This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, educators nationwide, and the world over, have had to adapt how they provide services to children and families. Like many of my colleagues, I too struggle with balancing how to do and be more in a world where our collective safety requires a coordinated separation.
For many, the holiday season brings faith to the forefront. So, for guidance on how to overcome, I look to my Sunday school teachers for inspiration.
Sunday school was more than just learning about the Christian faith, although that was a major part. Sunday school was about being discipled—we learned about the Christian faith and how to apply the tenets of the faith in our lives, whether in school or at home.
For those deacons and church mothers who instructed us, they were equally concerned about our formation as people and members of the community as they were with our spiritual formation. Those folks were concerned that we made good decisions in life and that our professional and personal success enabled us to become pillars of the community, with a heart to give back. Those things mattered as much as us memorizing scriptures, singing on the youth choir or becoming junior ushers.
Those elders discipled us. As educators, we must do the same when it comes to students. I don’t mean discipleship in a faith-based context but rather in a people-building and community strengthening context. What does that look like in an educational space? I am glad that you asked.
[pullquote]Educational discipleship is simply educators leading and instructing, in love, with building relationships rooted in transparency, trust and the best interest of students at the forefront of everything educators do.[/pullquote] Trust in you can fill the void left by social distancing; trust comes by way of discipleship.
What does discipleship look like in the pandemic era; at a time of uncertainty and confusion regarding funding, the evaluation of teachers and student annual yearly progress? How do we implement something new or different, a la “discipling” kids halfway through the school year? It is you taking the action. Here is what it will require of you, whether in-person or virtually:
Ensuring that our students achieve good grades, move to the next grade and are prepared for college is important to our role as educators, but we mustn’t only focus on those things. We must have equal concern for our students’ lives, for the people they will become and the communities they care about. Thus, the pandemic era requires that we must not only teach; we must disciple.
Let this be our resolution for 2021.
Rann Miller is a director of a federally funded after-school and summer program in southern New Jersey. He spent six years teaching in charter schools in Camden, New Jersey. Rann is the creator, writer and editor of the Official Urban Education Mixtape Blog. His writing on race and urban education has appeared in Salon, AlterNet, and the Progressive, where he is an education fellow.
Your donation will support the work we do at brightbeam to shine a light on the voices who challenge decision makers to provide the learning opportunities all children need to thrive.