One of the discussions we have in my session called Faith and the Public School Teacher centers around the idea of decompartmentalization. Okay, the dictionary says it's not a word, and it certainly is unwieldy, but it serves a purpose.
In my own words, decompartmentalization means something along the lines of "ceasing to place things in separate compartments," or "rethinking concepts that were formerly seen as separate so that they are seen as part of a unified whole."
Think of dresser drawers.
When I started out as a teacher in the public school system, I struggled to know whether my Christian faith should be kept separate from my professional life. If my life were a dresser, I'd be wondering whether my yoga pants belonged in the same drawer as my jeans. I wasn't sure if I should be telling students I would pray for them, inviting new staff members to my church, or reading a nativity picture book aloud in class.
Now that I have wrestled with the question of where my First Amendment rights begin and end, I feel more confident to decide questions like these. I see my life less and less like a dresser with many separate drawers and more and more like a wardrobe that contains all of my clothes, every item of which expresses my style. I am who I am. I am a Christian; I teach in a public school. To try to leave part of myself home in some compartment destroys my integrity, my wholeness.
There may be many times during a school week when a Christian teacher must essentially submit to her students and cherish their First Amendment rights over her own. But that doesn't mean she has to be someone she's not.
I hope teachers will think through the question of decompartmentalization for themselves. Certainly there are those who will see it another way. For me, I need to work toward having fewer compartments in my conception of my life, my self.
Matthew 5:37, Psalm 26:11, Titus 2:7-8, and Colossians 3:23-24 offer biblical perspectives on walking in integrity.
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