Monthly Archives: January 2013

Flourishing – blooming where planted

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Source: Beth Chatto Gardens by antonychammond via Flickr

(Fourth in a series that delves deeper into the characteristics of a flourishing student – click here to read the original post on flourishing.)

One of the best gifts we can give our students in their preparation for life is the kind of character and confidence that will help them bloom wherever God plants them. We need to model for our students the quiet understanding that God has a sovereign plan for each of our lives and that we are to make the most of the opportunities that he places in front of us. We are to bloom – to be alive branches that bear much fruit. This speaks to our students needing to be connected, first of all, to Christ the true vine.

In Jeremiah 29 we read that the Israelites, after being carried off into captivity, were instructed by God through the prophet Jeremiah that they were to settle in, to build houses, to plant gardens, to live a normal life. They were also to pray for, and seek the welfare of the city where they were living in captivity. They were not asked to revolt, to resist, to run – they were instructed to trust God and his plan. To not follow their natural instincts was a test of character I am sure. They were to be content, be obedient, and trust God’s sovereignty – this is not easy. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1, ESV)

This contentment is possible because it is not only about trust, but also about having worked through what is really important in life. Paul pointed out in Philippians 4 that it was not about his being well fed or hungry, having a lot or a little, it was about having the right perspective and full trust in God’s plan. God’s word is filled with examples of individuals who responded to God’s call and bloomed where they were planted. Abraham and his family moved and bloomed, Esther and Daniel bloomed in the land of foreign captors – even the common folk like Ruth and Rahab bloomed as ingrafted members and ancestors of the family line of Jesus.

Blooming where planted is not an easy skill to learn – as we see in the clip below from Facing the Giants, we are not always sure if we are in the right place to bloom and need to trust the advice of those that God puts in our lives. We also need to “plant our fields when there is no evidence of rain in sight.” One of the most powerful ways we can teach this to our students is to share our own stories of faith and the stories of faith of others.

I wonder what the elements are that we need to keep in mind if we are to help produce students who are able to bloom where planted? It might look something like this:

  1. A trust in God’s sovereignty and plan for their life
  2. A foundational sense of belonging to God and a sense of why they exist
  3. An understanding of their gifts and how they might be used in various situations
  4. A genuine love for people based on the view that all people bear God’s image
  5. A radiance from them that demonstrates the goodness of God
  6. An understanding of how to deal with failure and setback and maintain positive emotion, based on faith in God’s sovereignty over their lives
  7. Stepping forward in faith, trusting God for the results

What else would you add as an element?

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Filed under discernment, distinctively Christian, mission measurement, student outcomes

Developing a Personal Learning Network via Twitter – part 2

images(Thanks to my friend Dave Mulder, Instructor of Education at Dordt College, for sharing this blog post! Part 1 appeared last month (to read it scroll down the blog.) Dave teaches courses in educational foundations, methods for teaching science, and educational technology. He blogs on teaching, learning, technology, students, faith, and school culture at iTeach and iLearn.

Twitter as Part of Your PLN

I joined Twitter back in 2009, but it took a little time for me to find it a valuable resource for my own personal professional development. That is mostly because I wasn’t doing it right. Since then I’ve changed some of my practices using Twitter, and now it is one of the main parts of my PLN (Personal Learning Network.)  Here are a few things I started doing that made Twitter so invaluable:

  • Follow people who share your interests. Since Twitter is asymmetrical, I can follow all sorts of people and find out what they are reading and tweeting. Since I’m most interested in using Twitter as part of my PLN, I follow quite a few educators—both practicing teachers as well as educational theorists. These folks tend to share things about teaching or school culture that I find valuable.
  • Use #hashtags to find and follow topics that interest you. You can search for hashtags on pretty much any topic you can think of that you might teach. #chemistry. #kindergarten. #VeteransDay. #UnderwaterBasketWeaving. Interested in educational technology? Try #edtech. General education topics? Try #edchat.
  • Use a Twitter client. You can sign up for an account right at Twitter’s website and use the social network through the site, but I’ve found it easier to keep track of things I’m interested in by using a Twitter client—a program designed to organize my Twitterfeed and use hashtags  to help keep track of conversations. I’ve been using TweetDeck, but I’ve also heard good things about HootSuite. (Both of these are free to download and safe to install.) For those on iOS or Android devices, you might consider Tweetcaster or Flipboard. (These are also free apps.) Do you need a Twitter client? No. But it might help you keep track of topics you are following.
  • Post things yourself! Here’s the deal: if you are benefiting from things other people are posting, share the wealth! Tweet links to great resources you find. Tweet your questions out to your followers and see what kinds of answers you might get. Retweet things other users have shared so your followers can profit as well. Reply to tweets from the people you follow, and you might be surprised by the big names in education who communicate back with you directly!

Proposing a New Hashtag

I’ve been thinking lately about how we in Christian Education can support and encourage each other—serving as a PLN for other Christian teachers—and how we might use Twitter to do this.  So I’m proposing a new hashtag: #ChrEd. When you find great resources, tweet them with the #ChrEd tag to denote them as related to Christian Education. I think #ChrEd is short enough that it won’t take up too many of your 140 characters, but descriptive enough that people will know what you’re tweeting about.

If you aren’t on Twitter yet, sign up! I think you’ll find it a valuable part of your PLN. Feel free to follow me (@d_mulder), and if you call me out by my @username, I’ll follow you back. Let’s support each other in the task of teaching Christianly!

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Filed under change, resources, staff development

Made for goodness

imagesAdmittedly, I read a fair amount of books in a year. So, when one sticks in my mind and continues to provoke my thoughts, it moves to my mental list of “exceptional books” and I tend to talk to others about it. Recently I picked up Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s book, Made for Goodness: and Why This Makes All the Difference, written with his daughter, Rev. Mpho Tutu. What a compelling and inspirational book!

I was curious how Tutu might hold this view of goodness in the face of all the evil that he has seen and heard. Yet Tutu argues that, being made by God in his image, we are both attracted to good and outraged by evil. God holds us in life, and we can face evil squarely because we know that evil will not have the last word. We are lovable and capable of good because God has loved us since before eternity. The Tutus encourage us to live into the goodness that God has hardwired into us, as opposed to “doing good” out of fear that we are not doing enough to please God. One of my favorite quotes in the book is the following: “The invitation to Godly perfection, God’s invitation to wholeness, is an invitation to beauty. It is God’s invitation to us to be life artists, to be those who create lives of beauty.” (p. 48) In teaching, we have so many opportunities to be life artists, instruments of God’s goodness, impacting the lives of our students around us.

The Tutus do not deny the power and pervasiveness of evil. They recount personal experiences and the horror stories of other’s suffering. As the leader of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa to investigate apartheid era crimes, Archbishop Tutu heard stories reflecting the worst of human evil, yet is able to affirm that even in suffering, God sees and stands with us in all that we experience and endure in life.

I was struck by, and very appreciative of the Tutus’ description of forgiveness:

“We miseducate ourselves and our children with the trite phrase ‘Forgive and forget.’ Forgiveness is not a form of forgetting. It is, rather, a profound form of remembering. When we forgive, we remember who and whose we are. We remember that we are creative beings modeled on a creative God. When we forgive, we reclaim the power to create.” (p.150)

The authors remind us that we all long for goodness, for a return to Eden. They encourage us in closing to be much in prayer, to be listening for God’s voice: “God can help us choose, from among the plethora of paths that are spread out before us, the one that leads to flourishing.” To begin, we must see ourselves as God sees us, as the crown of his creation, created for his joy and beloved. This has implications for how we view others: “As we allow ourselves to accept God’s acceptance, we can begin to accept our own goodness and beauty. With each glimpse of our own beauty we can begin to see the goodness and beauty in others.” (p.198)

This book caused me to wonder if sometimes we focus too much on the shortcomings of ourselves, our students, our colleagues and allow ourselves to become negative, discouraged, cynical, and even bitter. The hard lessons learned in South Africa would point us in the direction of not ignoring the reality of evil, and certainly not letting it have the last word. We live in the hope of Eden and have daily opportunity to exude the goodness and beauty of our Creator, to image him and to celebrate it in other image-bearers before us.

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Filed under Biblical worldview, book, devotional, encouraging the heart, image of God, resources