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A Christian Teacher Residency Program That Eschews Classroom Evangelism

A Christian Teacher Residency Program That Eschews Classroom Evangelism

Memphis Teacher Residency tells residents to witness to Christ by teaching with excellence—and by committing to Memphis for the long haul.

In the basement of a church in the heart of Memphis, Tennessee, a group of Christians believes public education in American cities does not have to continue as is. They are not activists or government officials. Nor are they protestors or reformers in the traditional sense of the word. They are teachers and those training them.

And they believe that "urban education is the single greatest social justice and civil rights issue in America today."

Such is the belief driving Memphis Teacher Residency (MTR), a nonprofit that trains quality teachers for the Memphis City School system. In a city with over a thousand churches yet where more than half of the children live in a neighborhood characterized by poverty, founder and director David Montague and his team realize there is much work to be done.

Through MTR, teachers in training from across the country move to Memphis for an intensive one-year residency. In addition to classes and seminars, residents are paired with a teacher-mentor in a Memphis classroom. At the end of the year, residents have earned a Masters of Arts in urban education through nearby Union University and a Tennessee state teaching license. In return, the residents teach in an underserved school in Memphis for at least three years.

MTR is not the only urban teacher residency program in the country, and the concept of training teachers in exchange for years of service is not new; since 1989 Teach for America has been recruiting college graduates and young professionals to teach in underserved schools for at least two years. However, MTR is the only urban teacher residency program in the country that provides this training in a Christian context. Along with education training, residents attend biblically based seminars and courses throughout the year.

Many people wonder how, in a public school, MTR can purposely put Christian teachers in the classroom. Doesn't that violate the separation of church and state? Montague and MTR's answer: Christian teachers should not talk about their faith in the classroom.

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Comments Are Closed

Displaying 1–5 of 11 comments

Velma

January 27, 2012  7:30am

"Preaching truth about Messiah or Christ have to be guided by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit" (Kristijan Ruzic). Amen, Brother!

Velma

January 25, 2012  11:40pm

Jamie, I stand to be corrected if the quote attributed to Francis is wrong, but still hold fast to the concept. You are assuming that the MTR teachers and I do not hold a comprehensive Christian world view just because we avoid direct preaching in the public school classroom. That's a rather harsh judgment, don't you think? As an English teacher, I can tell you that I prayerfully and gladly discuss the subject of religion with my students all the time through the literature that I teach. However, discussing the Bible objectively as literature and preaching the gospel overtly are two different things. I believe it would be unethical for me to do the latter in the context we are discussing. After all, I certainly wouldn't want a Hindu teacher preaching Hinduism to my child in the middle of a science class. I'm quite sure you wouldn't either.

Jamie

January 25, 2012  5:02pm

@Peter Thanks for your comments. Well said. We can't convert students to Christians anymore than make them into oranges.

Jamie

January 25, 2012  4:59pm

@Velma thank God for a chance to share His goodness with a student. That is a good day. 1. Reading about the life of St. Francis, I can't see him ever saying that. (I have heard that quote falsely atributed to him before). He spoke the Gospel even to the birds. I suggest Chesterton's biography on him. It's short and wonderful. 2. The word "preach" denotes speech. Gospel means good news and news must be declared in words. A Christian educator should not be ashamed to look at the world in their classroom through a Christian worldview. The idea that religion should be kept out of the public discussion is its own worldview. The Gospel is big enough to encompass all of human knowledge. It doesn't diminish that, but provides the correct framework for understanding all of creation, history, science, and so on. Francis Schaffer's work on education is excellent and anything from Redeemer's Faith and Work Ministry in NYC can be very helpful in discerning these questions.

Velma

January 25, 2012  10:17am

Correction: "Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary." (Francis of Assissi)

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