When you’re eighteen, thinking about what sort of person you would like to marry is sort of fun. Thinking about what sort of person you are worthy of marrying is significantly less fun. It’s one thing for a young man to know that he would like to marry a girl who is beautiful, patient, kind, righteous, respectful to her father, and good with kids, but it’s another thing entirely to be capable of attracting such a woman. The fact that a certain high school senior isn’t capable of attracting such a woman matters little, though, because he has several years to get there. The question is whether he has a plan for doing so.
I am currently teaching Pride & Prejudice to sophomores, but that’s not why I’ve been thinking about marriage lately. I’ve been thinking about marriage since last Spring when—for no good reason, really—I spent an hour scrolling through all the job postings on the ACCS website. I came away from those job postings with two thoughts and a question: All of these sound the same. None of these sound very interesting. Who is writing these things?
I’ll take it for granted that anyone writing a job posting is trying to phrase it in such a way as to get as many highly qualified candidates as possible to apply. And yet, the fact someone is qualified for a certain job doesn’t necessarily mean they will apply. The posting has to interest qualified people, too, and so a good job posting both asks something of candidates and offers them something, as well. Unlike many other lines of business, job postings for classical Christian schools do not list salaries (“Starting at $29k,” etc.), which means the average classical Christian school is banking on its sparkling personality to attract competent, experienced teachers.
Whatever these sparkling personalities are, they’re not showing up in job postings.
At the moment, there are so many classical Christian schools hiring that whoever writes job postings simply has to assume stiff competition. That’s not happening, though. Classical Christian schools are still writing job postings as though classical Christian education is a small, scrappy movement for idealists and fringe weirdos who will be happy with anything they can get. Most job postings for classical schools either sound like they were written by soulless bureaucrats or pop Christian radio DJs.
On the one hand, you’ve got this:
St. Adam’s Prep seeks a humanities teacher who is familiar with classical pedagogy and can lead students in dynamic discussions of classical literature. Experience helpful but not necessary. The position may also require teaching elementary Latin and a science class. Part-time only.
Be still my beating heart!
But then there’s also this sort of thing:
The Always Ready School is a vibrant, Christ-affirming classical community that is seeking a spiritually mature, college-educated (master’s degree is preferred) lover of the King who can help our students grow in wisdom, knowledge, and their commitment to bringing holy shalom to the nations and “the least of these.” Qualified candidates will exude Christian joy, know their subject deeply, love their students passionately, and work with parents tirelessly. Applicants should be “always ready” to provide an explanation of their confidence in the classical method, but also capable of shepherding student hearts with humility while we wait for His glorious appearing. Part-time only.
If the sort of teacher these job postings seek is a dignified, well-read fellow who has good taste, commands respect, maintains interesting opinions about Bach, and has raised obedient children, neither of these schools has a snowball’s chance at landing such a teacher. I am on good terms with a number of well-read teachers who have good taste, command respect, maintain interesting opinions about Bach, and they are absolutely incredulous of both these sort of job postings. In fact, the latter sort of job posting makes them doubt the entire classical Christian movement.
The problems with the Always Ready School job posting are legion, but I’ll begin by saying there’s nothing which makes me doubt a school is vibrant quite like being told its vibrant. It’s like reading a personal ad which says, “Handsome, interesting man seeks beautiful, interesting woman.” No woman reads that and thinks, “Handsome, interesting man? Well, he certainly sounds handsome and interesting to me.” And in the world of classical Christian education, what does it matter that a school says it wants “spiritually mature” teaching candidates? Does the person writing the job posting expect spiritually immature teaching candidates to read those words and think, “Blast! Foiled again!” Demanding applicants be “spiritually mature” isn’t actually going to weed out unqualified people. Spiritually immature applicants don’t know they’re spiritually immature and spiritually mature people would never claim to be spiritually mature. Thus, the administrator who asks for “spiritually mature” teaching candidates doesn’t understand how spiritually mature people think—and might not truly understand how anyone thinks. The idea of working with a team of teachers hired by such an administrator is rather horrifying to a teacher who knows what he’s doing.
Besides all this, the Always Ready School ad is awash with the sort of sentimental-theological-pastoral language which qualified teachers rightly marry to a lax approach to discipline (and beliefs about “grace” which allow the children of significant families to get away with murder).
All this to say, the typical job posting for a classical Christian school doesn’t really offer anything to accomplished teachers who are looking for a new job.
If a classical Christian school can’t offer teaching candidates a compelling salary, it has to offer them a compelling faculty culture. When I say, “compelling faculty culture,” I don’t mean “leeway in the classroom.” Most classical teachers have quite a bit of leeway, but this is because administrators are overworked and rarely show up to observe classes. Provided grades are high and nothing contrary to the Republican party is said in class, things will roll on evenly.
Administrators, take an hour and cruise through the job postings on the ACCS website. See what your competition is, then look at your own job postings and ask, “What do my job postings suggest about the faculty culture at my school? What does my school offer the ideal teacher which other schools don’t?” Applicants are easy to come by. Interesting, qualified applicants are not. If you get big stacks of applications from unqualified teachers every year, consider the possibility that your job postings are to blame. Similarly, if a certain young woman complains that she’s been asked out by sixty total losers in the last three months—and they are all, in fact, actual losers—the problem is probably with the young woman.
Allow me to suggest a job posting that goes like this: “The St. Lux Schools is seeking an upper school math teacher who enjoys fine wine and has interesting opinions about Rembrandt and Rodin.” And that’s it. Nothing about being “vibrant” or “a Christ-affirming community.” It’s the sort of ad which might actually rope in compelling candidates.
Of course, if you post this sort of ad, you also have to back it up with the sort of faculty culture which genuinely requires an enjoyment of fine wine and interesting opinions about Rembrandt. This will require a number of changes to your faculty meetings, but you’ve got the rest of the year to put that together. The question is whether you have a plan for doing so.