WYOMING, Mich. (BP) – As a middle school counselor, Libbie Drake feels she’s seen it all. And at the same time, knows she’s going to see more.
Stressed teachers. Unmotivated students. Increases in failure rates, truancy and behavior issues. While responding to questions for this article, a sixth-grader told her one of his friends was vaping in the bathroom.
It’s not just at the urban school where she works, either. “It’s being seen around the country,” she told Baptist Press. “My brother teaches in a rural school and they’re having major behavioral issues. We’re also fighting social media trends that are encouraging kids to steal things.”
The role of the educator has long been labeled a calling. And while America’s public schools have endured unsteady times before – unrest in the 1960s and integration efforts come to mind – it’s difficult to nail down a season when a potential Great Resignation of teachers looms as students continue to recover in numerous ways from a worldwide pandemic.
At least a year before COVID-19 became a household term, a teacher shortage was seen as real, large and growing. Those schools with the greatest needs typically get hit hardest all while politicians and other leaders demand high test scores and attendance rates. It’s a situation leading many to ask “How bad could it get?”
Whatever the challenge, CrossWinds Church in Wyoming, Mich. will be there to respond, said David Drake, pastor and Libbie’s husband.
“Anything the school needs, they know they can call us,” said David, who was also an assistant high school football coach for 12 years before resigning so he could serve as a board member for Godwin Heights Public Schools. He continues to coach, though, now as an unpaid volunteer.
Those calls from the school have led CrossWinds to provide lunches and classroom supplies for teachers and backpacks filled with clothes and jackets for students.
“For years we provided hats and mittens to every student at one of the local elementary schools,” he said. “This week, we’re helping with kindergarten registration and providing school supplies.”
As at CrossWinds, several members at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Colonial Heights, Va., work and volunteer in area schools.
It took a number of years after Joe Mayes joined MPBC as student pastor, but eventually a level of trust was built with the local high school. Then, Garrett Oppel came on board as children’s minister and focused on the elementary schools.
“I started Good News Clubs there and it helped bridge a great relationship with those principals,” Oppel said. “We also started giving the schools money each month to help pay for students who couldn’t afford lunch.”