Gift Card Winners!

Drum roll please! The winners of our Amazon gift card drawing were Karen Creech and Melissa Mcavoy. Congratulation! Thank you to you all for being a amazon-gift-cardpart of FOCUS this year. We sincerely hope that you have been able to take many of the ideas from our posts and use them in your school and classroom. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

The Fixer-Upper

Keeping your classroom exciting

The school year is half over, and most classrooms are in need of an update. Teachers and students have been working hard, but monotony can set in. Consider whether any of the following seven elements of your classroom need to be remodeled.christmas-tree

  1. Environment: Every old barn needs a new coat of paint. Does your classroom still look exciting and vibrant, or does it look like a tornado blew through it? Straighten, file, spruce up and keep your classroom looking like an organized, well-oiled machine.
  2. Learner: Are your students still engaged? As the school year continues into the second semester, student behavior will be more challenging.  To counter their energy, they will need many more brain breaks, hand-on-learning activities, and ways to stay engaged in the day-to-day activities in the classroom.
  3. Pace: John Kotter reminds us that urgent activity is “Action which is alert, fast moving, focused externally on the important issues, relentless, and continuously purging irrelevant activities to provide time for the important and to prevent burnout.” Through the year, the pace within a classroom can begin to slow down. Teachers need to intentionally keep up the pace so valuable time is not lost.
  4. Lesson: Use memory hooks to help the students remember the material and connect the new concepts to the old, creating meaning. Engage the students in the lesson using movement, music, emotion, discussion, drama, and visuals.
  5. Execution: What is your style? The teacher’s style is completely in the teacher’s control. Your style can be fluid to change with what the class is needing. Maybe you are in need of a style change. Make your style memorable!
  6. Assessments: Know where your students are physically, academically, socially, and spiritually. Observe! Observe! Observe! Know your students so well through observation and engagement with them that you know exactly what they need and how you can help them. This gives every child a better chance to be successful.
  7. Culture: The culture of your classroom should be exciting, engaging, and intriguing. Even in January, students should still look forward to coming to school because they can’t wait to see what the teacher has planned for the day.

Willa Foster reminds us that “Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction, and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.” Use this Christmas break to update any areas in your classroom that need to be refreshed so your year can be successful.

How to Be an Eternal Thinker

For a society that seems enamored with futuristic thinking, the youth of the present generation could be described as excessively fixated on the present.  In spite of the media bombardment that casts dispersion on

global-thinkingthe past and glorifies the unknown beyond, educators work daily with young people that seem to embrace the here and now.

The secular educational culture of the 21st century seeks to develop global thinkers.  In a recent article published in Educational Leadership, Veronica Mansilla, part of a team from Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Project Zero, discusses “ongoing research into global competence and how we can best nurture it in our schools.”  She explains that a significant outgrowth of the project has been the establishment of a definition of global competence that has been embraced on multiple continents and by the U. S. Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO):  the capacity and disposition to understand and act on issues of global significance.”

As I read the article, I questioned the goals for Christian education.  What kind of attention and effort is given to develop eternal thinking?  As I read on, I realized that as Christian educators called to live in this present world, we are also called to develop eternal thinkers.  Mansilla stated confidently that “nurturing global competence will require more that adding more [content] to our already full K-12 curriculum.”

In order to achieve global thinking, Mansilla proposed that educators cultivate four global thinking dispositions into their students—

  • A disposition to inquire about the world
  • A disposition to understand multiple perspectives—others’ and their own
  • A disposition toward respectful dialogue
  • A disposition toward taking responsible action

Mansilla continued to explain that to assist teachers in help teachers succeed in the quest to develop global thinkers, her group is working to develop global thinking routines.  Why?  Because research screams that “students cultivate dispositions not through occasional lessons, units, or . . . events, but through ongoing participation in classroom cultures in which these dispositions are visibly valued and extensively practiced.”

The author’s concluded “when teachers make these routines habitual practices—part of “the way we do things here”—they pave the way for the kind of learning need[ed] to prepare . . . youth for our interdependent world.”

Wow!  I conclude that Mansilla in “spot on” in her message.  To develop global thinkers, the secular educational system is diligent in integrating global dispositions into the fabric of the secular classroom, and it will be successful.  The system will produce global thinkers.

But what about Christian educators?  How focused are we on developing eternal thinkers.  Are we distracted from the quest to produce students that “seek first the kingdom of God?”  Have we become so focused on teaching material and educational excellence (and I understand that both of these have merit) that we have lost sight of the eternal mission of our calling?

As I reviewed Mansilla’s four dispositions, I found a renewed energy to develop eternal thinkers.  Truly, if our students “gain the whole world” and do not learn to think with eternity in mind, the educational process is vanity.  What “routine habitual practices” are a part of our Christian education classroom that will ensure that we develop eternal thinkers?  We can succeed, but we must be intentional in our efforts.  Eternity is at stake!

Can you share a disposition(s) for developing eternal thinkers that you have made part of your classroom or school?

 

Mansilla, V. B.  December 2016/December 2017.  Educational Leadership.  How to be a global thinker?  ASCD:  Alexandria, VA.