Recruiting and Keeping Teachers

July 31st, 2013

Recruiting is the most common word for inviting people to teach. Keeping teachers is more than holding on to them. Find ideas here for inviting, nurturing, and offering training to your teachers.

A few individuals begin teaching with enthusiasm early in their lives. In childhood they begin practicing the skill on anyone, real or imaginary, who will sit still. But the idea of teaching fills other people with fear. But for those responsible for spiritual formation they are constantly search for people who are enthusiastic about teaching or who are interested in learning how to teach.

Besides enthusiasm, commitment is essential in good teachers. It isn't easy to find this powerful combination in one individual. Yet you can help diminish fears about teaching. Commitment and enthusiasm can be nur­tured over time. With planning and strategy, you can lay the groundwork for positive responses to the request "Will you teach?"

Here are some suggestions that make recruiting easier.

Inviting by Highlighting the Teaching Ministry

The first step in recruiting is to make the ministry of teaching visible. The majority of the congregation may be isolated from the teaching ministry (on Sunday morning and at other times) and they need to see what is happening.

  • Plan an open house several times a year so people can visit the space.
  • Encourage people to visit classrooms (not just parents).
  • Show short videoclips of classes: before and during worship, on the screen at your Information table, at your coffee station, or set up a TV in a corner.
  • Display photographs of groups engaged in learning.
  • Display artwork children and youth have created (like an art gallery).
  • Have children perform something they are learning like: a scripture verse, a prayer, creed or a song as part of morning worship (to save time these can be a videoclips).

Limited Time, Varied Skills

The next step is to appeal to people who can help for a limited time. Provide opportuni­ties for people to volunteer to observe different teaching styles and to experience a variety of group settings. Plan to follow up to answer any questions volunteers might have.

  • A new volunteer may observe how a skilled teacher works and is provided support and practical experience.
  • In team teaching situations, teachers' combined strengths and skills can and do complement each other. One teacher may have creative and artistic skills. Another teacher may have the ability to ask thought-provok­ing questions. Together they make a stronger teaching team.
  • Ask a volunteer to work one-on-one with a child who is disruptive, sometimes kids like more individualized attention, or they may be bored. This same volunteer may decide they can help as a substitute or be a teacher next year.
  • Invite persons with special skills (photography, music, crafts) to assist in classes or during special times of the year.
  • Also, keep in mind people who enjoy children but who live far away from relatives or those who don't have children themselves who want to be involved.

Offer Training

Understanding what happens in the classroom is important at any level of participation. Be ready to answer the question, "What do I need to know if I've never been a teacher?'' The following training topics are good place to start in planning training:

  • Introduction to spiritual formation
  • Age-level abilities and characteristics
  • How people learn
  • Teaching styles
  • Using the resources available: curriculum, teacher book, and lesson planning
  • Maintaining discipline in the classroom
  • Available supplies and equipment 

Nurture Teachers

After teachers say yes, don't think you can relax. Teachers need special care and attention. They get tired and discouraged. Creativity and energy levels fluctuate. In addition to teaching commitments volunteers have personal, family, and professional responsibilities. Plan times for teachers to renew their energy. One way is to schedule an occasional Sunday when fewer teachers are required.

  • A broadly graded class that has several teachers can function efficently with one staff member gone each Sunday.
  • Combine groups for a special unit or activity.
  • Show a video that reviews what participants have been learning or emphasizes a specific theme.
  • Ask parents or other adults to help with a mission project.
  • Plan alternative summer sessions such as intergen­erational programs, broadly graded classes, or an outdoor class. Enlist short-term volunteers to staff those sessions.

Provide Resources

By providing resources like equipment that works, good curriculum, additional teaching aids, and supplies, you will help make teaching a class or group easier to do for new volunteers.

Select curriculum with adequate resources for teachers of all levels of experience. A few teachers need step-by-step planning instructions until they have more confidence. Good curriculum also contains alternate material for teachers who like to try new ideas or who need other activities for their classes.

Organizing a resource area can also help teachers. This area can be as simple as a filing cabinet, shelves, a rolling cart, or even totes that provide: additional supplies, games, puzzles, craft book ideas, maps, charts, posters, music, and videos.

Not every teacher will look for additional resources if they aren't satisfied with what's in the curriculum. A volunteer can coordinator and prepare related activities and gather additional resources at the beginning of each month, quarter or semester. Each class or department could receive a set of those files or a list can be provided. Details regarding supplies and equipment also ease a teacher's job. Gathering additional resources and supplies is a waste of a teacher's time.

Finally, watch and listen for clues indicating how teachers feel about their teaching and their effectiveness. Encourage them. Comment on their unique abilities. Ask for teachers' input on topics for future training sessions. Creating and following a well thought-out strategy can increase involvement in your teaching ministry, provides on-the-job training for newly recruited teachers, and can nurture growth in your existing staff. Have a great year!

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