Practicing Affirmation (Part 2): What?

In the previous post in this series, we looked at why we should practice affirmation in our classrooms.  However, before we can begin to affirm our students, we need to make sure that we have a clear understanding of what affirmation is and what it is not.

 

Affirmation is NOT . . . building self-esteem.  Self-esteem results in a “yawning response” to the Gospel because it builds up self, thus lessening the need for God in our lives.  Affirmation builds God-esteem.

 

Affirmation IS . . . God-centered.   Affirmation gives God the rightful glory for all good.  Affirmation says, “I see the character of God in you.”

 

Affirmation is NOT . . . encouragement.  Encouragement is good and important, but it’s not affirmation.   Encouragement says, “You can do it.”  Encouragement gives hope and looks forward.  Affirmation looks back and says, “Do it like that again!”

 

Affirmation is NOT . . . flattery.  Affirmation doesn’t say, “You’re so good at math!” or “Boy, you’re talented.”  Affirmation says, “God has gifted you with a sharp mind for math!” or “I loved the way you used the talent God gave you to glorify Him in chapel today.  That’s exactly how He wants us to use our gifts!”

 

Affirmation is NOT . . . student-centered.  Affirmation doesn’t focus on what the student has done.  It focuses on what God, through the Holy Spirit, is doing in the student.  Affirmation says, “I see God working in your life.”

 

Affirmation is NOT . . . lowering standards.  It’s about commending incremental progress toward standards that reflect that character of Christ.

 

Affirmation IS . . . detached from correction.   The further an affirmation is from a correction, the more readily an affirmation can be heard by a student.  Affirming a student can’t be “a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down.”

 

Affirmation IS . . . honest.  Don’t lie.  Don’t make it up.  Even the most challenging student is made in the image of God and can, therefore, be affirmed.  Ask the Holy Spirit to help you find something to affirm, but never stretch the truth or patronize.

 

Affirmation IS . . . rooted in the Gospel.  The Gospel says, “You’re worse than you think you are, but God’s grace is greater than you ever imagined.”  Biblical affirmation says, “God is working in your life through the Gospel!”

 

Affirmation says, “To God be the glory!  Great things He has done!”

 

Are you affirming your students Biblically?

 

 

For further reading:  Practicing Affirmation  by Sam Crabtree  ISBN 978-1-4335-2243-7

Practicing Affirmation (Part 1): Why?

Recently, I was surprised to hear a student verbalize, “I don’t really feel like the teachers here are for us.”  Given the interactions I had seen and been part of with this student, I knew that was not true.  It was obvious that there was a “disconnect” in the communication process. So, I went on a quest to find a resource that could help me understand how to relate better to  my students, and I discovered Sam Crabtree’s book Practicing Affirmation.  This short, easy-to-digest book discusses affirmation through a spiritual lens and stands as a must-read for educators.  This blog post begins a series on this concept of practicing affirmation in our classrooms.

Before we can begin, we must first define our terms.  As Christians, when we speak of affirmation, we are not speaking of the worldly concept of building self-esteem.  (We’ll talk about that in a later post.)  We are speaking of, as Crabtree distills it, “truthfully declaring by complimentary word or action the goodness of something.”  In other words, we are affirming the goodness of our students, more specifically, the goodness of the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives since that is the only source of goodness in their lives.

Why should we take time to contemplate affirmation?

It satisfies the soul.  If we’re honest, we’ll admit that we are all approval-junkies.  Our students are no different.  If we are going to meet their deepest needs, we need to grant them approval – of the right things.

God affirms.  God approved his Son, not for what he did but for who he was:  “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased.”  God commended men of faith and approved them as righteous (Hebrews 11).  Jesus affirmed Mary for her heart in Luke 10:38 -42.

It refreshes our students.  Consider your own life.  When someone affirms the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, is it not refreshing?  Our students need that same kind of refreshment!

It opens our hearts and eyes to really see our students.  Affirming students about the right things forces us to see beyond their behavior, their grades, or their attitude.  We must really know our students.

 

Stay tuned to coming posts as we consider not just why we ought to affirm our students but what it is and how to do it Biblically and consistently in our classrooms.

 

 

For further reading:  Practicing Affirmation  by Sam Crabtree  ISBN 978-1-4335-2243-7

Full S.T.E.A.M. Ahead! (Part 1)

Jump on board the S.T.E.A.M. train!

STEAM is a hot topic in education today. Interestingly enough, it is not a curriculum but a national initiative from mathematicians, scientist, engineers, and artist to integrate learning activities based on science, technology, engineering, art, and math. Education Closet defines STEAM as “an educational approach to learning that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking.” This approach to thinking and learning is critical to the future of our students.

STEAM encompasses five components – (Sprouts, 2011)

  • Science – observing, experimenting, predicting, discovering, questioning, and wondering
  • Technology – using tools, being inventive, identifying problems, and making things work
  • Engineering – solving problems, using a variety of materials, designing, creating, and building
  • Art – drawing, coloring, blending, imagining, charting, sketching
  • Math – sequencing, patterning, and exploring

Notice! All of the adjectives listed above are action packed! They are hands-on activities with a twist. STEAM is problem solving in a creative way. STEAM is not an additional class added to your day. STEAM should be integrated into every subject; it is cross-curricular. STEAM shows a student how every topic inter-relates. STEAM time is more than just a science experiment or an art activity or math problem; it is the integration of all the subjects. This approach resembles real life. Real life does not compartmentalize subjects. Life weaves all “subjecyd” together.

There are certain components that make up a STEAM activity –

  • Problem to solve or question to answer
  • Collaboration among students
  • Drawing/sketching ideas
  • A design challenge
  • Communication of findings
  • Reflection of solutions
  • Opportunity to redesign

The components are developing 21st century skills in each student. They learn how to problem solve, collaborate, create, reflect, and redesign. A student is never “done early” because the redesign stage makes them continually ask, “How can I improve this?”

Education Closet describes the end results “are students who take thoughtful risks, engage in experiential learning, persist in problem-solving, embrace collaboration, and work through the creative process. These are the innovators, educators, leaders, and learners of the 21st century!”

Stay on board as we barrel down the track full STEAM ahead in part 2 when we discuss the design challenge of STEAM.

School Culture Rewired:

How to Define, Assess, and Transform It

“The book is intended to help you better understand the general concept of school culture, learn the strengths and weaknesses of your school culture, and—perhaps most important—influence your school culture or, if necessary, shape a new one,” so write Gruenert and Whitaker in the opening of School Culture Rewired: How to Define, Assess, and Transform It (2015, p. 3). The authors explain what to do, what to expect, and what things to look out for when trying to improve or change your school’s culture.

Gruenert and Whitaker pose the fundamental question: “Is school culture something we can predict and control, or does it control us? Put another way: Is it the sentry at the door or the monster under the bed?” (p. 17). The book presents strategies for ensuring your school’s culture is healthy and adaptable to change.

Cultural changes are difficult to put into practice because they involve people, and people are not as cooperative as things. The culture of most schools is the status quo. People are satisfied with the way things are, and thus, prefer not to change. Consequently, cultural changes are more difficult to articulate, to implement, and to assess; however, when the administration and teachers collaborate and work together as a team (Amos 3:3), even though some teachers may not fully understand the worth of a change initiative, the change is usually a positive one for the school.

Gruenert and Whitaker’s observation on structural and cultural change is insightful: “The effectiveness of a new culture depends on the strength of the people behind the change and the strength of the pre-existing culture” (p. 4). Emphasizing the importance of teachers in the rewiring of a school’s culture, the authors assert that “when teachers feel they are making a professional contribution to their school, they enjoy their work more” (p. 71).

In conclusion, Gruenert and Whitaker focus on the importance of school leadership in bringing about needed change. Change never happens without a visionary leader, whether in the school or in the classroom. Effective leaders focus on future opportunities and use problems and past failures as stepping stones to future successes.

Reading this book will give insight for how to approach rewiring the culture of your school. Although Gruenert and Whitaker write from a secular perspective, Christian school educators can gain ideas for how to improve our Christian schools and better educate our students for the cause of Christ.

What are some ways you can improve your Christian school?

Resource

Gruenert, S., & Whitaker, T. (2015). School culture rewired: How to define, assess, and transform it. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Copyright Journal for Christian Educators, Fall 2016 edition.  Reprinted with permission of the American Association of Christian Schools.

Counting Sheep

I recently read an article about mounting data that indicates a relationship between attention disorders and sleep problems.  While to this point no causal relationship has been discovered, it is clear that students with attention disorders also have sleep problems.  It is often forgotten that children aged 5-12 need 10-11 hours of sleep.

Educators have long recognized that sleep deprivation negatively affects student performance.  Research shows that students with sleep debt are impaired in many facets, including:

  • Decreased Alertness and Ability to Maintain Focus
  • Extreme moodiness and mood swings
  • Decreased energy and motivation
  • Decreased bodily control & coordination
  • Impulsiveness

 

Are you alert to students with the signs of sleep deprivation?  What can a teacher do to address the problem?  Here are several suggestions that might help.

  • Discuss the problem with parent(s)

Parents may not be aware that sleep debt is adversely affecting classroom performance or attitudes. Ask parents to consider making schedule adjustments so that the child can get more sleep.

  • Teach students (and parents) about healthy sleep habits

While some schools used classroom instruction time to stress healthy habits, often additional instruction is needed.  Often the hardest change for parents to make is limiting screen time.  Experts suggest that children should not engage in screen time—laptops, tablets, phones, etc.—for two hours before bedtime.

  • Warn parents about the negative effects of caffeine
  • Stress the importance of routine—encourage a regular bedtime and bedtime routine that foster a consistent sleep schedule
  • Encourage parents to make sure the child’s room is conducive to sleep

The room should be dark, cool and quiet.  Keep televisions, computers, and any other personal electronics out of the bedroom.  Surveys indicate that many students, even those as low as elementary age, spend hours “on screen” after laying down in bed.

The importance of establishing good sleep habits should not be undersold.  It is vital that young children establish these routines so that their transition into the teen years and then adulthood can be healthy and happy.  Adults with poor sleep habits are usually those that never establish good sleep routines as children and teens.

What other things that you suggest to parents to help a child develop good sleep patterns?

Tips for First-Year Teachers

You’ve gone through four years of content and methods classes, and you’ve survived the gauntlet of student teaching. Congratulations! Now it’s your first year in your own classroom. No matter how good your college’s education program was, nothing quite prepares you for that first year. So, from one teacher to another, here are some tips for your first year of teaching!

You won’t feel comfortable for the first few months—and that’s OK.

In the weeks before the beginning of the school year, you can plan and make decisions about how you’ll run your classroom, but, honestly, until you get into teaching, you won’t have it all figured out. There will be a learning curve, you’ll make mistakes, and that’s ok! Learn from your mistakes. Be flexible. If a strategy or procedure isn’t working, be willing to change it. On the other hand, don’t be too quick to give up—sometimes a strategy just needs time to take effect. Give yourself time to adjust. By October or November you’ll have found your rhythm with teaching the content, scheduling your day, and adjusting to the needs of your classroom.

Don’t overload yourself.

Teachers are busy people. Teaching in itself takes a lot of time, but then there’s the time needed for preparing lessons, attending meetings, decorating your classroom, and so on. Then there are the extracurricular activities—sports, clubs, fund-raising events. While these extras are all good opportunities, your first year of teaching is probably not the best time to get heavily involved. Give yourself that first year to get to know your curriculum, lessons, and grade level.

Keep it simple, but don’t stop improving.

Lessons should be well prepared, and teachers must avoid the temptation to put little or no effort into lesson planning. But, with 30+ lessons a week, you don’t have time to spend two hours on every lesson. (Honestly, your most creative ideas may come to you while you’re teaching! Don’t be afraid to deviate mid-lesson if doing so is best for your students.) Prepare well, but don’t wear yourself out. That being said, don’t get apathetic either. Periodically target subjects or lessons to improve, and be creative! Get manipulatives to make math easier, or research fun crafts to include with history. Read articles and books and get ideas to make your lessons more exciting and effective. And don’t forget—you have access to the knowledge and experience of the teachers around you. So ask questions, get advice, and learn from the veterans.

Have a classroom management plan.

Sadly, many first-year teachers give up on teaching because of classroom management. Plan ahead! Determine what your discipline system is going to be and create procedures to help your classroom run smoothly. Implement discipline and procedures consistently. One key to effective classroom management is to be organized. If you’re scrambling around to find lesson papers or craft materials, your students will get restless or take advantage of your divided attention, so don’t give them that chance!

Do not tolerate irritation towards your students.

The ultimate goal of teaching is discipleship. Your goal should be to influence your students toward Christ. So when you are handling discipline issues, you cannot allow irritation or anger to rule your response. Just as God chastens His children in love, you must discipline your students in love. If you are struggling with wrong feelings or attitudes, repent and seek God’s help to eradicate irritation and anger towards your students. Ask God to help you love the unlovely, and you will be an example of Christlikeness to your students.

The key to being a good teacher is to be intentional. Plan, organize, and step back to evaluate how you’re doing. Your first year may be challenging, but it can also be rewarding. Enjoy the experience of your first year! After all, it only happens once.

Do you have any helpful tips for first year teachers?

Copyright Journal for Christian Educators, Fall 2015 edition.  Reprinted with permission of the American Association of Christian Schools.

Don’t Do That

***Things Effective Teachers Don’t Do

In a world of “Just Do It” and “You Can Do It!” refrains, the word don’t sounds something like a fingernail on a chalkboard.  However, with deep apologies to Nike and Rosie the Riveter, I must contend that there’s much to be gained from stepping back and pondering the opposite side of the coin.

What are some things that effective teachers don’t do?

Effective teachers DON’T . . .

. . . yell.

. . . get their feelings hurt easily.

. . . give busywork just to give a grade.

. . . expect students to read their minds.

. . . speak while anyone else in the room is speaking.

. . . craft “tricky” test questions.

. . . take themselves too seriously.

. . . mind admitting when they are wrong.

. . . assume that students heard what they said.

. . . sit behind their desk.

. . . assign a lot of homework.

. . . huddle with other teachers in the corner of the playground during recess.

. . . leave school at 3:30 every afternoon.

. . . try to teach children as if they were adults.

. . . avoid confrontation.

. . . teach as if every student learns like they do.

. . . care more about what students know than about what students love.

. . . go home without preparing for the next morning.

. . . try to do everything.

. . . ignore a good question because it’s not part of the lesson plan.

. . . lug hours of work home each evening.

. . . overlook teachable moments.

. . . answer all their students’ questions.

. . . take the easy way out.

. . . skip their personal devotions/prayer time because they are “too busy.”

. . . stop learning.

What would you add to this list of things that effective teachers don’t do?

Summer Break

Good Afternoon,

Today’s blog post will be our final one for this Spring. We will return with some exciting blog posts this Fall. Have a wonderful Summer. May the Lord bless you as you pursue a life that honors Him.

 

Summertime–Educator Reboot

For years it was said tongue-in-cheek that the favorite months of any teacher’s year were June, July, and August.  As a result of a bit of a time warp, those months have been trimmed to a few weeks shy of three full months.  However, the idea is still the same.  Teachers love, and I should add need, the summer months.

Why are these months so important? In a word–REBOOT!

That’s right! Control, Alt, Delete!

Reboot is defined as “start up again after a computer crash.” Hence, “reboot” has the connotation of starting a process over again.

While you might not look back at May and consider it a “crash,” any educator can understand the beauty of being able to start the process over again. Having completed the school year, the summer season allows us to revert to our default settings.

What do we mean by default?  (of a computer program or other mechanism) Default is when something “reverts automatically to a preselected option.” It allows something that is not functioning as designed to be reset to operate as designed.

And that’s exactly what the reboot does for the educator. It lets you return to the default settings and begin the process over again.  So if things last year began to slip or slide, maybe even leap or tumble, just know that summer is here and it is time for educators to reboot and return to default settings.

So what settings should we check for our default mode? Let me suggest several:

  • PHILOSOPHY – This is a very important part of our reboot. During the school year, educators are busy preparing, teaching, dealing parents, students, fellow teachers, etc. Activities abound. And, our philosophy is on autopilot. Summertime is a great time to reboot! The default settings to frame our new year must include teaching all truth as God’s truth, teaching all students, intentional biblical worldview training, teaching critical thinking, etc.

 

  • PROCEDURES – Review what worked, what worked very well, what needs refined, and what needs scrapped. That’s right, it is time to reboot! Thomas Edison proclaimed, “I have not failed 700 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work.” Perhaps you need to strategize to keep most procedures, tweak a few, and then add some to your very own list of those that don’t work. It is all part of summertime’s return to default.

 

 

  • PASSION – Hear me out! We all have something that we enjoy doing that we have to forego during our hectic schedules for the months of school. Let me encourage you to return to the default position. Reboot! Maybe it’s reading a novel, camping, blogging, travel, or just enjoying your coffee on the deck each morning, whatever. Use your summer months to start the process over again.

 

  • PEOPLE – The poet proclaimed that “no man is an island.” And it is true. Often an educator’s schedule during the school months crowds out time for furthering relationships with family and friends. Many its aging parents, sometimes living a distance away, or maybe its children or grandchildren. It could be friends, neighbors, or some other person that is important in our lives. Summertime is the educator’s opportunity to reboot our relationships. Our default settings with these important people can allow us to reset many relationships that need attention.

 

  • PHYSIQUE – Before you write me off as maniacal, let me finish. You do not need to become a bodybuilder or spend extra time in front of a mirror. But part of every educator’s summer reboot should include giving attention to one’s physical needs. The school months are very demanding on an educator. Stress often weakens the immune system, sleep deprivation is common, and even balancing the demands of the profession with the familial duties can cause physical strain. Use the summer to reboot!

 

  • PRIORITIES – Use the summertime for reflection; perhaps you need to re-order some priorities before beginning next school year. Reflection shows you that a schedule tweak here and a minor adjustment there will be the impetus to help you better meet your spiritual, family, and professional responsibilities. Reboot!

I remember when I first heard the concept of “year round school.” I heard students moan and groan at the concept; however, as an educator, I also immediately resisted. It was not a lack of commitment to the job. It was not a disdain for school. No. It was the realization that every educator needs time to REBOOT! The summer months are needed to give the educator an opportunity to find again the default settings before embarking on a new school year. So have a great summer. And, REBOOT!

What do you find that is a must for your summer months?

Finish the year well!

This year at school we chose the theme “Running the Race”. The students memorized several verses of scripture about running the race for Christ. I Cor. 9:24 states, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.” Each week we discussed how we should run the race – with patience, love, endurance, strength, etc. Songs, devotions, specials, and messages all encouraged the teachers and the students to run the Christian race for Christ effectively and fervently.

During chapel the kids would sing “The Race” at the top of their lungs!

Before I was born into history and time, 
You planned creation with me in mind.
You formed my heart; you saw my face.
I was made in your image; I’m no mistake.

You chose my family, the place of my birth.
You knew all about me; you thought I had worth.
I was called out to serve you doing your kingdom work,
And all of my days are written down in your book.

I’ve fallen down in this race of life,
But you came to my rescue time after time.
You told me you loved me, you weren’t counting my sin.
In you I found courage to rise up again.

I know you are for me you want me to win.
I give you my soul till the very end.
Out there before me I see the prize.
Jesus is standing at the finish line.

I’m running the race down to the last minute.
Mercy and grace are keeping me in it.
There’s a fire in my soul. I’m fully committed.
I’m running the race, and I’m gonna finish!

Each week as we all sang the song, I found myself mentally reaffirming my fervor to run the race and serve the Lord.

School is almost out for the year! 180 days have come and gone. Did you do your best? Did you accomplish all your goals? With just a few short days left, evaluate your school year to see if anything else needs to be accomplished before the end. Phil 3:14 encourages the believer to press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Do not finish early! One last time – encourage the single parent, work with the struggling child, have patience with the naughty child, make one more phone call, present the gospel to a lost parent, and so on. Gal 6:9 encourages us to “not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Finish well!