From Year 6 to Year 11, I went to an independent Christian school. I don’t mean one of those school’s that claim to be Christian, when really their only link is their mission statement sounds slightly like a verse in the Bible. No, I mean all the teachers were Christians, we sang worship songs in assembly before being taught about a parable or a famous Christian who lived a hundred or so years ago. Subjects were often linked (sometimes tenuously) to Jesus. In Year 6 we had a Bible verse to learn each week and we’d get House Points if we remembered it. The ethos of the school was clearly linked to the Bible and at the beginning of every year we signed a Code of Conduct that included statements such as, “I will show love for God by obeying God’s laws and respecting authority”.
I make it sound like a weird cult – it really wasn’t like that. I grew up in a Christian family, and I found that the teacher’s servant-hearted attitude valuable, and I didn’t at all mind the links between Geography and Jesus. In fact, especially towards the end of my time at the school, it became a game between my class-mates and I to see which teacher we could get off-subject the easiest. I loved having ‘Jesus-ey songs’ in assembly, as it gave me another time in the week to worship. Because I believed what the teachers said, the ethos and the words we sang in assembly, I loved going to a Christian school. If anything, it helped my faith. When I wanted to walk away from God, teachers reminded me in form time about His goodness, or how He has a perfect plan for my life. Because I loved God, I didn’t mind. However, I can imagine for some that didn’t believe in God, it may have felt suffocating and annoying.
Often at Church Youth Groups or big summer events, I’d hear talks about 'how to be a Christian in school'. At this, I’d laugh and switch off slightly, as I thought that, for me, it was pretty easy to be a Christian. Only now looking back, I realise that it did take decisions to be a Christian and show that. I often answered the questions in RE and ‘showed off’ my Bible knowledge. People called me a 'bible-basher' a couple of times. When I was being bullied, I had to choose whether to act like Jesus in the situation, or say something nasty back. Actually, by the end of Year 11, when I was at the highest point in my faith, was when I did start retaliating – never enough to get me into trouble, but enough to let them know that they can’t tread over me like I’m nothing. Perhaps that was because I had had enough – them being put in isolation for a couple of days clearly wasn’t working after 4 years of being called names, a death threat and having things thrown at me.
Having gone to a Christian school, I don’t feel like I got that ‘high school experience’. In some ways, that’s good. From my friend’s stories it sounds horrible. However, I do feel like I’ve missed out whilst I was in a ‘Christian bubble’. It sometimes makes it hard to relate to young people when they tell me of high-school-stories. I don’t remember any pupil smoking, taking drugs or bringing alcohol to school. I don’t know of anyone that got expelled. Sure, there were fights, but it wasn’t a daily nor monthly occurrence and it only ended in the people involved being put in isolation, on report or excluded for a while. Sure, there was bitching and nastiness that felt horrible at the time, but I still don’t feel like it was the same level as in ‘proper’ high schools.
Something else that was different in this ‘Christian bubble’ was that all the teachers genuinely cared. Some showed it better than others, but I truly believe they all cared about us. When I was 15, for one lunch time per week for about a term, my form tutor would sit outside on a bench with me in the courtyard (it really wasn’t a posh school) and chat to me and then finish by praying for me. She had marking to do, planning to do and she probably wanted to eat her sandwich in peace, but she spent it with me instead. And I’m sure that if I asked any other teacher then they would do the same.
Yes, there were lots of things that were difficult, like being bullied, being terrible at maths, being involved in girly-nastiness in the earlier years… but that could have happened if I didn’t go to a Christian school. Yes, there were things that happened that makes life different now, but I’m not at all envious that I didn’t experience things like drug abuse at school. Yes, teachers prayed with me and there were lots of ‘Jesus-links’ – but I wouldn’t swap it.
So, what was it like growing up in a Christian school? Different, the same, easy, difficult, weird, fine, great, okay….
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