20 years of volunteering to a year of being on staff

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This Friday marks the completion of my first academic year working for Step. So what has changed for me in becoming staff? Firstly, I’ve recently noticed when I look in the mirror there are a few greys in my beard which I’m not sure were there 11 months ago. It has been said that grey is a sign of wisdom. Let’s see if my experience at all resembles this outward change.

I had for over 20 years really enjoyed volunteering with Step (perhaps that’s why I kept coming back for more!). However, during this year I have noticed my outlook on the schools work change significantly.

I can remember as a volunteer waiting outside classrooms for a lesson I was to help with, with an impending sense of “Am I supposed to be here?”, nervously awaiting an invitation from the teacher to come in and set up, not knowing how well the class would engage or whether the teacher would support the content of the lesson. I now feel welcome and naturally at ease in many of the schools we work in.

I have found it so much easier to remember people since being in the same spaces regularly; previously, unless I knew a student through the youthwork in Markyate, I had little chance of building purposeful relationships beyond those precious 60 minutes (or less!). Of course every moment counts but it has been really rewarding to be able to journey with students and year groups, as there has been so much more frequency in being present. Being ‘known’ is a powerful gift we are able to offer the students we come alongside (Psalm 139).

This year for me, actually getting to know the teachers has been so much fun (I was always slightly envious of Chris being able to do this so well). Finding out what makes them tick, their concerns, their stance on faith and other areas of life is something I never felt able to do much before - this was mostly down to the frequency with which I saw most of them, and often either of us was dashing straight off to the next lesson so couldn’t stop to talk, but now even time in the staff room is often so fruitful for relationship-building.

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All-in-all I know my confidence has grown and I have undertaken things which I would not have dreamt of in the previous years, for example leading assemblies and running a Year 7 retreat and Step Up Days in the primary schools. I have felt trusted and responsible and when I look back I feel glad to have had these opportunities and confident to do more next year. I am very grateful for my time so far working in the schools, especially as the timing was so perfect both for me and the role at Step. The support of my colleagues and wonderful team of volunteers has also meant a great deal to me. I look forward with great anticipation to the coming year.

Jez