For all of us, education is not simply a job we seek to perform daily. Many may not even consider teaching a profession; rather, most if not all would consider teaching young adults and children a Christian vocation. Teachers who choose to teach in one of the many Lutheran schools located throughout the Indiana District do so with great passion and commitment to their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. They take seriously their Calling and their responsibility as ‘Commissioned Ministers’.
But you must remember that effective teaching does not come naturally. Developing the skills and tools that are necessary to teach effectively does takes time, effort, and energy. The difference between learning a skill and implementing that skill with consistency and automaticity resides in one’s capacity to engage oneself in continuous and rigorous thought (Hall & Simeral, 2015). Knowledge and practice are something altogether different, aren’t they?
So, how impactful can you be? Instructional research gives ample support for instructional quality (Hattie, 2009 & Marzano, 2007). Hattie released a meta-analysis study that determined nine (9) of the top thirteen (13) influences on student learning and achievement were teacher or teaching-related. Marzano (2007) as well as Goodwin and Hubbell (2013) acknowledge that teachers have a tremendous influence and positive effect on student learning and success.
You must never settle for mediocrity! Seek to challenge yourself through a variety of professional development opportunities in efforts to improve your teaching. And strive to reflect about how you taught and whether that instructional approach, strategy, or assessment could be more effective if done differently the next time. When interviewing Christian teachers in Lutheran schools in the Indiana District and LCMS districts contiguous to the Indiana District, every teacher placed a high priority on self-reflection as a characteristic for effective teaching and teacher quality. Hall and Simeral (2015) propose a four-phase self-reflective process: Unaware, Conscious, Action, and Refinement. The authors provide good description and instructional detail about each phase.
Just as professional development helps to improve your instructional approaches and skills; study and reflection of God’s Word transforms your heart, the hearts of your students, and equips all of you with the Armor of God to readily defend off the devil. Take time as a Christian teacher to immerse oneself in God’s Word, allowing time for deeper thought and reflection. The Holy Spirit will use that time of study to strengthen your faith and grow you closer to your Lord and Savior. By doing so, you will become a more complete teacher.
As you spend more time meditating on God’s Word, the Holy Spirit will work through your study of Word and the catechism to enhance your Christian instruction, transforming the hearts of your students, imparting God’s wisdom into their very hearts, and helping each of them develop a personal relationship with Jesus.
You most certainly do impact the lives of your students. Your Christian instruction of young adults and children help them grow in maturity toward becoming Christian citizens, preparing them for Christian life – how to be a good student, and eventually, marriage and parenthood, how to be a good member of God’s church, and learning how to be a good citizen to others. If you have not read, Learning at the Foot of the Cross A Lutheran Vision for Education by Heck and Menuge (2001), I would encourage you to do so. The authors will challenge you to have discussions around the integration of your Christian faith and your ministry in general.
During this Advent time and approaching Christmas, you are preparing your heart and reminding yourself about God’s love and how beautifully manifested that was for you in the incarnation of His Son – Jesus. You have great joy and hope as a teacher because you are in partnership with other Christian teachers and in partnership with your Lord and Savior!
Let me close by suggesting that improving as a teacher through coursework, conferences, workshops, or by other means (peer to peer observations) is wholesome, integral, and must be done. However that investment into God’s Word daily not only brings you that peace, comfort, strength, and encouragement to tackle the bumps and bruises of life, but also, gives you the wisdom to lead, guide, and teach students entrusted to you. Professional development coupled with deliberate time in God’s Word, thinking and reflecting about that Word, turns you into that remarkable teacher you seek to be.
May God grant you and your family a blessed and marvelous Christmas!
Dr. Jon Mielke
Hall, Pete, & Simeral, Alisa. (2015). Teach Reflect Learn: Building Your Capacity for Success in the Classroom. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Heck, Joel D. & Menuge, Angus J.L. (2001). Learning at the Foot of the Cross A Lutheran Vision for Education. Austin, TX: Concordia University Press.