Spiritual Formation for Teachers

These workshops encourage professional eucators, reitred and ative, to share skills with teachers in the field.  College professors. public school prinicpals, school administrators, scientist and interfaith clerrgy are encouraged to become active participants in addressing the educational needs of their school system.  Our primary focus is on the nurturing needs of public school teachers serving the diverse populations.

Spiritual teaching is not teaching religion.  Spiritual teaching refers to Galatians 5: 22-24 using the fruit of the spirit: love, joy peace, patience , kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control…and respect.  We do not advocate or suggest that any teacher break any laws; teachers cannot each religion in public high schools

If teachers are going to use the church to help them to have the strength to stay the course, then they are going to need more than a prayer book; they are going to need real skills, courage and strength. This project has spent a considerable amount of time talking to teachers, and listening to what they say and what they do not say. Careful attention was paid to a review of the literature on reasons given for why so many teachers are leaving the system, and so many more are waiting until they have enough time to retire.

What is it about an education system that attracts so many bright young men and women who are eager to work with young people, and what causes some of these same young people to leave the same system is despair and frustration? This project included information from teachers who elected to stay in the system, and discovered methods for handling stress and challenges

This project also discovered that those teachers who elected to remain in the system had specific reasons for remaining. These reasons were not always financial. Some of these reason related to what some teachers found in the system. Some teachers found challenges for which they were unprepared. Some found energy in the challenges and accepted teaching as a great opportunity to make a difference in the lives of so many young people. Some found an opportunity to make right some of the many wrongs, which they considered in the society. Those who stayed were knowingly or unknowingly touched by the hand of God, and called into His service. The call was to change and save America, and to be part of the solution rather than stand by and complain about the problem. New teachers discovered that they were told a big “lie.” This big “lie” was that students did not want to learn, and that parents were not interested in their children’s education. When many of the new teachers find out that this is not usually the case, and they are left with high energetic young people demanding a different kind of education, many teachers become frustrated

Where do these teachers turn for support to help them to do the job the want to do? What can new teachers say when the language to discuss problems and issues has not been invented in the general population? Teachers who have long records of continued service reported that they turned to their churches to hear the language of how to handle unspoken problems.

Recommendations

  • Prepare non-government environments to nurture and support teachers
  • Encourage politicians to review teacher preparation programs
  • Use the medical school preparation model and clinical approach in teacher preparation
  • Prepare teachers with the pedagogical and spiritual skills necessary for success in teaching.
  • Build a bridge between the school and the church that respects laws and responsibility
  • Encourage teachers to view the church as an important part of the teacher preparation process.
  • Help teachers to see themselves and their students as made in the image and likeness of God capable of endless possibilities.

America has to change its education system, and it has to change it fast.  It cannot be turned over to committees to debate how and why it should change, and what is the exact meaning of change. Educators are intellectuals, and intellectuals are notoriously famous for hot air and no results. This is not a time for intellectual discourse, this is an emergency. This is a time for red hot mental and physical energies focused on a solution, and we need one yesterday.

Taking a page again from the Black Church, especially during periods of segregation, they identified the problem, and put solutions in place. They did not discuss the right or wrongness of the problem; they put together the solutions to deal with the problem. Black Americans were not being permitted in some job markets, therefore, the church created jobs. The schools were not providing a quality education for the children; the church became the spiritual and educational center through its operation of after-school programs and activities. If colleges cannot provide teachers with the spiritual tools needed to survive in their chosen careers, then the church must began an intervention in the lives of these teachers, and give them the support and nurturing them need to continue to answer the call.

Students in inner city schools are often training grounds for new teachers, and as soon as some teachers discover this, they make decisions with regards to what part they want to play in the game of using innocent children to advance their own careers. New teachers spend their first three years working in minority environments, and when they have the experience and the teaching skills necessary to be accepted in different neighborhoods, they transfer out, only to be replaced by another novice teacher who must do his or her hard time on the rocks before they have proven their ability to survive and teach

Individuals who elect to go into the teaching field are usually idealistic, and many want to sincerely help students. Most are not prepared. They may be prepared academically to impart knowledge, many however, are not prepared to handle the politics and the policies of the environment. The church can help in not only validating the role of the teacher, but provide the spiritual strength to make meaningful changes in the system

Bright students will act up and act out in class. Some may even evaluate the teaching abilities of the teacher before the class. What may be considered rude and disrespectful is often anger and frustration over the lack of respect the system has for the students. Young students cannot burnout of the system, but they often demonstrate the same behaviors and concerns described by some researchers as symptoms of burnout. Some students feel disrespected when they discover they do not have a teacher who is able to manage the class. The system throws the teacher to the wolves of frustration, and the system chews him/her up.

Today the need is for an improved educational environment for our children and our teachers. Instead of investigating what is in the heads of the students, they put in metal detectors to find out what is in the backpack of the student. Instead of using advanced technology to teach the students, they put cameras and listening devices all over the school grounds. This is how you treat an occupied people, not citizens. It is time to end the blame and shame game and give teachers the skills they need to leave no child behind. America cannot continue to pay billions of dollars for poverty education, and teachers resent being part of the poverty education game. Give them what they need or they will continue to leave.

The brightest students, like the brightest teachers, eventually dropout, and seek other pathways of fulfillment and direction. Teachers may return to school and select other career choices in business, finance, or use their talents in corporate America. Students, who are not mature enough to make alternative careers or educational selections, are usually picked up by the organized crime market; a multibillion dollar industry, which needs compliant minds, and young bodies ready to be sacrificed in the violent market place

America loses some of it best and brightest young people who are pushed out of the nest of the schoolhouse into the street with some still dragging umbilical cords attached to nothing. Many end up in prison, where, by some miracle they find a supportive violent environment, which forces them to be men or women. The prison system, with the same captive population once housed in a school building, teach the so called un-teachable to conform to the rules of society. Prisons today are setting up schools, universities, churches, libraries and counselors. They send in armies of teachers, professors, clergy, doctors, lawyers and business people, to do what should and could have been done in school buildings across America

What this project is suggesting, is that you cannot address the issues of teacher burnout without addressing issues of injustice in our educational system. The church must step forth and play a significant role in addressing the ills of our society. Today it is our brightest teachers who are leaving the system. Perhaps we may wake up and become aware that some of our brightest students are also leaving the public educational system.

This project did not discuss the multi-teaching environment used in some charter schools, private and parochial schools located in some communities in prevented due to financial circumstances.

The church must open its doors to the communities in which they serve. They should make it known that available to all who wish to come, will be a place and a time where a helping hand and a spiritual commitment is available to help them to complete their important job. Riverside Church offers a safe haven space for teachers where they can come and in a spiritual environment, be nurtured and educated with the skills they need to return to the front lines of the American educational system and continue to be hands of God in the lives of students.

Riverside Church encourages great minds to come together in a neutral and spiritual environment and discuss issues relevant to teaching. Riverside Church provided a place where teachers came and interact with students in a non-governmental environment.  Teachers came as mentors or to receive mentoring from seasoned teachers. Teachers evaluated their own needs and came to the Church to find support for those needs. The daycare study suggested that the leadership style of the directors of the centers, which were guided by a spiritual component, were helpful to teachers. The Church can provide some help to some other leaders in stressed or challenging positions. Spirituality calms the soul and encourages the better angels of personality. Spirituality releases the Christ within, and it is the Christ with in, which helps to reduce reactions to stressful situations. The teachers learned how to take on the Christ like principles of thought and behaviors and knew they could stay the course

Burber defines the concept of spiritual teaching for this writer and teacher. He states that spiritual teaching involves having a relationship with God. Burber argues that individuals should have an I-Thou relationship with each other rather an you-me seperational relationship. The individual should see others as the mirror image of the self. As teachers see students as made in the image and likeness of God, and themselves, they will learn to expect excellence from both.

Martin Burber calls us to take on the God-self within. The individual enters into a relationship with God based on mutual respect. This, I-thou relationship with God, makes it possible to see and know thy self, and will become a valuable asset when interacting with children. Seeing children and coworkers as made in the image and likeness of God makes human relationships personal. Sometimes it is not possible to change the environment, but with spiritual teaching it is possible to change the peace in the environment. Teaching from and with the fruit of the spirit is the key to addressing issues of burnout.

This writer discovered, from personal experience, that teaching very young children, especially in daycare, requires a special kind of relationship, this is the foundation of spiritual formation. The church can help the teacher in the spiritual formation process, and with academic preparation develop the formula for teaching success. God is the teacher, and the teacher is the instrument through which God manifest his/her will. Through spiritual formation, the teacher learns how to let go and let God work through them. Prayer, preparation and purpose are the vehicles through which teaching takes place. Stay on prayer, stay on preparation, stay on purpose, and you the teacher will be able to stay in the classroom.