Word Magazine May 1980 Page 16
TEACHERS ARE THE KEY
By John L. Boojamra
It has been the policy of this department to encourage teacher training for Orthodox Church school teachers in North America. The single most significant variable in an effective church school program is not material or even the family of the students, but the quality, commitment and training of the teachers. At the same time that this seems to be the case, teacher training is the most difficult aspect of the department’s work if for no other reason than the impossibility of reaching any significant number of teachers on a regular basis. The burden of training teachers on an on-going basis must be placed on the parish and on the teachers themselves.
The search for and the training of quality teachers must be one of the main preoccupations of this department and the parish priests. This conviction has led the department to design a program, TEACHING DYNAMICS, focusing on the needs of teachers rather than students. TEACHING DYNAMICS provides the teachers with a series of twelve taped lectures and a Dynamics workbook to enable them to use the program on an individual audio-tutorial basis. The program contains not only information about the Church, but six lectures covering a large number of teaching suggestions on how to motivate and engage student interest and organize material for effective presentation. The overall effort is designed to liberate the teacher from the textbook approach; that is, just reading or having students read the “material,” over. This is not only an inefficient method of teaching, but a method that is inadequate to the nature of Christian nurture itself. TEACHING DYNAMICS offers a radical shift from this approach.
The main thrust of our effort during the upcoming summer months must be towards finding and preparing teachers for the new school year. Who is teaching is of greater importance than what is being taught. The parish priest must not just settle for a parishioner who can be “roped” into a year’s “tour of duty” in the church school. In the words of Sheila Moriarty (“Teachers Make the Difference” in Pace, Winona, Minn: St. Mary’s College Press, 1970), we need “new kinds of teachers.” Teachers, that is, who are sensitive to the meaning and message of the faith in their own lives. This is no easy task. An effort must be made to find such people and the only one competent to pursue such a search is the parish priest. To settle for someone whom you have to “talk into” teaching is doing harm to your program. In many cases, the most competent people, that is people who have genuinely faithful Christian lives, are precisely those people who have the least confidence in their own ability to communicate or share their experience of the Church with young people. Since it is these adults that we are looking for in the Church school program of the Orthodox Church, it becomes incumbent on the pastor to offer, even better, to promise, to give that person the training and assistance he/she needs to fulfill the teaching ministry of the Church responsibly. Again, this adds another demand on the time of the parish priest. Nonetheless, any volunteer teacher must be offered the training in the skills needed to perform the duties for which he/she has volunteered.
Where to find teachers? Potential teachers are everywhere. The parish priest must not depend only on those people he can coerce to do the job. Their teaching will show the reluctance that made the arm-twisting necessary in the first place. There are in our parishes many people with non-academic training who would make excellent teachers, butchers, bakers, woodworkers, businessmen, garage mechanics. Look for people of faith who are also faithful Church people and offer them the necessary training they need to do the job.
The summer is an ideal time to find these people and offer training in techniques and material. If you need any help in planning such a program or in using our TEACHING DYNAMICS, please call or write the Department and we’ll help you plan a simple and effective program for your needs.
Dr. John L. Boojamra is director of the Archdiocese Department of Christian Education. He is available for Church School teachers’ conferences.