For many kids and youth around NSW, SRE is their only opportunity to hear about Jesus at Easter time. For long-time SRE teachers Janette and James, the joy of sharing Jesus – news far better than chocolate eggs and bunnies – never wanes.
Currently serving at Copmanhurst Public School, Janette has been teaching SRE, initially alongside her husband David, for over 20 years. She says, “I started being David’s assistant and eventually I sort of got comfortable to start myself.”
James has been an SRE teacher for over 27 years and currently teaches at Westlawn Public School, where for the last decade he has been teaching Year 5 and 6 scripture.
There can be challenges in teaching SRE, but there is also a lot of joy. James shares one of the joys is, “Those little ‘aha’ moments when kids ask some very interesting and curly questions, [and they’re] obviously thinking about spiritual things.”
Sharing the hope of the resurrection
For both Janette and James, Easter is a pivotal time in the calendar of SRE teaching. James says, “I generally find the Easter [teaching] is really engaging with kids. Getting to share what Easter is actually about…and the hope of the resurrection. I’ve always found that a really good lesson to do.”
Janette shares, “The Easter and Christmas stories are really easy stories to do, because culturally there is so much about Christmas and Easter we can connect with, like what does the cross mean on a hot cross bun? [This Easter] the lesson was from John on the empty tomb.”
At Copmanhurst Public School, lessons on Easter are done in the weeks coming up to the Easter weekend and Janette uses props like hot cross buns and hollow Easter eggs to talk to the kids about the cross and the empty tomb.
In Janette’s classes, Easter often encourages kids to speak up even when they’ve previously not been very engaged. She shares, “[There was] a little girl who hadn’t really spoken before and [she shared] she knew a little bit about Easter.” It’s always great when kids feel like they are able to feed back to their teachers on what they already have heard about Jesus.
At Westlawn, they do their Easter lessons after the holidays. James says, “I find the kids are always distracted by Easter. There will be issues of hat parades, Easter eggs and bunnies.” The practice of starting the term after the holidays with a lesson on Easter has been successful for James over many years and classes. He says, “[That the Easter story is history] is the focus of the lesson. It’s helping the kids understand we’re not dealing with fairytales, we’re actually dealing with eyewitnesses.”
Using different teaching styles
James and Janette are both experienced SRE teachers and they’re both teaching in similar areas, in schools in and around Grafton. You might imagine, walking into the classes of James and Janette, that they would look the same. However no SRE class is alike, and both James and Janette utilise their unique skills and strengths to teach in different ways.
For James, using technology in the classroom to engage kids is very important. He says, “For many years I’ve walked in with a USB because there are smart boards in every classroom that I go into and having something massively visual in front of them these days is a very, very helpful thing. So I’ve always looked for videos that compliment what we’re looking at.” Whether this is an animated video talking through the Bible passage for the lesson or an addition to the Godspace PowerPoint resources he is already using, James loves incorporating digital aspects into his lessons.
Janette has chosen not to use technology in her lessons, as its not a strength for her. But instead, she makes sure to allow a certain amount of flexibility for what the class likes. She explains, “One year I had some older kids and they loved acting out plays. There were several lessons that were done by a play. So then when there weren’t lessons that had a play, they asked for it, so I would sometimes convert lessons into plays.”
Why SRE has been their ministry for decades
With a ministry like SRE, there are always challenges. School leadership can sometimes be unsupportive, or teachers can be given poor class times that make engaging kids difficult. But the joy of sharing Jesus with the students far outweighs any of the challenges. Janette highlights that even the little things can make a class feel so encouraging. She says that recently, “One little girl was so excited to tell me there was a Bible in her house.” This kind of awe and excitement about knowing Jesus sustains teachers like James and Janette for decades of service.
And as James says, “[Doing SRE] is very strategic. I look at it and think, I know that… we’re sowing seeds into their life.”
There are so many schools in need of SRE teachers, and even more kids who need to learn more about Jesus. No matter what kind of skills or style of teaching you bring, SRE needs you! Would you consider volunteering at your local public school? Extensive support and training is provided! Learn more: https://pynsw.org.au/sre/