7 Questions with Katherine Abraham
Name: Miss. Katherine Abraham
Current title: Teacher-Trainer
Current organisation: TC Global Pvt. Ltd
Katherine Abraham is the Author of Yesterday Once More, Silenced by Love and Some Days are Forever. An Adventist, Katherine is a Teacher by profession, who has the singular distinction of teaching and training students from 2yrs to 65 yrs of age. She has studied Law, Literature and Journalism. She writes poetry and prose for various online publications as well as International Anthologies. She is also the host for a New International Christian Podcast Series entitled, Chasing Hope. Her first work of non-fiction on the History of Christianity in India is currently underway.
Twitter handle - @katie_abraham
1. What have you found most challenging as a Christian school leader?
Living and working in a secular country like India, I meet a lot of students, teachers and colleagues who have several misconceptions about Christians and Christianity. This becomes an uphill challenge for one must deal with questions and the finer nuances of the faith itself. The thin film that separates religion from faith is to be dealt with in a manner that is sensitive enough that the difference is pronounced and strong enough that those listening/ reading me must find a definite answer to their misconception. This is precisely why apart from teaching, I took on the responsibility of starting Chasing Hope, an international podcast, to share Christian principles in the simplest possible way.
2. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I do not follow a particularly rigid timetable. I rarely have that privilege. My day starts with reading the Bible and a word of prayer for guidance, comfort and peace of mind. I work six days a week and choose not to work on Saturday the Sabbath. I ensure I divide my work in smaller, manageable tasks or assign myself one task to be completed in a 16-18 hour cycle. I manage periodic breaks. I teach, write, record my podcast episodes and read extensively on most days. My focus is on qualitative performance. It keeps me grounded. Given the variegated nature of activity, I have little time to get bored. When the workload becomes cumbersome enough to want an escape I usually take a day trip out to indulge in wildlife photography or landscape photography whenever I get the chance or take an international trip to learn a new culture. I am a believer in continuing education and take up one course every year. This year it's Psychology. I absolutely love history and archaeology too. In terms of keeping myself stress-free while rare I try to do my best practicing Meditation, Mindfulness and Yoga. I rarely sleep before midnight but try to get quality sleep as often as I can.
3. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
The One thing I recently learnt is how to be an active listener, a quality that is highly desirable and often neglected. I learnt this from my dad, Mr. R.S Abraham. Whenever I have an issue, he is my go-to person. The quality I love about him is that he makes it a point to hear me out but doesn't react immediately. He takes a while to reflect and then shares his thoughts. We have differences of opinion but because he is actively listening to my dissent, he is able to counter it in a better structured way through reason and logic. This is so important given that many people are emotionally charged if the other is not on the same page as them.
4. What's one book apart from the Bible that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
I can very quickly think of 2: The first book is "Where is God when it hurts?" by Phillip Yancey. This book has a particularly important place in my life because while it may talk deeply about grief and the overcoming of it, it is insightful for any young leader. Many times we find ourselves questioning our choices, even our faith. Sometimes we may be tempted to move away from God but the simple reminder that God is in the silences, gives me the confidence to carry on and move forward with the confidence that my Faith will carry me through.
The second book that I strongly recommend is "Education" by Mrs. Ellen G White. While she has written extremely important books on various discourses within the faith, I find this book particularly important because it seeks to talk about lesser discussed topics like Mental and Spiritual Culture, Temperance, the Source and Aim of True Education, Preparation, Co-Operation and Discipline, the fundamentals of teaching. I recommend this to every teacher.
5. How do you find and keep great Christian teachers?
Interesting question. Having interacted with a cross-section of teachers and believers, I believe the answer lies in the degrees of commitment that we have towards the Divine and it is this laser focused dedication that allows us to become better in our service to mankind. I recall the words of Charles Spurgeon who famously wrote, “We are not responsible to God for the souls that are saved, but we are responsible for the Gospel that is preached, and for the way in which we preach it.”
Now as far as the second part of the question, I believe it does take guidance and encouragement from peers to retain the best. I think a constructive first step is to have inter-denominational engagement. This is crucial. When one Christian recognizes the other Christian as a believer in Christ rather than a Protestant, Catholic, Lutheran, Jacobite or Adventist, it helps to engage, communicate and revive our relationship with God and fellow believers. The more we act as stimulants for the propagation of the faith rather than choosing to hold on to our own personal differences to the exclusion of reason, we should be able to retain Christian teachers and mentors.
6. What's most important as a Christian school leader for developing a culture of wellbeing in your staff and students?
A very important question. I believe that Faith must be the only uncompromising factor in our lives. In the quest for developing a work- culture what we end up with is a classified Christian corporate, one that has a superficial Christian understanding but is steeped in methods and ways to become refined money-making machines.
Respect for our staff and their well-being, ensuring that leaves are given without having to make someone feel guilty asking for it or giving it to them with the supplementary fear that they may not have a job if they take some more leaves could be a good start. The other thing I believe is developing healthy interpersonal relations between members of the staff. Last but not least is Spiritual training so that we have well-formed minds to guide and mentor the young.
Now when we look at students, while the overarching principle of a faith-based learning is important, I believe it is important to allow them the privilege of questioning us as teachers when they are unconvinced about any element of faith. To give a quick example, a young child may innocently ask, Why has God sent the pandemic to kill people? Now, this is a delicate question and one that needs to be first prayed and pondered upon before answering. Maneuvering a child within the faith requires for us as teachers to hold on to the steering wheel of our faith tight enough to keep the ship steady. When we pray for contemplation over dismissals and admonition, this will create a stronger culture and faith among the already distracted young generation.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a Christian school leader so far?
As mentioned earlier, I rarely have the privilege of handling a batch of Christians exclusively, but the one story that immediately comes to mind is when I observed a young female student in my class who despite being extremely capable was falling short each time she tried to deliver her best in class. I do recall contemplating on how to approach her because I didn't want her to feel I was prying or being condescending. One day I asked her to wait after class and I began to make small talk, slowly inching to the core question. A couple of minutes into the conversation, she began to cry. She told me that I was one of the few teachers who had treated her well and she was constantly living in fear, the fear of under-performing and the subsequent admonition and shame that came with it.
I stopped her mid-way and told her that "under-performing" was not something that was appreciated but sometimes our circumstances were far from right. And that's when she told me that it wasn't just her teachers but her father who had mistreated her as well.
I just listened to her that day. I neither commented or told her to "hang in there" When she finished, she told me, "I feel so light today. It's as though a huge weight is off my chest. I can breathe easy."
She has been an Overachiever and her story since has been one marked with success.
I think my Empathy was sourced out of the fact that I too had a similar story growing up but I slowly pulled myself out of the shackles of self-doubt. She couldn't and I had played a tiny role in relieving her. This is just one of many many students who have shared their thoughts, fears and even their limitations. I feel privileged that I am able to connect with them.