To anyone who has been paying any attention to the latest school “news cycle”, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there aren’t enough teachers. However, unlike the news that often crosses through the news stations of the world, this isn’t going to disappear as quickly as it arrived. It’s not a flash-in-the-pan, “boy-calling-wolf” situation. Many within education have already come to this realization as school-boards have faced the harsh reality that there are not enough teacher candidates to fill all the available teaching positions. And it is not even close. However, the true reality doesn’t sink in until the school year begins and sacrifices are made: internet-driven curriculum, volunteers from the community — a sacrifice of time and heart on the part of those volunteers. We find ourselves asking difficult questions…why is there a shortage? Is it because of pay? Career prestige? Student attitudes? Public perception? Bad experience in school? The nature of the work? The desire to work June, July, and August instead of having a summer vacation — ok, maybe that hasn’t stopped anybody — but to be fair, the questions have been broad-in-range and deep-in-depth. The reason the questions have had to spread this wide a net is because the answer is as complicated and far-reaching as the questions. And this poses an intimidating challenge to those trying to address it.
It can be easy for us to think, to write, to talk, to blame, to worry. I’ve found myself doing much of these as I’ve contemplated this situation. However, it is important to put this problem in the proper perspective before considering causes and solutions. First off, we need to remember that this shortage is part of God’s plan. It’s easy to forget that in the stressfulness of building a faculty and staff to teach God’s covenant youth. It seems like it would be best if there were plentiful teachers for this task. Surely, God wouldn’t want our schools to suffer a shortage, right? And yet, here we are. Teachers aren’t going to miraculously appear out of nowhere. It’s a simple fact at this point. There aren’t enough teachers to go around. So where does that leave us?
It leaves us at the throne of God where we look at Him who loves us for Jesus’ sake. It reminds us to trust in His promises for they are sure. Joshua 21:45 reads, “There failed not ought of any good thing which the LORD had spoken unto the house of Israel [His promises]; all came to pass.” His promises fail not and so we take heart “that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). This passage is oft-quoted but ought-not be overlooked in its significance. All things — all things — work for our good. And that includes a shortage in teachers. We mustn’t doubt that. Instead, we must “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth” (Ps. 46:10). That is our primary calling in considering this “problem”. We must cease from our constant strivings for a moment and remember and know that God is God. He will be exalted. All things work for His purpose, and His purpose is so much higher than ours. Who are we to question His plan and purpose?
So, with that perspective in mind, we now return to the current situation at hand. Why is there a shortage of teachers? As mentioned previously, the answer is very complicated, and it’s equally sure that all the reasons for that shortage will not be addressed nor, perhaps, ever discovered. The beginning articles in this series on education will hopefully address some of these reasons. After dealing with some of the reasons behind the shortage and subsequent need for teachers, this series will discuss what pulls or calls a person to be a teacher, what makes for a good teacher, and, finally, what’s the work of a teacher — some of the good and some of the bad. In essence, the hope is to shed some light on the inner work of being a teacher and expose what is at the heart of teaching. If you seek inspiration, may you be inspired. If you lack clarity, may you see more clearly. If you desire knowledge and perspective, may you find it. And, if you have the heart to teach, may you teach. And so, may it be our prayer that God gives hearts to teach, and, as in all things, may His will be done and unto Him may all glory and honor be given.
Mr. Ethan Mingerink is a teacher at Covenant Christian High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
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