The times we live in - full of chaos, uncertainty, and searching - have been recently defined by identity. Whether it is for recognition, definition, or clarification, one’s identity is a white-hot touchpoint in our cultural conversation.

I identify as a teacher.

The call to teach is not for everyone. Many equate academic credentials or professional experience with the ability to teach. Some believe the acquisition of knowledge should translate into an exceptional learning experience for students. These lines of thinking are often misplaced.

I identify as a teacherDon’t Rush It

James references teaching as distinctive and reserved for some, but not all.

Don’t be in a rush to become a teacher, my friends. Teaching is highly responsible work. Teachers are held to the strictest standards. And none of us is perfectly qualified. We get it wrong nearly every time we open our mouths. If you could find someone whose speech was perfectly true, you’d have a perfect person, in perfect control of life.” James 3:1-2, The Message

Ouch. High responsibility, strict standards, and yet a proneness to failure. I would guess most of us focus on the upsides and look away from the prospect of failing. Still, isn’t that what draws us to teaching – the blessings and the risks?

I identify as a teacher, to a great extent, by hewing close to six core criteria. I commit to these criteria regardless of lesser, easier roads to travel.

Relationship

I will not tolerate an absence of relationship with my students. Sure, I could just post in discussion forums and grade papers without ever trying to form relationships. Think about it; little effort is required to facilitate a course.

Teaching calls for transparency, for connection, and for compassion. There are many ways to build relationship. Consider how you get to know people, how you establish trust, and what motivates you to put someone else’s needs before your own.

Active Faith

I will not tolerate a learning environment where the gospel is not proclaimed. Experience informs me that every course is populated with students who are hurting and seeking. What can I do?

I can pray with students, in the classroom or online, every single workshop. Teaching is more than pedagogy and andragogy. At Indiana Wesleyan University, it is listening, empathizing, and praying out loud or in writing, intentionally and unashamedly. It is sharing God’s Word in a way that confronts, confounds, and transforms the gray thinking of alternate belief systems.

Responsiveness

I will not tolerate an unanswered question. The student who eats accounting courses for breakfast may starve trying to compose a complete sentence of critical thinking. Why should I think because I am proficient and effective at teaching a course that my students are as adept at understanding the curriculum I know inside out?

When queried about an assignment for the umpteenth time, I (sometimes) take a deep breath then supply a fresh answer as if it were the first time ever asked. Contrary to the old adage, a student’s crisis is my emergency to address promptly, likely in way less than 24-48 hours. Recall the last time you were out of your element and needed someone’s help.

Instruction

I will not tolerate the pretense of seasoned instruction. Mastery of your discipline does not always translate into solid andragogy. Holding the requisite degree does not guarantee success on the first night of class.

I have climbed onto the shoulders of many mentors over the past 18 years to survey a learning environment that is often fraught with unexpected curve balls. Students have called me out for harsh grading, a lack of preparation, and inconsistent extensions of grace. Humble pie is a great menu item for strengthening your instruction.

Grading

I will not tolerate sloppy, terse, or insincere grading. Rigor requires a commitment of time and exertion. The antithesis of rigor is the temptation to plug in a gradebook score, click to save, and then move on to the next student.

I contend that rigorous, consistent grading is a compass, pointing students to increased learning and application. We can be that compass pointing true north. Spare the rigor, spoil the education.

Technology

I will not tolerate the fear of embracing technology. For many students, technology is daunting.  Knowing which browser to use, submitting an assignment or navigating an Ebook - technology can seem like a road pocked with potholes, instead of a superhighway to learning.

IWU Support is an unfailing resource to which I point my students when experiencing technology issues. I am reminded every week of the Support team’s ability to come alongside students and lead them to the promised land of thriving with technology.

By the grace of God, I identify as a teacher.

Question: How about you?  In what ways do you identify as a teacher? Please leave a comment below.

Mike Mendenhall / Assistant Director, Faculty Development|School of Service and Leadership

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