DSC00911aThis lovely banner is the latest to be added to those we display in the main school hall, and comes from Conker class in Year 1. Finding the value of creativity quite hard to explain to 6 year olds – not as a concept but as a lifestyle choice, which is what a value ought to be – the adults asked to adopt service as a value for their class.

Those unfamiliar with the gospels may not recognise the picture – a reference to John 13, where Jesus, confident in his own identity as a man and as the Son of God, washes his disciples’ feet.

The hands put me in mind of St Teresa of Avila’s words:

Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours; yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion is to look out to the earth; yours are the feet by which He is to go about doing good, and yours are the hands by which He is to bless us now.

We were presented this banner on Friday last week as the school gathered to tell one another of the Christian value that as a class they are committed to learn about, study and put into practice this year. There will be more from each class as they present work at class collective worship times throughout the year.

DSC00910aAnother super visual, from the other end of the school, is this one, compiled by Wheat class in Y6, on justice. Pulling together synonyms, issues, scriptures, models of justice in history, etc., it repays a lot of looking at and deserves wider readership than either this post or Wheat class wall can provide, and was a fitting end to our time of worship on Friday.

IMG_1770But all this begs an important question for us as teachers and parents: Where do we go from here? How do we walk and talk in a way that demonstrates our willingness to change in these respects – to become more compassionate, more thankful, more generous, more just – as adults first of all, and then to help our children model them. I find it hard. I try and walk and speak in the way I should, to model these values, but generally fail, and fail spectacularly, if some of my interlocutors are to be believed!

Jesus would say that it is possibly easier for children to model these, as they have not got as much of the consumerist, egocentric, wasteful philosophy into their lives. The way he put it was that it is easier for them to enter the Kingdom of God – and it is, even though we as adults are meant to be the guides.

At this point, things get particularly interesting, because certain values appear in Jesus’ thinking that have not made it into the canon of classical virtues or of what are sometimes termed “shared values” – in particular, humility, chastity, faithfulness, selflessness. If these are now “shared” it is because Christian thinkers have brought them to the party – a party where things are far from what they seem, and where the questions we ask and the things we teach have a subversive element to them. Because, although we give lip service in our society to the “shared values” with or without the Christian contribution, they are rarely our motivation. Our instincts are deeply acquisitive rather than generous, competitive rather than cooperative, selfish rather than other-ward – and it is not just that these form the spectrum of our discipleship with children (and, of course, more needfully, ourselves), but they are honoured in our society and held up as public goods – so we find it necessary to “spend our way out of recession”, “strive to get on”, “have a career”, “work for economic growth”. Just as detectives are urged to “follow the money” when solving a crime, so the touchstone of our society is what it believes about money.

Jesus sees thing back to front, or upside down. The gospels, say Michael Gallagher, “tell stories that reverse our way of seeing things”. For this reason alone, we should suspect that where Jesus is concerned, and therefore in the life of our school that is named for him, we are likely to be looking at life from the bottom up. How do we approach these issues? Well, cribbing freely from a recent sermon on the Beatitudes by my vicar, David McDougall, try these for a start:

  • ….can we let go of our need to “be somebody”?
  • ….can we let go of our need to be right?
  • ….can we let go of our self-concern?
  • ….can we let go of our pain and allow others to help heal it?
  • ….can we let go of our need for revenge?
  • ….can we let go of our need to look good?
  • ….can we let go of our need to win all the time?
  • ….can we let go of our safety-first approach to life?

These are a huge challenge, but if we balk in the face of them, or make too many excuses for not trying them on for size, we will surely miss the opportunity to allow Jesus, gently, to transform us. And the extent we do this, is the extent to which we become the upside-down (or rather, right way up) people we are called to be.

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About Huw Humphreys

I am a headteacher in the city of Milton Keynes, where I have been since April 2011, looking to make education effective for the whole child and keeping a distant relationship with the powers that be and their narrowing approach to education... but most of all I am looking to find out what it means to be both a follower of Jesus Christ and a passionate educator in the midst of an unsettled community. I am also a part time musician, part time linguist and lover of history and literature...committed both to freedom to learn and depth of learning for all our children. The views on this blog are all my own, and not in any way those of the school I lead!

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