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?

Upcoming Articles

Five week Series

We are excited to announce that Dr. Jeff Walton will be writing a five-week series for us at FOCUS.  Each week Jeff will be discussing a “universal education truth” for educators in today’s world. The first post will be discussing the role of the teacher in his/ her classroom.

Get to know Jeff

He serves as the executive director of the American Association of AACS staff member, Jeff Walton, photo by Hal Cook, 2015Christian Schools headquartered in Chattanooga, TN. He is the editor of Journal for Christian Educators. He has served in Christian education ministries for 33 years as a high school teacher, school administrator, college administrator, and association officer.


Religion and Education

Religion is inherently educational, and education is inherently religious.


Photo Source: Wikipedia

In order to survive and flourish, all religions demand an educational component.  This is true of false religions as well as of Christianity.  Religion is inherently educational.

Militant Muslims

Muslims train and teach their children to become accustomed, willing, and in fact eager to commit the most barbaric acts imaginable to please Allah.  They plan to eliminate all other religions and create a global caliphate.  They intend to begin this themselves and for their children to complete the task.

Judaism and Christianity

Judaism and Christianity are thoroughly educational. Our Lord Jesus could have chosen to come to earth as a scribe, a Pharisee, a tax collector, a farmer, a shepherd, or some other kind of professional or manual laborer.  His choice was to be known as “a teacher come from God”, often called “Rabbi.”

The last words He spoke to us were “Go . . . teach all things”.  This is not “the great suggestion”: it is the great commission.  2 Timothy 2:2 describes this as a process: “the things that thou has heard of me . . . the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”  Paul teaches Timothy, Timothy teaches faithful men, faithful men teach other faithful men, and so on until a faithful link in the chain teaches us.

All Education Systems

Just as important, but much more subtle, all education is inherently religious.  In other words, we educate for a reason.  We educate children in order to perpetuate our worldview, our culture, our religion.

We observe this in literature: every novel, short story, and poem is written with an educational purpose.  That’s why literature is so powerful, for good or for evil.  Art for art’s sake does not exist.

When Nathan had to confront David regarding his great sin, he was putting his life in danger.  He disarmed David by telling him a short story that stirred his righteous indignation.  The king determined the appropriate response, painting himself into a very small corner.

The process simplified is that literature disarms, engages, and persuades.  Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan precisely for this reason with the same outcome.  He often used parables in this way.

Insightful, alert English teachers play a critical role in Christian education.   How valuable they are!

Education may not appear to be religious and may even insist that it is thoroughly secular.  Me thinks they do protest too much.  Secular humanism is, of course, a religion.

Be not deceived:  Religion is inherently educational, and education is inherently religious.

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.

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.

Freedom from Bullying Part 2

Targets need coaching on how to stand taller, raise their chin level and maintaining eye contact when talking with others. Have them practice this in a mirror and with you (holding eye contact for 8 seconds is a good goal). Fearful, anxious people take short strides, so help your child lengthen her gait by two to four inches, depending on height.

Be sure to read part 1 of this article.

Be sure to read part 1 of this article.

Targets tend to look fearful and anxious. Help them smile more, which shows confidence, but it needs to be the right kind of smile. Have your child say “Cheese whiz,” then hold it. This creates a smaller and appropriate smile that doesn’t look “weird” to others.

Freedom from Bullying Part 1

In order to effectively combat bullying, the leading form of child abuse in America, and the only form we tell the most vulnerable among us to “just ignore,” adults as well as students must overcome numerous, inaccurate and dangerous myths that actively oppose learning not just in schools but wherever children gather.

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Bullying is a specific kind of abuse that harbors specific goals. Most bullying experts define bullying as the deliberate use of superior power (physical, verbal, relational) in order to deliberately harm another, usually through some form of humiliation, isolation and threat of further abuse, and for no good reason and throughout a period of time (usually three incidents or more).

10 Commandments of Constructive Criticism

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).

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I remember jotting some notes down from a small pamphlet that I used to receive (The Master Teacher) more than two decades back about this topic.  I have modified my thoughts over the years and offer them now as

10 Commandments for Constructive Criticism

  1. Constructive criticism is both a positive and negative evaluation.
  2. Constructive criticism is motivated by love for and desire to build up a student.
  3. Constructive criticism is built on a foundation of a previous relationship.
  4. Constructive criticism does not label students. 
  5. Constructive criticism must be designed to fit the individual—one size does not fit all.  
  6. Constructive criticism should be given at the right time and place.
  7. Constructive criticism needs effective interaction.
  8. Constructive criticism offers solutions rather than only identifying problems.
  9. Constructive criticism is calm and caring, not confrontational.
  10. 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 another commandment that fits here; please share it with us.  Or, maybe you disagree with one of listed above; please “critique” the list.

How have you learned to effectively use criticism in your teaching?  

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Of Dead Ends and U-Turns

In their recently released book U-Turn: Restoring America to the Strength of its Roots, George Barna and David Barton combine years of research and study to “examine the moral and spiritual underpinnings that made the United States great, explain the causes of decline over the past forty years, and offer a detailed road map for the future.”

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As an educator, several things have caught my attention during my initial reading of the book.  Consider the following: