Christian Teachers in Public Schools

Author: Blake Lam | MTR ’14 | Aspire Hanley Middle School | 6th Grade Math

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A Christian teacher training program that places teachers in public schools – how does that work? Can you really live out your Christian faith in an environment where it’s unlawful to speak of that faith?

We often hear this sort of question after explaining the work of Memphis Teacher Residency. At first thought, this model – Christian teachers in public schools – doesn’t make much sense, but during my time as a resident and first year teacher, I’ve come to learn that it couldn’t make more sense.

To answer the first two questions, I’ll ask another – How does Christian faith influence the work of a public school teacher?

At the heart of our work lies the belief that all work is a continuation of God’s initial work of creation. God is moving His now broken world toward redemption through the work of His people. The construction worker, CEO, and teacher all play a role as God reconciles all things to Himself.

Once we understand that the work of all teachers is deeply important, we must ask: What does redemptive teaching look like?

The truths of Scripture shed light on how my faith is to affect my teaching practice: 

Each of my students is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and full of dignity, value, and potential. I therefore work diligently to ensure that all of my students learn because I know they all possess the ability to do so. When a student doesn’t perform well, I don’t simply label them as “low” and give up hope. I reteach the content in a way that more readily meets their needs.

I no longer live for myself but for Christ who gave His life for me (2 Corinthians 5:14-15), so I follow in His example and absorb all hurt that comes my way. I reciprocate with love when faced with apathy, distrust, or anger. When a student reacts with severe disrespect, be it harsh words or the shoving of a desk, I don’t get even by lashing out in return. I follow through with the established consequences for the good of my students and not as a means of revenge, all while showing the student love and respect. 

My citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20-21), and that is where my ultimate hope and identity lie. I am not defined by my students’ test scores or by how many kids’ lives I see transformed. My tireless work stems from a true sense of freedom and not from a place of fear or a need to prove my worth. 

These are simply three examples among many. All in all, I believe it is impossible for true Christian faith to not affect every aspect of my life – the way I treat others, the way I eat, the way I spend money, and the way I teach.

So, how does Christian faith influence the life and practice of a public school teacher? In every way.