Over the years, I have seen many lists of teacher characteristics. I have even written about them on several occasions. Recently I came across another list that needs elaboration and application to Sunday School. These teacher characteristics are included in an article entitled Can You Describe a Good Teacher? by Billie Davis.
Davis drew the characteristics from “a list of questions used to guide [Education Department at the University of Miami] administrators as they interviewed teacher applicants.” Davis lists the qualities/characteristics and then adds a brief statement about each. In Part 1 of this three-part series, I will share Davis’ first three characteristics and brief statement in all capitals followed by my commentary applying them to a good Sunday School teacher:
- EMPATHY. UNDERSTANDING AND SHARING OF STUDENTS’ NEEDS AND GOALS. Empathy starts with trying to understand the person, his/her needs, and his/her context. Unfortunately, many Sunday School teachers divorce themselves from members and guests. This is often done because the amount of preparation time has been limited and focusing on the content of the lesson is faster than also thinking about attenders. Sunday School lessons, then, are prepared without any interaction with students, thinking about students, or application toward the needs of students. Teaching such a generic lesson has far less impact. What if, instead, a lesson begins with a genuine concern for students that addresses how God’s Word can change their lives for the better? What if empathy led the teacher to spend more time with a student beyond Sunday morning in order to express care/concern and to understand him/her better? Empathy is a key characteristic of a good Sunday School teacher.
- A SENSE OF MISSION. STRONG FEELINGS ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATION. IN CHRISTIAN CONTEXT, WE COULD SAY “A CALLING.” This considers why the Sunday School teacher is teaching? Without question, God-called teachers have the clearest sense of mission and purpose. Who is your audience? If it is God first and students second, your sense of mission will show and will give you determination beyond times of stress and difficulty. What are you trying to accomplish in the lives of learners? This mission knows no bounds. It is not limited to Sunday morning for one hour. It is ongoing. It is a desire for life-change in the lives of learners during the week (not merely attendance on Sunday morning). So what are you doing to impact members and guests for Him? A sense of mission is also a key characteristic.
- COMMUNICATION. DESIRE FOR RAPPORT WITH STUDENTS. EFFORTS TOWARD GOOD COMMUNICATION. Good Sunday School teachers realize the value of two-way communication. This includes careful listening to the words and emotions being communicated. Much care is communicated through good listening (see Increase Care in Sunday School by Becoming Better Listeners, Part 1 and Part 2). And in turn, good listening enables the teacher to be most supportive and helpful in interactions and in teaching. In addition, the Sunday School teacher observes the class to see if they are getting the message being taught. If not, adjustments are made and time taken to ensure understanding.
As a teacher, which of these three characteristics is your strongest? Celebrate it! Which characteristic needs a bit more work? Ask God to help you address it. What can you do to strengthen it this week? Be sure to check out Part 2 and Part 3 of this series for eight more characteristics. Be empathetic. Work out of your sense of mission. Communicate well. Be revolutionary!