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!

The Top 10 To-Do List for Summer

I was recently reading a professional journal when I ran across an article that shares the same title with this article. It was written by a head of school from the Midwest.  He had several interesting ideas which sparked my thinking.

While my list might be a bit different than yours, it would be good for you to prepare your own list as we head into the summer months. You might borrow some of my thoughts and blend them with your own (like I did with my list).

So, what items make my Top 10 Summer To-Do List?

  1. Read. Effective leaders must block time to read. The mind needs re-invigorated with new ideas and perspectives. Don’t succumb to the temptation to “pleasure” read only.
  2. Send surveys—to parents, to faculty! Ask purposeful questions to discover areas of strength and weakness.
  3. Plan. Someone has well said that “if you fail to plan, you must plan to fail.” Effective planning time in the summer months will bring success during the school year.
  4. Turn off the world. Try to find at least two different 2-3 day spans where you can “disconnect” from your email, twitter, facebook, etc. No fair counting Saturdays and Sundays.
  5. Review. Look back over this past year. What worked? What did not? Learn from both the success and failures.
  6. Listen. Spend some time talking with faculty and parents. Ask them to complete the statement, “To improve our school, the leader should ___________.”
  7. Expand your horizons. That’s right! Do something new. Maybe something that you have wanted to do but have not taken time to pursue. Look for something that will allow you to relax without great expense or time demand.
  8. Grow. Whether taking a grad class, developing new tech skills, or pursuing mastery of some skill or subject, don’t see summer as a time to “veg out.” Growth makes you stronger and pays great dividends during the long months ahead.
  9. Write. Maybe begin with something small—an article on the school’s website, a blogpost (be a guest writer). Part of leaving a mark is making a mark (literally). Writing is an exercise that can benefit both the doer and hearer. Take the plunge and write.
  10. Chill. Can’t believe I said it, not because I don’t enjoy it, but because I don’t normally use that term. It is very important that educators use the summer break to enjoy a vacation time with family. Even if you do not travel to some far away land, take time to “Chill!”

Now, what did I forget? What would you add to my list to make it more complete?

Constructive Criticism – Being Lovingly Honest

The following suggestions are offered to guide the educator needing to offer constructive criticism to students, co-workers, or employees.  Because most educators seem to not enjoy an activity that feels confrontational, constructive criticism is often avoided to the detriment of the student(s), co-worker, or employee.

Proverbs says much about dealing with others, even in difficult or contentious situations. For example, Solomon says that “a friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity (17:17).”  Later he reminds us that “faithful are the wounds of a friend (27:6);” so even in tense times when we must offer constructive criticism, we should be faithful to honestly and lovingly critique students, co-workers (if we are responsible to do so), and employees.

Several years ago I shared some notes that I jotted down nearly three decades ago about this topic. Through the years I have leaned on these principles to help me.  I share them below as

10 Commandments for Constructive Criticism

  • Constructive criticism is both a positive and negative evaluation.
  • Constructive criticism is motivated by love for and desire to build up a student. 
  • Constructive criticism is built on a foundation of a previous relationship.
  • Constructive criticism does not label students.
  • Constructive criticism must be designed to fit the individual—one size does not fit all.
  • Constructive criticism should be given at the right time and place.
  • Constructive criticism needs effective interaction. 
  • Constructive criticism offers solutions rather than only identifying problems.
  • Constructive criticism is calm and caring, not confrontational.
  • Constructive criticism assumes an ongoing relationship that will continue to nurture.

Successful teachers learn quickly that the privilege of criticism must be earned; a student must trust a teacher before criticism is accepted. Successful teachers come to understand that the ability to teach requires the ability to critique, both positively and negatively.

So, effective teachers are either building a trust relationship so that criticism is accepted or they have already established a trust relationship and are using criticism to advance student learning.

Perhaps you have had to complete the phrase “constructive criticism….” Take a moment and share an idea to add to the list.