A day in the life of...
My Grandmother once said to me, "Find a job you love and you'll never feel like you're going to work." After 10 years, I still pinch myself when I see my place of employment: the minster and Archbishop's Palace, standing proud over the beautiful town of Southwell in rural Nottinghamshire.
After many years of teaching in primary schools, a chance meeting led to a period of maternity cover as education officer here at the cathedral. Now I organise, plan and lead learning for 8,000 students every year, from foundation stage to higher and adult education. We have developed into a diverse and successful department and we cater for groups, mainly schoolchildren, from across the county and beyond.
Days can be spent in the minster, leading volunteers as we welcome 400 primary children on a large-scale RE pilgrimage. Or we may be in the palace garden telling stories, delivering revision sessions for students preparing for exams or organising our Narnia event, based on The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis.
On a typical day, I arrive at the minster at 8.30am in time to put on the urn and set up the tea and coffee that will sustain the team and the adult visitors throughout the day. At 9.15am, the volunteers start trickling in. We need to be ready with our activities by 10am, when the school groups arrive. Most arrivals are smooth, although we have to be prepared to deal with lateness, a stressful journey or a sick child.
The great west door is opened wide to welcome our visitors, and we usually begin with some time together in the lovely Norman nave, where, as well as introducing the day's theme, I invite the students to look around and use their senses, allowing them to enjoy being in a historic and sacred place.
This moment of calm is followed by a sharing of ideas about the cathedral - what it is, what happens here and who comes here. Then we usually sing a song. Sometimes the students have learned this in advance at school. If not, we may use a song with actions to get them to relax and feel that it is OK to make noise and laugh together.
The children are then sent off in groups to enjoy their planned activities. Usually this will involve exploring the building, faith practices and celebrations or just finding out what is in the cathedral and why. It always leads to interaction, laughter, quiet reflection and activity.
A visit day is short and we must be finished by 2.15pm. At 2pm, the group comes together and the students have the chance to tell us what they have learned and enjoyed.
This job is never dull. It is always changing, coloured by the many characters I meet on a daily basis. Sharing cultural and historical heritage with schools by providing good-quality, well-planned site visits is vital to ensure that pupils have a rounded education. These trips provide plenty of real-life material to follow up on in schools.
I love my job as a facilitator and so far I've never felt, as my grandmother would say, like I'm going to work.
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