Case study: teaching religious education

Sandra Macfarlane, RE teacher

Sandra Macfarlane, religious education teacher

Sandra is head of the RE department at The Arthur Terry School. Originally she wanted to become a history teacher, but after studying both history and RE at university she realised her passion for RE was much stronger. “There’s so much to learn about in RE, and so many religions to explore – that’s what really drew me to the subject.”

Religious education can impact every part of a student’s life, but Sandra explains how children don’t always recognise this until they reach A level or have left school. Her aim is to help students see the real importance of RE, and use her passion for the subject to make it more enjoyable and enthuse them. “I’m able to tailor my curriculum to the students I teach. By asking them what they want and what they need to learn, it gives them more ownership of their studies and means they enjoy it more.”

Sandra’s favourite lesson is one she delivers for her GCSE students based on religion and art. “We look at religious tattoos and how tattoos can be seen as an art form. We then look at celebrity tattoos and discuss why these figures – who are not religious per se – have religious symbols and figures tattooed on them. The students learn why religion uses art, but also how it has been taken and adapted for the general populace. I love teaching the lesson because it’s fun and exciting for the children – and I know I enjoy it, too.”

Sandra can think of many proud moments as an RE teacher. She’s had students who have been convinced they can’t complete their A-level studies, who have then achieved excellent grades thanks to the support of her team. But it’s the constant reminders that she plays a big role in her students’ daily lives that really inspires her.

As a subject leader, Sandra now gets to help other staff progress. She loves seeing how she can impact the staff as well as the students, and can marry up their strengths and weaknesses. Sandra’s ultimate goal is to become an assistant headteacher, and with so many opportunities always arising in teaching she sees this as something she’ll definitely be able to achieve.

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