Summary of Called to Teach: An Introduction to the Ministry of Teaching by William R. Yount (1999)
Recently I read Called to Teach by William R. Yount (1999). As I did, I thought of many of you, our adjuncts, who have expressed that teaching within AGS has opened up opportunities to discover your calling and begin to fulfill it. For this reason, I am sharing a summary of this simple, practical work on ministering through teaching.
In Called to Teach, Yount (1999) identifies the roles of a teacher as person, instructor, manager, and minister, thus capturing the multi-faceted nature of teaching and the balancing act each instructor fulfills. Yount (1999) depicts this challenge with the following analogy: “even a Lexus or an Infinity will deliver a rough ride if one of its wheels is out of balance. Don’t blame the car – fix the wheel” (p. 53).
Teachers are people. What they think, feel, and do enters the classroom. Their character, their maturity, their life experiences – all are woven into the fabric of their teaching. Teachers have a reservoir within of who they are and draw from it as a bucket draws water from a well to add substance and balance to their teaching. Their personal integrity and their maturity become the barometer for a safe, fair, and enjoyable setting for their students. Personal testimonies from their walk with God add depth and distinctiveness to their teaching. For example, it is good to summarize leadership concepts, but how much better to supplement with personal stories of leaders and leading. It is good to teach Bible principles of God’s faithfulness, but how much more personal and potentially powerful to include personal testimonies of God’s faithfulness.
For your consideration: What does your character bring to the classroom? What are you sharing from the treasure of experiences you have within to support content?
Teachers are instructors. Teaching flows from who teachers are. They are instructors communicating content clearly to their students, whether face-to-face or online. They are the bridge between content and learner, expressing detailed, at times difficult and deep concepts in a way students can grasp and apply. As instructors, they have the opportunity to motivate, to correct, and to model, all with an end goal in mind for students to meet defined objectives and master specific content. Through teaching, they lead students toward the desired destination.
For your consideration: How do you assure that course objectives are met? How can you improve your communication?
Teachers are managers. They manage course content by creating or tweaking the initial course design, by meeting course objectives, and by delivering the lesson each session determining what is covered and how it is covered. They determine the pace of the evening session and the rhythm of the online week. They manage classroom logistics and procedures to create an environment conducive to learning. They are “special agents” (Chapter 8), called upon to meet the varying needs of their students regardless of differences in physical challenges, learning styles and disabilities, and cultural and demographic backgrounds. They realize that one size does not fit all and so approach each opportunity to teach with preparation and prayer. Teachers also manage the grading in the course, determining assessments and weight.
I have watched more than one adjunct adjust classroom setup for a course to accommodate students’ needs or to illustrate a specific content, such as managing innovation and change. At times, adjuncts have requested a smaller room for closer community or a larger room for comfort. Whenever we can, we will accommodate. Not too long ago I observed one of our veteran adjuncts reviewing notes before every class session for a course that she has taught regularly for the past 10 years. When I asked her about it, she replied that she never stepped into the classroom without preparing and tailoring the material to meet the students’ needs.
For your consideration: What are you doing to manage your content in the best way possible? Do you assume that last year’s ideas and examples are current this offering? Are you prepared if what you have planned carries you only 2 hours for an evening session?
Teachers are ministers. Their classroom presents an opportunity for evangelism through the message of their lives and their teaching, for shepherding as they become aware of students’ needs and questions, and for discipleship as they lead students deeper into the truth of God’s word. The goal for teachers is to seize the opportunities to impact their students’ thoughts, attitudes, and actions.
Recently a Tulsa adjunct stopped by and asked for access to the classroom for one of his upcoming course. A little later I observed him praying over every seat in the room and every name on his roster. What a reminder of the opportunity that teaching impacts lives!
For your consideration: What is God saying to you about ministering to our students? How do you prepare spiritually to represent our mission and the pillars in your classes?
Each role of the teacher is important. If any one area is overlooked, teachers fail to fulfill their calling. Each area requires attention. For example, as teachers prepare a lesson, their personal character and integrity will help them approach the responsibility in prayer with diligence and excellence. Their educational training and professional experience will help them determine the best way to deliver and to assess content. As they realize each teaching session is an opportunity to touch students, they will be effective ministers.
I have watched adjuncts fulfill these roles masterfully. One instructor, in particular, sets the bar high to deliver master-level content, on the one hand, demanding excellence from his students, but on the other, staying approachable. Students know he cares for them and wants the best for them both professionally and personally. In considering his method, two aspects surface as keys to his success: engaging students and balancing all four roles.
Another instructor comes to mind who longed to fulfill his calling to teach. However, he placed a higher priority on being friendly to the students by holding short sessions and by making the course easy and fun. What had a short-term superficial gain for students became a challenge for the next adjunct and no lasting impact was made.
One statement in Called to Teach which the Holy Spirit highlighted for me was “Jesus lived, and out of his life flowed teaching” (Yount, 1999, p. 83). I found myself praying, “God, may teaching flow from me to represent you well and to minister to my students.”
An idea that I have incorporated since reading the book is to keep a 3” x 5” card for each student to include background, needs, questions, and prayer requests to build a bridge to each student and to pray specifically for each student.
For your consideration: Rate yourself in each role of a teacher. What is your area of strength? Weakness? What can you do to excel in each role?
Yount, W. R. (1999). Called to teach: An introduction to the ministry of teaching. Nashville, TN: B & H Publishers.