What makes a great teacher? What makes a great Christian teacher? What makes a great Christian teacher at an affordable private school in the developing world? With each question, the available answers from research get murkier and murkier.
Some background: in the US, parents are being presented with an ever-increasing range of choices for their children’s education. In fact, according to the National Center on Education Statistics, enrollment in religious schools including Protestant ones has declined in recent years. The decline has been so pronounced, that many are asking important, fundamental questions like “what should be different about a Christian school compared to one with no faith affiliation?” or “what priority should be placed on academic excellence compared to spiritual formation of students?”
These questions are relevant to Christian schools in the developing world too because as the affordable private school movement develops, increasingly parents have more choices for the education of their children. In addition, the public school systems in Ghana, Rwanda and the DR aren’t standing still – they are working to improve their offerings as well.
I recently attended the CESA/Paideia Fall Symposium where these questions are being vigorously discussed. CESA is an organization of Christian schools that is committed to raising educational standards and promoting the benefits of a distinctively Christian education. It is a wonderful community of school leaders with wisdom to share. Take for example, this graphic that depicts the parameters of an effective Christian-School teacher. It was developed by Dr. Tom Stoner, Headmaster at Covenant Christian Academy as a part of his dissertation, “Teacher Preparation for Distinctive Evangelical Schools.”
All three qualities are essential for teachers in schools that Edify serves: high expectations, authentic and passionate. These parameters need to be demonstrated in equal doses. A weak foundation of the best teaching practices might lead to a superficial understanding of how to integrate faith into the classroom or worse, just bad instruction. A weak understanding of a Christian worldview can lead to creating false dichotomies about what’s spiritual learning and what is academic learning (after all God’s revelation to man is both specific in the Bible and general through His creation!). A weak relationship with students leads to a lack of credibility and ultimately rebellion.
Being a teacher is difficult, rewarding work. Being a teacher in a Christian school is an even higher calling. Many of the teachers we serve are working diligently within this framework to be an effective teacher at a Christ-centered school. They are equal parts scholar and shepherd.