What I’ve Learnt From Recording 100 RE Podcasts

In October 2020, I started The RE Podcast. I had no idea what I was doing, whether it would work and didnt conceive that 2 years later I would still be doing it, and that people would value it. All I knew was that, after 20 years in the classroom, I wanted to do something creative outside of my teaching day job.

In short, The RE Podcast has changed my life.  It has given me purpose, its improved my teaching, its reinvigorated my passion for education and RE, and it has connected me with so many wonderful people. I honestly feel so humbled and privileged.

As I approach my 100th episode, I am naturally reflecting on what has been created and what I have learnt.

Obviously, I have learnt how to do a podcast, how to edit it and how to promote it! I had to learn from scratch!

But on a personal note, I have learnt that I am better than people told me I was. It feels like this is what I was meant to do. I have had to overcome fears and challenges but it uses all my skills – I am a natural communicator, I am an extrovert, and I am a total geek. I am also not a details person – I dont sweat the small stuff, so creating the podcast never causes me stress because I dont have unnecessarily high expectations, and I dont mind if its not perfect. Things just sort of fall together.

I am really good at time management and organisation but not in a way that stifles creativity. I have always been criticised in the past for not being tidy, but I think this is key to my success – if I was too organised, I would not be able to achieve all the things I do. I am happy to have an untidy house, I am happy to interview someone when I havent had time to research fully because I have developed skills throughout my life to adapt when things dont quite go to plan.

The second thing I have learnt is that The RE Community is incredible.  For 21 years, I had no idea there was such a rich and diverse support network out there.  Twitter has connected me with other RE teachers, RE charities, RE resources and authentic people living out the faiths that I teach.  This is by no means an exhaustive list but my thanks goes out to”:

  • Adam Robertson
  • Ash Kundi
  • Claire Clinton
  • Culham St Gabriel and RE Online with Kathryn Wright and Kate Christopher
  • Dawn Cox
  • Dr Jasjit Singh
  • James Holt
  • Jennifer Jenkins
  • Katie Gooch
  • Molly Acharya
  • Nikki McGee
  • Religion Media Center
  • Shuaib Khan
  • Teacher Hug Radio
  • Theos Think Tank
  • Waqar Ahmedi
  • Zam Hussain

Another thing I have learnt is how to teach more accurately and authentically. I have always felt insecure about teaching any other religion except Christianity, due to my upbringing.

I have had so many generous people give up their time to discuss their faith with me.

The Top Ten things that I have learnt from the RE Podcast:

1. The books of Acts was written before the Gospels

2. There is a Religion Media Center and they are awesome

3. Intersex affects the same number of people as those who have green eyes

4. There is something called Sunday Assembly which is like Church but non-religious

5. There is a free RE Leadership Course for RE teachers who want to progress their career

6. How to decolonise my lessons. Before I started The RE Podcast, I didnt even know I needed to decolonise my lessons, actually, I didnt know what the word meant. But thanks to Ash Kundi and our series of 5 episodes on the Decolonisation of RE, I know we have given the RE Community clear and simple ways to do this.

  • Lets change Hinduism to Hindu Dharma as Hinduism is the name given by colonialists to describe a variety of beliefs and cultures centred around the Indus River
  • Lets use Sikhi (pro. Sick-ee) instead of Sikhism, and pronounce it Sicknot Seek
  • Lets use Allah instead of God when teaching Islam
  • Lets not assume Siddhartha Gautama was a historical character,
  • Lets use awakenedinstead of enlightenment(an obviously colonial word)
  • Lets use Yeshua when talking about Jesus in Judaism
  • That the negative stereotype of the caste system is a colonial hangover, and the reality of it is that people have different roles to perform to allow society to function, and all societies have this.

7. I have had many wonderful Muslims on my podcast who have talked wisely and openly about their practice. I have learnt so many things from them.

  • That Ramadan breath is a thing – anecdotes like that help what you teach feel real
  • That during Eid Ul Fitr Muslim children decide which auntyto go to based on whether they give you sweets or money
  • That Allah does not record bad deeds in your book of deeds straight away, he waits to see if you make amends, and if you do, it doesnt get included!
  • That Ahmadiyya is part of Sunni Islam
  • That akhirahmeans what comes after – so could mean what happens tomorrow
  • Why Ashura is so important to Shia Muslims because every day is Ashura and every land is Karbala.  And how important Ashura is as a counter to toxic masculinity
  • How empowered Muslim women are!

8. I have learnt a lot about the heteronormative lens with which some people view the Bible from gay vicars and from vicars who marry gay couples.  If Jesus was God in the beginning and became a man, is he a trans male?  If God created land and sea, but also marshland, night and day but also dusk, does this mean creation is on a spectrum? So if God created male and female, there can also be a spectrum of genders?

9. When I interviewed the jihadist, I saw the human behind the label.  I learnt that we cant treat extremists as cartoon evil villains.  Extremists are varied, there is no one profile, but there are common factors. Often starting with marginalisation. If we marginalise certain groups within society, and push them away, then they become more vulnerable to the pull of extremist groups.  I have spoken to a lot of Christians who are concerned about the level of homophobia, racism and sexism within the established Church. While I am sure this is not particular to just one established religion, or even just from within religion, it is something which many of my Christian guests commented on from within that religion, but it was comforting to know that there are people within Christianity who are challenging the historically bigoted and narrow-minded views.

10. A common theme with nearly all the guests I have on the podcast is the importance of talking to people who think differently from you, not in order to change their minds but in order to open your own.  I have recently come across a book called I May Be Wrong by Björn Natthiko Lindeblad.  This is a challenge to me as a human, a teacher and a parent. I made the conscious decision to not be contrary or antagonistic in my approach to interviewing people with different opinions to my own.  In this way, I wanted to model to the listeners how to consider different points of view in a respectful way – to create connection and communication rather than polarisation and conflict.

I was once asked in an INSET session to tell the person next to me something of which I am most proud. Then, I couldnt think of a single thing, but now I can. I have learnt that manifestation works. I manifested The RE Podcast!  What would you like to manifest?

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