Unashamed ~ Sharing Your Faith in the Public Schools
Good Friday morning everyone,
With it being holy week I wanted to introduce you to an amazing woman of faith who I met as a student at Grove City. She is the author of this week's Friday Teacher Feature. Her love of faith, learning, and her students always blow me away. Without further ado, Julia Harris.
Hi y’all! My name is Julia (Tolson) Harris, and I am so excited to be featured on Dr. Fecich’s blog (Dr. Fecich blessed me so much during my time at Grove City).
A little bit about me ~ I am a newly married, outgoing, coffee addicted, Grove City grad, and my deepest desire/passion is for people to know Jesus, particularly for students to know Jesus.
I taught high school biology for two years, and I look forward to getting back into the classroom soon. Currently I am taking a little break from teaching as I finish up my masters in school library information science.
My favorite thing about teaching high school biology in a public school was sharing the gospel with my students and engaging in religious conversations with my students.
Let me preface this blog post by saying this: I was a little more bold (some people would call it crazy) than other Christian teachers when it came to sharing my faith in the classroom. For the most part, I followed the rules of the public school as far as “sharing faith” goes . . . but not always.
So, to start off, here are some ways I integrated faith into my classroom WITHOUT breaking the rules:
- Speaking Truth: I quoted Bible verses/truth all the time without saying it was from the Bible or about God. I said phrases such as: love is patient, love is kind, encourage one another, build one another up, put others above yourself, your life matters, every one of you in this room was made with a purpose, don’t ever forget what a gift it is to be alive, life is so short so make the most of it, love is not easily-angered, grace is not earned or deserved but rather it is freely given.
Also, I was a biology teacher, so I often stated sentences like these: “this biological process leaves me in awestruck wonder as I gaze at the incredible world we live in,” or “the body is magnificent; studying anatomy is like watching a heaven sent miracle unfold before our very eyes.”
- Reading Truth: Every day, I read my Bible in my classroom before school hours started. I put it away once the school day started, but if students wanted to come to my classroom in the morning before school hours, I would have my Bible out and open, front and center. I did the same thing after school. If students wanted to come after school for additional help, they were more than welcome to do so ~ but if they came to my classroom after school hours, my Bible would be open on my desk, front and center.
- Answering Questions with Truth: At my school, you were allowed to answer questions about faith if the students were asking the question. Any time a student asked me a question I tried to always answer it with something about God (even if their question was not about faith, which is pushing the rules about "faith sharing" a little bit).
If a student asked me why I emailed them back so early in the morning (aka 5 am), I would say: “Well, I have my devotions and prayer time with Jesus bright and early so I am not worried about missing my quiet time for the day. After I am done my devotions, I start working on my emails, so actually I have already been up for awhile by the time the clock hits 5 am.”
If a student asked me why I liked to run, I would say: “I love praying and memorizing Bible verses on my runs."
- Praying: I prayed for my students as often as I could. As far as praying for students by name ~ since I had 147 students, I would pray for 5 - 10 of them by name each morning. I had calling sticks for each of my classes, so I would “randomly” (in quotes because God knew which children I was going to pray for each morning) pick some of the calling sticks and pray for whichever students were named on those calling sticks (calling sticks are popsicle sticks with student’s names on them, often used for randomizing which students answer class questions).
If you want to hear more about my time teaching or my advice about sharing your faith with your students, please email me at email@example.com, find me on instagram @juliaroseharris, or on facebook: Julia Harris.
I am so excited for each one of you and your potential future careers as teachers. Y’all are going to change the world one child at a time. Even though teaching can be insanely exhausting/stressful, it is a very small price to pay for the best career in the world.
(Further reading on this topic: My teaching philosophy about sharing my faith in the classroom comes from the Bible! I didn’t come up with any of these concepts on my own; I merely tried to brokenly follow the example that Jesus and His disciples set for us regarding our mandate to proclaim the gospel and be unashamed of our faith).
God bless y’all!
Julia (Tolson) Harris (High School Biology Teacher)