Monthly Archives: June 2010

New year’s resolutions

The best time of the year for resolutions is January 1. True? Not really in education! Many of you are wrapping up the school year and some of you are already “childless” and roaming around in a mostly empty building. While you wrap up the year, many of you are already in planning mode for next year. Given our agricultural/cultural schedule of summer months without students, let me encourage you to take some time to reflect and resolve.

What went well and not so well this year that I hope to change in the fall?

What did I want to work on but could not take the time for or get to in the crush of the year?

What could I do proactively so that I will feel calmer when I get into the busyness of the fall schedule?

How will I strengthen the weakest aspects of my work? For teachers it may be finding better learning activities for a less than stellar unit, for principals it may be putting together a classroom visitation schedule that is more realistic and committing to it.

How will I pursue professional passions that allow me to bring unique benefits to my school or system?

How will I recharge my spiritual tank? Will I take more time to refresh my interior life?

Maybe summer is a good time for you to take a minute and reassess what you are doing in terms of your chosen work. Do you still feel called? Are you still passionate about what you are doing? Are you still eager to learn more about your discipline and life?

Is it a perfect time to catch up on reading the Nurturing Faith blogs you have missed this year?  (Actually principals tell me they read the blog more in the summer than the school year!)

Have a great summer! I will see some of you at the CSI convention and others at your school for staff development. Nurturing Faith will take a summer hiatus now and begin again in the fall.

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Filed under change, encouraging the heart, leadership, use of time

End of the year round-up

I read a lot of stuff over the course of a year and here are some of the more interesting things I found that hopefully are thought provoking, engaging, and just plain fun! I leave you this pile to sort through at the end of the year – a potpourri sort of like those tables of lost and found items we have in our hallways, but hopefully of some value to you.

National standards for the U.S. (for those of you in the States and those who care about such things in Canada!) were released last week for English language arts and math. They have been getting some good press in general, but also some expected critique. It will be interesting what happens from here. Here is one thoughtful Christian teacher’s thoughts about them.

Here is a great video by Dan Meyer about engaging kids in thinking about math from the TED Talks people:

Who are the Ted Talks people, you may ask? They are a bunch of “crazed learners”  (my words) – people who get together to be stimulated by ideas – my kind of people! 596 talks of less than 20 minutes each are available from TED’s annual California and England conferences. Believe me, as a speaker it is tough to boil it all down to 20 minutes or less, but here are the best speakers in the world doing it. Also available in podcasts via ITunes. See the video below of Sir Ken Robinson speaking about educational change as an example.

Sir Ken Robinson gave a popular TED talk entitled “Do schools kill creativity?” and here is the follow-up video entitled “Bring on the learning revolution”:

Living in denial – why is it so hard for us to grasp that our kids may be having sex?

Does going to Sunday School as a child make a difference? David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group states: “…the study shows that most American adults recall frequent faith activity when they were growing up. Moreover, it provides clarity that the odds of one sticking with faith over a lifetime are enhanced in a positive direction by spiritual activity under the age of 18. And it raises the intriguing possibility that being involved at least a few times a month is correlated with nearly the same sticking power as weekly involvement – especially among teenagers.”  Read more here.

Do you have a fixed or growth mindset?  I’d encourage you to read the book, Mindset by Carol Dweck,  to learn more about yourself and how our teachers may or may not view kids – tremendous implications for education.

A very helpful Slideshare (Slideshare is an online, open source Powerpoint that you can download) on CyberBullying –that includes the latest online stats related to teens.

Twittering is not Frittering! Want to do a lot of up to the minute learning? Sign up for Twitter and read what people are reading, thinking, re-tweeting (that’s when they recommend you look at something they found interesting – be it website, article, movie, etc.). Here are a few educators I find interesting to follow: Tom VanderArk, Gary Stager, Wesley Fryer, Scott McLeod, and Dan Pink.

Here is a very useful website by a principal for principals that has lots of forms, surveys, handbooks, etc. that could make your life easier!

A very helpful and well written review of Avatar from a Christian perspective in the March 2010 Christianity Today.

Good stuff from Wired magazine – my new favorite!  Articles: Do You Speak Statistics? and  Instant Karma – How Twitter + Dopamine = Better Humans.

I live in a happy town (here is the article and video)  and right on the heels of that happy announcement  came this– “Holland, Mich., Metro Area Best at Meeting Basic Needs”. Come and join us – it is a great place to live!

Why soda should have no place in a Christian school.

Are incentives a good thing? Maybe you have read Dan Pink’s book, Drive by now (see earlier post) – if not, read it! Here is another recent article on the topic from Fast Company: The Curse of Incentives.

I find this shocking – 40% of our food is wasted everyday!

And hopefully this will leave you laughing! Is immigration just a south of the border issue? This one is for our Canadian brothers and sisters – enjoy!

Thanks for reading Nurturing Faith and recommend it to a friend!

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Filed under change, creation & environment, curriculum, discernment, resources

Ending well? – part two

One of the joys of writing a blog is to read the responses that people take the time to write. I was really hoping for some response to my post of last time entitled – “Ending well” and was hoping it encouraged some lively discussions in faculty rooms.  One concern I have is that while there are some really thoughtful comments written, I wonder if readers of the blog take the time to go back and consider them as well. Well I hope to correct that in this post on this topic!

I really appreciated Fran VanderMeulen’s comments and her suggestion: “A celebration of talent which we do with year end concerts, art fairs, science fairs and other sharings of the the learning are really much more conducive to the types of cooperation we are trying to encourage in our Christian schools.” If God created us to praise him through learning, how good that we would take the time to celebrate the wonderful gift of learning – of together making meaning from the creation around us and using the minds he has given us!

I also thought Jon Postma’s response to my post on awards ceremonies bore repeating and so I quote it in its entirety:

“Every year I have the privilege of standing in front of the school to present an academic award for my subject area. This is an award given after spending three, roller-coaster years with students during their 6th, 7th, and 8th grade years. I also have had the difficult task of collaboratively deciding on three graduation awards given to 8th grade students–Christian Leadership, Christian Service, and Fruit of the Spirit awards.

When I think about these awards, it is never done in the context of a purely academic perspective. I look for a student who enjoys and engages with the subject area. I look for the foot-washer, one who follows the servant leadership of Jesus and has served their fellow students. I take input from students themselves through yearly spiritual self-assessments and surveys. Lastly I keep my eyes and ears open to the Lord’s leading.

This year my award is going to a student who has a learning disability in my subject area. Even so, the student has engaged, persisted, served, and blessed those around him or her. Earlier this year the student said to a younger student who was struggling in this subject area as he or she studied for a test, “Would you like me to help you study. There are so many things I have learned that could help you.” Will there be some students who are troubled by this decision, thinking they deserved the award for their better grades? Yes, I can imagine some might feel that way, but all the students will recognize the deserving qualities that this student has displayed for all to see.

Last year my award went to “the entire 8th grade class.” There were a lot of talented students in that class. But their greatest accomplishment was being open to God’s leading as He changed them from “my little piranhas” as 6th grade students, constantly picking each other apart, to a class that cared for each other and worked collaboratively with each other in my class. I struggled with the decision to give it to the entire class. There were parts of me that felt it wasn’t right. Were there those that may not have deserved it? Probably. Were there those that thought they alone deserved the award? Probably. I got a few raised eyebrows from my colleagues. But that is the direction that I felt God leading.

Each year as I present the award, I have found myself with tears in my eyes and a voice that trembles and shakes. Not because of what the students have accomplished, not because of the long hours working with and for these students, but because of the awesome privilege of highlighting to the community what it is that God has done in the lives of these students and waiting in eager expectation for what God will do in the years ahead.

Maybe these thoughts will help others as they consider how awards are presented and recipients chosen for awards ceremonies. I still see value in these ceremonies if what is being celebrated comes from these types of attitudes and perspectives.”

Well said, Jon! (and thanks to Fran and Jon for taking the time to write!)

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Filed under classroom, community, distinctively Christian, encouraging the heart, image of God, student outcomes