Faithful Blogger

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Prayerful Teaching Commits Lesson Planning to the Lord

Commit to the Lord whatever you do,
and he will establish your plans.

                          Proverbs 16:3 (NIV)

Prayer and Meditation

I expend significant time and energy preparing lessons to meet the needs of my students, only to watch some students withdraw to a hazy wilderness I cannot break into or comprehend.  I suppose it is only fair to say they may feel the same way about my lesson plans.  As I create my lesson plans, I commit my work to You and ask that Your guidance direct my efforts.  Let me be open to last minute changes to my plans, especially at those moments when everything seems to be going wrong in my classroom and I feel disheartened and disappointed. 

The Actions of Prayerful Teaching

  • Research has proven (though many teachers ignore the fact) that students cannot listen for more minutes than their age.  If a child is seven years old, that child cannot listen any longer than seven minutes straight—tops.  If a child is sixteen years old, that child cannot listen any longer than sixteen minutes.  This includes general class discussions, question/answer sessions, or anything else that requires listening.  Some activity involving the student must take place when the age in minutes is reached.  The goal of that activity must be clear, relate to the lesson just presented, and be achievable.  It may be completed independently or with a partner(s). It need not take a long time, but it is a must before demanding more listening.

  • Build student focus into every lesson.  Student need to know on what to focus.  Just like a GPS device guides travelers to their destination, students need a guide to their learning destinations.  They need to know precisely what they should be able to do by the end of a set period of time.  “In ten minutes you will….”   “By the end of the week you can all….”  Student should each have a visible reminder of the goals they achieved.

  • Give choices to demonstrate achievement whenever possible.  Every student learns differently and has different abilities.  Giving two or three choices allows students to take some control and responsibility over their learning.  This may be as simple as offering an opportunity to select between two graphic organizer for a short focus session or as involved as demonstrating a unit learning goal through a choice of learning modalities. 

  • Value the role music and art play in the lives of students and in the learning process. Social Studies—Play soft background music from the geographic region, county, or era which is being studied.  Analyze the music in relation to the subject matter.  Math—Sing the multiplication tables.  Visit YouTube for math-music videos.  English—Study poetry and metaphors found in song lyrics.  To teach grammar, rewrite lyrics to tell a story adding in students’ own twists and turns to the plot.  Science—There are many ballads and songs t,o be found on a YouTube search which make it much easier to remember scientific principles.  These are just a few suggestions.  An Internet search will turn up many more.

  • Get students physically active and moving about for optimum learning experiences.  Acting out formulas, math problems, events, or stories in small groups to be presented to the class will enhance memory and understanding.  Your most boisterous students may turn out to be great hams and liven up and enrich learning for everyone.

Challenge of the Week

Be mindful of those little spur of the moment changes you make to your lesson presentations that enhance teaching and learning in your classroom.  Select one day of the week and mentally keep tabs on how often you adjust to your students’ responses to learning.

Blessings and Prayerful Teaching,

Elizabeth A. Wink

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Prayerful Teaching is Walking with God during Lent

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8 (NIV)

Prayer and Meditation

Justice. Mercy. A humble walk with God.  All lead to living out the will of God.  All define my calling as a teacher.   I still find it challenging to stop and treat each student justly and to love tenderly those students I deem difficult.  With students pulling me in all different directions all day long, I find it more expedient to loosen my grip and scamper away from the Lord’s hand. During Lent I will strive to allow the Lord to take me by the hand so I can feel His love pulsate within me.  With my hand firmly planted in His, I can take the steps necessary to treat my students justly and with the mercy of tender love.

The Actions of Prayerful Teaching

  • Pause and take a deep breath at stressful times.  This may sound like an overused adage, but it has strength.  Firmly squeeze one hand with the other and pray, “Lord, send your strength to me and through me.  Take my hand and lead me in this moment to calmly respond to (Name the situation e.g. the current uproar in my classroom, the argument over who owns the pencil, the students who are off task) with justice and love. While this action takes only a couple of seconds, it gives you a few precious moments to pause, reflect, and compose yourself.

  • Tenderly love all students.  Disapprove of student behaviors, not the student.  Make sure students know you are rejecting their behavior and not them. You might say, “Maria, usually you know that your friends cannot be disturbed when they are working, but you seem to be forgetting that right now.”  “Lukas, you know I think you are a great student, but please get back to work.”

  • Provide students with opportunities to allow the Lord’s hand to guide them.  Afford students the opportunity to responsibly correct their behavior.  This works best after you discuss appropriate and inappropriate classroom behavior and post options of how students can correct inappropriate behavior.  Students need to see this technique modeled.  (You will never be short of volunteers to model inappropriate behavior.)  After the inappropriate behavior is modeled, the class can brainstorm how the behavior might be corrected.  A list could be posted in the classroom or given to each student to keep taped in their desk or class folder.  Just concentrate on two to four important behaviors.  This is a model and not intended to cover every minor infraction that occurs in a normal classroom.

  • Ignore minor problems instead of disrupting the entire class and drawing attention to one student.  Practice the “teacher look” in the mirror.  It is one of the most powerful tools of a master teacher.  Be sure to use it.  Since teaching is action, you are most likely always moving around the classroom.  Walk over to the child and put your hand on his desk for a second.  You need not say anything.  Make it a habit to keep a clipboard handy.  Tell students you use it to note positive behaviors and unfortunately, at times, to record other types of behavior.  Picking up the clipboard, glancing at a student, and writing on the clipboard often solves the problem.  If the student reacts in a positive manner, after what you deem a sufficient amount of time, make sure the student sees you using an eraser on your clipboard.  You need not share what you wrote or whose behavior you detailed.

  • Define student behavior and exercise consistency in your expectations of those behaviors. Students need to have expectations of behavior clearly defined and upheld with consistency.  If not, chaos will reign and amid that chaos you might find it easier to ignore your humble walk with the Lord and to let go of His supportive hand.

Challenge of the Week

Draw a simple path on a sheet of poster paper.  Separate it into five sections.  Label each section with a day of the week.  Before you leave for the day, reflect on and record how you walked on the path with the Lord as you were tending to your students. You may even decide to set a goal for yourself to reach at the end of the week.  If you do, be sure to write the goal at the end of your path. 

Blessings and Prayerful Teaching,

Elizabeth A. Wink

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Prayerful Teaching is Holding Hands with GodI

I am the Lord, I have called You in righteousness,
I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You

                                    Isaiah 42:6 (NASB)


Prayer and Meditation

 God will never abandon me.  When I fail to feel His presence, He sings out my name with love.  When my morale sinks to new depths, He watches over me and lifts me up.  He forever holds my hand with a gentle and fatherly grasp.  It is God who has entrusted me with my calling and it is God who counsels, encourages, and supports, me through my day.  Rather than wasting time counting my faults, let me move closer to God and seek to please Him through my love and dedication in teaching His children. 


The Actions of Prayerful Teaching

  •  Teachers are often vilified in the media and made scapegoats for what is wrong in society today.  It is impossible not to be affected by this negativity.  It is during these times that we must step closer to God, firmly plant our hand in His, and never let go.  We must not be ashamed to look back and count our achievements.  It is through our achievements that we glorify the Lord, refresh our souls, and embrace our calling with new-found strength, not out of pride, but as humble servants of God.


  • Lift your spirits at least once a day.  Determine what exists in your classroom that lifts your spirits.  Take advantage of it.  Are certain students always smiling?  Take a second to find joy in their smiles and do not forget to smile back.  Do students relax and laugh at funny stories or silly jokes?  Build them into the day.   Appoint a joke teller of the day. 


  • Write a student a thank you note when the occasion calls for it.  Be specific in stating the purpose of the note.  Capture in your mind the smile of gratitude that will spread over the receiver.  Even though you may not observe the recipient reading the note, this works just as well if you personally write a note (no e-mail) to parents praising their child with specific examples of conduct or achievements.


  • Post pictures of students engaging in learning activities in a place in your room reserved for just such pictures.  If you need a morale boost you need only glance at the collection of pictures.  Be sure to “catch” all students at their “learning best.”   If someone is having a bad day, you will have a visible reminder for them of what they can accomplish.  Be sure to rotate and update the pictures.


  • Keep a diary of positives.  Before you leave school, jot down 3 – 5 accomplishments of the day in your diary.  If a student got out of his seat one less time than the day before, that is an accomplishment.  If a shy student volunteered to answer a question in class, that is an accomplishment.  God notices all the little things and so must we.


  • Expect to encounter challenges and obstacles in your day.  Listen, love, laugh, and celebrate your calling anyway.  Remember, God is holding your hand


Challenge of the Week

Build into your classroom agenda at least one fun activity each day.  It should be something both you and your students enjoy.  It can be as simple as telling a joke, writing a quick positive note and placing it on student’s desk, or beginning work on designing a classroom logo and motto.


Blessings and Prayerful Teaching,

Elizabeth A. Wink

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Prayerful Teaching is more than Covering the Curriculum

So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air.

                                    1 Corinthians 14:9 (NIV)


Prayer and Meditation

I am obsessed with “covering” the curriculum especially because I realize over half of the school year has passed. I easily forget that even if students are listening, listening does not equal learning. My words are useless if they just twirl and whirl in the classroom air and fall to the classroom floor in a meaningless array of confusion and bewilderment.  Let me slow down my chatter to ensure my students travel with me on learning expeditions.  May my words be fewer and my actions structured to student needs.  May I always remember teaching is reflected in actual learning, not the quality or quantity of words my tongue utters.

The Actions of Prayerful Teaching

  • “Now Think!  Just Think!” are the words of Professor Hill from The Music Man.  Telling students to “Just think” or “Be more creative” will result in nothingness, or worse yet, create an atmosphere of disparagement.  Commanding students to “Just think,” implies you believe they are not thinking.  Involve the class in demonstrating and giving solid examples of exactly what the “creativity” or “thinking” you are searching for looks like.  Move from whole-class and then to small group activities before expecting students to function on their own. 

  • Getting it right the first time rarely happens for adults.  This is also true of children.  Most likely you will need to model learning objectives in more than one way before all students “get it.”  The key word is model, not repeat the same words that students found unintelligible the first time.  Do not move on until students can model their new skill back to you.  It is better for students to master one, two, or three leaning objectives than to “cover” ten objectives with mastery of none.

  • Guide students in the learning process.  Catch errors before they become a bad habit embed in their minds. When learning something new, it cannot be expected that students find their own errors and correct them.  They need coaching just as athletes need coaching to become better players.  No one would think of expecting athletes to perform with just a lecture and a couple of “on your own” practice sessions and a few homework problems.   Even the Olympians have coaches who constantly work with them. 

  • Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Mastery requires hands-on repetition, not more words from the teacher.  Mastery requires that you come back and use the skill or knowledge you learned, not shove it in a messy classroom desk or overstuffed hall locker.  Do you remember all of the state capitals?  You probably knew them in 4th grade, but now cannot recall them all because you had no need to bring them up from your memory.  Can you recall Sunday’s gospel reading?  Can you recall the gospel reading from one month ago?  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.

  • Assigning homework.  One simple rule:  Students cannot be asked to do homework for which they are not prepared to successfully complete.  This is only asking for trouble.  The teacher wastes time making corrections that cannot be understood by the student.  Negative feelings about homework grow.  Students are set up for failure.  Adults rightfully shy away from taking on tasks they know they will not succeed in completing.  Children cannot be blamed for feeling the same way.

Challenge of the Week

“All aboard!” cries the conductor to the 30 passengers all headed for a place called, “Growing Up.”   Thirty passengers board the train.

 “First stop.  Be back on board in 15 minutes, shouts the conductor.”  The lines at the snack bar and bathrooms are long.  Even though some passages race to get on the train, the conductor does not see them.  Only 25 jump aboard on time to continue the journey.

 “Second stop!  Be back in 10 minutes,” barks the conductor.   The lines at the snack bar and bathrooms are long.  The conductor sees some passengers heading toward the train, but feels they are not moving fast enough.  He has a schedule to meet.  Ten more passengers are left behind with 20 continuing the journey.

“Third stop! Be back in 8 minutes.” Two more passengers are left behind.  They see the train loading but know they might not make the train.  They do not even try. 

When the final destination is reached, the conductor says, “I did my job well.  I drove the train and covered my territory.”  Was the conductor aware that some passengers were lost?  Did he care?  As you teach this week, be aware of any similarities you share with the conductor and make the appropriate adjustments.

Blessings and Prayerful Teaching,

Elizabeth A. Wink