How About a Few More Rules for Teachers?


Teacher 1Last week I wrote about Rules for Women Teachers in 1915, which many of you forwarded to friends and family. By the way, that’s perfectly OK to do. In addition, if they want to be on the list of regular Perspectives recipients, encourage them to sign up simply by clicking “Subscribe” at the top of the article or just let me know their email address and I’ll add them to the list.

Before leaving the topic of rules for teachers from the past, it seemed appropriate to mention one more set. Here we go, with permission again from Zion Lutheran Church in Wayside, Wis.

Rules for Teachers—1872

  1. Teachers each day will fill lamps and clean chimneys.
  2. Each teacher will bring a bucket of water and scuttle of coal for the day’s session.
  3. Make your pens carefully. You may whittle nibs to the individual taste of the pupils.
  4. Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes, or two evenings a week if they go to church regularly.
  5. After ten hours in school, the teachers may spend the remaining time reading the Bible or other good books.
  6. Women teachers who marry or engage in unseemly conduct will be dismissed.
  7. Every teacher should lay aside from each pay a goodly sum of earnings for his benefit during his declining years so that he will not become a burden to society.
  8. Any teacher who smokes, uses liquor in any form, frequents pool or public halls, or gets shaved in a barber shop will have given reason to suspect his worth, intention, integrity and  honesty.
  9. The teacher who performs his labor faithfully and without fault for five years will be given an increase of twenty-five cents per week in his pay, providing the Board of Education approves.

Folks, I’m not making up this stuff! This is real! A few of these rules particularly caught my eye and I suspect you noticed them also. Unseemly conduct is not an everyday household term. And I suppose any male teacher who was romantically interested in a young lady would be motivated, properly or improperly, to be in church on a regular basis, “regular” being a term not defined in the rules, but probably meaning every week, without fail. Sounds perfectly reasonable to me!

But the two rules most poignantly on my mind right now are #7 and #9. Both have to do with teachers’ compensation, current and future. This is a topic of importance still today.

Since I’m out of the ecclesiastical supervision and church/school personnel business, I don’t hear nearly as much about this matter these days as in the past. However, I suspect the issue of compensation for church workers, perhaps particularly educators and other commissioned ministers of the Gospel, is still a matter of concern.

Worries about resources during declining years have lessened significantly as a result of Concordia Plan Services, which includes the LCMS retirement plan. Social Security, for those who have participated, also helps significantly.

But I believe the fact remains that educators and other commissioned workers are far too often compensated below the intrinsic value of the ministry to which they commit their time, heart and soul. As a result, many church workers face retirement without sufficient financial resources for comfortable living, with luxuries simply remaining out of the question.

“The laborer deserves his wages” or words quite similar are mentioned many times in Holy Scripture. If you’d like to take a look, here’s a partial list of references: 1 Tim. 5:18; 1 Cor. 9:9; Deut. 25:4; Matt. 10:10; Luke 10:7; Lev. 19:13; Deut. 24:15; 1 Cor. 9:4, 7-14.

With that motivation, my encouragement is for church leaders at every level to inquire into the compensation of all those who serve in congregational ministry, including educational, musical, custodial and pastoral staff. Compensation levels should be more than just adequate. Pay scales provided by regional judicatories are almost always designed to be minimum recommendations.

If adjustments need to be made, have the courage to urge that the right thing be done as quickly as possible. That may very well include an honest look at your own level of personal financial stewardship and an encouragement for fellow congregational members to do the same.

Remember that we have been blessed to be a blessing and to honor God in all we do, with all we are and with all we have! We are called to do so in a 21st century context, which we all know is radically different from the way things were and the way things were viewed in 1872!

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