Death Education

Are your students prepared for a tragedy?

Death Education

As we begin a new school year, our buildings are teeming with energy and excitement.  There is an edge that comes with a re-start—both for teachers and students.  Some teachers are embarking on their inaugural school year as a teacher.  Students have enjoyed a summer with activity and diversion; however, most are ready to get back to the routine of socialization, education, and extra-curricular enjoyments.

But what happens when this excitement is punctuated by a tragedy?  What are you doing as a teacher to prepare students for the unexpected?  What are you doing to prepare students for the inevitable?  Do you actively provide curricular initiatives in Death Education?

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Photo Source: Wikipedia

While I am sure that few have teaching units in Death Education, we should intentionally teach students to understand, deal with, and prepare for death.  It is still true: “No one is prepared to live until he is prepared to die.”  As educators, we must not only help our students prepare for death, but we must also prepare them for those times that death strikes uncomfortably close to us.

This past school year during graduation week, a student in a school that I serve, died in a boating accident.  The impact on a family, a peer group, a school, and a greater community was shocking.  While we know that these things can happen, as educators we are often caught off guard.

The educational process should include instruction in Death Education.  Of course, protocols for this teaching will be different based on age and grade levels.  But educators should integrate truths about death into students’ learning experiences.  Ruth Haycock’s Encyclopedia of Bible Truths for School Subjects suggests appropriate concepts to include into a curriculum.

Some obvious biblical concepts that should be taught—

  • Spiritual vs. Physical Death
  • Causes of Death
  • Nature of Physical Death
  • Life after Death
  • God’s Power over Death
  • The Body after Death
  • Post Resurrection Events
  • Believer’s Attitude Towards Life and Death

Death Education should not be taboo in our classrooms; rather, teachers should intentionally integrate truth about death into curriculum.  Prayerfully, your students and your school community will be spared from personal tragedy this year; however, as teachers we must be proactive in preparing students to face death.

Only when students understand and are prepared to deal with death can they be fully prepared to for life.

What are some suggestions that you can share about how to implement death education into the teaching process?

Aloha: Welcoming New Teachers

Works for us

AlohaPhoto Source: Wikipedia

Aloha is a small word with a big reach. Think of it as a hug. In Hawaii, we use it to say hello, good-bye, and as a synonym for love. The word aloha also describes our approach to helping new teachers get connected to our church, school ministry, and community.

Our school enrollment averages around 200 students from kindergarten through 12th grade. We have one class per grade where we try to do it right and do it well. We have 13 full-time teachers; but because it is Hawaii, every year we say good-bye to at least one terrific teacher and hello to a new one. Over the past 30 years, this has added up to a lot of hugs.

For many of these new teachers it is their first teaching opportunity. For them, moving to Hawaii is both exciting and a little scary. Here are a few of the things that have worked for us to help make the move easier for them.

Before They Arrive

Helping new teachers feel loved and wanted begins before they arrive. Moving to a new ministry can be exciting and scary. Knowing that information reduces anxiety, we try to create an environment where new teachers are comfortable asking questions. We have found that sending emails and text messages works well because of the time zone differences, but this also works well because it allows the new teachers to ask all sorts of questions as they think of them without feeling like they are bothering someone. We ask one or two of our current teachers to connect with them as well. The more information we can give them before they arrive the better.

When They Arrive

My wife and I and two or three of our teachers like to greet new teachers at the airport with a smile, a flower lei, and a short tour of the island. During the first week, we want to accomplish three things.

First, we want to familiarize them with the island. This means spending the day with them as we circle the island while sharing with them about ourselves, our diverse culture, and our unique history. Moving to a new place is always better after making new friends, so we try to take other teachers with us on these excursions to help foster opportunities for new friendships to develop.

Second, we want to help them get established in their new home. Since new teachers will not be paid for another two or three weeks, we take them grocery shopping and the church picks up the tab for the first $100. We also ask the new teachers to make a list of things they need for their house and classroom. We call this a wish list. We post the wish list in the back of the church auditorium and challenge our church folks to provide the items. Our church families are great about adopting new teachers and making them feel loved and part of the church.

Third, we want to help new teachers get connected with our church. During that first week, our pastor and his wife will work on connecting with them. We encourage our college and career Sunday school class, church members, and school staff to reach out to our new teachers as well by including them in family activities. We know that the more connections the new teachers make, the faster they will feel like they are a valued part of the ministry.

After They Arrive

After playing tourist for the first week or so, we want our new teachers to get busy working. Working together builds unity, and at the beginning of the school year we have lots of opportunities for unity!

For instance, we always schedule a church-wide work day for families to come help the teachers get the campus and classrooms ready. We also have a day set aside for new teacher orientation. This way they can have the principal’s attention, take care of paperwork, and get some individual help before the other teachers come for in-service training. Once in-service training begins, an experienced teacher is asked to help the new teacher. This mentor shows the teacher how to get the classroom and lessons ready for school.

We do other things as well, but these are a few of the things that work for us. At our school, loving and helping new teachers is a planned activity, but it is also a part of who we are as a church and school. For us, we have discovered that aloha works!


John Goodale earned a B. A. in pulpit communications from Tennessee Temple University and an M.A. in education administration from Liberty University. He has been a teacher and principal at Ko’olau Baptist Academy in Kaneohe, Hawaii, for 30 years.

Copyright Journal for Christian Educators, Spring 2016 Vol.22 NO 3.  Reprinted with permission of the American Association of Christian Schools.

Recommitting to a Christian Philosophy and Community, Part 2

Today’s post is a continuation from our last post.  You can read part 1 here.


In the absence of truth, values have become subjective and relative. Moral absolutes have given way to the consensus of the majority in which what was good is now bad and the bad has become acceptable. A biblical worldview looks to the Scriptures to define what is good and what is valuable.

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Doing the will of God, obeying the laws of God, sharing the love of God, and thinking the thought of God bring priorities, proper conduct, motives, and beauty to life (Garrick 1985). Through teaching, discipline, and modeling, regenerated hearts are led to submit to a life in accordance with God’s moral law.

Recommitting to a Christian Philosophy and Community, Part 1

The idea of mission is deeply rooted in Christian thinking and the Latin theological concept of mission dei, the mission of God. The Christian school community, centered on the person of Jesus Christ, has historically been on mission to extend and build the kingdom through its ministry to children. In obedience to Psalm 78:4-7, God’s  people are to “tell the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength and His wondrous works that He has done…that the generation to come might know…that they should put their confidence in God” (NASB).

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The apostle Paul expressed his mission when he wrote, “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ” (Colossians 1:28). This mission is the mission of Christian schooling, and it is to this purpose that Christian educators are called.

REWIRE: Transforming School Culture

Steve Gruenert & Todd Whitaker have skillfully addressed a topic that can often seem nebulous to an educator—school culture.  The authors establish the difference in a school’s climate and its culture:  “climate is around us . . . while culture is part of us.”  The reader is reminded that the school culture will never be changed by simply adjusting the environment; true school improvement (cultural change) comes when internal change comes to stakeholders within the school climate.

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Chapter 4 asks the $64,000 question – What type of culture do you want?”   Educators often tell me that they desire to see a “change in culture” within their school; admittedly I am often left hanging—the question is obvious.  What new culture is desired?  The authors identify various types of school culture, encouraging school leaders to identify their present state as well as target a new type of culture.

Closing the Gap

Michael Fullan is an internationally recognized authority on educational reform.  His ideas have informed the thinking of thousands of educators in many countries.  His long list of published works includes The New Meaning of Educational Change, published in its 4th edition in 2007.  This summer, while reading Chapter 3, “Insights Into the Change Process,” I scribbled in the margin of my book “Wow, I don’t agree!”  Let’s take a look at the statement in Fullan’s book that caused me to write that and a connection that I believe exists to an issue we are discussing often today, the Common Core Standards.

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In Chapter 3, Mr. Fullan (2007) lists ten “elements of successful change.”  He expands each of the ten elements with explanation that is often insightful and challenging.  My copy of the book is filled with highlights and my personal notes, most in agreement.  What, then, prompted me to write “Wow, I don’t agree!”

Teaching in the Christian School, Part 2

Today’s post is continued from Tuesday.  If you missed it, be sure to check it out here.

Next, let us consider service in a Christian school from the viewpoint of teacher efficiency and effectiveness. Every teacher has available to him what I call “Package X.” This package consists of the sum total of his intelligence, knowledge, mental acumen, skills, drive, stamina, enthusiasm, etc. The Christian teacher will be able to do a much more effective job in the Christian school because, for the most part, certain prerequisites for a profitable teaching/learning situation are met, such as acceptable student behavior and discipline, openness and responsiveness, nonhostile attitudes, inclination toward Christian precepts and philosophy.

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While none of the above can be taken for granted, it is a matter of record and experience that in these areas a marked difference exists between the Christian and the public school. In the Christian school, a greater portion of “Package X” can, therefore, be expended in the actual teaching, molding, and guiding of the learner rather than in enforcing discipline, overcoming hostility, establishing one’s own credibility, and all too often attempting merely to survive in a place that resembles a battlefield rather than a classroom. Clearly, if a teacher must concern himself with such challenges, little time or energy is left for actual teaching.

Teaching in the Christian School, Part 1

Knowing the commitment of Bob Jones University to the cause of Christian education and its desire to place into Christian schools as many qualified teachers as possible, a letter writer recently asked me to comment on the apparent inconsistency of its position with Matthew 5:13-16.

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This passage identifies the Christian as the salt of the earth, the light of the world, and the city set on a hill. To withdraw our influence from the public schools and leave their teachers and students without a Christian witness, she stated, seemed to render ineffective the Christian’s role defined in the above verses.

6 Essentials to Conquering the Monumental Task

An author recently piqued my interest as he spoke of his experiences mountain climbing.  But it is probably not what you’re thinking.  It was not tales of death-defying ascents up a sheer cliff.  No, it was just some of the mundane.

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He spoke of how his climbing group, a well-respected organization located in the Pacific Northwest, developed a document referred to as Ten Essentials.  As you might already envision, these Ten Essentials is a list of what every outdoor lover should carry at all times.

Apple Nailing or Apple Picking?

In his Christian school seminar presentation Your Christian School:  A Culture of Grace?, Paul David Tripp warns of the dangers of behaviorism in our approach to discipline in our Christian school classrooms and advocates for discipline that pursues the heart.

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Tripp likens correcting behavior without addressing the heart to nailing apples onto an apple tree in order to create a harvest.  The futility of such an act strikes us as absurd, but Tripp’s point is that Christian school educators “apple nail” through threats, manipulation, and guilt to produce well-behaved students.  But, these same students go to college and, in growing droves, abandon their faith.  Behaviorism creates “smarter sinners” who are skilled at jumping through hoops to avoid consequences.