Thank God for teachers
Posted on September 01, 2008 by Amy Tolmie
Thank God for Teachers
A couple of years ago I was preaching at a church in the area where I was brought up and went to school. Sitting in the congregation was an elderly and distinguished looking lady who, despite the passing of the years, I instantly recognised as my old RE teacher. This was a person who had had a great influence on me. I was not brought up in a church going home so in many ways she was the first person to systematically take me through some of the challenges and claims of the Christian faith. I remembered enjoying her lessons and being challenged by what she said.
Most of all I remember being impressed by the fact that she not only taught us this stuff, she believed it herself.
She was a person of great integrity. She was committed to me; she wanted to help me learn, and she was passionate about her subject. It happened to be RE and for that I am thankful. It connected with me at a time when I was asking searching questions of life. Yet she never over stepped the mark or abused the privilege of her position; she managed to convey to me something of the deep and life changing reality of faith without ever trying to persuade me that I ought to believe as well. But believe as well was what started to happen.
All this came back to me as I saw her sitting in the congregation, and I remembered how some of the things that she had awoken in me had been instrumental in the journey I had taken throughout my life. Another thing struck me as well: I had never said any of this to her. In all likelihood I had been just another rather disinterested member of the class. And why should it be otherwise? At the time I had kept my interest in faith a closely guarded secret and wasn't going to let on to anyone, let alone my RE teacher, that I was interested in God. Nevertheless here was a person who had really helped me in life and here was a God given opportunity to say thank you.
I went up to her after the service and introduced myself. I'm almost certain that she didn't remember me. After all, she had taught hundreds and thousands of people during the lifetime of her career in teaching. But being the dignified and well mannered person that she is, she paid me the courtesy of pretending she remembered. I thanked her for her example, her faithfulness and the convincing and passionate way she had taught me about the Christian faith. And afterwards I thanked God for her and for the chance I had been given to express my thanks.
Teachers make a difference.
They influence and shape lives in ways that will last a lifetime. It is not just what they teach but the way their attitude and care can give affirmation, hope and purpose to people's lives. This is what I received from that teacher, and, at the beginning of a new school year, take this opportunity of strengthening and affirming the work done by teachers in all our schools and for those who support them in this vital and privileged work. On behalf of all those who may never have the opportunity, but whose lives have been changed, let me say thank you.
Stephen, Bishop of Reading