Faithful Blogger

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Prayerful Teaching:Students, Parents, and Grade Retention:

If you want to know what God wants you to do, ask him, and he will gladly tell you, for he is always ready to give a bountiful supply of wisdom to all who ask him; he will not resent it.

                                                                                                  James 1:5 (TLB)

Prayer and Meditation

I have a child who should possibly be retained.  I feel I have done everything I could to help her academic and social development, but still she is not ready for the next grade.  I fear retention will have a profound effect on her future academic career, but so will retention.  Lord, I ask for your wisdom and guidance in determining what is best for this child and in discussions with her parents. Grace me with an understanding and love for this child.  Open my mind to consider alternatives to retention and lead me to the one option that is best for her.

The Actions of Prayerful Teaching

  • Discuss with the parents why their child is being considered for retention or in the case of high school students, course failure.  Present student artifacts, test scores, attendance records, interventions undertaken for the benefit of the child, and other concrete documentation.  This is much easier if parent communication has been established throughout the year—not the cold, impersonal newsletter type of communication, but personalized one-on-one interaction.  Talk of retention should never come as a surprise to any parents.

  • Explain to the parents how their child’s learning was supported this this year.  Why or why not did this support allow the child to achieve academic success?  If the support options did not allow the child to be successful, how often and in what manner were they modified?  This may be difficult to discuss and most likely the parents, out of concern for their child, will raise tough questions.  These questions should be answered professionally and honestly.  This is not the time to “cover-up” or blame.  Stay focused on the issues.

  • Identify specific intervention strategies that will implemented the following year to enhance the child’s academic and social development and promote successful learning experiences that will continue to have an effect throughout the remainder of the child’s academic career.  It is important that the parents understand that their child will not just receive more of the same that led to retention in the first place.  In other words, the child will have a new run at success, not a rerun of the previous year.  Assure the parents that they will be invited to a conference within the first month of the next school year to assess these intervention strategies.  During the September conference have student artifacts, not just test scores, ready to share with the parent.

  • Discuss options other than retention or course failure.  It is rare that any problem has only one solution.  If an alternative action plan other than retention is determined to be in the best interest of the child, make sure all participants know who is responsible for what elements in the plan.  Formalize the action plan by putting it writing.  Include timetables as well as accountability factors.  How will everyone know if the plan is successful?  What are the specific goals of the plan?  Before implementation begins, hold another meeting with the parents and present them with the written plan.  Invite the parents to partner whenever the planned fine-tuning.  Though high school students can make up credits in summer school, is summer school an option for the younger child?  If summer school is an option for the younger child, an action plan is non-negotiable.  Summer school cannot just be a place to “put in time” and move on.  There needs to be a strong action plan in place to ensure that the student is prepared to meet the expectations of the next grade level.

  • Listen carefully to the wishes of the parents.  They will be present in their child’s life long after he has “graduated” from his present grade.

Challenge of the Week:

Familiarize yourself with the pros and cons of retention for your specific grade level.  The pros and cons of retention are different for every grade. Research generally points to kindergarten and first grade as having more pros for retention and upper grade levels having more cons.

God Bless and Prayerful Teaching,
Elizabeth A. Wink

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Prayerful Teaching is like the Spring Rain

Let my teaching fall like rain
    and my words descend like dew,
like showers
 on new grass,
    like abundant rain on tender plants
                                Deuteronomy 32:2 (NIV)

Prayer and Meditation

As the new school year begins, Lord, gift me with the words and actions to refresh my students, allowing them to grow both academically and in their love for you. Let me never thunder down on them with stormy words and blustery exasperation.   Let me never forget their minds are sensitive and their feelings delicate.  They are like the new grass and the tender seedling.  Help me always to nourish them with patience, gentleness, and sensitivity.  Lord, I can do nothing without you for I am nothing without you.

Actions of Prayerful Teaching

Infuse fun into learning.  Learning is easier if fun is embedded in the process. 
  • Collect cartoons and integrate one or two a day as they relate to the current subject matter. 
  • Embed short, silly videos into the subject matter and relate them to the lesson.
  • Warn your students if something is going to be “boring.” Allow them to have a one minute “moan and groan” session before you begin the lesson.  Join them in the moan and groan.
  • Use games for learning.  Ask students to invent games and create the questions and answers that go with the games.  Problem-solution games, where there is not just one right answer, raise students to higher learning levels.  
  • Incorporate learning activities that allow for various kinds of groupings from paired learning to small groupings.  Take advantage of the fact that students are social.
  • Plan activities that allow students to move, rather than demand they sit-in-place for extended periods of time.  Students are not glued down.  

Show your joy often and wholeheartedly.  

  • Keep pictures of family and/or friends on your desk so students know you do have life outside of the classroom and that your life outside the classroom brings you joy.  
  • Give students choices so they can take ownership of their learning.  These choices should result in creations or artifacts students can post in the classroom or on the school or classroom Web site to remind them and others of their success.  Ask students for ideas you can incorporate before you give out your choice list.  Choices are not “anything goes.”  They still need to meet the standards.  Students need to be made aware of and understand the meaning of standard before they can suggest choices

Make your students’ day beginning as they enter the classroom.  
  • Smile and greet students by name as they enter your classroom.  
  • Connect with students who had difficulty the day before with either academic work or acceptable classroom behavioral.  This is not the time to be critical or refer to the problems of yesterday.  It is time to show, by your actions, that it is “move-on” time.
  • Warmly greet the shy, quiet, and socially awkward students.  Because they do not demand attention, they can easily fall by the wayside during a busy teacher’s day.  
  • Write students short, positive notes and tape them on their desks or lay them inside their desks so they find them the next time they sit down.  Be sure to use fun and fancy stationary.

Care and cheer for your students.  Sometimes we get so entrenched in teaching to the standards and the standardized tests, we forget each child possesses a heart and a soul. 
  •  Compile a list of caring and cheering statements.  Keep growing the list.  It is easy to surpass 100+ statements.  Keep it in handy so you can glance at it when your mind grows weary. 
  •  Personalize your statements rather than issuing tired refrains such as, “Good job,” “I’m proud of you,”  “Good work.”  Examples of caring and cheering statements that can make a difference include:  You can be very proud of….  You impressed everyone when you….  I know this is difficult, but you are….  You are making progress.  Yesterday/Last week….

Laugh with your students.  So many students are carrying the burdens of anxiety, stress, and sadness.  Though we want to be aware of these burdens and help alleviate them, we cannot be aware of everything that swirls and twirls in the minds and lives of our students.  These burdens are all forgotten when one is laughing.  

  • Ask students to bring in jokes and sign their names to them.  After approving the jokes, put them in a box.  When the time “feels” right, pull one out of the box and have the student who submitted it share it with the class.  
  • Laugh out loud when you make a mistake.

Challenge of the Week

Begin a list of caring and cheering statements.  Add five each day so by the end of the week you have 25 personalized statements to use throughout the year.

God Bless and Prayerful Teaching,

Elizabeth A. Wink

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Prayerful Teaching is Reaching Forward

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

                                             Philippians 3:12-14 (NKJV)

Prayer and Meditation

There are only so many more weeks remaining in the school year.  I can hardly believe it.  It has gone by so rapidly.  There is much my students have yet to learn.  At times I feel I have failed in my duty to properly prepare them for the next grade, for the next set of standards, or for the demands, dangers, and temptations of a world I did not have to face at their age.  I feel urgency and a duty to accomplish more and accomplish it faster and more efficient before time runs out.  These two women went to the tomb out of duty and devotion, not to receive, but to give. They understood the call of discipleship.  As the school year comes to a close, let me continue to embrace my calling and duty as a teacher of God’s children in the best manner I know how. 

The Actions of Prayerful Teaching

  • Concentrate on the progress your students have made over the year.  Too often teachers only think of how they could have improved instruction and student engagement, but it is just as important to reflect on what went well.

  • Instead of feeling overwhelmed by everything that needs yet to be accomplished, set realistic goals on what can be achieved in the time left in the school year and how those goals can be achieved.  Hoping to accomplish everything often leads to accomplishing nothing.

  • Plan an End of the Memory Book activity.  Keep it fun and upbeat. This is an easy way to get student feedback and prepare for next year.  It also allows students to reflect and reminisce.  Include open ended questions such, “The best thing I learned this year was….”  “The favorite book I read all year was….”  Lists are also a valuable reflection tool.  Students can list what they will miss most after they leave your class.  This can be as simple or as extensive as you wish to make it.  You may even wish to include suggestions for standards based learning activities that students can enjoy over the summer.

  • Make copies of student work to use as sample guides for next year.  Samples should range from those at the bottom of the scale to those at the top.   In future years students can evaluate these artifacts to better understand expectations.

  • This is the perfect time to experiment with new techniques, procedures, and technology.  Do a little mini action research.  If your idea bombs, you will not have to live with it very long.  You even have enough time to modify your “experiment” and try it out again.  Did you always want to try a classroom blog, but were afraid of where it would lead or how you would manage it?  Have you thought about making Twitter a part of your professional life?  Have you ever tried videotaping your teaching for self-reflection?  What about that graphic organizer you never got around to using?   Remember how eager and excited you were after that inservice, but never got around to giving it life in your classroom?  Now is the time.

Challenge of the Week:

Relax.  Be kind to yourself.  You never gave up!  Teaching is the only profession that allows a fresh start each year. 

God Bless and Prayerful Teaching,

Elizabeth A. Wink