SRE is a great way for Christians to get involved in their local community. And as we work with an organisation beyond the church doors, it is important that we take the time to develop strong and positive relationships with the school.
When we do it well, these relationships will lead to ...
Simpler practical organisation. Room allocations, use of additional resources, and accessing the roll are all made easier when there is a strong relationship with the school.
Strong, two-way communication between the school and SRE providers. When the ancillary staff and school SRE coordinator know who to contact they will be quicker to inform you of any timetable changes or extra-curricular activities that might impact SRE classes.
Opportunities to serve and care for the school community on a broader scale. This may include providing resources or giving time as a classroom helper, helping with school musicals, school newsletters, giving extra study support for students, and lending a hand in numerous other ways. Sometimes a particularly strong relationship with one teacher can develop and SRE teachers often find themselves providing an objective listening ear at school.
Helpful support from teachers. When school teachers know their SRE teachers, they are often happy to provide suggestions and additional support for specific issues.
Being a friendly, joyful and humble SRE teacher is essential for developing a strong relationship with the school. In addition, there are at least eight other things that I have found enhance the relationship:
One of the most important things you can do for a school if you are an SRE teacher is to turn up on time and be ready to teach. By doing so, you take away the stress of reorganising rooms or having to find alternative arrangements for students. If you can't make it to SRE, let schools know as far in advance as you can.
Make sure that everyone signs in properly and that all administrative information is provided to the school. Schools will appreciate your effort to give them information about SRE teachers’ Working with Children Checks, training and other details. Principals now have a departmental checklist for the smooth running of SRE in their school and giving them this information will make their job a lot easier.
Look after your space
Treat the space you teach in with respect. Don’t borrow or use things without asking first, and clean up your space when you leave. There might be ways that you can “value-add” to the school environment, but always ask first. For example, you might have materials at home that would be helpful to your classroom teacher.
Develop your skills
Take what you do seriously. Ensure that you have prepared your lessons well, have completed your SRE teacher development training, and take any opportunities to develop your skills. Make sure you are observed teaching a class every year and work on the feedback you are given.
We all like it when people remember our names. It's important to learn the names of the students in your class, but it is also great if you can remember staff names too. Spend time getting to know the ancillary staff and the teachers that you have contact with.
SRE takes time and effort to organise in a school. A word of thanks can go a long way.
Serve the school
Find ways you can serve the school and any teacher that is in your room with you. Schools are busy places and there are always things that need to be done. Perhaps you can stay for an extra half hour and help out, or you might have a particular skill that you can share with the school.
Showing your appreciation with a box of chocolates at the end of the year is a small investment in developing a strong relationship with a school. You might even be offered one!
Kaye Chalwell has a PhD in SRE pedagogy and a wealth of experience teaching SRE in NSW public schools.