BlogAn Open Letter to Teachers During Ridiculously Difficult Days
The past few years in education have not been what you thought you were signing up for. There’s been volatility, racial unrest, political turmoil, and growing concerns over students’ mental health. Sprinkle in a pandemic, raging debates over masking, virtual classrooms, and quarantines, and there’s little doubt why teachers are feeling strained, discouraged, and disillusioned.
For nearly 50 years America has embarked on a concerted effort to educate children, concentrating on poor children, children of color, and children who are educationally and socially disadvantaged. These children are summarily referred to as educationally disenfranchised. The nation has spared little expense in its endeavor to address the educational plight of this student population. America's schools and colleges of education are among the best in the world at teacher preparation and credentialing. This nation reportedly spends $19 billion annually on professional development designed to hone teachers' classroom effectiveness. Despite all this, for educationally disenfranchised children the results leave much to be desired.
Historically, education and education reform have focused on two dimensions—head and hands. The higher education institutions provide educators with head knowledge (the teaching content and credentials). The professional development organizations provide the hand skills (the teaching conduct and pedagogy). Effective teaching, however, involves a third critical component. Children, indeed, need what the teacher knows (the informational dimension of education pertaining to the head). They also need to be effectively instructed, which pertains to how the teacher teaches (the instructional dimension of education pertaining to the hands). Equally so, children need to connect with who the teacher is (the interpersonal/inspirational dimension of education, pertaining to the heart). Educational impact is usually a product of, and witnessed by, the application of the third dimension: heart. It is not just the knowledge the educators possess in their heads, nor the skills they perform with their hands, but ultimately the love that proceeds from their hearts that makes the difference. Indeed, the heart provides the catalyst for the head and hands to be effective.
To put it another way:
- Children need to be informed by what the teacher knows
- Children need to be instructed by what the teacher does
- Children need to be inspired by who the teacher is and how the teacher connects
Ultimately, the third dimension (the heart) is not a result of higher education credentials or professional development practices. Rather, it is the work of the Holy Spirit, who pours out the love of God upon the heart of the educator (Romans 5:8). Consider this passage of scripture: "So he answered and said, "'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,' and 'your neighbor as yourself'" Luke 10:27 (NKJV).
Now imagine teachers loving God with all of their:
- Minds, with what they know in their heads
- Strength, with what they do with their hands
- Heart, with what they believe in their hearts
This is the essence of a three-dimensional educator. Such an educator represents the most potent force in all of education. The people of God, moved by the love of God, equipped with the things of God, can make a difference for God. Practically every movie, book, and testimony about teachers who made a profound impact upon their students pertained to matters of the heart. That is, children experienced an educational transformation/conversion as a result of an educator who exercised heart. Consider Stand and Deliver, Coach Carter, The Ron Clark Story, and Lean on Me. This concept also explains why Anne Sullivan was able to succeed with educating Helen Keller where others had failed. God's people start with heart—His Heart.
Consider this passage of Scripture: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails" (1 Corinthians 13:4–8).
Now imagine a teacher:
- Being patient with students
- Being kind toward the parents
- Who is not arrogant, thinking she is better than her students
- Not being rude with his colleagues
- Not in it for self or just to draw a paycheck
- Not easily angered with the administration
- Not holding grudges
- Committed to the truth
- Always protecting the class
- Always trusting the Lord
- Never giving up on the students but always hoping the best for them
It would represent the essence of a teacher armed with the most transformative power in all of existence—agape love.
Providing children who have three-dimensional needs (head, hands, and heart) with a two-dimensional education leaves them undereducated. On the other hand, a God-empowered, three-dimensional education is the most potent force in making a transformational impact upon the lives of children, especially educationally disenfranchised children.