Any teacher whether it be a public school educator, a college professor, or a Sunday school teacher has many roles to take on as they use the classroom as their environment of learning. When we look at the example of Jesus, he took on twelve disciples to teach. He trained and taught these students what he wanted them to know, and he expected them to use that knowledge to go and teach the masses as they start the church. Teachers also need to look at the role of the learning leader, one that teaches who should be a student as well. Not only can teachers expand their knowledge by attending conferences, seminars, and other means; they can even learn from their own students.
All teachers should be good communicators. The way the lesson is presented is of the utmost importance. The learner should be able to easily understand what is being presented. The classroom can be provided with chalkboards, bulletin boards, dry erase board, and a video projector to be able to assist the teacher with various ways to communicate the lesson. A good communicator shows good posture, eye-contact, encourages learning, asks questions, and helps to provide a non-distracting environment. Another point of effective communication is having the ability to keep the lesson flowing according to the lesson plan based on the objectives and goals of the class. This step takes time and experience in teaching in order to master.
A teacher should always strive to be an example. You do not have to be a perfect model, but someone who is struggling with the same difficulties that a learner might have. Some of the characteristics of an example are a mature person, patient, graceful, Christ-like, and one that is worthy of imitation. An example is an ideal that serves as a pattern and is also someone who lives out what he or she teaches. Jesus was the perfect example as we see many times throughout the New Testament. He showed how important it was to always serve another by an outward gesture to the disciples: “Then he put water into a basin and was washing the feet of the disciples and drying them with the cloth which was round him.” (NIV 1985, 951)
A teacher should be a motivator. If you teach, the material must be presented with a passion. When we teach Sunday School we are teaching truths of the Bible and we should teach with fire. We should also be practical. When I taught high school, I always had to think about why they need to be learning a specific lesson. How does this apply to the big picture? The material has to be on a personal level too. If students take a personal interest in learning it will touch them for the rest of their lives. When you build motivation on this personal interest it will also build up their curiosity to go out on their own and learn more and become more involved in what you are teaching.
The teacher should take on the role of guide. They become a life long guide as the person moves from one level to the next, and then repeat the cycle for the next concept, or to review the last one. (Yount 1995, 145) Jesus showed us this by leading the disciples through so many things. He not only taught them, he showed them how to do things such as teach about the kingdom of heaven and of the second coming. He also showed them how to be compassionate to others and used parables to help illustrate His point.
A teacher can also be a resource provider. They can help tremendously in the life of the church by building mentoring relationships; to disciple others and see the learner grow with spiritual maturity. They are also the one that people turn to for help in times of crisis, so it is helpful to know the resources of the community and the church. The resource provider is constantly connecting learners to the church in order to help people to find places to serve.
Dr. Yount says in Called to Teach that we should “Challenge students toward excellence, but measure their accomplishments with honest weights. Let us move beyond scholarly discourses to include the qualities of nurture, guidance, and support, not only in our teaching style, but in our grading practices as well.” (Yount 1999, 219)
How can a teacher be responsible for all these qualities? First, a teacher must be willing to always be a student. A teacher cannot give away what he or she does not have.
One must first be a learner before being a teacher. If you are always learning, then you are trying to better yourself. Churches can play an active role by providing some type of teacher training on a regular basis. Sunday School gurus say that every church should meet weekly or at least monthly for a general meeting to discuss the lesson to be taught and help to organize teachers and identify needs.
Second, a teacher should be as close to God as possible through prayer, studying the Word, and using helps when studying such as commentaries and other resources. The Bible tells us that we are to answer for what we have taught to others. The closer we are to God, the better we can handle this situation. This personal relationship will not only help in our teaching but it will help to bring forth qualities that we struggle with. Not every teacher can have a dynamic personality or be the greatest communicator, but the passion we teach with shows how God’s Word lives in our life.
What is the role of the teacher? A teacher is a communicator who motivates and guides his/her students by example, and resource provider. A teacher is also a learner. The goal of a teacher is to promote change. In Jeremiah 15:16, the Bible tells us “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God Almighty.” (NIV 1985, 687) As we teach, we should always find joy and delight in the knowledge that God has given us through the Scriptures and the ability to teach His Word as well.