Have teachers in the 21st century lost the art of teaching students from challenging backgrounds? Have they lost the heart and the spirit required for effective teaching? Teachers have taught the sons and daughters of the Italian Mafia, children of Jewish Organized Crime Families and difficult Bowery Kids of the New York Irish gangs. Teachers know how to transform rags to riches, making the impossible possible with just pencil, paper and a chalkboard. Research is now suggesting that many teachers have lost something necessary to do the job. Research is further suggesting that teachers are failing at the task of educating students because colleges and universities are failing at the job of preparing teachers. There is too much politics in teacher preparation, there is too much analyzing of reasons why select students, especially minority males cannot learn and not enough instructional preparation, instructional delivery and classroom management methods in getting the job done. If immigrants coming out of the poverty of Africa and Asia can come here to America and benefit from our education systems, why are American teachers failing American students? Teachers are unprepared, tired and burnout by the challenges of educating the children of America, and this is true in the urban centers of Wisconsin or the back hills of Appalachia. It is time to stop placing our American students in jail and put them in college classrooms where they can earn decent wages and support families, when teachers fail it is the start of a whole society failing, and America cannot afford failure.

                         Columbia University Study, (Rockoff)

A study completed by Columbia University looked at factors, which influenced successful teaching. The study sought to investigate the relationship between individuals who had received standard teacher preparation and those who entered teaching through alternate routes. Specifically, the study looked at traditionally certified teachers and compared performance. The study found that there was no significant difference between the traditional certification experience and the alternative certification in the performance levels of the teachers (Rockoff, 2006).

New York provided the perfect laboratory because of its size and diversity. Almost every state allows its districts to hire alternatively certified teachers, who account for about one-third of all new teachers hired in the United States each year. Rules differ by state, however, alternatively certified teachers usually require a bachelor’s degree, pass state exams, complete special training and, enroll in a teaching master’s degree program. Alternatively certified teachers come from the Teaching Fellows, which recruits without any prior teaching experience. The teachers are put through an intensive training program and assigned to a classroom. The city also hires alternatively certified teachers through Teach for America, placed teachers in school districts across the country. Under the state’s emergency provisions, New York is allowed to hire alternatively certified teachers to cope with a teacher shortage. This program resulted in more than fifty thousand new teachers hired during the early years of the 21st century (Rockoff, 2006).

What the Columbia study found challenged the conventional wisdom about teacher certification requirements. No major differences in performance among students taught by traditionally certified, alternatively certified or uncertified teachers were found. Wide disparities within each of the teacher groups were found. They were able to measure accurately at the teacher level how students were performing. Sometimes teachers have a difficult time witnessing the failure of students and some often blame themselves for student’s failure.

The question of why the testing procedures do no correlate with the curriculum being taught has not been addressed in the literature. Experienced teachers know how to teach students what they need to know in order to be prepared to take examinations. Parents and community members are often angry with some new teachers because they think they fail to prepare their children to be successful.

Some teachers have difficulty interacting with parents who blame them for their child’s failure. New teachers are helpless to know how to handle these situations. Experienced teachers know that they must follow the rules and guidelines presented by the school, but must sometimes close their doors and teach the students what they need to know in order to perform satisfactory on some test. Sometime teachers have to give up lunch and preparation periods in order to provide the student with additional information. Most experienced teachers use their own funds to purchase additional teaching materials. Teachers also do not share information on how they prepare their students for success and scheduled examinations. It is not the belief of this writer that private or charter schools have restrictions such as some public schools in some districts in some schools in New York City. This writer can only report from personal and observed experience that the seasoned teacher develops methods and techniques for improving the learning of their students. It is being an active part of student’s success that motivates teachers to want to continue in the field and helps to prevent burnout. As a teacher, this writer invested thousands of dollars in additional materials to help students. A knowledge of materials, supplies and teaching aides available to classroom teacher to borrow was also helpful in making the teaching experience a positive and effective for the students. This information is not available to the new teacher, and since teaching is an experience of the lone teacher in the classroom, there are few opportunities for new teachers to see what really happens in the classroom of an experienced satisfied teacher. This ministry project suggests that the lone teacher in the classroom may be a contributing factor in why some young teachers burnout early in their careers. If teachers cannot find a support group within the school, come to the church and interact with teachers willing to share time, talents and gifts.

. The Wischkleamper or the Columbia study did not look at factors that could cause some teachers to leave the profession. This writer suggests that factors, which resulted in the equalizing out of the results between the traditionally certified teachers and the alternatively certified teacher could be the prior experience of the alternatively certified teacher. Many of these individuals had come from professions, which required good people management skills, and as a result, some were not intimidated by the challenges of working in diverse environments. Conversations with some men who had elected to teach as a second career suggested that some came from military service or local service agencies such as policemen or firemen. Some women who had been interviewed by this writer indicated that they had completed service in the legal or financial management field. This writer worked for a period of time as an insurance agent in the financial markets. This experience required extensive scheduling and working in highly pressured environments. These skills proved valuable in classroom management and addressing issues of policies and procedures without concern or question.

This suggests that the alternatively certified teachers had learned the skills of working with people and institutions before they were exposed to teaching theories. It also suggests that because of the maturity of the alternatively certified teachers, they were less likely to experience culture shock when their image as “community savior” was not validated. Further study is needed to determine if some men consider themselves as “saviors” the way as some female teacher.

Boyd, Grossman, Lankford, Loeb, Wyckoff. McDonald and Hammerness (2007),

Two different studies have come to the same conclusion with respect to teacher preparation. The question of making a teacher and the preparation, which goes into this process, has been of interest for several years. The question was not one of pedagogical concern or debate but rather a study of the individuals who produced measurable out comes in students. Who were the teachers who were effective “in improving student outcomes?” What were the “attributes” of these teachers, and what were the selected different preparation methods chosen? These researchers completed a significant report on teachers in the New York City Public School system. The writers investigated all significant characteristics of the teachers in order to determine if there were relationships between the characteristics of the teachers, and their effectiveness as classroom teachers. The data was also used to identify those individuals who would or would not remain in the teaching field.

The research concentrated on the outcome demonstrated by teachers working with students who may have been considered challenging. The research did not deal with feedback from teachers with respect to unspoken concerns about the lack of preparation or the inability to adjust to the complex needs of students. The study took a sociological perspective used in the New York public school system.

                Research suggested that some teachers were expressing feelings of being overwhelmed by their chosen careers. While teachers can learn the approved steps in teaching math, reading and science, how would they learn how to open the minds and hearts of students so that learning took place?

Teachers find levels of discomfort in low achieving schools and if possible transfer to schools “of higher socio-economic status.” His research suggests that the teachers who transferred out of the lower performing schools, had “higher skills” and the teachers who remained in the lower performing schools had lower skills. (Guin 2004). This study suggests that the educational system may not be losing teachers because they cannot do the job but rather there were other factors influencing their decision to leave. This could suggest that some teachers who entered into the teaching profession with the idea that they could and would make a difference in the lives of children were met with the reality that there is little opportunity for new teachers to used creative approaches to teaching and must under careful supervision follow the prescribed guideline present them when they are hired.

.               One fourth of the teachers, who had high college entrance exam scores, left the profession within a decade. In contrast, only about 11% of the individuals with low scores left the teaching profession within 10 years. More than a third of the teachers studied with low college entrance exam scores were in the profession a decade after they started, while only 15% of the teachers with high scores were still teaching ten years after they began (Anderson & Carroll, 2008; see also Guarino, Santibanez, & Daley (2006), who found the same results for selectiveness and certification exam scores). The percentage of teachers with lower academic ability tended to remain in the system, and bright teachers leave out of frustration. Which may suggests that high-test scores may not be the only indicator of a successful teacher. There may be something else involved in the decision to remain in the teaching profession and it may or may not be predictable through high-test scores.

This could suggest that the achieving of high- test scores on teacher certification examination may not be the defining factor on who will or will not remain in the system, or who will or will not be an affect teacher in the classroom where children are concerned. Test scores are used to determine who can or cannot be assigned to a classroom, the scores however, have not provided information on who can or cannot handle the challenges of teaching. Is there a relationship between scoring high on test and the compassion to understand the gradual learning process that is associated with child development? Struggling to achieve is an important developmental step.

Teachers who recognize the struggle in children, enter into a spiritual relationship with the student and encourage the student to believe beyond him or herself. Teachers can receive this same type of understanding from churches and faith centers as they are nurtured to believe in themselves and the work they are doing with students. This suggest that perhaps the teacher who has had experience with struggle and challenges may not become frustrated and overwhelmed with the job of transforming student’s lives.

Burnout results from the chronic perception that one is unable to cope with daily life demands. Given that teachers must face a classroom full of students every day, negotiate potentially stressful interactions with parents, administrators, counselors, and other teachers, contend with relatively low pay and shrinking school budgets, and ensure that students meet increasingly strict standards of accountability, it is no wonder many experience a form of burnout at some point in their careers. This suggests that some teachers may not been adequately prepared for their role assignment as a teacher.

Efforts at primary prevention, in which teachers’ jobs are modified to give them more control over their environment and more resources for coping with the demands of being an educator, are preferable over secondary or tertiary interventions that occur after burnout symptoms have surfaced. However, research reviewed here indicates that each type of prevention can be useful in helping teachers contend with an occupation that puts them at risk for burnout (Albee, 2000, Bennett, & Lecompt, 1990).

                           Bennett & LeCompte Research 1990

The researchers argued that teachers might be at greater risk for depersonalization because their daily work life often includes a significant amount of isolation from their professional peers. While teachers do interact with others on a regular basis throughout the day, the majority of such interactions are with students, and not with other teachers or professional staff members who might better understand the demands teachers face. Factors such as the physical layout of most campuses, with teachers working alone in their classrooms, and scheduling constraints that make finding time to meet with peers virtually impossible, can cause teachers to feel disconnected. The authors further suggested that teachers, who were identified as at risk for burnout, came to view their teaching as useless and different from the ideals or goals they had set as beginning teachers (Bullough & Baughman, 1997). Role conflict was cited by other studies along with role ambiguity as significantly related to burnout (Dworkin, 1986). The role of personality factors in the etiology of burnout is complex and multifaceted, and probably hardly explored (Kahill, 1988). Researcher after researcher repeated the same information describing the systems of burnout. A number of personal characteristics associated with an individual’s being particularly vulnerable to high levels of stress have been identified such as:

1.Being too idealistic,

  1. Setting unrealistic goals for self and clients,
  2. Over-identifying with others, high need for self-affirmation, and high work orientation (Shirom & Melamed, 1992).

Freudenberger, Maslach and Pines all stressed that burnout is most likely to afflict those who start out being the most empathic, sympathetic, dedicated, idealistic and caring (Cherniss, 1980; Pines, Aronson & Kafry, 1981; Farber, 1991). The authors discussed personality traits and the effect some personality traits may contribute to burnout. It suggest that either the wrong people are going into the wrong professions, or something is happening in the environment, which may be unhealthy for some individuals. This is significant especially if studies can demonstrate that individuals with less aggressive personalities tend to select teaching as a career. Freudenberger describes burnout as:

  1. Physical exhaustion
  2. Emotional exhaustion
  3. Mental exhaustion;
  4. Absence of job involvement and satisfaction
  5. Dehumanization feelings
  6. Lowered accomplishment

The literature in this area is helpful in that it suggests the passion to help others may result in setting unrealistic goals and the need to be validated. Here is where the importance of spiritual teaching as part of the teaching process is needed. Teachers who are clear about their role as transforming agents of society with the responsibility for the emotional, spiritual and educational development of the student would not have a difficult time in staying on purpose. Teaching is about the future. Many teachers will not see the benefits of the time and instructions they imparted to students. The student takes a little part of each teacher with him or he as they journey to their future. The part that they take is a bit of the individualization of God acting through the teacher at each point along the way. Individuals who are involved in the teaching ministry must have clarity on this point. If they do not, they will be seeking instant gratification and will become disappointed. Each person who achieves greatness carries a part of a teacher within. The teacher when meeting a student of the past celebrates their accomplishments and thank God they had an opportunity to be present in the lives of the students. The ordaining of the teacher does not start in the classroom or at graduation from graduate school. It should start in the church or faith center where a clear understanding of the role and responsibility would be acknowledge. Church before teaching can prevent burnout .This literature review draws out key points. Ingersoll and Kralik attempted to provide a demographic analysis of the people who worked in the education system. The researchers looked at the principals and suggested that they could be held accountable for some burnout in some new teachers because they were not able to give the teachers the time and the attention that some teachers may have needed. The study provided information on who worked in which environments, and the descriptions of those environments. The study however did not get into the question of “what” teaching was, and what were the expectations of teachers and the environment, who was meeting what need, and which needs were not being met.

Wischkaemper, Dyal and Sewell reviewed socio-economic variables and the role of the principal in creating work environments in which teachers would consider staying for a significant amount of time. The researchers tried to find out if there was something wrong with the teacher, or something wrong with the environment, which could be a contributing factor in who stays and who leaves. As nice as these studies sound, they appear to be dancing around and do not get to the heart of the matter. As the literature demonstrates the researchers are not dealing with the issue of burnout or retention. The reason this writer selected these studies is that they are a representation of where the literature is taking us and where it is not taking us–hence the reason for the project. My ministry project is really cutting edge. I may not be able to solve the problem, but I will take a stab at it.

The church cannot change the education system, nor is it the role of the church to do so. The church has no say in who can or cannot become a teacher. What the church can do is be sensitive to those who choose to remain in the profession. The church can say that teaching is a spiritual issue, and without some connection to a spiritual source, the job of teaching will be difficult. The church can support the passion and help the individual to develop the inner strength, without become hardened, to cope with the complexity and challenging cultures of unhealthy environments in which teachers must work. Churches can nurture the soul

.   While education institutions are debating the questions of what teachers need to know, and how to evaluate effective teaching, the church can assume the role of addressing the needs of the teachers caught in the middle of this pedagogy discussion. The church can provide a “space for teachers”, and drop a spiritual education program right in the middle of the major education center in New York City. The “space for teachers” can do what “Space for Grace” did for the Riverside Church. It can provide a place where teachers can come and receive nourishment for their soul without worrying about policies, and procedures of major universities.

Teachers can come as they are and receive the fellowship of other teachers. There may be blessings, “laying on of hands” individual and group prayers, and a time to talk to God about issues that are on their head and heart. The church can provide the teacher with the learning centered approach and provide learning opportunities for teachers to use the spirit as an affective educational tool, while at the same time provide the learning skills necessary to survive in the education system. Religion, education and politics are issues, which must be addressed in the 21st century. Religious institutions have been in the education business since the beginning of the republic, and it should not shy away from their responsibility of providing those who teach the future with a sound spiritual base. Spiritual teaching and spirituality in teaching should be a required subject in the teacher preparation process. Teachers should learn to stop by for God.

It was not the intent of this writer or this project to suggest that the church was in a better position to prepare teachers for the classroom than the traditional educational institutions. Riverside shares an environment with its neighbor, Columbia University and respects its work and accomplishments. This writer is suggesting that there is a missing variable in teacher preparation programs, and that variable is spirituality. This is not the same as religion. Spirituality is a way of believing and living. Churches are spiritual centers and can provide an environment, which can heal wounded hearts and frustrated minds. The church has as its prime mission to help the hurting and support the helpless.

Columbia University crossed over the road and entered the house of God. Columbia now holds many of its classes and workshops in the magnificent spiritual environment of the Riverside Church. The Church is saying, now that you are here perhaps we can talk about the missing variable of spirituality. Perhaps the Church has something to contribute to the professional credentialing process, and the key to success and longevity in a chosen field may depend on how often a professional brings God into his or her life. The church cannot make successful teachers, but the church can provide the support services needed while the experience and time necessary to achieve success is obtained.




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