Day in the life - Kirstie Hutchinson

17th October 2008 at 01:00
School chaplain at St Bede's Catholic School and Sixth Form College in Lanchester, Co Durham

I am sitting in the school chapel with a boy whose father recently died. He's talking and I'm listening. A few weeks ago, he was shouting, crying and letting out his grief. Today, he's quiet and thoughtful. Losing a parent at that age is difficult, and this is a chance for him to express his emotions.

Part of my job is simply to be friendly and approachable, and to be myself. I think it's good for a school to have someone like me, who has time just to chat. It's hard for teachers, because they have to stick to their timetable, whereas young people may need to talk right there and then. Often it's just little things, like the other day, when a girl came to me all upset because she'd had an argument with her mum before school. I told her to phone home and just say sorry. She did, and then she could get on with her day.

Back in my office, I do some forward planning for our charity fundraising drive, which takes place during Lent. We're careful about which charities we adopt - each year group raises several thousand pounds and we want to be absolutely sure where that money is going, so I research it all carefully.

At lunchtime, I meet a group of pupils who I've trained to act as peer mentors. It's a new project and so far the response seems positive. Then in the afternoon I spend time in the classroom giving a little extra support to some pupils who don't have English as their first language. It's nice to be involved in the learning process, as well as in the spiritual side of things.

There's no such thing as a typical day. It's because I don't have a timetable that I'm able to respond to situations as they arise. I thought about lots of different careers - at one time I did a work placement with the wardrobe department at the RSC - but in the end, school chaplaincy felt like a calling. Being a lay minister really suits me. As a female Catholic, taking vows would have meant becoming a nun, and I didn't want to go down that road. This suits my personality, and I enjoy working with young people.

Kirstie Hutchinson, 32, was talking to Steven Hastings.

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