That’s how many vacancies for teachers there are in Florida schools. Nearly 5,000 classroom teachers are needed in addition to the shortage of 4,000 people for support staff positions. 450,000 Florida students began the school year last August without a certified teacher in their classroom. For a variety of reasons teachers are stepping out the profession at an alarming rate – COVID, pay scales, overcrowding in classrooms, contract issues, tensions with parents, burnout, and other factors conspire to leave our young without the educated, wise, and loving teachers they need. A National Education Association survey found that a full 55% of all teachers are contemplating leaving the profession. The figures are more dire for Latin communities where 59% are looking to leave the profession. Among Black teachers, the figure climbs to 62%. Who will teach them to write, to read, to reason, to speak persuasively, and to do math, understand history, explore society, and know themselves?
As the teachers and support staff step out, who will step in?
Will Christian men and women rise up to fill the gap as part of our love for God and our neighbors, especially our youngest neighbors?
Seeking the welfare of the city
Historically, when the going got tough, Christians got going. We’ve been a people attentive to God’s call to Jeremiah: “Seek the welfare of the city” (29:7). We have been motivated by the example of Jesus who fed 5000 men, plus the women and children, when they were hungry then turned around and fed another 4000 and their families (Matthew 14:13-21; 15:29-39). When folk where hungry to learn, Jesus taught them (Luke 6:17-19; Mark 4:1-2). In the Gospels, people address Jesus as “Teacher” some 60 times (see John 13:13). His example constitutes a call for many of us to embrace the vocation of teaching.
Taking care of us “in here” in the church, cannot be divorced from taking care of those “out there” who do not worship with us. Paul grasped this when he appealed to the Galatians, “Let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:10). “Doing good” is the call to become social benefactors who seek the welfare of the community. Teaching becomes an expression of love for our neighbor, as Jesus commanded.
Opposing evil in the city
As people who believe that every human, even the youngest person, is made in the image of God, Christians have been at the forefront of seeking the well-being of others in the community. When Romans exposed their children, especially female children, leaving them out on trash heaps or in the wilderness to die as a form of infanticide, Christians rejected and opposed this dreadful practice, following the example of Jesus who loved the children (Matthew 19:13-15). One 1st century BC letter from a man to his wife said, “I beg and entreat you, take care of the little one, and as soon as we receive our pay, I will send it to you. If by chance you bear a child, if it is a boy, let it be; if it is a girl, expose it.” Early Christians vigorously rejected infanticide as the 2nd century Didache shows: “Thou shalt not murder a child by abortion nor kill them when born” (2:2).
Christians were also at the forefront of bringing an end to slavery during the 19th century, though as early as the 13th century Thomas Aquinas argued that it was a sinful practice. Frederick Douglass, Harriett Beecher Stowe, Sojourner Truth, William Wilberforce, Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Blanchard, and others opposed the institution and sought its demise.
Supporting education in the city
Christians have also been strong supporters of education and the advancement of knowledge, recognizing that “All truth is God’s truth,” as the late Christian philosopher Arthur Holmes often said. Many great scientists carried out their vocation as confessed Christians, including Nicolas Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, Sir Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Florence Nightingale, and the contemporary climate scientist Katharine Hayho. St. Anselm was an early voice in favor of education, defining it as “faith seeking understanding.” Martin Luther advocated for the education of youth. Christians founded the great universities around the globe, including Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard. We love God and we love learning.
Where are the Christians today who are fully committed to the education of the young and to the support of educational institutions? We seek the welfare of our communities by being pro-education, supporting educational institutions at all levels and, for many, committing themselves to the vocation of teaching.
Five thousand teachers are needed in Florida alone. Will the people of God step in to fill the gap, even in this most difficult time of social stress?
The road to becoming a teacher
Did you know that if you have a BA or MA, you can take just the courses you need to become qualified to become a teacher in the State of Florida? If you have no college or some college under your belt, you can finish your studies in the field of education.
Trinity International University – Florida has a fully accredited Elementary Education program that will get you on the road to filling one of the 5,000 empty teacher’s desks in the state. Have a look at Elementary Education program (https://www.tiu.edu/florida/programs/ba-in-elementary-education/) and contact the folk in Admissions (https://www.tiu.edu/florida/apply-to-trinity-florida/).
5,000. Let’s do some subtraction!
Dr. Gene L. Green is the Dean of Trinity International University – Florida. Visit them at tiu.edu/florida
For more articles from Dr. Green, visit www.goodnewsfl.org/author/gene-l-greene/