Let’s be honest here: Every school organization possesses its own political infrastructure. Whether you teach at a public school or a private school, levels of authority and governing bodies determine how the school operates. So, for example, when a teacher complains in frustration that a school is political, my answer to the complaint would be, “Well, of course it is!”
Any professional needs to work along the proper lines of authority. If a teacher experiences a problem due to lack of resources, contract complaints, policy adjustments or organizational structures, it is important for them to go to the source. If a project appears to be a project that warrants approval or permission, it is better to communicate and ask for that permission before charging ahead.
What does this mean for Christians? It means that relationships within the Christian school must be preserved at all costs. It means that for the Christian school teacher, gossip should be avoided about school board decisions, policy changes, and contract issues. It means ALWAYS, without fail, going to the source of the problem first instead of bringing all teacher-teacher relationship arguments to the principal’s table. It also means respecting the authority of your school and their decisions, regardless of whether you agree with their decision.
Does this mean that Christian school teachers handle school politics by acting like lambs? No! God has given us different gifts for a reason, and we work together toward common goals. If a decision is made that appears illogical, communicate with the principal in a respectful manner, explaining your perception of events and inviting the principal to give an explanation. Many times the situation has a perfectly reasonable explanation that the principal may realize should be communicated more clearly to the staff. If a fellow teacher does something that is clearly interfering with our own program or demonstrates a lack of attention to the exemplary role they are called to portray, it is within our own interests to gently confront that person one-on-one instead of bitterly talking about them in the teacher’s lounge.
Many times teachers are either afraid to teach a lesson plan because it may seem too controversial or they are subversive enough to teach it without respecting the lines of authority. In most cases, teachers can articulate their objectives and give clear, convincing reasons why their lesson plan is essential to the personal growth of the students. If those objectives were communicated to the principal, students and parents ahead of time, most worries would be assuaged and most complaints stifled. This will not happen all the time, but if feedback shows you that the topic may be inappropriate, listen to the voices of moderation and have enough good judgment to develop a new one.
As a Christian school teacher, you shouldn’t live your career in fear. You should, however, respect the wishes of parents and authorities and take the time for basic communication. Good relationships with parents and authorities create an atmosphere of trust eventually, after you have proven to them that you are willing to love and protect your students as if they were your own children. Censoring your class sessions or forcing content through without permission does the exact opposite.
Once, after two years of teaching experience, I rented a film to show to my 8th grade class. I had recalled the video as being an interesting literary film, and due to lack of time, I didn’t bother to search for content reviews. The result? A few days later, a really great Christian parent spoke with me about the sexual content in the film, which I had already noticed during the viewing was a little beyond the age appropriate level. Was my face red! You see, I should have known better. An experienced teacher cares about the opinions of others wtihin the community. If I had done my homework, and then sent home parental permission slips and informed my principal of my apologia, I would have made a better selection. Thankfully, due to the good relationship I had developed over the years, I was able to humble myself, apologize and accept the parent’s forgiveness. The parent was not bitter over the episode, but instead encouraged that I would take better precautions before showing films in class.
While looking at many news articles concerning teacher lawsuits, I am continually finding that ALL teaching professionals use a similar method, not just Christian teachers. Christian teachers do not have to spend their careers in frustration and feel censored. They just have to go about the right political methods and use good judgment. We should hold ourselves up to this responsibility as individuals even more than secular teaching school systems.