Gemma Papworth reveals how her passion for people became her career

I always wanted to be a teacher. I even told my Primary school Head this at the age of six years old. I never said what, but as my interest in school evolved I realised I liked learning about people. For a long time, I thought I would teach Geography. I loved the way it looked at towns and cities, looked at how different people around the world co-existed.

Religious Studies was a subject I enjoyed – I do remember designing my own church, doing a project on Mother Theresa and learning about the Good Samaritan. I enjoyed it, but it was just a lesson. It wasn’t something I even knew I could continue with.

As I entered my A Levels, I chose RS as one of my subjects. I was intrigued by it. The course was Old and New Testament studies – the historical, geographical, political and sociological nature of it fascinated me. I loved analysing the language and delving into a different world.

I never intended to take it at university, I wanted to do Social Sciences, the study of human society and social relationships. But, alas, the lecturer at my chosen university failed to attend so I found myself wandering into the Religion department. I loved it. I was in.

I often get asked why I teach RS and my answer is always the same, it captivates me. From learning about the origins of Buddhism to the native Iban people of Borneo, the way they live their lives and interpret the world around them.

Through the seven dimensions, proposed by Ninian Smart, I discovered what it is believed a religion is comprised of but practised differently. Learning that many religions all worship the same God, but in different ways, for example.

While at university I was also introduced to Ethics. I loved it. Working out why people behave in the way they do, how they make different decisions, what influences their behaviour. Kant was the first philosopher I was introduced to… I had no idea!

I grappled with it, focused on the concept of duty, thought about the relevance of his ideas today, the absolute-ness of it, I was hooked. It suddenly made sense that I taught RS.

I was not prepared for the lack of training in RS, for the lack of RS teachers, that I would end up teaching History and Geography within my teaching career (along with Computing and Music!). It motivated me to be the best I could. I remember my first lesson, Year 10 and Stewardship. It was in a girls school, with no RS specialist. I was thrown into being trusted as the RS expert. From that first lesson, I was hooked.

Over the years I have gained more interest in the topic, loving the reaction from students to a good RS lesson. Every day teenagers amaze with their insight into the world, how they interpret it and express their views.

RS allows for them to develop their oracy and critical thinking, something that is fundamental to their skill set. I learn from my classes every day, listening to their views and ideas. RS teaches them different worldviews, allows them to develop an appreciation of traditions, cultures and views around them. I feel privileged to be the one to teach them this and share in their journey.

I teach RS because I love it, simple as that!

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