“He [God] decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so that the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.” (Psalm 78:5-7)
Scottish and UK education have at their core a policy called ‘Getting it Right for Every Child.’ Anyone and any organisation working with children and young people, including churches, should be abiding by its principles. But what does ‘Getting It Right For Every Child’ mean to you? Is it a cumbersome policy that adds to your administration, your responsibilities and your workload? Or is it a vision to see a hope and a future for each child? This summer, ‘Poor’, the biography of Dr. Katriona O’Sullivan was published (Penguin Ireland). Now a lecturer in Dublin, she was born in Coventry to heroin addicted parents and brought up in poverty. But two teachers transformed her life. Miss Arkinson, her Nursery and Reception teacher, taught her to wash herself at school and discreetly provided everything she needed (towels, underwear, soap, etc.) and “never, ever shamed me.” Later, another teacher. Mr Pickering, recognised her ability and encouraged her to study, never judging her. I have no idea if these two teachers had a faith stance or what motivated them, but they clearly ‘got it right’ and made a profoundly positive impact.
As Christians living within a broadly secular society, we may sometimes feel adrift and isolated by some aspects of policy and curriculum and practice and law. We may find ourselves overwhelmed and worn down by demands and pressures and interventions that seem to have nothing to do with the face-to-face and one-to-one contact with children and young people. But hold onto the vision: not just of “getting it right” but of “making it right” for every child. That’s not just about the professional skills and abilities of teachers. It’s also about the kind of person every one of us is. Miss Arkinson and Mr Pickering changed the course of one life. But the impact has multiplied beyond anything they could have imagined.
Make it right for one life, one child, at a time. Be that teacher, that neighbour, that chaplain, that parent, that family member, that friend…so that the next generation would know the Way and the Truth and the Life: “even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds”. (Psalm 78:6-7).