Creating an Easter Sunday Mindset in our Classroom the Entire Year
He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!
The euphoric, emotional high that is felt by Christians throughout the world on Easter Sunday morning is intangible. On one day of the year, we unite together proudly proclaiming a risen Savior.
Perhaps, you had an extra-special focus on our Savior’s actions throughout Holy Week in your classroom as it all culminated with a joyous worship service on Easter Sunday.
When we think of Easter we think of joy, victory, enthusiasm, and an inward reaction to run and go tell others the Good News!
Wouldn’t it be great if we took that same attitude and emotion that we feel on Easter Sunday, and have it permeate our classrooms throughout the entire year? Having that attitude of joy and victory and enthusiasm in all that we do.
That mindset always begins at the top. Yes, teachers, I’m looking at you. You are the one who sets the tone of your classroom. What type of tone are you setting? It is one of joy? Is it one of that no matter our weakness, we are victorious through Christ?
Students notice the smallest of imperfections from their leader, their teacher. If you are often stressed out, they will notice. Do you come to school with tired eyes? They notice. Do you stand to yourself rather than smile and laugh with the other faculty and staff at lunch or recess? They know. Are your lessons taught with the enthusiasm and importance? Oh boy do they notice.
In my years of teaching, coaching basketball, and being involved in the lives of teens I learned one thing that dwarfs everything else I learned. Boys and young men need dads. Most importantly, they need to know that their dad is “there.”
Being “there” doesn’t mean you have to be at every game, every practice, every up and down, every event. However, being “there” means that they can depend on you. That they know you care. That you love spending time with them. That, when the time comes, you are willing to drop everything just to see or be with them.
First, some staggering and sobering statistics. Most of these statistics pertain to single-parent households where the dad is not present in the child’s life.
For those of you, like myself, who like a simple visual.
10) Tell Them
Nothing beats the ol’ fashion look ‘em in the eye and “thank you.”
9) Stickers anyone?
Not as a reward, but as a quick and easy thank you. Everyone loves stickers.
8) Write Them a Personal Note
Stick it in their desk or backpack. Better yet, if you are really proud of their work in a certain subject, tell them. Slip it into the next lesson of their textbook so they can have the pleasant surprise all to their own.
7) Tell the Parents
6) Display Their Work
Place their art work or strong assignment in a prominent place by your desk. Perhaps, on the wall for a few weeks or in a frame right on your desk.
5) Down Time
Encourage them when they are down. Be specific and tell them how much you appreciate them. This one can get emotional, especially if they are really down about something. The more personal feedback the better.
4) Have Lunch with Them
Make it a point to sit with them at a lunch hour, and have a conversation with them. Try not to focus on school. Focus on their life outside of school.
3) Sticky Note Smile
Walk by their desk and put a sticky note on top of their desk while they are working. It is unexpected and it is personal. That is a rare combination in a classroom. And seriously, does that take all of 30 seconds?
2) Extra-Curricular Support
Show up to one of their events outside of school. The ideas are endless. Their basketball game, soccer match, football game, dance competition, singing recital, and gymnastics event are all examples in which you can show you really care and appreciate them.
1) Hug it Out
If you don’t like a hug, then you need a hug. This is especially important for male teachers who have male students who really look up to them. They crave that affirmation. They need to see that male example of care and kindness. Remember, many of them may not receive any male affirmation outside of school. The lack of a father in the life of a boy has reached an epidemic in this country.
Have another way to say thank you? Share it in the comment section.
I often tell my teachers that it is never too late in the school year to change something. While there are a few major items, like curriculum, that deserve our full attention during the summer months, most aspects of classroom instruction can be changed at any time throughout the school year.
If something is not working, why would we continue with mediocrity just because there are a only a few months of school left? That makes no sense. Teachers should continually be striving for the best, even with limited time remaining.
So how do we continue reaching for the sky in our classrooms and attain the most out of the few time we have left remaining with our students?
Make sure we are setting and sharing learning goals
Are we giving our students goals for the instruction that they are being taught? What is the point of this test? What is the plan for this project? How are we going to get to this end result? It is important that we stay on task. Are we holding ourselves and our students to task by articulating our learning goals for each new unit?
I don’t mean drill and kill worksheets. With so many months of school in the preverbal bag, we must ensure that we are continually changing up our assessment strategies. Yes, at many levels tests are crucial to reinforce study skills, habits, and memorization skills. However, are we also offering other varied avenues for assessment? Skits, class videos, music videos, clay sculptures, real life math projects, group presentations, are all types of assessments that we can use to invigorate our classroom. The list is endless, our creativity and drive are the only barriers.
Have you lost your passion in these winter months? If students see teachers who are going through the motions, won’t they emulate the same? How are you keeping your lessons engaging? This is the time of year to put in that extra effort to make sure your lessons remain interesting and mentally challenging for your students. If they see that passion and enthusiasm in your presentation, that same attitude is all the more likely to transpose into their work.
Win their hearts, gain their minds. I can’t write about achievement in the classroom without concluding with relationships. Teaching, our calling, is all about relationships. When students know we care, they care. It is all the more important, as the school year closes, to make sure we are building those relationships with our students. This is crucial with students whom are struggling. This is the time of year in which they prefer to just throw in the towel. That is if they know their teacher doesn’t care. Students who struggle, strive for that relationship. While many teachers may see that student as a student who doesn’t care or is lazy, the teacher who cares sees that student as another soul. We never give up on a soul. We never give up on a student. Build those relationships, show your students that you care not only about teaching but about them.
So have you set that bar high? Are you reaching for the sky? If not, there is time to change. Don’t wait. Make that change, in your classroom, in yourself, and in your heart, now.
The power of a well-planned field trip is immeasurable. While difficult to find that thin line between fun, interesting, and worth-while, when that line is found it can reap huge benefits.
I am a firm believer in the power of the first month of school field trip. I typically like to make this field trip to be a fun, learning trip that the students can be very excited about.
This year, we went to a state park for our Science class. We took a three-mile hike, worked through a Science lab, had a religion class, and finished by swimming in the lake. The students loved it, and I loved it.
The benefits we gained from it were more than just a good science class and an incredible environment to teach about God’s creation.
Some may see hiking and swimming as just fun time on a field trip. I see them as quite the opposite. It is a great opportunity for the students to have fun with one another and build relationships. This is particularly important for junior high students who value relationships so highly. It is even more important in a multi-grade situation. Many of my students have been together for six or seven years. Every year we have new students who enroll in the school. It is important for my students, who are so comfortable with one another, to get to know the new students on a personal level. Activities like this, facilitate those opportunities. I cannot stress this enough. Building these relationships is vital for the culture and climate of your classroom and your school.
Field trips, like this day outing, help promote a family atmosphere. Parents love to come on field trips like this one. Parental involvement demonstrates to students that their parents care about their school and more importantly their education.
For students and teachers, the school year is long. Field trips help break up the monotony of the school year. It is important not to get in the mid-year doldrums before the first month of school is even over. You will need the energy of your students to stretch into the year as long as possible. The ability to take that first field trip early, gives students a renewed vigor for the beginning of the school year and the challenges that lay ahead.
Therefore, if you haven’t already taken that fun field trip to begin the year, I challenge you to do so. Make it an annual tradition to start the year on a high note with a fun, educational field trip.
Field Trip Ideas to Start the Year:
Nature walk at a local park that also has a playground.
Go to a movie! We are going to The Giver in a few weeks once we finish the novel.
Go to an area state park.
Take them to the local zoo where they have to complete a scavenger hunt to help promote team building. Many zoos offer a program that allows for this kind of activity.
Picnic at the park with games and activities that follow.
If you have any other great ideas for a beginning of the year field trip, please share in the comment section of this post!
A Little Encouragement Goes A Long Way
The first day of school is quickly approaching all across the United States. Perhaps a little bit of panic is setting in? Excitement? Celebration? Hopefully, not dread.
The first day of school is always one of my favorite days of the entire year. Everyone has a renewed sense of purpose and vigor. Ideas are flowing. Minds are ready. In many ways, it is like that first day of spring up north. After a long, cold, and dreary winter it is time for the rejuvenation and life that spring brings.
Encouragement is needed throughout the entire school year. Encouragement is needed on that first day, that 50th day, and on that last day.
Let me tell you a little story about the power of encouragement. I was never a star student. I worked hard, but not a lot clicked for me. I often struggled through math, writing, and literature class in high school and college. My favorite subjects have always been history and science. While at MLC, I took Professor Theodore Hartwig as much as I possibly could for my history electives. While many considered him a challenging professor who had very high expectations, I loved learning from him. I struggled in some of his classes, all of the reading and studying was, at times, very demanding.
The last class I took with Professor Hartwig was on the life of Martin Luther. At the end of the class we had to complete a 20-30 page paper/timeline on Luther’s life. Up and to that point, I had never worked on anything with that much focus in my life. Day and night, for weeks, I worked on that paper. Even though I had spent class after class with B’s and C’s, I did not want to disappoint him.
Professor Hartwig gave me an “A” on that project. However, that is not why I am telling you this story.
I was going to lunch the next day and Professor Hartwig stopped me in the hallway. He took me aside and told me that was the best work he had ever seen me complete. It meant the world to me and my future work.
It begs the question though, why did it mean so much?
*It was sincere.
I appreciated it because I knew he meant it.
*It was specific.
He could’ve just said, “great job on that paper.” But he didn’t, he made it specific and made it personal.
*You had to earn it.
He was not the type of professor who just threw around praise. You had to earn his praise, which made it all the more meaningful.
Professor Hartwig cared about the students he had. Believe me, I blew many of his quizzes and tests. He would lovingly call you out and get you back on track. That is what a great teacher does really well.
Professor Hartwig didn’t just teach me history. He taught me how to be a teacher. He taught me how to be a better worker. He, in a major way, gave me a life-long example of how to encourage others.
The student who receives the least amount of encouragement and praise in your classroom is probably the student who needs it the most. Who are you going to encourage your first day of school? More importantly, how are you going to encourage them?