Monthly Archives: May 2009

An end of the year check-up – looking back, looking forward

Image by Vitualis from Flickr

Image by Vitualis from Flickr

For most of us it’s time to put things back in the cupboards and close the book on this school year. As a school leader, it is good to reflect back on the school year, and worthwhile to ask yourself some reflective questions:

  1. Did I move my school closer to meeting our mission this year? What evidence do I have? How do I know?

  2. How did I as a leader improve the school this year? Did my words and actions encourage faith and motivation to learn in my staff and students?

  3. Did I settle for only visible improvements of bricks and bucks or did I also improve the less visible aspects such as the quality of instruction, the distinctiveness of the curriculum, the quality of instruction, and the bondedness of the staff and parent community?

  4. Was my focus on how successful my school was or how much students and staff understood how to be bringers of shalom?

  5. What must I commit to in the next school year?

Recently McKinsey & Company put out an interesting report “How the World’s Best-Performing School Systems Come Out on Top.” In the report they make this summative statement: “The available evidence suggests that the main driver of the variation in student learning at school is the quality of the teachers.” They go on to say that high-performing schools consistently do three things well:

  • Hire the right teachers – “The quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers.”

  • Develop teachers into effective instructors.

  • Put in place systems and targeted support to make sure that each child benefits from excellent instruction.

According to their synthesis of research, each principal’s time in effective schools is focused on instructional leadership. In our schools spiritual leadership is even more important. What implications does this have as you make plans to foster spiritual and instructional leadership growth in your school next year?

TTFN – As Tigger of Winnie the Pooh fame always said – Ta, Ta For Now! This set of four postings will be the last postings until next fall when I will resume posting on this site. This gives both of us, dear reader, a chance to catch up on our reading . . . . and reflection. Hope to see some of you at convention this summer. Have a terrific end of the year and summer!


Filed under distinctively Christian, leadership, mission development, mission measurement, staff development, student outcomes, use of time

Help wanted: Teacher feedback for social justice project


How can I find specific global projects that relate social justice issues to my elementary science curriculum? Are there resources to help me incorporate advocacy writing in my persuasion unit in high school English? Where can I find hunger or AIDS statistics to use in middle school algebra problems, and better yet even some first-hand stories to personalize the issues? In other words, how does my current school curriculum relate to global social justice issues?

A collaborative grant between the Kuyers Institute for Christian Teaching and Learning and the Christian Reformed Church Office of Social Justice is exploring social justice connections embedded in K-12 school curriculum and is organizing the CRC resources to assist teachers in opening these connections with students. Informational readings, statistics, activities, first-hand accounts, videos, and global projects are being evaluated for their classroom potential, covering topics such as fair trade, environmental stewardship, hunger, disease control, disaster relief, immigration, disability concerns and many others.

Currently the grant team is seeking feedback from K-12 teachers who are interested in reviewing the resource summaries applicable to their teaching levels and subjects. A small stipend will be awarded for teacher feedback; however, the number of feedback positions is limited. To receive more information and to reserve your teacher feedback position, please email Jane Hilbrands at Feedback forms may be completed until July 13. Principals, if this grant project sounds interesting, please promote the feedback opportunity among your teaching staff. Thank you!


Filed under change, church partnering, curriculum, resources, stewardship

What 3 student learning needs will you meet?

michael's post's wordle(Thanks to Michael Essenburg, Christian Academy in Japan, for sharing this post and to for the image.)

You know that when you meet your students’ learning needs, they do better. Since you want your students to do better on connecting what they study and Biblical principles, you decide to meet specific learning needs.

Question: What 3 learning needs will you meet?

Here are sample student learning needs:

  1. Understanding the importance of connecting what they study and Biblical principles.
  2. Knowing what it looks like to connect what they study and Biblical principles.
  3. Understanding how you (or their other teachers) teach from a Biblical perspective.
  4. Understanding the vocabulary.
  5. Experiencing engaging instructional strategies.
  6. Having time to think through the answers for themselves.
  7. Having time to reflect.
  8. Connecting their lives, Biblical principles, and what they study.
  9. Practicing connecting Biblical principles and what they study.

Here’s what one high school teacher is doing:

I’m passionate about my students loving God with their minds. I really want them to develop a Christ-centered worldview. One way I help them do this is by helping them apply a Biblical perspective to what they study. This year I’ve been working to meet 3 of my students’ learning needs:

(#5) Experiencing engaging instructional strategies: When my students are engaged, they learn better. A key instructional strategy I’m using is asking questions. Just this past week, I asked my students “What’s the difference between infatuation and love?” They became quickly engaged, and their discussion resulted in them talking about the biblical concept of love.

(#6) Time to think through the answers for themselves: When kids have time to think, they are more likely to make connections. Since I want my students to connect learning and faith, I’ve been providing time for my students to think. For example, in my “Who Am I?” unit, I gave my students time to think about who they are spiritually, culturally, and personally.

(#8) Connecting their lives, Biblical principles, and what they study: My students do a better job of understanding and applying a biblical perspective when I incorporate their life experience. For example, my students all know that what the Nazis did to the Jews was horrible and that it violated the biblical teaching of respecting others as God’s image bearers. But then they leave class and gossip.

To help my students really get the implications of respecting others, I asked them to do a 2-part journal entry: (1) to list examples of respect and contempt for human dignity from a holocaust memoir and (2) to list examples of respect and contempt for human dignity that they see at school. Then I had them discuss their entries in small groups. It worked!


Filed under Biblical worldview, classroom, curriculum, discernment, distinctively Christian, student outcomes

A helpful resource for parents: what’s normal in adolescence

Mueller - Space BetweenParents, dealing with the ups and downs of their adolescent child, may ask themselves: “What should I be expecting as normal with my child in adolescence?” In his latest book, The Space Between: A Parent’s Guide to Teenage Development, Walt Mueller approaches the topic with realistic and spiritually grounded optimism, the heart of an experienced parent, and the mind of someone who has dedicated himself to the topic over a 30 plus year career. He starts with some fundamental perspectives/truths and then moves through teenage changes physically, socially, intellectually, emotionally, and morally/spiritually. I especially appreciated his concise summaries of teens using Tim Keller’s categories related to identity formation – sexual partners, academic or athletic achievement, money and possessions, pleasure/gratification/comfort, relationships and approval, noble causes, and religion and morality. Packed with helpful quotes and up to date information on areas such as brain research, I found the book to be very accessible and at 120 pages a reasonable length for the intended parent audience. I bring it to your attention because I think it is a helpful tool for both parents and staff members at Christian middle and high schools.

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Filed under kids/culture, parenting, resources, staff development