By Russ Gregg with Leslie Smith, Lower School Principal, and Nathan Ziegler, Upper School Principal

The role of the teacher is central to any school, and the demands of the job bring both joy and exhaustion. In a God-centered school for children of the city, here are four areas we recommend keeping in mind as you seek to identify and caring for all-in teachers.

1. The Centrality of the Teacher
The effect of teaching on student learning is greater than student ethnicity or family income, school attended by student, or class size. The effect is stronger for poor and/or minority students than for their more affluent and/or white peers, although all groups benefit from effective teachers. The effects accumulate over the years. Here are some important Scripture passages to consider regarding the calling to teach:

  • Luke 6:40 – A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.
  • James 3:1 – Not many should become teachers, my brothers, because you know that we will receive a stricter judgment.
  • I Thessalonians 2:1-12 – Paul’s ministry approach (which is based on Christ’s) is courageous (v 1-2), ethical (v 3-6), sustainable (v 7-8), and local (v 9-12).
  • I Thessalonians 2:8 – We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the Gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.

2. 8 Key Criteria for Evaluating Teacher Candidates
Great teachers are a school’s most valuable resource, and so as we evaluate teaching candidates, these are the eight key criteria we look for in identifying their fit for our mission. Today, we observe finalist candidates teaching sample lessons with our students before they are offered a position.

  • JESUS: Is it obvious that this person is in love with Jesus?
  • CONTENT: Does this person also have a love for and knowledge of their content area?
  • RELATIONSHIPS: Would this candidate be good at building relationships with inner city children? How has this been previously demonstrated in their life?
  • TEACHING SKILLS: Does this person appear to have teaching gifts to be able to both effectively manage the classroom and get students to think? Will this candidate be a good shepherd?
  • CITY: Is this candidate called to serve in the city?
  • FLEXIBILITY & COST: Is this teacher all-in and willing to go the extra mile? Does this person understand the cost of working here?
  • LONG TERM: Is there a long-term commitment to the school?
  • THEOLOGY: Is this candidate’s expression of Christian faith compatible with the school’s?
  • ROLE: We consider Hope teachers to be “pastors” or “shepherds” to the students in their classrooms.

3. Five Keys to teacher success and longevity.

What we have learned over the years is that these five factors are critical to teacher longevity in a God-centered context serving A.C.E. youth:

  1. Relationship builder – demonstrative affection!
  2. Consistency and shepherding in discipline
  3. A calling and a love for living and serving in a diverse, urban community
  4. Passion and engagement in lessons
  5. Openness to growth in all areas of life — especially a passion for growing in cross-cultural understanding and cultural competence

Fourth, supporting teachers — 8 questions to have answers for!
Leadership and culture are incredibly important for teachers (and all staff) to thrive. We certainly continue to grow in these areas, but all teachers need to know the answers to the following 8 questions right from the day they are hired. Effective leaders ensure that questions like these are answered before teachers even think to ask them!

  • Where/who can I ask questions of and how do I ask them?
  • Who should I go to with complaints?
  • Who will compliment and affirm me? Am I rewarded or recognized?
  • What is expected of me?
  • If I don’t do what is expected, what will happen?
  • How do we make decisions? Do I have a voice in decisions?
  • When things change, how do I know about it?
  • If there’s a big problem and/or an emergency, what do I do?
Additional Resources
Books that inform the approach to discipline (shepherding):

  • The Bible
  • Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp
  • The Age of Opportunity by Paul David Tripp
  • Discipline That Connects with a Child’s Heart by Jim and Lynne Jackson

Recent Staff Reads @ Hope Academy (we do at least one staff read each year)

  • How Children Succeed by Paul Tough
  • Mindset by Carol S. Dweck
  • Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church by Soong-Chan Rah
  • The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis
  • The Courage to Teach by Parker Palmer
  • Teach Like A Champion by Doug Lemov