When your Fifth Grader is the Teacher… - Dr. Teresa Moon Blog

When your Fifth Grader is the Teacher…

Notes from Millennials on the Future of Education

Author’s Note:
This blog post was originally written in 2012. Since that time the research has confirmed still more of these insights and the foresight of the Millennials interviewed. It is reposted here with minor edits. The year 2025 is closer now, and providing a truly Christian educational option to families has never been more important – around the globe.

“What do you want Christian teachers to know now to get ready for your children?”
While sharing coffee and thoughtful dialogue with a table of 19- to 22-year-olds back in 2012, my perspective on education was broadened as these young adults shared their views on what education will look like for the next generation. Their wonderment grew as they realized they could have children in school by 2025, that Bridgette (one student’s niece and then just a 5th-grader) could theoretically be their children’s school teacher. I queried: “What do you want Christian teachers to know now to get ready for your children?” They had a lot to say.


The Future of Education

I presume, since you are reading this post, you care very much about the relationship between faith and scholarship – and that motivates your teaching philosophies and methodologies. You are teaching in a Christian school or you are concerned with the education of your own children – or both. You want your students to know what they believe and to influence culture as Christ-followers. I consider myself a compatriot.

My advisors observed that (in their collective humble opinion) today’s Christian schools and learning centres need a reality check. So I took a look at some data-supported trends impacting Christian schools and Millennials to draw some momentous conclusions – and together with my millennial group developed a few recommendations for consideration as we look to the future of Christian education.

The research reveals trends that are daunting for our schools.
The research reveals trends that are daunting for our schools. Church attendance is down. Thriving schools are in the minority. Each year, as many as 200 Christian schools in America alone close their doors. Many have lost students and laid off faculty. Christian education associations face grueling economic decisions, many with international impacts.


The Race for Students

Public schools are in hot pursuit of our students. Many state agencies are signaling their intention to “recapture” families of students in private education. They offer more perks each year: free textbooks, curriculum counseling, online courses, and innovative instructional programs. In Alaska, the state has effectively “recaptured” Christian homeschoolers with attractive resources and curriculum restrictions, and they are now “pursuing” small private school students – and several states are close behind. Free education is hard to compete with, especially when the demand for a Christian alternative appears to be waning. Our schools must offer a sufficiently superior alternative to outweigh the price tag.

Millennials as the Teachers

What is the current status of our future teachers? In 2025, Christian education will rely on millennial teachers to fill out their faculty; yet millennial disinterest in religious institutions is increasing. Where will we find them? Our middle school and high school students will not only be the parents of our future students; they will be faculty members.

Mr. Youth and Intrepid, two global marketing firms, combined forces to study millennial interests and career goals. The results, released in 2010, concluded the number one reason Millennials change jobs is they simply want a change. Security, a long-term career, and developing expertise in a single field are not as important to millennials as innovation, continual learning, and the excitement of a new challenge.

Might the potentially hard-to-find millennial teacher bring these values into Christian education? A starting point for projection is the present millennial environment. My Millennials highlight the tension between their relationship with technology and their teachers’.

A High-Tech Education

Technology is the vehicle by which the next generations intends to share messages of faith and hope.
Technology is the vehicle by which the next generations intends to share messages of faith and hope. I address approximately 40 groups of Christian educators annually and have yet to meet with a group that doesn’t levy a complaint about their students’ use of technology. This generation has already harnessed new technology and its collaborative power. If technology is driving progress, why, they ask, aren’t we being educated in it, with it, through it, and for it? With a globe full of information in clicking distance, students question the need to retain information. They have a point.
Parents who bring their children to our schools in 2025 will be seeking a stimulating educational environment. They will expect to be technologically connected to the school, their student, and his/her progress. They won’t be interested in job preparation, maybe not even in college prep. There will be many options for acquiring that training. These mobile families aren’t likely to want to commit to current guidelines for requisite days in class either. Our schools will need to offer flex-schedules combined with digital learning modules and virtual instructional and evaluation options. These are increasingly accessible today, where parents can select student courses from many online programs with classmates from around the world.


Preparing the Next Generation of Christian Educators

What about your 5th grader turned teacher? Well, in 2025 she won’t be in grammar school anymore. She will certainly have many new ideas for how to create the environment her peers are seeking for their children. We need to prepare to listen and learn. My Millennials have a few recommendations to get us started:

  1. Go tech. Get comfortable with technology in and out of the classroom. If we’re going to mentor its proper use, we need to be familiar with the advantages and disadvantages of using existing tools and acquiring new technologies. The learning curve is sometimes steep, but the results are worth it.
    Note: In recent years, the pendulum has swung. We need to help today’s students learn to enjoy tech-free spaces. At the same time, the more familiar today’s faculty and administration are with technology, the more credibly we can guide its most appropriate use – and redirect its abuse.
  2. Look around. Frequent reality checks are a must. While it’s easy to be consumed with the business of the school, the world is moving at an increasingly accelerated pace. If we hope for future parents to pay for the Christian alternative with free education in hot pursuit, we must assure them we have some understanding of the society we are equipping their children for; and something better to offer.
  3. Be relevant. My Millennials communicated passionately on this point. Many of their peers have distanced themselves from anything “Christian.” The “Christian” answers from their alternate “school” reality seemed to lack relevance. A genuine Christian education must be relevant. The Good News is for the generations following us and those following them. It didn’t cease to be Good News with Baby Boomers and Gen Xers: it is for today, tomorrow, and the future. Our faith, our hope, and our approach to education must align. When they do, the results are extraordinary.

The only thing we can be certain of in society and in education is change; yet, I believe these recommendations will never outlast their usefulness. We will continue aspiring to be technologically adaptive, and we must always strive to be real and relevant.


Dr. Teresa Moon, founding President and CEO of the Institute for Cultural Communicators, is an internationally-recognized seminar speaker, education consultant, author, and leadership coach. Each year, she travels globally equipping students, teachers, and parents to become “cultural communicators,” transforming ordinary students into extraordinary communicators and authentic leaders.

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