Tag Archives: teacher

Christians Teaching in Non-Christian Schools

Funny thing, being a Christian teacher. It has so many definitions and so many ways of manifesting itself in each individual teacher. In case my blog readers haven’t already noticed, one of the goals of this blog is to meet the needs of ALL Christian teachers, whether they are teaching in Christian schools, homeschooling or in secular schools.

Recently, I made the decision to leave the Christian school where I have been teaching for six years. It was a painful choice, as it was the place where I originally began my career. The decision came about due to a variety of reasons: financial, ideological, professional and personal.

And now I am finding myself teaching sixth grade at an Orthodox Jewish school with the definite understanding that it will not be an evangelical setting for my particular faith. What a change from teaching in a school that actively encouraged evangelism and supported teachers who led students in salvation prayers especially in the elementary grades.

While I am very excited to be able to finally afford to study for my Master’s degree after having dreamed, searching and strategized for so long, I also know that it will be difficult for me to find personal support in surviving my new environment. Value systems are different in some ways, and I occasionally find myself wondering whether I will inadvertently make a few mistakes along the way and offend my new Jewish co-workers, parents or students.

Regardless of where I teach, it doesn’t change the fact that the Spirit of God resides within me, constantly prompting me to grow inwardly and to manifest the fruits of the Spirit in my daily behavior. Having enjoyed the amazingly good behavior of my Christian school students, I will be facing the challenge of classroom management once again, hoping that I can conquer my own frustrations, my loneliness at having left my fellow Christian co-workers behind, and learn how to work outside the Christian bubble with which I was constantly surrounded.

For those of you who are Christians teaching in a non-Christian or secular school, I would appreciate your advice or commentaries. God bless each and every one of you and sustain you as the new school year begins.

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Decorating Your Classroom for the New School Year

After a one month hiatus, I am finally back! Thank you for your patience as I was in the U.S. visiting my family.

Now that the new school year is approaching–for me, it begins at the very end of July–I wanted to write a few words on decorating classrooms. For me, this is a very important step to the new year. Why? Because kids literally judge you by the way your classroom looks when they walk in the door. New students look around and ask themselves: What will this teacher be like? Will he/she be mean? Will he/she be fun? Will he/she give me something new to learn?

First year teachers at my school are usually so busy getting themselves organized with their lesson planning that they end up neglecting classroom decorations. Finally, at the tail end, they throw up a poster with the class rules and perhaps a small bulletin board with some construction paper quotes. Leaving your classroom bare or under-decorated tells the students either that you are too busy for them, that you are lazy or that you are boring. Sounds harsh? Well, remember how you felt as a young child, looking back. Whether you acknowledged the decorations explicitly or implicitly, chances are you gained an impression of the teacher from the layout of the classroom.

Other teachers, usually the bitter ones, seem to pick out their posters based upon the already-anticipated flaws that they imagine their students will have. They have fun, colorful posters that blare loud messages such as “No Homework, No Life!” or “You are Responsible for You!” Granted, it is important to have at least one or two reminders concerning appropriate behavior in the classroom. Since I go over the rules on the first day, I leave the rules up on my white board in decorative fashion for the first month, along with a poster encouraging students to make right choices. However, don’t be afraid to have a few posters that are simply there for fun, beauty and enjoyment! When students walk into your classroom and every poster is behavior-related, the students then also get a negative impression of you. They think to themselves, “This teacher is really uptight about the rules. He/she doesn’t really care about me as a person unless I can keep up with all of their procedures.” (And, I’m sorry to say that they’re usually right, aren’t they?)

The best types of decorations combine inspirational (not dictatorial) messages alongside fun, interesting content posters. Also keep in mind that students enjoy interacting with decorations. Try making a bulletin board where students have to respond by writing on it. Students enjoy keeping track of time and events, so make one bulletin board a special announcement bulletin board, where you place a fun calendar, post flyers, and hang cool news articles that will be of interest to them. The key is also color. In a high school classroom, decorations do not need to be wall-to-wall the way you see in an elementary classroom. However, the space should be well-used, with some strategic placements in order to keep the classroom from looking like it contains blank walls. Use the decorations to reinforce rules, introduce lesson plans, give further information about lesson plan topics or to inspire kids to achieve more. Once your classes get started, allow kids to contribute to your decorating process, displaying their work and their posters that they create.

When you decorate your classroom well, students should get the impression that you care about them as people, that you have interesting things to teach them, that you will be fun, yet organized and disciplined. I have heard so many teachers along the years say, “I’m not their friend, I’m their teacher.” I agree that you are their teacher and agree that you are not their peer. However, that should not stop you from building positive relationships with your students and getting to know them as people. Show this attitude in your decorating process, and try to reflect it in your teaching style.

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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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Student Entrepreneurs

In our international Christian school, we find that neighboring schools are helping their students learn about business through a student entrepreneurship program. These programs help students learn how to develop, plan and carry out their own businesses while they are still in high school. Since many of our students are bilingual or even trilingual, they are interested in international business as a major in college. For this reason, I think that this type of a program is very beneficial to my Christian school.

However, this type of a program is wonderful whether you are homeschooling, teaching at a Christian school or teaching in a public school. First of all, it provides real-life skills that are useful for students in the future. Homeschooled kids can learn how to plan, organize themselves and work independently while getting the social interaction skills that they need to be successful in life. Christian school kids can use an opportunity like this as a ministry opportunity. One Panamanian girl who attended a secular school said that from their profits, the school required them to give 40% to a charitable organization. If a secular school can use their program for community service, why can’t we? In public schools, resources are even more phenomenal, assuming that you are a Christian teacher who wants to inspire students to social change. You can then help develop this aspect in the lives of your students even though you are working in a secular environment. You can get local church groups in on it as volunteers. The possibilities are endless!

Below, I am posting a website for teachers to get involved in my links section. A training session for teachers is happening in Washington D.C. this summer. If you are able to get there, I would highly recommend it!

 

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On Gender Roles and Inclusion.

I ran into a very interesting blog today that especially brought up some interesting questions concerning the “award” system of schools, the disparity between the treatment of boys and girls in schooling situations and also information concerning inclusion. I highly recommend reading this blog, which was very thoughtful about bringing up some key issues. If you get a chance to read it, I would like to hear your comments on my site about the Christian teacher’s perspective on this issue and whether or not you see this happening in your schools.

http://paulinege.wordpress.com/2008/05/16/on-academic-awards/

This blog is posted with permission from the original blogger.

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The Challenge for Christian Teachers in Public Schools

Suffice it to say that while I am extremely proud and happy to be a Christian school teacher, I have recently learned that being a Christian educator means much more than where you teach. In actuality, it means how you teach, and especially who you are. If you are a Christian educator means that you are committed to maintaining a personal life of integrity, serving as a role model for students, and raising up students who can make a difference in the world.

How can this be accomplished for those of us who teach in public schools, some of you may very well wonder. We live in a country that preserves the right to believe and the right not to believe. Your opinion on this principle may very well determine whether or not you choose to change the world from within the public school system or whether you choose to retreat and try a different route by choosing homeschooling and Christian schooling as your primary ministry.

On this site I would like to personally recognize two key points about choosing to teach in a public school and try to develop an apologia for those who feel called to this particular ministry. 

1. Jesus tended to minister among those who were most in need of Him. So many stories of Jesus’ life contribute to the idea that Jesus was really about “healing those who were sick.” This does not mean that homeschooling and Christian school ministries are not also valid ministries, but it doesn’t rule out public school teaching as a ministry. Instead, the stories of Zaccheus the tax collector, the woman at the well, the leprous beggars, the Good Samaritan and the thief on the cross teach us that no point is too low that Christ cannot reach into the depths, bring forgiveness from sin and change lives radically. Once we stop believing this, we have chosen to doubt God’s power and we, as a natural result, are blinded to miracles of public school ministries that happen every day.

2. Public schools do not have to be a lost cause. Teachers can contribute in different ways: by pushing for character education programs, by counseling students one-on-one, by inspiring them to seek answers for the emptiness inside their lives and (even subversively) play Christian music in their empty rooms during break in the hopes that the notes will one day reach the ears of a passerby. Those who are brave enough to venture an invitation to a youth group activity, start a Bible study group, or openly admit a personal Christian belief should hold fast to the words of Jim Eliot, which we Christians admire so well: “He is no fool if he would choose to give the things he cannot keep to buy what he can never lose.” What is a mission after all, but to take risks in the name of Christ. Above all, it should be the job of each Christian educator to train up children to take ownership of their faith, not to just receive it passively as the byproduct of a parent’s beliefs. In a public school, teachers are more free to ask the big questions concerning ethics, morality, opinions concerning the role of religion in society and even more to model the community service that causes so many to open their eyes to the reality of Christ’s love for orphans, the homeless, the societal rejects, and minority voices in our country.

Just an FYI–If you happen to be a Christian teaching in a public school, you may want to check out the link for the Christian Educators Association International. According to the website, its mission is ” to “serve the educational community by encouraging, equipping and empowering Christian educators serving in public and private schools.” It claims to be the only Christian Association that includes Christian educators working in the public arena and offers professional liability insurance opportunities if you should ever find yourself in a position of threatened suspension, termination or lawsuits.

Thanks for being on the front lines!

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The Art of Christian Teaching

When I was growing up in a small, Christian school, I frequently encountered the odd person who challenged me with the old Athen-Jerusalem question. Is it possible to be both Christian and educated? Is it possible to be an intellectual and yet believe in religious faith? For those of us in Christian or Catholic education, we will continue to encounter challenges of this sort. We will also continue to confront issues that force us to find balance between meeting the intellectual needs of our students and yet building them into men and women of integrity and Christian character. This forum provides an opportunity for Christian teachers to connect with each other and provide resources and tools for making us a group of better-trained, better-equipped teachers in the Christian education field. If we truly believe in Christian education as a viable field, we should all be committed to improving our professional development for the purpose of offering our students the most professional staff possible. I invite you to interact with the topics by providing feedback, book lists, comments and links that will better help me give all Christian teachers the best resource guides possible!

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