The Teacher Effect

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There was a motorcar company commercial that ran in our local television market, coining the phrase “The Eide Effect”. According to their website, this meant that their company built a business on the values that takes one beyond the “business as usual” transaction. This company wanted customers to know that they cared about the human connection and that this “Eide Effect” rippled throughout their organization. As one of their consumers (our family purchased two cars from Eide Motorcars), I can anecdotally validate this claim, most notably in my comparison to other car buying transactions we have been part of in large cities. My personal appreciation of the “Eide Effect” was also biased by the fact that one of the owners chose Christian education for their family and became tremendous supporters and promoters of “The Teacher Effect” they were experiencing at our school.

“The Teacher Effect” was a phrase that Dr. James K. Smith reminded me of at a recent gathering in Southern California. Cardus hosted an event that examined the question “Do Christian school graduates bring a competitive advantage to the workforce?” Cardus will be publishing more information on this question so stay tuned as CACE will also link to their data and analysis. One of the additional questions posed by Dr. Smith, under this topical question, was “Do we really understand the effect that teachers have on vocational pursuits of graduates?” A great question to ask and answer…and maybe one that CACE and Cardus can dig deeply in response to. What is “The Teacher Effect?” How do we identify it? How do we measure it? How can we make connections between it and such questions as the one Cardus poses?

This concept of “The Teacher Effect” is a very powerful one to consider. I am guessing that we can each identify teachers in our lives whose effect is visible in our vocational lives as well as our personal lives. And, there is a cumulative effect as well – the bits and pieces that we take from each of our teachers as we progress through educational institutions. These conceptual ideas led me to think about underlying questions that all teachers respond to at some point in their vocational lives. Questions such as “Why did you become a teacher?” and “What motivates you as a teacher?” and “When you retire, how you want to be remembered?” How do answers to these questions help us understand “The Teacher Effect?”

David Bosso, 2012 National Secondary Social Studies Teacher of the Year, has been doing some research with public educators on such questions – teacher morale, motivation, and professional identity – important aspects of the Teacher Effect. I would like to share a couple of the themes that he has uncovered in his research through the next few blog posts and, as always, invite your responses!

1)      Teaching is emotional work that is rooted in the moral purpose of education. Ask teachers why they pursued a career in teaching and you’ll usually hear a story about a moment of epiphany or a philosophical explanation that in some shape or form is a manifestation of the maxim of wanting to make a difference in the lives of their students. It is not uncommon for teachers to refer to their work as a calling or a mission.

2)      The passion that teachers bring to their work is largely due to their sense of obligation toward their students. There’s a reason why teachers often refer to their students as “my kids,” why they spend their own money on classroom supplies and bake sales, why they seek professional development opportunities during vacation time and summers, and why they are so proud of their students’ successes. As one teacher said, “my job, bottom line, is to authentically empower kids.”

Moral purpose…obligation toward students…authentically empower kids…calling or mission. In the age of fast and furious educational reform, it is refreshing to hear these themes come from the front lines of those in the teaching profession. “The Teacher Effect” has its foundation in such responses.

How or do these responses differ from those who teach Christianly? The ideas of calling and mission obviously hit the target in the center circle. Called to teach is a slogan used by authors and designers of textbooks, promotional materials, and articles on people pursue the vocation of education. But, called by who? Are we called by the society around us, begging for schools to be transformative agents in what many consider a morally crumbling society? Are we called by an innate desire to leave a personal legacy, ensuring that our life was worth living?

Or, are we truly called to teach by the Creator? Do we humble ourselves under God’s hand as a teacher who has called us to participate in His restorative and redemptive work? Do we give Him our experiences, successes and fears? Do we allow Him to lift us up and really teach in Jesus’ name? What an opportunity…and what a Teacher Effect!

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