The 2017 “Teacher Shortage Areas Nationwide Listing” has been released by the Department of Education. The news isn’t good. As a nation, we are experiencing a significant shortage of teachers in various subject areas and geographic locations. The news is good. With a teacher shortage comes opportunity.
For years we have heard there is a shortage of math and science teachers. For the 2016-2017 academic year, schools had difficulty filling openings for Math, Science, English, Speech & Theatre, and Social Sciences. Special Education and ESL/ELL continue to be shortage areas. But the really shocking news was that many parts of the nation have a shortage in Elementary Education.
Urban geographic areas have reported shortages of qualified teachers for years. Now shortages are appearing in rural areas as well. The State of Missouri reports shortages in the subject areas listed above as well as a shortage of teachers in over 90 of its 114 counties. Superintendents of rural schools recently reported that they are lucky if they have one qualified applicant per teaching position.
These shortages provide opportunity. In political science, the phrase “power vacuum” refers to a condition “when someone has lost control of something and no one has replaced them.” This phrase has been applied to loss of control by one government which is then replaced by another ideology. Opportunity comes to those who recognize an emptiness and has something to offer in filling the void. This national shortage of teachers creates a power vacuum.
Why should followers of Christ consider becoming teachers to fill this vacuum? Consider these reasons:
- Opportunity to be a witness in a lost world. Modeling Christ-like behavior within a classroom can be a strong witness to students who have never experienced selfless love, kindness, or forgiveness. While a teacher may not be able to teach Scripture in the public school, he or she can model and teach biblical principles of honesty, fairness, strong work ethic, forgiveness, compassion, and more.
- Opportunity to engage in spiritual battles. As a follower of Christ, a teacher has the power of the Holy Spirit as a partner in spiritual battle. Every day, Christian teachers pray over their classrooms and students’ desks before the day begins. Prayer journals record needs of each student and praises over progress. The more vessels of the Holy Spirit in a school, the more the light penetrates the darkness.
- Opportunity to become policy makers. Rather than abandon the public schools, Christ-followers should position themselves to become policy makers. Successful classroom teachers can become educational leaders who set policies for their buildings and districts, administrators, board members, state board of education members, federal lobbyists or employees of the national Department of Education. Experienced classroom teachers can become university teachers and mentor future teachers.
Influencers of a society or culture understand that the greatest impact comes with influencing children. Vladimir Lenin understood this opportunity and is credited with stating, “Give me just one generation of youth, and I’ll transform the whole world.”
Consider of all those children who have no one to influence them for Christ. Become a teacher.
Rose H. Henness is an Associate Professor at Calvary University. She teaches in the Education Department and the Ministry Studies Department. Her special interests are educational technological, education reform, pedagogy, andragogy, discipleship, and women’s studies.
Do you remember making construction paper link chains to decorate elementary school classroom? The chains would be draped around the room. But sometimes, in the mornings, a chain would be hanging to the floor because one link had come unglued. A quick repair would have the link chain back to its expansive length again.
I’m reminded of those paper link chains in the theme passage I have chosen for this year.
“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people, who will also be qualified to teach others. … Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:2, 15 NET)
As Paul realizes his time in ministry is short, he encourages Timothy to continue faithfully in what he has learned from Paul. But the message of Scripture must not end with Timothy! Paul exhorts Timothy to teacher others who then will teach those who follow after him.
Paul’s encouragement to Timothy reminds me of these link chains. Each follower of Christ has a responsibility to learn and then to teach others. This is the only way the truths of Scripture pass from generation to generation. We are part of link chains connecting us back to that small group of apostles who followed Jesus Christ.
Just as importantly, Paul cautions Timothy to accurately handle the truths of Scripture. The phrase “correctly handles” literally means to cut straight like a seamstress cuts fabric straight on the grain or a farmer plants a straight row.
Teachers of God’s Word must not twist it to fit their worldview, but strive to present the Word as God originally meant. Not an easy task thousands of years later in an entirely different culture, but a vitally important task.
So, as this new academic year begins at Calvary I hope you can see yourself in that link chain of teaching God’s Word from one generation to the next. I pray that no matter what your area of study, whether Education, Bible & Theology, or Theatre, you become a student of the Word who correctly handles its truth.