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Should Teachers Leave Their Faith at Home?

Public school teachers, I feel for you. You have a challenging job, trying to make a difference in a system that wants you to disregard your faith when you step on campus.

I’ve never taught at a public school, but, according to our reader survey, over half of you do. And one of your comments has had me really thinking. One reader commented that while she enjoyed the religious aspect of this blog, it wasn’t helpful to her work (even though it did help her in her own spiritual walk).

Do public school teachers need to leave their faith at home?This comment concerns me. I don’t know how many of you feel the same way, but I can only imagine that quite a few of you feel pressured to leave your faith at home (or at least in the car). That you’re wearing a muzzle most of the day. That you cannot speak the truth you know into the situations you encounter. That’s it’s not really part of your job.

But you’re wrong.

Your Students Need to Hear the Truth

It’s not enough for us to teach our students math and English and science. We must do everything we can to help them develop a true worldview – and the only true worldview is a Christian one.

I know many of you can’t get out a Bible and show your students where these truths are coming from, but that doesn’t mean you can’t give them the truth.

If not you, who?

You Can Speak the Truth

There’s nothing stopping you from infusing God’s truths into your lessons, from counseling a student from a Biblical perspective, from allowing your faith and what you believe to infuse everything you do.

And even if you do receive some push back,  you can be bold anyhow. This is what God has called you to do – and your job is incredibly important!

Are we just going to give up and allow the next generation to drift further and further from God? To allow them to believe all the lies and propaganda that the rest of the system is trying to shove down their throats? To do nothing to combat the distortion and deceit coming at them every day from their TV’s and smart phones?

We cannot just sit by and watch our nation go to hell in a handbasket. We are in a battle. You are on the front lines. You can make a difference.

It is not a lost cause – not as long as we stand up. Not as long as we engage our students both in the classroom and one-on-one. Not as long as we keep imparting truth and combating error. Not as long as we remain bold and unintimidated.

We Cannot Compartmentalize Our Faith

It’s easy to compartmentalize our faith – to think that God’s Word is for our private spiritual life but that we cannot take it into our public, secular lives.

But that’s a lie.

God’s truths are universal, and they should be such a part of our lives that we cannot separate ourselves from them. That we cannot help but speak them.

We need to know God’s truths. And that’s why I spend time on this blog talking about thinking Biblically. Because we cannot impart truth to our students until we understand and embrace it for ourselves.

God’s truths don’t stop being true when we walk into work. They don’t stop being true just because the principal or the school board doesn’t like them. They are always true, and they are always powerful.

Look for Ways to Speak the Truth

So, teacher, I beg you to look for ways to speak the truth. You have more freedom than you make think. (Check out this article that explains how you are and are not allowed to discuss faith.) And you have more influence than you may realize.

You may need to be creative. You may need to get out of your comfort zone. You will certainly need to listen to the leading of God’s Spirit.

But with His help, you can make a big difference.

Public school teachers, we’d love to hear from you. Do you find it challenging to speak the truth in your classroom? Do you find yourself leaving your faith at home? Or does it impact all you say and do at school? Share your thoughts and experience with a comment below.

Photo by woodleywonderworks

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  • I absolutely share the truth in my classroom. We refer to Bible stories frequently. Students often discuss church activities. This morning during rise and shine, our principal reminded students that the Bible tells us to love our neighbor. Yes, I teach in a public school. I do not “teach the Bible” but I have one on my desk as well as verses posted. We pray a hedge of God’s protection around our school and He has never failed us.

  • I have to confess that I am pretty horrified at this post. It is absolutely unacceptable for a teacher in a public school to proselytize his or her own beliefs to students. It is equally unacceptable to teach Bible stories or to pray in a public school. Your students may come from any number of different faith backgrounds, and to promote your own faith to them is profoundly disrespectful of the traditions of their families. How would you feel if your child had a Jewish, Muslim, or Buddhist teacher who actively promoted her/his belief system in the classroom? If it is important as a teacher to be able to share your faith with your students, then perhaps you are called to teach in a private religious school.

    • Miss Night,

      You have no problem proselytizing your students into your doctrine of militant, atheistic, secular humanism. When you say “all religions are equally valid,” you don’t actually believe that. You contradict the specific claims of each by rendering them all equally false. Christians aren’t allowed to push their agenda, but you can push yours. You have a belief about the origins of the world (which you’ve never seen, meaning yours is based on faith), you have a belief about proper attitudes in life, etc. These are religious beliefs. You’re making the argument that “Christians push their faith on others, but you yourself, as an intellectual elite, are wise enough to stay unbiased,” but you’re not realizing that there’s no such thing as being unbiased. There is no neutrality.

      • It seems to me that a lot of assumptions are being made about who I am, what I believe, and what I communicate to my students. I am not taking a stance about the validity of any or all religions, but simply saying that: promotion of religious beliefs has no place in a public school classroom.

    • I didn’t quite understand Linda to be advising us to proselytize those of different faiths or force beliefs on anyone. She said, “God’s truths are universal, and they should be such a part of our lives that we cannot separate ourselves from them. That we cannot help but speak them.” From this, I understood her urging teachers not to leave their faith at home to mean not abandoning values and principles, the outcomes of beliefs; these are an inseparable part of who we are.

      The Golden Rule (treating others as we want to be treated) is one example of a Christian truth whose value and benefits many non-believers acknowledge. So if a fight or mistreatment among students arises, for example, a Christian teacher could use that principle to advise the students. It’s not, however, a question of forcing beliefs on anyone, but of the teacher’s sharing what he/she thinks is right to do in this situation and why. Still, the students are never forced to agree; it’s their prerogative to think for themselves and make their own choice.

      No matter what you believe (or don’t believe), your worldview inevitably affects what you say and do in terms of values and principles–and there’s a vast difference between personally acting on and sharing your values and principles, and forcing them on others.

    • No need to be horrified. Religious beliefs all have value systems. You can live by and teach value systems without teaching or proselytizing a religious point of view. I haven’t read all the posts yet, but I don’ think Linda is saying to convert your students to your religion. Value systems exist for a reason. I’m certainly not teaching religion when I promote my value system that I learned from my religion. I’m not going to leave my values at the door because my students or their families have values that may be of a negative societal nature.

      As an example. I may have a student who is taught to get revenge as an appropriate response. This is anti-social and destructive behavior according to my faith. I would teach to treat the offender nicer than they treated you. I do teach this and explain that it becomes increasingly difficult to harm someone who is nice to you. I have a problem with (horrified?) that everyone assumes that you have to separate your values from your teaching. Values do not equal religion just because that’s where you got them from. We are not robots. If you want robots teaching your kids… I’m not sure that would turn out so well.

  • I am new to your blog and have loved what I read here. Being in the process of receiving my education degree, I am already feeling the conflict of the anti-Christian perspective of the public school system. I am encouraged by Ms Shiplett’s post that some schools still embrace the morality and strong character building that the Bible encourages. I wonder at Miss Night’s reply, however. If all teachers were allowed to communicate their beliefs to their students (which I think all but Christian’s are) then parents would be able to dialogue with their children regarding truth. Isn’t school the place where information should be freely explored?

  • I guess I don’t know exactly what camp I fall into. I don’t PREACH to my students, but I do set high moral standards and expectations for my students and myself. Basically, I walk the walk AND talk the talk. I teach them to treat others the way they want to be treated. I have inspirational quotes up around the room, but nothing directly from the Bible. I respect everyone’s viewpoint to teach their child the religion they want to at home, but I am going to at least teach them to be a decent human being who shows compassion and respect for others during the school day (and then I hope this transfers into aspects of my students’ lives outside of school as well). That’s my take on it…

    • Heather, I agree. This is how I try to live as a Christian in an Australian public school. My class is extremely difficult but our motto is Treat others how you like to be treated. I don’t have ‘Bible’ verses and such but I know that God wants me in this system to be an example and a light.

  • I have to agree with Miss Night. and I am a christian. There is no way I would agree to this This is wrong. It is very right and easy to teach morality and good values without labeling it as christian, hindu or any religion,I Think Ms, night above hit the nail on the head. How would you feel about a jewish, hindu or muslim teacher teaching their religious beliefs to your son/daughter in a public school? I believe everyone above would be offended highly if that happened, Yet, they think it is ok for them to do it.

    • I’m a Christian and I have no problem at all with my children’s teachers teaching their religious beliefs. I want my children to learn that people are different and to learn to respect others beliefs. In 7th grade there are actual lessons on religion and beliefs. Knowing about other religions is critical knowledge. It is the ignorance of religions that breeds evil, such as kicking out all Muslims from the US. Such ignorance! You have to be very insecure about your own beliefs to worry about this. Also, what values will they teach that will harm my child? Seriously. I really don’t think that anyone here is saying to crack open the Bible and have students praying. But there is nothing wrong with telling my students that I’m Christian. There is nothing wrong with me teaching and expecting high standards. Tell me a Christian standard that would harm a child? or a Budhist? or a Muslim? Jewish? Hindu? Standards and values DO NOT equal religion.

  • I appreciate everyone’s perspectives here and see that it is a very hot topic to address. While I agree that Christians should not use their position in the school to evangelize students, if specific questions come up, it seems that honest answers should be acceptable. We should be able to teach our children to respect other points of views without challenging them to give up their own.
    Great discussion.

  • As a public school employee, I do not believe that faith belongs in the classroom. I must say that I am not a Christian, nor any other religion, and yet I find ways to treat my students with grace and dignity that have nothing to do with faith and everything to do with treating my fellow human being the way I want to be treated. If you want religion and God in the lives of children, then you ought to go to their parents with your message. It is not the job of the schools to teach religion, but the job of the church and the parents.

  • I absolutely share the truth in my classroom. We refer to Bible stories frequently. Students often discuss church activities. This morning during rise and shine, our principal reminded students that the Bible tells us to love our neighbor. Yes, I teach in a public school. I do not “teach the Bible” but I have one on my desk as well as verses posted. We pray a hedge of God’s protection around our school and He has never failed us.

  • I’m a first year teacher and I find myself struggling with this constantly. Of course I teach my students to have good morals and to treat everyone respectfully, but I often find myself feeling alienated for the lifestyle I live. I don’t drink or curse, which automatically makes me stick out like a sore thumb. I also dress differently than most. It’s hard when my students ask me why I dress the way I do (I don’t wear pants) or when a discussion/questions about heaven comes up when we’re talking about things in the sky for our science unit. It’s terrible to feel like I’ll be penalized for my beliefs when answering students with inquiring minds. I get that I shouldn’t “preach” to them, but it’s so hard to be open and honest with them when you have to keep so much about yourself from them.

  • I teach science in a public school in the south. Down here a lot of ignore Supreme Court rulings.
    But I get questions such as do you believe in “the Big Bang theory”.

    First of all I tell my students that in science we deal with the natural world. And then I explain to them that I am a Christian but I don’t have A problem reconciling science and Christianity. God gave us a brain. I believe that the things that God told his early people he told them in simplistic terms because that’s what they could understand. We have Learned a lot about the natural world and I think that as we learn and understand more to me that doesn’t take away from the miracle of God it adds to it.

    I have students who are Muslim and I’ve had students who were Hindu and I always try to respect them. I ask them about their faith. Some of the Muslim students of had a rough time in recent months. So no I don’t leave my faith at home but neither do I proselytize. Religious faith is part of the world it’s part of our community we should be able to talk about it openly

  • I love this post so much. Thank you for writing such a compelling call to action for teachers everywhere. I’m a student teacher in the NYC DOE. I live my life by these principles, but it’s not easy. Our school unique because there is a period dedicated to Social and Emotional Learning. Although the lessons are scripted from a curriculum book, I take this opportunity to mold these lessons from a Biblical perspective, teaching my students in the ways of our Lord, praying that their eyes be opened to the Way. Thank you, again.

  • I personally feel by and large all religions teach us to be good and do right things. So instead of talking about specific religion can’t we teach our kids to be just good human beings, be helpful, speak the truth, do your duties well and above all do right things in life simply because the right is right. Look for leaving a mark in life for which you will be remembered because of your good deeds. Rise, awake and stop not.

  • I personally feel by and large all religions teach us to be good and do right things. So instead of talking about specific religion can’t we teach our kids to be just good human beings, be helpful, speak the truth, do your duties and above all do right things in life simply because the right is right.

  • I think that it’s a really fine line to walk to bring up religion in public schools. I think it is, however, easy(ish) to speak truth without being religious. I think we can teach students basic principles that Jesus teaches us without mentioning his name or making it a religious thing. (be kind to your neighbors, love your enemies, take care of the less fortunate, forgive each other) You can model these qualities for your students regardless of what their religion is. I am an ESL teacher so I come across all religions in my classes. I also have very small classes and develop close relationships with my students. I am open about the fact that I am a Christian and am able to share more with my Christian students than I would with others. I am also bring up religion and my faith in certain conversations, mainly revolving around English and Social Studies. Often in literature, much of what we read comes from a Christian worldview or contains biblical allusions, I’ve been able to teach bible stories in a neutral when a piece of literature makes reference to it. I definitely don’t “leave my faith at home”, but I share it in a non-forceful, respectful and inclusive way, mostly just by being who I am and living out my values.

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