To Serve Courageously, Embrace the Mission

To Serve Courageously, Embrace the Mission

FPU’s Strategic Map calls us to Serve Courageously as part of GEIST as part of “Expanding the Possibilities.”

Serving Courageously is what FPU Teacher Education alumni have been doing every day for 18 months. For example, six weeks into the school year, my wife, Sandy, who earned her M.A. in Curriculum & Teaching from FPU, posted on Facebook that she had a first for the year—everyone was in class for her four periods of history. Students have been absent because of contact tracing, symptoms, actual COVID or just concerns about going to school.

In teacher education we work with schools from around the Valley and during this last year and a half we have seen the same situation play out in in the classrooms of our students. For teachers, redesigning curriculum to be able to put content online, dealing with restrictions and changing conditions and living with the stress of concern for their personal safety have all become additional responsibilities in a job that is already full of responsibility. Each day they enter schools wondering how many children will be there or if any have the virus. A friend of mine came to school last week to find two of his 13 students present that day. Yet, these teachers return each day to face the storm of uncertainty created by the pandemic.

The situation reminds me of the story of the Savior sleeping while the ship he is on is buffeted by a storm and the disciples waking him in a panic. In Mark 4:38 we read, “Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’” The storm brought its own challenges and they added to those by their responses. They forgot that they travelled with the Savior and that since the Savior wasn’t worried they need not be either. I can only imagine how in their fear they made the challenge of the storm even worse for them. Their lack of faith in something greater than the storm led them to panic. So what keeps our teachers from panic? In what do those who weather the storm have faith?

I cannot speak for all those in teaching, but I can share what Sandy said kept her firm during this time: her faith in God. She sees her teaching as something greater than herself and as something ordained by God. She sees herself called to this service. Her faith in her calling gives her courage. Sandy exemplifies what we invite our teacher education students to do in our department mission statement—“to embrace teaching as a calling to redemptive service.”

Before COVID teacher rates for leaving the field before their fifth year were from 17-25% depending on how the counting occurs. We work to help our students not be among those who leave by encouraging them to see teaching as something greater than themselves. This will not be the only challenge they or we face. How they face those storms will either build them into better teachers or possibly lead them to leave the field. How they face those storms with either strengthen their anchor in something greater or reveal their lack of a firm foundation.

Each one of us face many of the same challenges my wife and the teachers we work with in our program face. We look to serve, but are confronted with challenges brought about not just by the pandemic, but by the myriad of responses to the pandemic that are sometimes like the actions of the panicking disciples. I only hope to emulate Sandy and the many teachers in our Valley who exemplify what it means to serve courageously.

Connections
Darrell Blanks

Darrell Blanks

Clinical Assistant Professor of Education, Preliminary Multiple Subject Credential Program Director