One speaker in particular though has prompted a lot of reflection. I'm actually a little troubled by his presentation, because it hits really close to home. I'm paraphrasing a bit, but here is the gist of what he said that has been working on my heart and mind:
- "How many of you are 'good' teachers? How many of you are 'godly' teachers? You can be 'good' without being 'godly,' but you can't be a 'godly' teacher without being 'good.'"
- "Imagine a parent praying for his or her child just before the beginning of a new school year: 'God, please let my child have an average teacher this year!' No one says that. That would be crazy."
- "The fact is, most teachers are average...to awful."
- "Over the course of your schooling, from Kindergarten through college, you have about 100 teachers. How many of you had 100 great teachers?" <crickets> "How many of you had 50?" <No response.> "25?" <Uncomfortable shifting in the room...> "10?" <Finally a smattering of hands go up in a room full of hundreds of teachers.> "5? 4? 3? 2? 1?" <Lots of hands.> "So...maybe 5% of teachers are GREAT teachers?"
This was very challenging to me! I think of myself as a good teacher. I hope I am a "godly" teacher too. And I hope I'm on my way to becoming a great teacher. But this was pretty sobering!
He went on with this challenging thought:
There are three categories of teachers:
- Some teachers are "on fire." (The ones who are genuinely sad when school is out for summer...)
- Some teachers are "losing the fire." (The ones who work hard through the heartache of the job...)
- Some teachers need to be fired. (Whoa...did he actually just say that?)
No pulling punches--he laid it right out there, that some of the teachers in the room need to go.
Truth is, I agree with him: some teachers, even in Christian schools, are simply bad teachers. But what would this look like in practice?
My friend Brenda (a former Christian school teacher who is perhaps a little cynical) once quipped, "Fire a bad teacher in a Christian school? It's easier to hire a hitman."
She's joking, you know. But is there some truth there? I'm really wondering about what would happen if tuition-paying parents would start to hold school boards accountable for retaining poor teachers.
What if Christian schools and school boards were bold enough to actually demand that their teachers are good...or even great!
What would schools look like if teachers who just aren't doing their job fully were encouraged to find another line of work?
What if bad teachers--even in Christian schools--were fired?
What if school boards would only hire great teachers to replace the poor teachers?
Okay, I'm also realistic...where are all these "great" teachers hiding? Because I'm pretty sure there aren't a surplus of fantastic Christian teachers in hiding someplace, just waiting for someone to swoop in, liberate them, and put them to work in schools. So I think we need to think about this in terms of expecting teachers to become great teachers, and provide them with the professional development to become really great.
And then expect them to be great.
And...after a reasonable amount of time (maybe two years or so?), if they aren't on their way to becoming great...maybe it really is time to fire them.
So here is my threefold challenge:
- Parents, demand great teachers! Hold your children's teachers accountable.
- Teachers, be great! Expect a culture of continuous improvement and professional development in schools.
- Christian school boards, hire good, godly teachers! And then support them and encourage them and expect them to become great!