Christ-Like Classroom

in the Public Schools

Author: Christlikeclassroom (page 2 of 3)

Surrender control

I get most upset in the classroom when I lose control. When I don’t get my way. When someone else gets their way. When that someone else is God, though, I have peace instead of anger, soft words instead of harsh, and humility instead of ego.

How do you do that when the natural reaction is yelling and digging in your heals? It is easy to pray for God to take control in the calm of the morning, but difficult in the heat of the moment.

First, say a small prayer in your head. Just the quick thought makes giving up control intentional.

Second, give the student his or her options and walk away. Just because you give control to God doesn’t mean you can’t calmly remind the student what they need to do and what the consequences will be if they don’t. Then, give them time to react to your words without you in their face. If it’s not a fight or another time sensitive issue, go find something else to do for a few minutes.

Third, cool off and collect your thoughts. Since teachers are such great multitaskers, you can check something else off your list while you take some deep breaths. Decide what the student is seeking in not following directions. Is it attention, an escape from embarrassment over not being able to complete an assignment, or even an escape from the classroom?  I have also found that when I calmly re-examine a situation that sets off a student that sometimes I figure out that there honestly was a misunderstanding about expectations. Think about if any of these factors come into play and what a level-headed teacher would want the outcome to be.

Finally, approach the student. There’s no step by step guide here because every outcome is different. Most of the time, though, that cool off period is most effective and diffuses the situation enough so that you may both move on. Be prepared, however, to enforce consequences at this point. I find that just mentioning you’ll call home can be effective. 

I know this sounds hokey. But give it a try and see for yourself. After all, would you rather calmly deal with “that kid,” or distract the whole class with your power struggle. Don’t let the students have that power, let God.

What is your faith in?

Our country is definitely in a season of change. Just to put it right out there, no I do not agree with many decisions made by the electorate last night. My mood has been down all day because of the election.

So I had to ask myself – why?

Because I’m a father of two daughters.

Because the economy is already tanking.

Because I don’t know how it will affect my career as an educator.

As a Christian, should those be fears? Not if we put our faith in Him.

We should pray for our new president just as we would have for our former: for guidance and wisdom.

Being sour because of the economy shows my faith is in my money and my career, not who gave me those things and who is in charge.

If Hillary Clinton says we should give Trump an open mind and a chance to lead, don’t you think God would want the same AND remind us who is really in charge?

You can’t always have faith in our country, but you can always have faith in our creator.

It’s the little things

I haven’t posted anything in a while because I’ve been waiting for something big: a breakthrough with my book, a revelation in my spiritual life, a blog-worthy Christ-like moment in the classroom.

However, through prayer, God has been telling me to put my focus on the small things: a kinder tone with my difficult students, being intentionally generous, spending more time with Him.

Ephesians 3:20 says “Now all glory to God, who is able through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” (NLT)

I believe God has infinitely more in mind for Christ-like Classroom. My vision is puny compared to His. But the big things require big steps, and those are not clear to me, yet. As I’ve prayed for guidance and next steps this year, He has revealed little steps to me: spread the word to coworkers, take it to social media, don’t hide what I’ve written in fear that it won’t be well received.

There have also been small changes in the classroom: more patience, more working one-on-one with students, having a softer approach when tempted to come down hard. If you came to my classroom you would see that they are still a work in progress – but they are intentional works in progress.

If you are waiting for the big things to happen in your classroom, ask God to reveal the little things that may need to happen first. Get the little things right while you wait for infinitely more.

Holy Spirit You Are Welcome Here

At church we are in a series teaching about the Holy Spirit called Forgotten God, so this worship song has been running through my head a lot lately while I’m at school.

One part of the series that has convicted me is hearing the Holy Spirit, recognizing Him, yet ignoring Him. It is not up to us to decide the merits of what He says.

So often I hear Him say “give of your time” or “give of your money,” only to respond “what time,” “what money”? That’s not my concern! God has that job. We need to have faith that He will and listen.

While I’m planning instruction, I often feel convicted to do one thing but end up making excuses to do another. I know I should do what’s best for the kids but often decided it isn’t convenient for me, or they can’t handle it, or they don’t deserve it.

This voice is the Holy Spirit, too. He is moving me toward doing what is right for the students. It is up to me, now, to listen.

Vision

Today was Adventure Church’s 3rd birthday. AC has become more than a church home for us. I don’t think Christ-Like Classroom would have been possible, or even thought of, without the church. The Holy Spirit has worked through Pastor Kyle Hammond’s messages to bring me a lot of the principles found in this book. I’ve simply applied them to education.

So it makes sense that on the day Adventure Church celebrated its 3rd birthday, revisited the past, and set a vision for the future that I was inspired to come up with a vision for Christ-Like Classroom.

In Habakkuk 2:2-3, the Bible says:

Write my answer plainly on tablets.
so that a runner can carry the correct message to others.
This vision is for a future time.
It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled.
If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently,
for it will surely take place.
It will not be delayed.

Inspired by this passage, Pastor Kyle said we must write our vision large enough and keep it in front of you so that you always remember why you’re running this race. He then laid out the Church’s vision and I began thinking about the vision for Christ-Like Classroom.

What is Christ-Like Classroom? A web site, a blog, a book, an idea? And where will it go? Bookstores, computers, nowhere?

Right now it is all of those things. And right now it has the potential to fizzle out OR blow up! I have faith that casting a vision will guide me in working towards God’s purpose for Christ-Like Classroom.

Three main goals come to mind for this vision:

  1. Teach teachers to use their faith in their classroom.
  2. Unite Christian public-school educators who feel isolated in their faith.
  3. Ultimately, be a blessing and Christ-Like example for all students.

I think the vision can still be tinkered with as long as those goals stay in focus. For now, the best working vision for Christ-Like Classroom that I have come up with is:

Teach teachers to take steps of faith and fellowship to bless their students.

I will keep this vision on display in front of me to always remember the purpose of this work.

Blessed with a purpose

Professional development days can be a blessing or a curse for a teacher. In the past I’ve had a love/hate relationship with them. Sometimes I leave feeling like I learned something applicable to take back to my classroom. Other I leave with a huge to-do list to take back to my classroom.

Today was a productive PD day that allowed the staff plenty of time to implement what we learned in our classroom. Instead of inspiring great ideas to add to our never ending pile of work, it provided practical ideas and time to work on them.

We learned about managing our classrooms full of students who have been victims of trauma. We made behavior plans for students who are taking away from the class. We even got time to get on the phone and call parents, which usually only happens in spurts at the end of a long day.

My biggest takeaway, however, came from a brief point made by our principal. The nugget came almost as an aside, but it aligns well with the message of Christ-Like Classroom: Have a purpose.

Think about the purpose of interactions you have with misbehaving students. Be intentional about how you go into the conversation and what you want out of it. What purpose does getting mad and yelling at a student serve? We are their examples, and they will just fume right back. Some of those students even go into it with a goal of making you mad. So your purpose becomes not engaging in argument or power struggle with that student.

It’s extremely difficult to accept a student not doing what you directed him or her to do. I used to think of it as setting a bad precedent to not allow a student to follow an expectation. But if the purpose is to get a student to listen to you, he or she will not comply just because your voice is louder. Try to allow breathing time and then come back to the student with a calmer tone. Sometimes all these students hear at home is yelling; they are so used to it they don’t respond. Having a calmer tone in a difficult situation can get a quicker, easier and more purposeful result.

Sure, this is easy to say. Doing it in the heat of the moment is something I still struggle with. I’ve gotten better, though, as I’ve become more intentional. Right now there are only a couple students who push my buttons. If I keep working on it, eventually when they push those buttons, they won’t get what they want. And if you keep pressing a button without the desired outcome, eventually you realize it just doesn’t work and stop pushing it. So if you’re having a hard time figuring out a purpose to interactions with these students, how about working toward breaking those buttons?

It’s been a while…

The start of the school year has come with a lot of excuses not to write. Too tired, cranky, busy, uninspired. A lot of excuses…

Lately I’ve heard a few positive things about the book I worked on this summer and have been encouraged to get back to work. It is amazing how inspiring a little bit of encouragement can be and it makes me realize that encouragement has a big role in a Christ-Like Classroom.

Over the summer, this writing project went from a journal to a book to a blog to a ministry and movement in my mind to bring together teachers of faith. I’ve felt God moving me to work on this since the school year started, but listened to the enemy instead, citing laziness and lack of direction.

The truth is I wasn’t too busy to write. I could have found time. I thought about it a lot, but I was discouraged. At the end of the summer I spoke with a lot of people about the book, asked them to read it and provide critical feedback so I could tighten it up before the publishing process. Then, silence. I realized August was an awful time to ask people, especially teachers, to read something. I was so hopeful that some feedback would keep me motivated so this didn’t become another summer fantasy.

The silence was discouraging. I asked God to show me my next steps. He asked me to be patient and faithful.

Then, this weekend I received some much-awaited feedback. One teacher said it was incredible, that she really connected it, and that it inspired her to bring prayer into the classroom. Wow! Something I wrote did that? Definitely the encouragement I needed.

Today, the pastor of my church said he had the chance to read it! I opened the email with baited breath. He is someone I highly respect. The Holy Spirit moved through his messages to inspire me to begin this project in the first place. If he didn’t care for it, I would chug along anyway, but truly be crushed.

Well, he said it was great and gave some very positive feedback.

While my ego swelled from these encouraging bits of feedback, God revealed my next step to me: Get someone to be critical. Even though I’ve asked readers for criticism, I haven’t received it. God knew I wasn’t ready, yet. But now I am.

 

Recapping Week 1

I want to dig through the heat and craziness of the first week and uncover the blessings from the first week of school.

  1. Rebuilding burnt bridges: A lot of unknowns weren’t present as I was preparing for this year because I knew most of the students from teaching them in 4th grade. There were a handful of students I was nervous about, though, due to strained relationships at the end of that year. One student, who I was probably most nervous about, actually brought it up first, saying “you didn’t like me in 4th grade.” I responded by saying “I liked you, we just didn’t always agree.” He didn’t have much of a response, but seemed pleased. Since he was sitting hear a couple other students I butted heads with two years ago, I took the opportunity to address them as well. I simply told each of them that I was looking to get along better with them this year.
  2. Opportunities to exercise faith: The first week was not without its challenges. The hot afternoons brought their usual challenges. Toward the end of the week it got harder to get work out of students and easier to get attitude from them. A couple of times I got irritated and was about to start using my “angry teacher” voice, but I caught myself. A prayer went up and calmed me down. Was I perfect? No! But I’m in better shape than I’ve been in the past. In previous years I probably would have let tensions build and relationships with students sour until we’d both had enough of each other. Now I recognize which students may test me and look at it as an opportunity to exercise my faith, ask God for help, and seek His wisdom.
  3. Coming Soon…

The launching of a Christ-like classroom!

I count today as a win.

God blessed my classroom, my students and my instruction. I can’t say I’ve ever left school on a first day in such a great mood!

The most amazing revelation came at the end of the day when I realized students were actually listening to what I said. This may sound like a given, but not in an urban school, and definitely not after the class I had last year. I could give credit to a new class, better planning, a dedicated partner, a honeymoon period or going into it with a new mentality. But all credit goes to God.

I prayed for Him to be on the forefront of my mind today, for patience and a Christ-like attitude and he delivered. Now, on to Day 2.

Summer’s blessings give way to Fall’s

My Summer blessings!

My Summer blessings!

The first day of school is melancholy, to say the least.

Teachers love summers, to say the least. They have time and energy to lead totally different lives! I was blessed this summer to be able to be at home with my wife, Mikki (who is also a teachers, 3-year-old, Julia, and baby, Lydia. I also got to write the beginnings of the Christ-Like Classrooms book. I resisted going in to set up my new classroom. I delayed planning. I declined optional professional development.

For the entire school year teachers are overworked and underpaid. I enjoy being able to say that in the summer I am underworked and overpaid!

But, alas, if I want that paycheck to continue, it’s time to get back to work.

When I went back to work Monday I was prepared for that overwhelmed feeling. That disgusting feeling of having so many things to do that your heart races until the final touches have been put on your classroom – and then you realize you have no idea what you’re teaching the first week.

However, my prayers for His peace that passes all understanding were answered. Sure, my heart beat faster and my to-do list swelled at times, but God gave me the focus to figure out what’s important and the push to get it done. Now I feel more prepared than I ever have heading into a school year. In fact, I’m getting nervous that I’m not nervous as I write this the night before school starts. I shouldn’t have the time or energy to write a blog post now! But He provides.

I’ve gotten to enjoy setting up my classroom and am remembering why I love teaching. Summer blessed me with so much, but the Fall has a lot to offer, too: new beginnings, relationships, challenges, school supplies! Certainly not least is the crisp morning air that reminds me football season will begin soon!

I hope that you, too, can find the peace to enjoy this time of year.

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