Faithful Blogger

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Prayerful Teaching is Preventing Summer Learning Loss

O Lord, blessed is the person
    whom you discipline and instruct from your teachings.
You give him peace and quiet from times of trouble
    while a pit is dug to trap wicked people.

Psalm 94:12-13(GW)

Prayer and Meditation

Summer learning loss is a reality for all students, no matter the grade level, no matter the income level.  Let me be proactive in preventing this loss for my students so that what I have been called to instruct and they have been called to learn over the last year will not be lost.   With your help, I can instruct my students and their parents on how to make this summer a summer of learning opportunities.  Most important, Lord, I ask you to give my students and their families a summer of peace and quiet from times of trouble. 

The Actions of Prayerful Teaching

  • Award parents the power to engage their children in learning opportunities.  Many parents are busy earning a living and meeting their children’s basic needs.  They may not be aware of learning opportunity available in the community for their children.  Notices going home about such programs may not capture their attention as they multi-task just to keep their homes running smoothly.  A personal phone call concerning one recommended program may be all that is needed to help stop summer learning loss.  Avoid “teacher talk,” but do explain what happens to a child’s learning over the summer and why you are recommending this one particular program.  Offer assistance in filling out forms, including transportation forms, and enrollment forms.  Place follow-up phone calls.  It is far better to concentrate on and work deeply with two or three families than to make a dozen quick, “Do you know about…?” or “I’ll send you the form ….” phone calls.

    • Compile a list of activities students can engage in over the summer.  Keep the list practical, home-centered, child centered, age appropriate, and expense free.  Always be mindful that some parents cannot spend a lot of time on one-on-one learning activities.  Others do not have the time or money for museum visits, a day at the zoo, or cultural events.  Some ideas follow:

    • Start a weekly family newsletter.  (This can include drawings, stories, neighborhood happenings etc.)  After a parent reads it, it can be passed around to other family members and friends, perhaps mailed and ending up in the hands of a relative or family friend who lives some distance away.

    • Practice organizational skills.  Anything inside or outside the house can be organized from blades of grass to pennies.  For example, pick one-hundred blades of grass.    How many ways can you figure out to organize them?  Size? Color? Width?   Organize pennies by year.  Which year is the most popular for pennies?

    • Keep a personal diary.  Each evening write in it the activities you engaged in, who you played with, and how you helped someone have a better day.  Include the times you were quiet during the day.

    •  Keep a list of specific acts of kindness performed each day.  For whom was it performed?  What was the specific act of kindness?  How do you think the recipient of the kindness felt?  How did you feel?  How did it give both of you a sense of peace?

  • Wait to reach out to students until after they have settled into summer vacation.  With so many end-of-the-school-year tasks to complete for both teachers and students, the last couple of weeks of school may not be the best time to delve into ways to prevent summer learning loss.  One to two weeks after summer vacation has begun may be the optimal time to approach the subject.  Boredom may be setting in, parents may already be praying for school to begin again, and children’s brains may be aching for new challenges.  You may also be missing the hustle and bustle of classroom life.  Dedicate one day to the Lord.  During that day reach out to parents and children in a personal manner.  Ask them how their summer is proceeding.  Share ways in which summer learning loss may be circumvented.  Offer to send booklists, a list of summer learning activities, or help with enrollment into a summer program.

  • Work with the local public library to develop a list of books student will enjoy reading over the summer.  Keep in mind that researchers at the University of Michigan have found that for every one line of print read by low-income children over the summer, middle-income children read three. The books on the list should be “fun” reading and not look like textbooks.  The objective is to keep students reading, not necessarily to pour more information and standards into their heads.  That is not to say books about math, science, social studies, or other academic subjects should not be on the list.  Students learn best when knowledge arises indirectly out of the freedom of joy, personal creativity, and fun.  A must for any “list” and perhaps the most important part of the list is a section directing children to discover the hidden treasures in the library and informing them how to select reading choices of their own.

  • Consider sending an early newsletter to your future students.  Address it to the students, not the parents or guardians.  Present ways in which students can prepare for their upcoming studies.  Keep the newsletter lighthearted, grade-level appropriate, easy to read and comprehend, and upbeat.  Follow attention getting protocols such as including sufficient white space, a large enough font, and illustrations.  Though more time consuming and expensive, snail mail makes this much more effective than an e-mail attachment.  It is always special to receive posted, personal mail rather than be a part of an e-mail list.

God Bless and Prayerful Teaching,

Elizabeth A. Wink

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Prayerful Teaching when Closing up the Classroom

For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too.  So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.
                                       Romans 14:17-19 (NLT)

Prayer and Meditation 

Everything is crashing down around me, sapping my time and energy—time and energy I would rather spend on my students.   Grades.  Records.  Extra duties and activities. Confusing bulletins with endless “To-Do” lists.  Never have I felt so overwhelmed.  I will concentrate on making these closing activities a part of my prayer life, a part of living in the goodness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.  Everything I do will be an offering for God and His kingdom. 

The Actions of Prayerful Teaching

  • As difficult as it may be, and as far off as it seems, start now.  If this is the first time you are facing end of the year closing procedures, ask colleagues what it all requires.  Get a head start on all those reports, even if you cannot quite finish them due to missing data.  You can get a lot done now.  Then, during the final days of school you can be more relaxed and perhaps even find time to treat yourself to a special cup of coffee or an ice cream treat.

  • Combine all of the final bulletins into one complete list with check-off boxes.  Sort by due dates.  Number each bulletin and include that number in your check-off boxes in case you need to go back to the original source.  As soon as you complete a task, put a check in the check-off box.  Offer these necessary end-of-semester acts to God that your students may be kept safe and serve Christ as they bask in the glory and freedom of summer.

  • Keep rubrics, grades, and any other artifacts you may need to justify grades.  If grades or grade books are kept on line, it might be a good idea to make hard copies of important documents for yourself.  Secure all confidential records on site.  Never take confidential records home.

  • Prepare for next year.  File and sort lesson plans, units, and supplemental materials into file folders or storage units. Select student work as models for next year and keep them with the unit plans.  If you have not already done so, write short notes as to what went well, what did not go as planned, and what you would like to change. Write these notes or attach them to the front cover of the folder.  It is easier recording your thoughts and observations now when everything is fresh in your mind.  Think how wonderful it will be to get right into planning and teaching units instead of hunting around for lost paperwork.  Put a smiley face or any other sticker on the folder.  When you return to the folder next year consider that a thank you reminder to yourself for putting in the extra time at the end of the school year. 

  • Deconstruct your room.  Secure or take home all personal/purchased items, especially items you cannot afford to repurchase or items that cannot be easily replaced.  Put decorations and bulletin board material in boxes by themes, units, or months.  Add into the box any books that go with the theme, unit, or month.  You have no control over who comes into your classroom over summer.  Sometimes items are moved around for cleaning purposes.  Sometimes workers who have no connection with the school are hired to clean or make repairs. 

  • “Build each other up” (Romans 14:17-19).  Write thank you notes to all colleagues who have assisted you in the past year.  Consider the lunch room workers, maintenance staff, security staff, secretaries, parents, and support staff.  Remember the friends, family, and teachers who shared knowledge with you, mentored you, or were always there to support you  The receivers of the thank you notes will not only know you appreciated them, but will be more than willing to assist you again next year.  As you write each note, offer your time and words as a prayer that the recipient may find joy in the Holy Spirit.  If it is not feasible to write notes to everyone, express your appreciation in person. 

Challenge of the Week:

When writing your thank you notes, write a thank you note to God for your calling as a teacher and for the opportunity to live a life of “goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17) through your work with His children.

God Bless and Prayerful Teaching,

Elizabeth A. Wink

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Prayerful Teaching is Inspiring Students as Summer Nears continued

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon,
“Now go out where it is deeper
and let down your nets
and you will catch a lot of fish!

Luke 5:4 (TLB)


It does not seem possible, but the last days of this school year are closing in on me.  These days are bittersweet, filled with mixed emotions.  I worry about sending my children to the next grade.   Are they adequately prepared?  Will the next teacher understand them and love them like I did?  Will their unique talents be celebrated and their needs understood and fulfilled?  There are still a lot of fish to catch.  Like Simon, I will go to deeper levels and more deeply entrench myself in my calling.  And to you, Lord, I offer up the remaining opportunities I have to bring a deeper level of understanding and richness to the lives of my students as they prepare for life without me as their teacher.

The Actions of Prayerful Teaching

  • Engage students in the process self-reflection.  No student is too young to practice self-reflection.  The reflection can be in written form, picture form, individual, small group, or whole class discussions or a combination of any of these.  This is a great time for parents to discuss with their child all the progress they have noted since September.  Some reflection questions include: Where did I start?   Where am I now?   Under what conditions do I learn best? And most importantly, how did I get where I am today?

  • Continue to provide opportunities for success.  Nothing inspires success like success itself.  Nothing motives like success.  It may be more important at this time of year for students to experience success than at any other time. 

  • Plan a celebration for your students.  A celebration does not necessarily mean pizza, soda, and a party.  An awards ceremony on the last day or the next to the last day serves as a positive note on which to end the school year.  This ceremony need not be for academic success.  Each child can be honored for a positive personality trait, for a time of giving of self, or for an act of kindness.  Prior to the ceremony, ask students to confidentially write about two or three students who should be recognized at the ceremony and for what it is they should be recognized.  At this point students do not know that everyone will receive a unique and special honor.

  • Write letters of advice to students who will be entering your classroom next fall.  As a fun variation students can write on topics such as “How I Survived ___Grade,”  “Warning: You are about to Enter Grade___”  “What to Do and Not to Do in ___Grade.”  You will find many valuable points to share with your new students next fall.  Future students will most likely be more interested in what previous students have to say than what you have to say.  The advice from previous students can also act as added reinforcement for classroom rules and procedures.  As a variation, pictures can be drawn and labeled to use as an overview of upcoming studies and events with your new students in the fall.   You will also be astonished at what you will learn about yourself as a person and as a teacher.

  • Preview the upcoming school year.  What new topics will students learn?  What will they know next year at this time that they do not know now?

Challenge of the Week:

Spend a few moments in self-reflection. How you have grown since the beginning of the school year?  A teacher can never stop growing and learning and perfecting the art of teaching,

God Bless and Prayerful Teaching,

Elizabeth A. Wink

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Prayerful Teaching is Inspiring Students as Summer Nears

Work hard so God can say to you, “Well done.”
Be a good workman, one who does not need
to be ashamed when God examines your work.
Know what his Word says and means.

                    2 Timothy 2:15  (TLB)


Prayer and Meditation

My students are already operating in the vacation mode, but I will not despair.  I will continue to honor God and my calling by increasing my efforts to motivate my students to learn.  Guide me as I search for ways to continue to inspire my students.  You are my partner as I wind up my time with students.

The Actions of Prayerful Teaching

  • Introduce reward cards.  Give out a limited number of “reward cards” at the end of each day as positive reinforcement.  How the reward cards are earned is up to you, but make it viable for everyone to be in the running as often as possible. You need not announce ahead of time what it takes to earn a card.  If you notice one child being kind to another child, that could be the basis for a reward card.  Maybe someone who normally has problems cooperating has cooperated.  Perhaps you noted improvement in behavior.  Earned reward cards can be used in numerous ways.  They could entitle the students to a grab bag.  Maybe the student can staple it to a minor homework assignment which he does not have to complete.  Perhaps he will be entitled to become the class errand runner of the day.  Maybe she is the official teaching assistant of the day--collecting and handing out papers.  Telling the class a preapproved joke at the beginning or end of the day is a treat for both the joke teller and the class.  The earning of “reward cards” and the privileges earned are determined by teacher wisdom.  Solicit ideas (in writing) from the students for really creative, unique, and useful ideas.

  • Photograph students and place their pictures on a “Wall of Honor.”   This is a strategy akin to reward cards.  Each day one student earns the honor of being chosen to be photographed.  The picture is posted on a big star and prominently displayed in front of the classroom, outside the classroom door, or in another place where everyone can see it.  Privileges determined by the teacher’s might be bestowed on the day’s star.  Each day a new student is the featured star.  After the day is over, the photograph will join others on a “Wall of Honor.”  To keep everyone alert, students may be the featured star more than once.

  • Reading marathons and sharing sessions are a good way to end the school year.  With the ritual of standardized testing over and seemingly endless hours of vacation on the horizon, students should be allowed to read books of their choice just for sheer pleasure and enjoyment of it—regardless of level.  Through sharing sessions, they should be encouraged to compile a list of books they want to read or have read to them over the summer.

  • Provide students with as much control as possible over which type of assignments they do or what problems they answer.  The teacher should definitely assign half or most of the assignment and then give students several options for the rest of the assignment.  This is also a great time to experiment which ideas you have, but did not want to try out on a large scale.  This is an opportunity to tweak an assignment before using it big time in the future. 

  • Consign pacing guides, curriculum manuals, and even textbooks to a storage closet.  Come alive and break free of the “must do, must cover” mode. All teachers have pet projects ready to emerge from their dreams and bounce into their classrooms.  This is the time.  Your enthusiasm and passion will be contagious.  Allow hands to get dirty, rooms to get noisy, and messes to cohabitate alongside order.  (Perhaps a reward card could allow for a clean-up master.)

Challenge of the Week:

Think back to when you were the age of the children you teach.  What is the one thing your teachers could have done to make the waiting more bearable for you?   

God Bless and Prayerful Teaching,

Elizabeth A. Wink