Jesus and his love for us all.
At St. Martin's, we gather for Community Chapel once a week. Our Chaplain oversees a strong and active group of student vestry members who plan and carry out the worship during our chapel services. I am blessed and delighted to serve communion wine to the same students I will be seeing later that day to discuss Current Events. Our students work in the larger community through service learning programs and an extra-curricular group called Growing in Faith Together. We have students of differing faiths, different cultures, different abilities and different life challenges. Just as the Church does, we welcome and include students from all walks of life. Yet, we go even a step further than that...we give them a job to do. We seek to enable all young people to serve their school, their community and their world with their own unique gifts, perspectives and God-given identities. As Jesus Christ taught us, we all have something to bring to the Communion table. Therefore, we teach our students that God loves each and every one of us. We are a safe place and, yet, a demanding place. Our Episcopal school demands that students and teachers continue an unceasing journey of questioning, asserting, failing, learning, and persevering to serve others and serve God. No exceptions. Once again, I think I’m home.