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!

Author

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.

Value

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.

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.

Who Cares: The Case for Professionalism in the Classroom

Too often teachers relegate professionalism to doctors, lawyers, bankers, and company CEOs. They say, “Why does it matter what I look like or sound like? They’re just children and young people.” I was guilty of thinking this way at times. And then one day I returned to the classroom after being away for several days while a substitute filled in for me. A young lady in one of my high school English classes came up when I returned and greeted me, “Thank you, Mrs. Earwood, for fixing your hair every day.” My first thought, “Wow, is that all she’s getting from my class.” Then I realized that what I looked like did make a lot of difference to her and how she received everything that I taught.

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The substitute had obviously missed that memo.  But everything about us—our attitudes, our conduct, and our appearance—is on display every day all day long. So, what are we portraying about real life, about our lives? Daily walking with the Lord and living a consistent Christian life in the classroom can be a challenge and quite trying at times, but Christian education is a life-impacting, play-for-keeps business that we can’t afford to get wrong.

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:

What Are You Banking On?

School improvement in the United States generally takes the form of some external driver to bring about change.  By using the word “external,” I mean external to the individual members of the professional staff.

© 2009 Tracy Ruggles. Creative Commons. See image citations for full reference (#40).

© 2009 Tracy Ruggles. Creative Commons. See image citations for full reference (#40).

In my own career in education, now spanning more than half a century, I have seen state boards of education mandate increases in the requirements for a high school diploma, legislative committees increase standardized testing requirements in an effort to make schools more accountable, and the federal government offer a number of carrots to local school systems to improve student learning.  Such measures are individualistic in nature and they are meant to appraise, reward, and punish individuals who do not measure up, whether professional staff or students.  The result is that little improvement occurs.

Transforming Your School

Cultural change:  it is not a program to be adopted.  Rather, it is a process of transforming the belief system of a school.  It is a transformation that has lasting value and it must conform to principles to be found only in the Word of God.

© 2006 Andreas Schaefer. Creative Commons. See image citations for full reference (#39).

© 2006 Andreas Schaefer. Creative Commons. See image citations for full reference (#39).

It deals with habits, with long-held assumptions about the education of children, and with goals and expectations.  It deals with the way a school staff views their role in the education of children.  It must be systemic in nature, something apart from individual members of the professional staff that is worthy of their commitment.