Years ago I had to step away from teaching, the vocation that I love, in order to be present for my family in a time of acute need. Not knowing how long my time away from teaching would be, I wrote out a message to my fellow teachers at that time. This message was essentially a list of my personal goals as a teacher, attributes of what I consider to be an effective Christian teacher. Not that each of my colleagues--or any other Christian teacher--must have these exact same goals in order to be effective, but to offer some thoughts to consider as they continue in their calling.
I have witnessed that it is easy for teachers to get caught up in being graders instead of being teachers. It is also easy for Christian teachers to add their faith on top of their subject, rather than weaving their faith into all that they do--the presentation of material, the curriculum itself, assessments, interactions with students, conduct with colleagues. Faith can be incorporated into every element of teaching because it is part of our identity.
So to remind myself and encourage others, here is the list of attributes I consider vital to being an effective Christian teacher.
The Effective Christian Teacher...
...understands that long after his students have forgotten what he taught them, they will remember how he treated them--every day and on those days they had a special need. No student in tears ever walks past him.
...never gives an assignment without knowing why that assignment is important.
...trains his students to think critically. Develops scholars not memorizers. He will have succeeded when his students no longer need him.
...knows his subject matter, yet is never satisfied with how much he knows.
...communicates with his students in as many different ways as possible.
...loves his students in as many ways as possible--a word of encouragement, a note, an act of loving discipline.
...loves his students where they are spiritually, not where he would like them to be; doesn't cause them to stumble as they grow at the rate God wants them to mature.
...never uses assignments as punishment.
...understands that tests and quizzes are an opportunity to teach one more time what is important for his students to know. Sees them as perhaps his most effective teaching tool, not a grading tool even though he must put a grade on them.
...is always available to his students if they need help or even just think they need help.
...pushes his students academically.
...never gets tired of answering questions--no matter how many times he has just answered the same question.
...models Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Compassion, patience, grace, and truth define him.
...his bad days do not become his students' bad days.
...is vulnerable. May be taken advantage of. Never responds in self-defense. His life is his defense.
...is flexible. Things happen in his students' lives that are much more important than what's happening in his classroom--his agenda for the day, his assignments. Adjusts. His students seeing that he considers them worthy of trust become trustworthy.
...treats his (older) students as adults. They'll like the "taste" and respond--as adults.
...accepts that it is his responsibility to make his students pass. And that his responsibility stops with their choice to do or not do the work. Loves them unconditionally regardless of their grade in his class.
...is willing to laugh at himself--to admit his mistakes and to ask for forgiveness.
...never lets the system of education interfere with a teachable moment.
...knows that the purpose of Christian education is not to prepare students for college, but to teach and live a life that will encourage them to do whatever they do to the glory of God--to make the invisible God visible.