Working with Secondary Schools
As youth workers one of the greatest resources we have are the local Secondary Schools. By working with the local schools, we can reach many young people in their community. This allows us to connect with them where they live and in a place where they feel secure. By working with the Secondary schools, we build relationships both with the young people and the staff. If we can get to work in a secondary school, it gives us the opportunity to make Christianity real, rather than theoretical. As outside agencies, we are in a position where we can share our personal experiences in a way that Teachers are not allowed to.
However, working with Secondary schools is not without its challenges! Often the difficulty is making our teaching and input relevant to the curriculum and beneficial to the school. Sometimes it can be a struggle to connect with a school and find a way in. The key here is building relationships and finding the right person to talk to.
Overall however, Secondary schools are a great place to be and offer fantastic potential.
The Bible shows us that it is important to reach out to everyone and make disciples of all people. We need to take the good news of Jesus relevantly to all, including the young. Jesus was a great teacher, a Rabbi, who started his ministry at the age of 30. This was the typical age for a Rabbi to take on his own students. This leads us to believe that all Jesus disciples were young, between the ages of 15-20. Biblical evidence suggests that only Peter was slightly older and married.
Jesus invested time and effort into the training of his disciples, young people who were keen to learn and full of energy, because He believed they were worthy of him. Young people are keen to learn and develop and need the best teaching possible to help them. This is supported by Romans 10: 14-15 where Jesus talks about telling people and how would they know if someone didn’t tell them? If we follow the example set by Jesus we need to invest time and effort into the young. In our case these young people are in secondary schools. Jesus spent time with his disciples, living life with them. He was there helping and nurturing them through all the challenges they faced. We can follow this example and work alongside our young people in the local secondary schools.
It can be a daunting, challenging but rewarding journey to work with a Secondary School. The key to this is relationship! So how do you get to the position of being able to work alongside and with a Secondary school?
- Prayer – It is vital to pray as you start and continue this process. Pray that God will bless the relationship and help to open doors into the school.
- Patience – Be patient but persistent. It takes time to build relationships with people and working with a school is no different. Building trust is important and is a gradual process.
- Expectations – Set yourself realistic expectations! It is unlikely you will be allowed to lead a whole day in the first instance! But you might be able to take an assembly. This builds trust and understanding and could be the spring-board to bigger things. Short and long term goals are a good idea.
- Communication – This is vital! This can be through a variety of channels e.g. email, phone calls, meeting face to face. These are all important but in the early stages of developing a relationship it is always good to meet face to face so that you can really get to know the person.
- Finding the right person! – It is always difficult to find the right person to talk to. The head teacher might be the first point of contact but you will get more answers from other members of staff. It is good to find out who is the Head of RE. If you want to lead assemblies, it is usually a year Head or House head who books them in. Sometimes it’s about the people you know within the school who can help you make the links.
- Flexibility – The best way to develop relationships is to be flexible. If you can cover a variety of topics and times this will aid the process of working with the school. You are more likely to be able to work with the school if you can fit in with their timetable etc.
- Relevance – It is important to offer relevant up to date material that fits in with the school curriculum. We can also offer things that enhance the SACRE (Standing Advisory Council of Religious Education) element of the school.
- Time – Be prepared to put in some time to developing a link with a school. Once you have the link it is good to be a regular presence in the school. All this continues to build the relationship and establish your presence within the school setting.
REFLECTION & LEARNING
It is important to reflect regularly on how things are going. This allows you to develop and learn from your experience and build on positive things. Some good questions to ask in a de-brief are……
- How do you feel that the lesson / activity went? Be honest! If it went wrong say so as you can learn from this and improve things. Equally if it went well think about why. This will enable you to replicate it again.
- What could you do better or differently? Write them down so that you can remember them. Think creatively, dare to try new things.
- What are the aims and objectives? Have you met them? If not, why not?
It is always useful to ask the members of staff from the school what they think. Are you meeting their expectations? Are you working with their agenda and enhancing their Christian content? Are you working with and alongside them?
It is a good idea to develop a portfolio of resources.
Things to include:
- Lesson titles and lesson plans – this enables you to quickly show the school what you already have
- Assemblies – titles and dates of when delivered
- Extra curricular activities – e.g. prayer spaces and lunch clubs
Continue to build on relationships. Continue to communicate regularly
Useful websites and resources:
REQuest – YFC resource giving lesson plans , ideas, media clips and lots more information.
Wing clips – useful site for media clips on a multitude of topics.
Bible Gateway – quick and easy bible tool. Useful for finding verses
Jerry Bendall and Sharon Holloway
Jerry and Sharon both work for Newmarket Youth for Christ.Jerry’s interests are family, friends, motorbikes and hill walking. Sharon’s are scouts and scrap booking.