Welcome again to?Wednesday Workout. ?This week, we are pleased to welcome a new blogger to Malyon Workplace – Jennifer Cavanough. Jennifer is excited about the prospect of talking to different people about how their faith works out in their occupation. ?In her first Wednesday Workout, Jennifer had a chat with Sue, a consultant working in the challenging area of disability support.
I interviewed Sue (a pseudonym) who works as an education consultant in the area of disability support, helping teachers meet the needs of students with disabilities in the regular classroom. Her work covers a broad range of students including those with severe and multiple disabilities through to students with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities, autism etc.? Sue is part of a support team that works in schools in response to requests from Principals.
Jennifer: ?Sue, in a job that obviously presents many challenges, when do you get the deepest sense of satisfaction and joy?
Sue: I guess when I can see a positive improvement in the students, and/or a better understanding of the abilities and strengths of the kids I’m working with by those who are with them in the different environments. For example, when family members begin to appreciate a strength in their child, or when teaching staff become more aware of the way a student learns which changes the way they interact with that child.
Jennifer:? Are there any other areas where you experience real satisfaction, where you feel that you are making a difference?
Sue:?In a number of ways – When I’m generating resources for teachers or teacher assistants working with a student or group of students, or when I point people in the direction of resources they may not be aware of. I also love running professional learning to enhance the effectiveness of teachers.
I’ve always felt that in life in general when you have the capacity to be creative that you are mirroring your creator. We are made in God’s image. I reflect that image when I’m doing something creative or when I’m building others’ capacity to think creatively or laterally.
Jennifer: Tell me about the times when you experience the result of the fall in your workplace.
Sue: I’m constantly confronted with it to be perfectly honest, in so many different ways. Disability in and of itself is very much a part of the Fall. Sexual and physical abuse seems to be on the rise as is the lack of capacity of agencies to respond effectively to families in crises. Lots of grandparents are looking after children because the? parents are drug addicted or in jail.
Jesus talked about whenever you do something for the least of these you are doing it for Me.? A lot of students I work with are devalued by society and it’s my desire in my workplace that I value these children as Christ valued them. This can be challenging at times when student behaviour is highly defiant or confronting. If staff or other students have been abused by the student it can be really challenging to see Christ in that student and to help others see the potential and value in the student because of their experiences of hurt and vulnerability in previous interactions.
Jennifer: Finally, tell me about the ?redemption? work that you do.? Obviously, there are limitations to what you can say and do as a Christian in your workplace.? Apart from the ways you have already described, how do you find your faith working out in a school environment??
Sue: I find this really challenging on a few fronts. Often my non-Christian colleagues’? experience of the Christian faith is very negative. Their perception of Christianity is tainted by experiences of hypocrisy observed within the church at large ( e.g. publicized sexual abuse cases), through observations of families they are working with where a member may on one hand proclaim a strong Christian faith but have an ongoing history of, for example, physically abusing their child, or through instances where churches have stated they are committed to supporting a family in crisis but then dropped by the wayside when the situation didn’t resolve quickly or got too tough.?
Interestingly, many of my work colleagues align themselves with Buddhist teaching and mindfulness. I’ve had to actively research and evaluate where I stand with regard to that.
Jennifer😕 Would you mind expanding on that?
Sue: Mindfulness is frequently raised or promoted in professional development sessions in schools as well as in informal discussions with colleagues. As Christians we are called to have the mind of Christ and to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. This directly contradicts the practice of mindfulness according to its Buddhist meditation origins, which focus on emptying the mind.? However I find that the more secularized application of mindfulness? which focuses on awareness of the stress cycle, identifying personal indicators of stress and techniques for de-escalating responses to an immediately stressful scenario does have some useful application in my work.
Jennifer: Where can you have an influence for Jesus?
Sue: In my interactions with colleagues I pray for opportunities to engage in conversations to demonstrate Christ to them and for conversations to open up that naturally draw upon my faith. I also look for opportunities to practically care or go the extra mile where possible. Sometimes that’s just being a listening ear. Sometimes it’s offering practical help for a situation outside work or showing interest in personal details and building a relationship that will hopefully lead to an openness in them regarding faith based discussion. If you identify as a Christian your witness is inevitably linked with the Christian institution as it is perceived. It’s only through the basis of relationship, integrity and consistency that you can open up discussions of faith that are less hostile. Jesus? life is full of encounters where He saw the potential in people and gave opportunities for them to develop and live in that potential and I hope and pray that He will help my work with students and teachers to have that positive, enabling and equipping focus.
Jennifer Cavanough 8 May, 2014