Go for the Gold

12 01 2014


What would you do to get gold? Work overtime. Marry a millionaire. Move to Hollywood. Train eight hours a day for years to become a world-class athlete.

There are all kinds of gold. This is the season of pursuing the prize. Movie stars sparkle more than the gold statue displayed in their hands. Olympiads beam brighter than the gold medal draped on their proud chests. 

The Winter Olympics will begin soon. Medal counts will be fun to calculate. Victories will be thrilling.

What can our children learn from the athletes? What does it take to become the best? Confidence tempered with humility. Practice and hard work. Great sacrifice. Support. Discipline. Determination. Resilience. An ability to embrace mistakes and learn from them. To rise again and become better.

We want our kids to have goals and follow their dreams. Are some goals better than others?

Do you remember the name of the athlete who won the gold medal in men’s speed skating in the last Olympics (500 m, 1000 m, or 1500 m)? Fame is fleeting. Fortune fades.

In Matthew 6:19-20 we read about disintegrating trophies and indestructible ones. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

This is not to say earthly accomplishments are wrong. We supported our sons’ endeavors. We provided what was needed for them to pursue their black belts in karate. They achieved that goal. Then they strove to become accomplished musicians. We did all we could to help them in that endeavor.  

Let’s continue to encourage our kids to set goals and to dream dreams. But let’s also pass on our passion for God. To instill in them a desire to serve Him, share the Gospel, and love others.

“But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds … You see that (Moses’) faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.”   James 2:18, 22

Help them focus on an eternal goal. So that one day they’ll be able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”  2 Timothy 4:7-8

Personally, I wish my children continue to spend their lives ‘going for the gold.’ I can’t imagine anything better than for them to walk the streets of gold in heaven, wearing a crown from God.

Each year I taught second graders, I planned a year-long theme. During a Winter Olympic year, the theme was ‘God’s Athletes.’ Click on the link below to find the list of verses I compiled related to that theme.


Taking Notes 101

5 01 2014


Lots can go wrong with a student’s class notes. Too messy to read. Inadequate information written. Critical facts missing. Unnecessary words cluttering up the page.

Students fail tests partly because they don’t take good notes. There’s an easy solution to that problem. Explicitly teach them how to take notes. Don’t have time? Can you afford NOT to invest the time? You won’t have to devote tons of valuable time. It will be time well-spent.

Here’s a personal anecdote highlighting the power of one brief mini-lesson.

As Director of Instruction, I offered support to classroom teachers. A middle school history teacher requested my assistance. One of his 7th grade students had failed all the tests in the first quarter.

I began by observing the student during a review lesson for an upcoming history test.

The teacher explained and wrote critical information. Like robots, the students wrote. Each face seemed void of any thought. Flat expressions conveyed boredom or tiredness—or both.

The teacher explained and wrote…students wrote. The teacher explained and wrote…students wrote.

It doesn’t look like anyone is thinking.

The teacher broke the pattern and did something that confirmed my suspicions.

He simply stated a powerful point without writing it down, himself. He emphatically stated, “This point is extremely important; it WILL BE on the test…” (and he told them the information without writing it)

Not one student wrote it down! Their note taking had been mindless. A simple task of imitating the teacher. He wrote; they wrote. He didn’t write; they didn’t write (even though he told them it was an important point that would be included on the test).

I offered to teach a mini-lesson to that class about how to take class notes. Below you’ll find a document containing all the information I covered in a 20 min. lesson.

I suggested that they try only one or two of the points made (such as: write info. only after you understand the point so it can be summarized, use abbreviations, etc.).  Each student was given a copy of the document (on neon paper and laminated).

About two weeks later I asked that same class if they had tried any of the strategies. Every single student had tried some of the methods and reported improved grades on recent tests. Everyone attributed their success to their better note-taking skills. They expressed gratitude and excitement.

“What did you try?” I asked.

One by one, they told me what they tried. All without referring to the document I provided!

After that initial mini-lesson, the teacher provided reminders. During subsequent review lessons, he simply referred to the strategies before and during review lessons. He started modeling the methods by providing a list of abbreviations, by drawing simple pictures of important points, etc.

Word spread. Several senior high school students asked me to teach the same lesson to their classes. Gotta love when students get motivated and become more invested in improving their performance!

Note Taking

Understanding Attention

4 01 2014


“He has trouble paying attention.” That’s what every teacher told us throughout our son’s school career. As if we didn’t notice.

Diagnosed at age 5 with ADHD, Chris demonstrated classic signs of ADHD: impulsivity, distractibility, disorganization…  Back then, 28 yrs. ago, most people didn’t know about ADHD.  However, I was very familiar with the disorder. My training and experience teaching students in special education provided insight.

You can just imagine how it frustrated me when educators reported the obvious about Chris. Especially in such vague terms. “He has trouble paying attention.” That didn’t tell me anything concrete or helpful.

When I became a regular classroom teacher, I vowed to do a better job reporting information to parents of kids with ADHD. They deserved to know what I observed, how much redirection was required to keep the student on task, etc.

So I developed a rubric. You may find it useful. When you click on the link below, you’ll find a chart. Start with the first column and pinpoint precisely where a student falls. Write the date in the box that best describes the student’s behavior. Do the same for all the other columns.

After several months, repeat the process to update the information.

Attention Rubric