What is a Christian Teacher Anyway?

Today I received a very thoughtful comment from Bernard, and I thought that I would share it with you.

“Great to see such a beautiful and thoughtful site developing Anna! I too went to small Christian school (in Kenya) for some years, also a large (Irish) convent school, a private school and finally a conservative grammar school for boys in Northern Ireland…!
SO a UNIQUE perspective on questions that I now grapple with as a state school teacher in Scotland:

*am I a Christian who teaches or a teacher who is a Christian?
* is it time for Christians to leave the state (public) school system and invest our resources in Christian schools?
*What does it mean to teach “christianly”?

A praying teacher in Scotland,
Bernard”

My response was as follows:

Thanks, Bernard, for your feedback. You bring up a very interesting question: What is a “Christian Teacher” or “Teacher-who-just-happens-to-be-a-Christian” anyway? I believe that Christian teachers operate under certain core beliefs:
–That every child is a unique creation of God and therefore worthy of our respect and love.
–That God has mandated His desire that we guide children in understanding ethical issues and making right choices in life.
–That teaching is not just a job, but a vocation and a means of giving glory to God with your life, your identity and everything that you are.
Definitely, WHERE you teach sometimes influences your treatment of these three core issues.

From previous posts, those who have been keeping up with my interest in Christian teachers in public schools will know that my belief is that the public school system is not a lost cause. However, for those of us who grew up in Christian or private schools, teaching in the public school may feel sometimes like a loss of identity. By this I mean that the “Christian” you is forever putting words in your mouth, burdens on your heart and songs on your lips, and for someone who is used to an environment where this is considered completely normal 24/7, it is an abrupt change to feel limited in this area of life. Burnout for Christian teachers can happen in a public school simply because self-expression in this area of their lives is basically cut off except in very limited circumstances. It was due to this loss of identity that I eventually turned my career toward international Christian school teaching. However, many mission fields exist around the world where Christian have to be careful about how they approach evangelization and other areas of the Christian faith. Do we leave these countries and refuse to bother?  

A friend once told me that on a missions trip, one of his fellow travelers was listening to some of the profanity used by the very people that they were going to assist in their project. The fellow traveler was highly perturbed and said, “How can we minister to these people if they’re going to use language like THAT?” The answer to that question is, “By the grace of God.” Once we start eliminating mission fields because it’s too difficult, because it requires self-sacrifice, because the people seem “unworthy,” we fail at God’s core mandate, The Great Commission itself. Our job is to point toward God’s grace, which is available for all regardless of their past, regardless of their present.

Think of it this way. I am blessed to be able to work in a multicultural environment every single day. My students come from all over the world: China, Bolivia, Russia, Argentina, Peru, Panama, Mexico, The U.S., South Korea, etc. However, in the States, that is NOT necessarily the case. Many multicultural students end up attending urban schools or somehow filtering into charter schools, whereas some of our stateside Christian schools end up ministering to a predominately white Protestant Christian community. If we all “pulled out” of public schools entirely, we would not only be saying that these students should not be served by Christian teachers, but that they are not worthy of our attention. 

For this reason, we should focus our attentions on helping those Christian teachers called to public school ministry to avoid burnout at all costs. We should be spending our time encouraging them, building them up and supporting the work they do. If the Christian community embraced this idea, I think that we would find more dedication to the faith among Christians teaching in public schools.  

Just an opinion, but I hope it sparks some discussion.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “What is a Christian Teacher Anyway?

  1. Janice

    I was glad to find your blog just when I needed it.
    Many of your points resonate with me: I graduated from a small town public school; after Bible college I taught in a large Christian school; during college I visited the mission field on short term trips, staying with missionaries or missionary teachers; I homeschooled my kids for 17 years; and I am now teaching in a secular day care center while waiting to start teaching in the classroom again for a small Christian school in August.
    As a kid I felt the shunning due to my personal beliefs (but those attitudes later became respect as adults). I currently feel the pressure to be cautious with Jewish and muslim parents or co-workers.
    I loved teaching in a Christian school because I could pour all of my gifts into teaching the students to think Christianly. Then I discovered that homeschooling was even better as it was possible to “impress [these commandments] on your children…when you sit at home and when you [drive] on the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deut. 6:7 NIV) By God’s grace the kids, three now college graduates, refer back to their experience with graditute for being taught and allowed to think for themselves, while under Scriptural guidance. We try; God delivers the grace.
    All that to say, in whichever situation God has placed us, we can be sure that He can direct our thoughts and attitudes so that our actions bring glory to Himself. Anna, it is great that you are seeking to be a means of that encouragement to the believing public school teachers. Knowing a couple of them here in the big city, I hear their need for “holding up the hands that hang down.” Prayer can infuse them with renewed strength.
    I look forward to good challenges ahead.

  2. Dear Janice,
    I am so happy that this blog was meaningful and encouraging to you. Your comment, I hope, will also encourage others to share about their situations in the field of education and continue to build each other up in the Lord. My sister also works at a secular day care center, so I understand the daily grind. 🙂
    I wish you many blessings and thank you for the efforts you have put into the education of your children and other children over the years!

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