Many teachers today are suffering from discouragement and burnout as a result of a variety of stressors, including the pandemic. Some have left the profession completely. Adventist teachers are not immune. I strongly believe in our calling, but even I have asked myself if this is really what God wants me to do. How can the church support us, especially when times are tough?
Pray for us. Pray we have the wisdom and compassion needed to teach young people not only academics, but how to have a relationship with God. Pray for our relationship with God; we cannot teach what we do not have ourselves. Pray for our students, and for the Holy Spirit to be with us. Pray for the families that send their children to our schools and for families who should send their children. Pray for God to send us the gifts of the Holy Spirit, including joy and peace in stressful times.
Assume positive intention. If we tell you your child may need some intervention or extra help, please believe us. Talking to your child’s teacher may seem intimidating. You may be reluctant to hear anything less than a glowing report about your child. We spend more waking hours with our students than parents do during the week. We see a lot of things, such as interactions with other students, that you may not see at home. Also, we usually have your child for only one or two years, but the child will live with any struggles after they leave us. If we give recommendations for help with academic or behavioral issues, know that we are not trying to make our lives easier. We are genuinely trying to help children reach their potential. Like you, we want what is best for your children.
Understand if we say no to service positions in the church. While many teachers take on other positions in the church, please don’t be offended if we say no. Many of us work additional hours at the school and at home. Even when we are not grading or planning, we are thinking about our students and how to reach them. We may go to the constituent church that supports the school, and see our students and parents on Sabbaths. In that way we are “on” and not always truly taking a rest on Sabbath. If we decline to be elders, deaconesses, or Sabbath school teachers, please know that we still support the mission of the church. We work daily supporting that mission.
Respect our professional and personal boundaries. Understand we may not answer your emails or calls over the weekend. If there is an issue, please don’t call us on Friday evenings or Sabbaths or try to have a parent-teacher conference in the church lobby. We want to work with you, but like you, we need our rest.
Volunteer to help in classrooms. Do you have an amazing faith story or hobby students would find interesting? Let us know! Many of us would enjoy having people come in to talk to our students. This builds a stronger church-school connection. Perhaps ask the teacher if there is any work with which you can help. Small things like cutting out materials, helping organize, or cleaning can be very helpful.
In one of her letters to the church Ellen White wrote, “The teachers in our church schools should not be left to carry alone the burden of training and educating children and youth. They need the sympathy, the kindness, the cooperation, and the love of every church member.”* And really, that is the best thing the church can do to support its teachers.
* Ellen G. White manuscript 22, 1904, in Letters and Manuscripts, vol. 19, p. 252, retrieved from https://egwwritings.org/book/b14069.