One Down, Who Cares How Many to Go!

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Many teachers and students are wrapping up or have already wrapped up their first week of school. The first week of school is often filled with endless reviews of rules, procedures, and policies. Typically, students also enjoy activities, games, and some outside time as we are all getting back into the routine of school. 

Most importantly, the first week of school is filled with happiness. While I realize we are not living in a utopia, generally students are excited to be back and somewhat looking forward to the school year. I hope the same would go for the teachers as well.

This is now my 11th first week of school as a teacher. I love that first week of school. While exhausting, it just feels great to be surrounded by children once again. I look forward to my first history lecture, my first science lab, and my first religion lesson preaching Christ-crucified. It is exhilarating!

As our first week of school progressed, I made some general observations about what I saw and experienced.

Kids are happy

There is nothing better than hearing that good ol’ belly laugh and giggle from the children in your classroom. We preach that we are a family at our school, and we want to see our students happy, healthy, and motivated to learn.

Kids want to be challenged

So often, parents and teachers, assume that kids will take the easy way out. While true, at times, it always surprises me the amount of kids that love to be challenged. Many students thrive when challenged and held accountable. They want to do well, they want to please. That attitude is a great reminder to me, as a teacher, to always set my expectations high and to not settle for anything less. 

Kids thrive with structure

Without it, they are lost. There is a direct correlation between amount of structure and academic success. In an exceptional essay entitled, “Promoting Academic Success via Classroom Structure” the author points out, “The role of the educator in contributing to a safe and welcoming environment is critical. We are able, and indeed it is our responsibility, to provide a structure that clearly articulates and supports expectation for successful demonstration of appropriate behavior.” The value of structure cannot be understated, and it must be ever-present in our classrooms and schools throughout the entire school year. 

Kids want to please

It disheartens me when I hear teachers say, “these kids are terrible” or “so and so will never learn.” Kids want to make us happy. They want to be happy. The bigger question we must ask ourselves is are we equipping them with the tools and attitudes to succeed?

I pray that all of your first weeks went well. If you made any general observations during your first week, please share them with us in the comment section! We would love to hear from you.

 

Start the year positive, carry that positivity throughout the entire year.  

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The Latest Brain Research and What it Means for Education

Brain research is invaluable.  It gives parents and educators an insight of not only how we learn, but an even greater insight into how the children, whom we are serving, learn.  It is imperative that educators stay informed on the latest findings so they can implement needed changes in their classroom and teaching philosophy.  

The following findings come from the iNACOL paper Cracking the Code: Synchronizing Policy and Practice for Performance-Based Learning.  Mind, Brain, and Education is the first in a nine paper series from JFF called Students at the Center.

The following are a few of the key findings in their research.

Students’ brains continually adapt to the environments where they live and work…

Surroundings matter.  The climate and culture of your school and your individual classroom is paramount in the education of that child.  Therefore, if we provide a safe, caring environment a student’s brain will learn to trust and thrive in that environment.  

Emotions direct students’ learning processes, helping them gravitate toward positive situations and away from negative ones…

Emotions matter.  We are not only teaching the mind, we are teaching the heart.  A student must be emotionally stable for a positive learning outcome to appear.

When students from disadvantaged backgrounds are in high-quality schools, their cortisol levels decrease throughout the day.  The better the school, the more the cortisol levels decrease… 

Schools and Structure matter.  A quality learning environment can help students reach healthy coritsol levels, which lead to better emotional regulation and more favorable learning outcomes.  Disadvantaged students can thrive, they however must be in a quality setting to have that chance to succeed.    

Environments that promote positive relationships and a sense of community promote learning…

Relationships matter.  It makes sense doesn’t it?  If a student has a positive relationship with their teacher, that is more likely to have a positive effect on their education as a whole.  Principals and teachers should focus on building positive relationships with their students.  When positive relationships are coupled with a favorable school culture and climate, the student has the environment and surroundings to thrive.

So what is the big picture?

Physical and emotional wellness matter in education.  The way we foster positive physical and emotional wellness is by building relationships, providing a positive culture and climate, and imparting structure in all that we do.  Physical and emotional wellness has already been a growing trend within education that past decade.  These findings show us the reason for that, and provide us with the evidence that we need to take to heart.  

How is your school, your classroom, your home going to strengthen the physical and emotional wellness of the children you serve?

 

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Confessions of a Classroom Teacher

What could have been, if I had only reacted differently? What could have been if I had shown more patience? How can I respond better to that student? How can I communicate better with that family?

Questions.

Questions can keep you up at night. Problems and situations can keep you up at night. My own sinful imperfection keeps me up at night wondering how I could handle classroom and school situations differently.

The problem is that I know, as a teacher, I can do better. Those are the things that keep me up at night.

Situations like…

Why did I react with anger instead of love?

            How could I have handled that upset parent in a better manner?

            Why hasn’t my classroom management been effective for that student?

            Why did I fail as a teacher, today?

            These are all tough questions, but they are important questions. It is vital that we, as teachers, see ourselves as imperfect teachers. I fully realize, as a profession, we are already very hard on ourselves.

Therefore, I am not calling on us, to beat ourselves up further. I am calling on us to reflect.

Reflection is one of the most critical aspects of effective teaching. Realizing our imperfections, we must push ourselves to think outside our box. To leave our comfort zone, and learn about areas that we are not familiar.

I wish I was a better teacher for my students. I wish that every discipline problem would be handled well. I wish that I could have the perfect answer for every struggling student.

But I don’t. I’m imperfect. I need help, and I always need to grow. We all do.

 

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Be an Example of Happiness to Your Students

Did you ever have that teacher who looked like they would rather amputate their left leg than be in the classroom that day?

That doesn’t exactly make for an exciting day of learning.

Here is the big question…shouldn’t we, as Lutheran educators, be the happiest educators of them all? Every day we get to share the story of God’s amazing grace with our students. Every day we can apply proper use of law and gospel as the greatest aid in classroom management every created. Every day we have the opportunity to sit down with our students for a religion lesson, devotion, and prayer. Every day we can present history, science, and all of our other subjects from a biblical point of view.

You may be thinking, its easy to display that happiness on day one of the school year, but what about after eight straight days of discipline issues and three days in a row of little Johnny puking his guts out?

I am going to challenge you to have the mindset that those are the days where it all the more important to show that happiness in Christ.

Even on their worst days, your students must know they are loved…

Yes, firm discipline must be present. Yes, we must show our displeasure with their actions. Therefore, we must also show that love that our Savior has for us even though we screw up every, single day.

Your students must know you are in control…

Show that even on the worst of days, you are in control of yourself and your emotions. Don’t we preach that to our students and children all the time? We must be the model of that behavior for them.

Show those students why you love being a called worker…

I heard that we had over 40 schools who did not receive a teacher graduate out of MLC that requested one this year. That number is shocking! One of our must important jobs is to prepare the students we have for a lifetime of service. If they see us as miserable in our callings, than why would they ever want that calling for themselves? I think we could do an entire blog post on this topic. Show the love for your calling, so your students can see the incredible blessing that is the public ministry.

My 11th Commandment in my classroom…

Thou must laugh every day. Of course I don’t mean to make light of the 10 commandments, what I am saying is that laughter and happiness should take a priority in your ministry and your classroom. Just food for thought.

Finally, be happy. Be happy to know that God is using you to proclaim His Word. Be happy to know that the redeeming work of faith is not up to us and our imperfections. Be happy to know that the Holy Spirit is in charge of that work, our job is to plant the seed.

Be happy in Him, and always show your happiness.

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