In her acclaimed book, Teaching to Transgress, renown educator Bell Hooks writes, “To educate as the practice of freedom is a way of teaching that anyone can learn. That learning process comes easiest to those of us who teach and believe that there is an aspect of our vocation that is scared; who believe that our work is not merely to share information but to share in the intellectual and spiritual growth of our students. To teach in a manner that respects and cares for the souls of our students is essential if we are to provide the necessary conditions where learning can most deeply and intimately begin.”
Like Bell Hooks, I believe that teaching in our Youth Religious Education (YRE) program (teaching in any setting really, whether formal or informal) is a sacred act. We strive to create a program and environment that invites exploration, questioning, engagement and active participation from teachers and participants. We hope our classrooms transform into laboratories for spiritual and intellectual curiosity and growth. In many ways, teaching YRE is a misnomer, because in our UU religious education programs teachers are more like guides, learning right alongside our children. They are encouraged to journey with our them to discover new truths and ask more questions. This is the how we aspire to transform education into freedom with the hopes that each new generation will be agents of change for creating a world of justice, equity, and compassion.
Our YRE program has enjoyed much success over the years and it is largely due to the amazing volunteer teachers who lead our classroom Sundays. Each year we recruit more than 40 volunteer teachers to serve in teams at all of our age levels. I invite you to deepen your own spiritual practice through teaching in our religious education program on Sunday mornings. We need teachers at all age levels and during both services. We do our best to pair first time YRE teachers with those who have been in the classroom before.
Teaching is a ministry in which we all have a vital role to play. When we shift our view of teaching from “duty” to teaching as an “opportunity for spiritual growth,” we open ourselves up to transformation. Teaching Youth Religious Education at Neighborhood is meant to be a form of exploration, less a didactic practice and more a shared experience. The overarching goal of our YRE program is to transmit our faith. Another goal is to foster relationships within our church community among peers and with trusted adults. We are looking for people passionate about exploring our faith—whether you’ve had experience teaching or not, whether you have young children at home or not!
If you can offer compassion, empathy, a willingness to listen and to share more of who you are than what you know, you have what it takes to teach religious education. We will offer you training, resources and support, and the spiritual wisdom of our youngest prophetic voices. Our program is only as strong as its volunteers and each year has been better than the last. I have high hopes for the year ahead. Your spiritual journey awaits in a nearby classroom—sign up today! You may sign up at the lifelong learning table or by contacting me directly in the church.
-Sara LaWall, Director of Religious Education