An Encouragement for the Month of May

reflective teacher

It’s May! ¬†How did that happen ūüôā ¬†It often surprises me how quick the end of the school year comes up as we prepare for the last month of school and into summer.

Often, the month of May is the most challenging month of the school year.  Typically, this has nothing to do with the material covered.  It is more to do with the temptations that come along with the last month of the school year.  The temptation, as a student, to slack off, to rush through assignments, or to simply give up.

These challenges remind¬†me of the following quote…

‚ÄúThe important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle.‚ÄĚ

There have been many triumphs through the course of this school year.  I see triumphs in individual students with their progress through material, relationships, and responsibility.  I see triumphs in how supportive many parents are of the education that Lord of Life offers.  I see triumphs in our teaching staff who works tirelessly every night in preparing for classes.  I see triumphs through the smiles on the faces of our students as they hear about their Savior, and what he has done for them.

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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 ‚Äúthere.‚ÄĚ

Being ‚Äúthere‚ÄĚ doesn‚Äôt mean you have to be at every game, every practice, every up and down, every event. However, being ‚Äúthere‚ÄĚ 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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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!

The Power of Positivity in the Classroom

“Positive anything is better than negative nothing.”

School-wide climate and culture is a major topic in the world of education.  We see district and state wide attempts to change that climate and culture within schools.  With anything though, change begins at the bottom-up.  Change begins in our individual classrooms. Our classrooms must be a sincere example of positivity.

Now before we get further on how to affect this change, we must first clear the air on one topic.  Creating a classroom climate of positivity does not mean we forgo correction, honest feedback, and discipline.  It is quite the opposite.  It is out of positive love that we correct, give sincere feedback, and carefully discipline.  Those are the building blocks of a positive classroom environment.

They, however, are not the foundation.  This is the unique blessing we have in teaching in a Christian environment at the foot of the cross.  Every day our foundation of a positive classroom must begin and end with the gospel message that we are His children.  The foundation of the law and gospel is what affects positive change in the life of a child.  Every day, it is our job as Lutheran educators, to share with our students that they are forgiven and loved.

So with Him as our foundation, how can we continue to foster and build a classroom of positivity?

Sharing with each child that they are a redeemed child of God…

This gives them a sense of self-worth.  This gives them the power to know that no matter how much they screw-up, they have a Savior who loves them.

Build a¬†relationship with your students…

As Lutheran educators, we have a unique bond with those we serve.  Show them that gospel love that we talk about in class every day.  Take a special interest in them.  Go to their baseball games, dance recitals, and birthday parties.  Keep up with them after they leave their class.  As they grow into their teenage years share an encouraging message with them via texting, facebook, or twitter.  Most importantly, be there for them.

Be firm and¬†consistent…

Don’t allow¬†negative behavior to grow. ¬†Handle it right away. ¬†That student will respect you for it, and your entire¬†class will thrive with the knowledge that you are providing a safe, family¬†environment for them.

Be direct,¬†specific, and to the point when giving praise…

While you show your firm side, don’t hesitate to give praise when deserved. ¬†Always be sincere and honest, never make something up just to give praise for the sake of praise. ¬†Your students will appreciate it and love you for it.

This is by no means an all-ecompasing guide to a positive classroom.  If you have your own ideas, share them!