Churches, mission fields and faith-based tutoring programs often have interesting beliefs about volunteers. One of the most prevalent is that any “warm body” will do – it’s the curriculum and program offerings as a whole that really matter. As a result, many of these groups trying to reach children and teens for God will allow untrained volunteers to work with kids. While we will address that in other blog posts, there is an even more disturbing result of this attitude.
At times, these ministries will place volunteers as teachers and mentors who are shall we say a bit “prickly”. They may not really want to be volunteers, but have been guilted to “fill a slot”. Worse yet, some may not even like kids or teens or have very negative attitudes towards them.
You may think it doesn’t really matter. How much harm can a cranky person really do in an hour a week? I’m not really sure how much harm they can do, but we do have some research illuminating the impact a loving, engaged teacher can have on students.
In 2001, researchers at the University of Virginia released the results of a long term study. They rated the quality of the relationship between students and their kindergarten teachers. They were particularly interested in whether or not the teachers were loving, engaged with students and had what were considered high quality relationships with their students.
In eighth grade, they went back and rated these same students on various academic and behavioral measures. Across the board. those who had strong relationships with loving, engaged kindergarten teachers did much better than students whose kindergarten teachers had not been as loving and engaged. (All other factors were leveled.)
Your attitude towards students makes a difference. Making the effort to engage with them during class in positive relational ways matters. Taking time to spend quality time with them outside of class and/or mentoring them matters. If you really want to impact your students for God, create the most warm, loving, supportive, engaged relationships you can with them. It’s not only biblical, it’s researched based fact.