Great teachers make great schools! The late Dr. Roy Lowrie, first President of ACSI and long-time Headmaster of Delaware County Christian school, said it best: “Teachers are the gold in the bank of Christian Schools.” But how do new teachers become great teachers? Simple. One day at a time, one decision at a time, one challenge at a time, one step at a time.
All Christian school teachers have a high calling which cannot be taken lightly. Here is the first key focus area that should matter to new teachers in the Christian school (although these points are relative to any teacher, regardless of tenure).
#1: The Love, Skill, Calling Triad
A first-year teacher has many challenges and experiences that will be unlike any other year of teaching they may encounter. It is, frankly, filled with “firsts!” No student teaching experience, or practical internship can replace to allure, thrill, challenge, and hardship of a teacher having her very own classroom, or regular teaching assignment. It has been my experience that first year teachers have more ups than downs, but handling the downs is something they have not been adequately prepared to absorb. It can be a shock when that parent barges in the room at the end of a challenging long day to toss a curve ball comment that accuses the teacher of doing something they feel has made their child miserable. It happens. A lot. And it is no fun. The Christian school teacher learns how to absorb these shocks by virtue of three primary focuses.
1 – Their love of teaching. Learning is a process in the life of a student. While some days a light bulb goes on in their mind, other days it does not. The end game is the teacher’s focus. No single lesson, instructional plan for the day, or idea the teacher has will win the day with each and every student. A smart teacher knows this, and remains steadily focused on their love for students, seeing them learn, and knowing God is using them develop their young minds and hearts. The victory of teaching is in the journey.
2 – Their ability to teach. Teaching is complex and is more about skill than natural talent. It simply isn’t something people are born knowing how to do. And, teaching is not just a “passion.” A teacher's’ skills are developed gradually through insight, trial and error, collaboration, and research, and time! Yep, although a new teacher may be coming from one of the best teaching colleges on the planet, and perhaps at the top of their class, their skills still develop like everyone else: over time, just as with any other profession. Contrary to what some new teachers may think, they do not know everything about being a great teacher.
Additionally, a clever teacher may well run out of cleverness. A skilled teacher will never run out of skill. A skilled teacher rules the classroom because she balances rigorous teaching with engaging activities, doing whatever it takes to get students to grasp and master the content. In the end, students are the winners. First-year teachers, just like the veterans, should be reminded and encouraged to hone their “skill” of teaching, and to not rely on cleverness, tactics, or the such to be successful in the student’s eyes.
3 – Their sense of “Calling.” It has been said, when the going get’s tough, the tough get going. Or, otherwise interpreted … "When the situation becomes difficult, the strong will become engaged.” Christian school teaching is an incredibly difficult position to undertake. If a teacher does not believe their role is a special assignment from God, there is a significant likelihood that when the going gets tough, they will flee.
The "I'm outta here" rate the public teacher workforce in the United States is an estimated 8 percent a year. “The teaching force sees thousands of teachers each year leave the profession well ahead of retirement age," says a recent report from the Learning Policy Institute. But wait … it's even worse news for Christian schools. The rate is almost 2x as great according to the Center for Education Statistics. This brief article does not give me the time to elaborate, but hopefully you understand the expectations of a Christian school teacher is great. In most cases, their pay is significantly less than other places they could work, they have to wear many hats just so their school can make ends meet, and parental oversight can at times feel very demanding, unreasonable, and oppressive.
If the Christian school teacher does not view their role as a high calling from God, they will find themselves among the high percentage of those who just can't stick with it.
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