Boys Don’t Need SuperDad, They Just Need Dad

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.

  • Fatherless children are at a dramatically greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, suicide, poor educational performance, teen pregnancy, and criminality, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Center for Health Statistics.
  • Over half of all children living with a single mother are living in poverty, a rate 5 to 6 times that of kids living with both parents.
  • 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes according to the U.S. Bureau of the Census.
  • 72% of adolescent murderers grew up without fathers. 60% of America’s rapists grew up the same way according to a study by D. Cornell (et al.), in Behavioral Sciences and the Law.
  • 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes according to the National Principals Association Report on the State of High Schools.
  • 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes.
  • 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes according to a study by the Center for Disease Control.
  • A large survey conducted in the late 1980s found that about 20% of divorced fathers had not seen his children in the past year, and that fewer than 50% saw their children more than a few times a year.
  • In a longitudinal study of 1,197 fourth-grade students, researchers observed “greater levels of aggression in boys from mother-only households than from boys in mother-father households,” according to a study published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology.

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10 Ways to Thank a Student

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#3: Sticky Note Smile

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

Trickle-down thankanomics?

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.

Are You Reaching for the Sky in Your Classroom?

Teacher and students b/w

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?

Continual Assessment 

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.

Passion

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.

Relationships

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 the First Field Trip

Field Trip

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.

 

Team Building

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.

 

Family

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.

 

Mental Break

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

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.

Why encouragement?

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.

     *He cared.
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?

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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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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