I still remember my first day of teaching. I can vividly recall standing proudly in my new dress as my husband took my picture to document the beginning of my education career. My excitement was laced with a little trepidation. I had prepared my whole life for this. Looking back now, I never once questioned my decision to be an educator. Although there have been ups and downs, the thought of leaving the profession has never entered my mind. Education is my calling. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be the case anymore for many young educators. The demands of the job, lack of support, and minimal pay are causing many young teachers to second-guess their call to be educators.
The latest statistics on teacher retention are daunting. Not only are fewer people entering the teaching profession, those that are becoming teachers are not making it a career. In the latest report from The National Center on Education Statistics, 8% of teachers are leaving the profession every year.
Granted, some probably should leave. Those who aren’t willing to work hard and who don’t truly love kids should find a different profession. I have been quoted as saying, “Every child deserves to have a teacher who loves his/her job.” Let’s face it. Teachers who don’t truly enjoy teaching are unhappy. They aren’t being fair to themselves or their students. While we have a responsibility to help these individuals find their passion elsewhere, I want to focus on those young educators who really do enter our field for all the right reasons. These teachers want to stay and make a difference but often find teaching more difficult than anticipated.
Like most veteran educators, I am troubled by the statistics. I am even more burdened by the number of Christian educators who are leaving the profession. I can’t think of a more important place to share the love of Jesus than in our schools. Especially our public schools. Not only are our public schools becoming void of Christian educators, many Christian families are choosing to home school or send their children to private schools. Please understand that I am not second-guessing any parent’s decision on how their child is educated. Every parent has a right to make the determination they feel is right for their child. I am simply stating a fact, and it concerns me.
Over the last 30 years, I have visited schools all across the country as well as schools overseas. Regardless of where I have been, there are two constants.
· Kids are kids. Every child needs attention, encouragement, love, and boundaries. They also need high expectations set for behavior as well as academics.
· Teachers make the difference. Teachers can literally change the trajectory of a child’s life by the way they provide and attend to the needs mentioned above.
Can you imagine what schools would be like void of any Christian influence? Our schools need Christian educators to stay, to be on mission, to be set apart, to fulfill their calling.
How do we encourage teachers to remain in the profession? If you are a Christian educator, I implore you to seek out a young educator to encourage, support, and mentor. I believe it is an important way we can fulfill the calling God has placed on our hearts to serve children.
The concept of mentoring is not new. The word “mentor” is defined as “a wise and trusted counselor or teacher.” Although the word “mentoring” doesn't appear in the Bible, Scripture does give us numerous examples of mentoring.
· Elisabeth mentored Mary. (Luke 1:39-56)
· Jethro mentored Moses. (Exodus 3-18)
· Elijah mentored Elisha. (1 Kings 19, 2 Kings 2)
· Paul mentored Timothy. (1 and 2 Timothy)
· Jesus mentored His disciples. (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John)
In each of these examples, the mentors invested in their mentees. They did life together. They helped the mentees mature in their faith and to follow God’s plan for their lives. It is even more exciting to read how each of the mentees went on to mentor others!
As Christian educators, our influence can move beyond our students. We can be a part of something bigger. We can encourage the next generation of teachers to remain on mission in the field of education. Every educator who stays has an opportunity to impact hundreds of children in ways that can only be measured in eternity. Who can really assess the impact of a kind word, a loving hug, a vote of confidence, or an earnest prayer?
Prayerfully consider who God would have you mentor. Ask God to identify someone you can approach to be your mentor. The ripple effect Christian educators can have on the lives of those they touch is immeasurable.
The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses,
entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 2 Timothy 2:2
Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17
And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare
Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come. Psalm 71:18
Mentoring really does matter!
For some basics on mentoring: