Several times over the life of my career as an educator (often in interviews), I have been asked the following question, “What is your philosophy of education?” I never liked this question. The question feels superficial and invariably yields a canned answer. I mean we all know the right answer to this question. It goes something like this…
My philosophy of education is that all children are unique and must have a stimulating educational environment where they can grow physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially. It is my desire to create this type of atmosphere where students can meet their full potential. I will provide a safe environment where students are invited to share their ideas and take risks.
This is a great statement (thanks Google), and most of us had to write something similar in our undergraduate programs. While I don’t disagree with having a philosophy statement, I chose to pare mine down many years ago. My mantra became, “Whatever it takes.” Oversimplified? Maybe. Effective? I think so.
Competent educators today are tenacious. Anyone who thinks teaching is easy is delusional. Teachers not only teach every day but they also plan, assess, counsel, and oversee students with varying personalities and needs. Leadership is also challenging. Administrators are charged with orchestrating safe and academically successful schools. At times our jobs as educators can feel like an insurmountable task. Without a whatever it takes mentality, we can succumb to frustration and burnout.
We can’t give up. Our students need us. They need to see Godly educators going to battle for them. Their future depends on it in more ways the one. Dr. Martin Luther King summed up what it means to be a Christian educator when he noted, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.” We have been given an opportunity to positively impact the future of our country through the education of its children. Being an educator is truly a high calling.
While it isn’t easy, developing a whatever it takes mentality can propel us to work hard and become the best educators we can be. There is no doubt there will be great rewards for those who are good stewards of God’s gifts. Paul offered encouragement to the Galatians, and his words are pertinent for us as educators today.
So, let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith. Galatians 6:9-10
What does a whatever it takes philosophy look like for a Christian educator? It will differ based on our various situations, but here are some tenets that should be universal.
· Build Relationships
Every teacher I know has to deal with difficult students. Our problems can range from defiance to disengagement. Will we do whatever it takes to connect with all our students? To value them? To get to know each of them and their situations? This doesn’t happen overnight. Many students have felt abandoned, and they often build walls that are difficult to penetrate. Don’t give up! We have an opportunity to show the love of Jesus by connecting with students.
· Set High Expectations for All
Educators live in a world of standards. However, I fear we don’t hold all of our students to the same set of expectations. I recognize we have students enter our classrooms with limited skills due to circumstances beyond their control. However, we can’t lower the bar. We must do whatever it takes to make sure all students hit high marks in academics and behavior. This may require obtaining extra tutoring for a student or extending a project deadline. It might also mean practicing some tough love to ensure a student can become his/her best self.
When we set high expectations for students, we are telling them, “I believe in you. I know you can do it.” The vast, vast majority of students will rise to meet our expectations. Take a look at how clear Jesus was about His expectations in Mark 8:34-36.
Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, He said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?”
There is no doubt Jesus’ expectations were motivated by love. When we truly love our students, we also want was is best for them.
· Support and Forgive
When you think about it, this is what God does for us. Despite our sin, when we repent, grace and mercy follow.
“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9
When we have a whatever it takes mentality, we will go the extra mile to ensure all our students are loved, valued, and educated. We won’t cut corners. We will do our best within our sphere of influence. This doesn’t mean we sacrifice our health or our families. There are limits to what we can do. Remembering whom we serve helps us keep things in perspective.
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Colossians 3:23-24
If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed, as we all do, never forget the power available to you.
I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:16-19
“My faith demands
that I do whatever I can,
wherever I am.
whenever I can,
for as long as I can
with whatever I have
to try and
make a difference.”