Teaching is Pastoral
By Althea Gordon-Scott
“Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove,
That Valleys, groves, hills, and fields,
Woods, or steepy mountain yields.”
Excerpt from: The The Passionate Shepherd to His Love
Many of us entered teaching with an idealistic mindset like the speaker in Marlowe’s poem. We thought of all the good and the big differences we were going to make. We planned on sweeping our students off their feet with our engaging lessons and believed they would all be delighted learners, enamoured by the wealth of knowledge we would offer to them. We hoped and believed that all the tools and time we needed to effectively reach our students would readily be available to us. Though being a teacher is not always ideal, we do it as a labor of love, just like those in pastoral work.
The word pastor comes from Latin origins, meaning shepherd. Teachers, pastors and shepherds are tasked with taking care of someone or something that is vulnerable and needs guidance and direction on how to have healthy and productive lives. We need to be good listeners, attentive to possible attacks from the enemy, empathetic, proactive, and responsive to the needs of those for whom we care.
Pastors of a congregation and Christian teachers, in public or private schools, do not just rely on their general knowledge, but on God. We pray for wisdom in how to lead and ask the Holy Spirit to help us to be good stewards of those we shepherd. We partner with the Holy Spirit whom Jesus promised to us.
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever…But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:16 and 26).
Pastors don’t have any more “clout” with God than the rest of us. Once we have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, His promised Holy Spirit lives in us to empower us to do His work, build people up and discern what’s going on around us. When we respond with the wisdom He gives, we can live out our lives to benefit those we lead and teach. We glorify Him in this process.
So when we encounter hardships in our teaching practice—the bureaucracy limits our creativity, students don’t seem to grasp what we are teaching, students fail our class despite our best efforts, a student can’t stand us, the parent gets defensive with us, even when we are cursed or threatened—we must remember that we are not alone. Jesus, the ultimate pastor and teacher went before us and was persecuted for doing the right thing. However, He has the ultimate victory. As we stay focused on honoring and emulating Him while we pastor our students, we too will be victorious.
In our teaching practice we seek to emulate Jesus who stated, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Jesus is pastoral and so are we as educators.
Althea is a public-school educator who has taught high school students for over 11 years. Her call is to validate, encourage, empower, and inspire people, especially young people, to find their true identity, live out their purpose, and reach their full potential. In addition to being a public-school educator, Althea is a licensed minister, wife, and mother.