It is not often that I am reduced to tears by eleven Year 3 children, but this morning, in front of everybody in the school and some equally weepy parents, I was moved beyond mere admiration by the most beautiful collective worship I can remember any class presenting to us since I have been at Christ the Sower, and couldn’t stop the tears coming.
You need to know a little bit about these children. Last year, when they were in Year 2, they were a class of 31 children with 24 having moderate to severe special needs – not just learning needs but issues of anxiety, learning resilience (a huge issue for many of them) as well as the range of cognitive and behavioural issues that most schools have scattered across a year group or two, but here concentrated in a single class. After much consultation, prayer, thought and weeping, we decided to approach their parents with the idea of splitting the class into two – a group of 19 and a group of 12 – corresponding to the size of rooms that we had available. We bought in another half-time teacher as cover and went for it. The class is called Clover, and the two groups have been “Red Clover” and “White Clover”; it was Red Clover who made me cry this morning!
Like their teachers, who constantly talk about the assets and difficulties that these children bring with them, I know these children almost better than any others in the school, and I love them. I love being with them, and I love celebrating their successes and joys, and I admire deeply the two teachers, Christine and Tracey, who in rich imagination, care and a thoughtful, sacrificial and craftsman-like professionalism, have brought them to a position where they have learned resilience, trust and a joy in each other that was on full and riotous display this morning. Alison, Lavinia and Rachael, TAs who work with them regularly, have also enabled much of the learning to stick. They are building on the constant and committed work of teachers who had them as a full class in Year 1 and particularly, in Year 2.
The class brought us songs, a lovely dance, a poem by Carol Ann Duffy and some really gorgeous poems that they had written about their fears and how to get over them. They talked about being fearful of making mistakes and how they have now learnt that mistakes help them learn. “We also know that it is important to try new things and have a go even if we don’t think we are good at it yet! We might feel afraid, but we don’t need to because we are here to help each other.” This was followed by the children telling us what they had learnt in science about light.
They then got up, with specially painted word cards and gave us a jumbled version (which was then rearranged properly) of Jeremiah 1 v 8 (what they actually said, hilariously, was Jeremiah One Point Eight – which sounds like a prophecy computer program): Do not be afraid for I am with you. And a great action-version of Trust in the Lord with all your heart from Proverbs 3.
The children finished with a prayer and a blessing, which was one of the few times when I have “seen” the Holy Spirit inhabit the prayers and praises of young children:
In our class Collective Worship we thought about dark places in the world where people might be scared. Let’s pray for those people and places now:
Dear God, Let your light shine in dark places.
Shine in Syria.
Shine in places where people are hungry, like Africa.
Shine where children live in fear.
Shine out in places where people are sick and lonely.
Thank you that we can trust you to be with us whenever we are scared. Give us courage to face our fears.
And just as we were thinking – ah, they are going to thank us for coming, the whole class appeared in a line and pronounced blessing on us: May the Lord bless you, and keep you, and make His face shine upon you, and give you peace.
The perfect start to a day at school. Thank you to Tracey and Christine, and to Alison, Lavinia and Rachael, and to J, B, F, D, M, A, G, L-A, A, T and T, who made me cry!