Doing Your Best

11 07 2012

Writing is my passion. It’s also a ministry. That’s why I write devotionals for Rest Ministries.

I started a memoire for mothers who have children with special needs. With a desire to come alongside those traveling a similar journey. To share mutual hurts, challenges, and joys. And celebrate the constant care we receive from our loving Father.

Lately I’ve been going through a period of discouragement.

Spending more time in prayer seeking direction, rather than writing.

Soon I’ll be attending a local writers’ conference. With the Greater Philadelphia Writers Conference quickly approaching, I started working on a one-page proposal for my memoire.

Shaky confidence prevented me from giving it my all.

My husband did his best to encourage me. Hugging me he said, “Don’t leave anything on the field.”

Loving advice given by a former football coach.

Except, I’m not a former football player. So I asked, “What does that mean?”

“Do your best.”

Then he added, “You do your best. Then this weekend I’ll take you out so we can celebrate your best. The results are in God’s hands.”

He was keeping up the family tradition. Celebrate the effort of doing our best before the Lord. The results are up to Him.

Our motto: “Do your best and trust God for the rest.”

Isn’t it nice to know God doesn’t expect us to do the impossible? That’s up to Him.

A little pep talk works wonders. I’m back to writing. With renewed determination to do my best.

How do you encourage your children when they’re discouraged?

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Triumph Over Dreaded Math Facts

11 04 2012

For some, multiplication facts arouse a sick queasy feeling. Others fear.

That’s just the parents.

For some students, just the word ‘multiplication’ conjures up thoughts of torture. A mountain of memorizing too great to climb.

Mastering basic math facts can have powerful results. Performance will improve. Math test scores will rise. Confidence will soar.

My experiences helping students have resulted in all those benefits. Several cases were even more astonishing.

One student no longer needed special education for math as a result of strengthening his math facts.

Another student began volunteering answers during math lessons.

Visit my community to find an effective strategy called Hands-On Multiplication). That approach will become a valuable tool in your teaching kit.





Getting Away With It

6 04 2012

Children know how to get away with it.

They run inside the halls of school. Then screech to a halt when a teacher is spotted.

A quick glance at a classmate’s test paper goes unnoticed by the teacher.

Students’ infractions don’t always go undetected. Sometimes they’re caught. There’s a price to pay. Consequences to be suffered.

Wouldn’t it be nice if someone volunteered to take our punishment? Just for fun, imagine this surprise ending to exceeding the speed limit. You get pulled over by a police officer. Just before the ticket is written, a stranger pulls up behind you. He gets out of his car. The unfamiliar person persuades the officer to let him pay for your ticket. You drive away with a clean record. Like a dream come true.

It’s fun to fantasize. But daydreams end. Reality hits.

That’s when we yearn for Someone who really will save us. The Easter story is God’s love story to us.

We all are sinners. Even if we think of doing something wrong, the Bible tells us God counts that as sin. But, Someone has taken our punishment. Jesus died for our sin. He took our punishment so we wouldn’t have to go to hell after we die. He saved us from eternal death. His gift of salvation is offered freely.

Easter is a well-known story. Familiar even to young children.

Years ago, I wanted to help my second graders better understand Christ’s act of love.

In the Christian school where I taught, misbehavior at recess was punished by time out. The misconduct was dealt with by sentencing the student to stand at The Wall. There, the child would watch the others play until the designated time was up. The amount of time depended on the offense.

Not sharing nicely – 2 mins.

Bothering another child – 5 mins.

Teasing someone else – 10 mins.

Repeated naughtiness – 15 mins.

Throwing stones – 20 mins.

Intentionally hitting – 25 mins.

      

Aides supervised recess time during the teachers’ lunch. Before lunch one day, I told an aide to let me know when the first student disobeyed a rule. I would stand by The Wall instead of that student to illustrate an innocent person taking a guilty person’s punishment.

The first student to be disciplined owed 25 mins.!

“You may go play. I’ll take your punishment. I’ll stand here instead of you.”

Off the bewildered student scurried.

Quickly, a crowd of students gathered by The Wall. Never before had they seen a teacher standing there. Some were quietly curious. Others speculated. Many understood the point.

One called out, “Let’s bet for her clothes!” Referring to how they cast lots for Christ’s clothes.

The mob of onlookers roared with laughter.

It was a moment of insight for me. Reflecting on how they mocked Jesus while He gave the ultimate gift.

The ‘lesson’ was a success. Students of all grades were abuzz with the news. A teacher had to stand at The Wall! The humorous incident conveyed a powerful message.

We assume children understand Christian terminology/Church and Sunday School language. That’s not always the case. My intention: to take what they understood and use it to give deeper insight into phrases such as, “sacrificial love”, “took our punishment”, and “died on the cross for our sins.”

Reflecting on the crucifixion and resurrection helps to build greater insight. We can better comprehend our Father’s love. He gave His only Son to die for us. He who was sinless willingly suffered and died on the cross for our sin. To make a way for us to have everlasting life in heaven.

May you have a blessed celebration of our Lord’s resurrection.





Caught Not Taught

21 03 2012

Young children imitate adults.  You’ve heard the expression that children learn what’s caught rather than what’s taught.  As a teacher and as a mother, I learned the power of modeling desired behavior.

As a teacher:

One September I injured my vocal chords yelling during a dirt car race.  It was my first experience. The cars didn’t have mufflers to add to the excitement and the noise.  So, my cousin gave me ear plugs.  But I felt the need to be social and talk (yell).

After the races were over my voice was useless.  I thought I had laryngitis.  After several weeks, I still didn’t have my voice back.  I went to the doctor who informed me that I had injured my vocal chords.  He told me I would have to stop using my voice in order to let it heal.  A teacher can’t teach very well without a voice.

So, I devised a plan.  I told my second graders that I’d need an official announcer each day to pronounce loudly important messages I’d whisper in his/her ear.  Each chosen student took their job seriously – standing straight and tall, declaring clearly and accurately each message I whispered.

Whenever I whispered to a student, that student whispered back to me.  It was adorable. An example of how children automatically imitate adults. My classroom took on a quieter, calm atmosphere. I almost didn’t want my voice to be healed.

As a mother:

When our sons were five and seven years old, I remember countless times telling them to clear the table when finished eating. “Don’t forget to take your dirty dishes to the sink…Come back here and put your plate and silverware in the sink…”

I was so tired of reminding them every day. Over and over again. Resentment grew. Annoyance simmered. Irritation boiled. It’s amazing how one seemingly minor request can lead to sheer frustration.

I became desperate!

Telling them wasn’t working. Reminders were ineffective (ignored?).

Time for another strategy.

Both our boys emulated their father. So, I privately asked my husband to pointedly take his dirty dishes to the sink the next night.

The following day after dinner, my husband said, “Well, I’m finished eating.”

Clang went his knife and fork on the plate.

“That was good. Thanks,”

Clatter went his cup and dirty dishes into the sink.

On cue each boy repeated his words… and his actions!

Caught, not taught!

“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.”   Ephesians 5:1

What has your child learned from your example?





Getting Kids to Do What You Want Them to Do

12 02 2012

Managing the behavior of children can sometimes seem impossible.

 

A well-prepared teacher can have a lesson sabotaged by one mischievous student.

“Stop talking…Don’t get out of your seat…Stop bothering George …This is not the time to play with your toy…Please stop spinning your ruler…Don’t lean back on your chair…”

A responsible parent trying to shop may follow this all-familiar script:

“Don’t touch that…Leave the mannequin alone…Don’t run inside…Stop saying that over and over…No, you can’t go there…No, we can’t buy that…”

Children can wear us out!             

Instead of telling them what not to do, give them something very specific to do.

Sometimes teachers tell students what to do without getting the resistant student to comply. That’s when being very specific helps.

Vague: “Get to work.”

Very specific: “Pick up your pencil and answer the questions now. Keep working until you are finished.”

In the home, the script might sound like this:

Vague: “Do your chores.”

Very specific: “Pick up all those toys and put them in the toy box. Pick up every book and put them in the book shelf. Throw all the trash in the trash can. Put all the clothes in the laundry basket.”

If the child talks back, simply get closer to the child and repeat the directions like a broken record without raising your voice.

Here’s a real conversation I had with my teenage son:

Me: “Move your clothes from the living room and take them to your bedroom now.”

Chris: (while walking up the steps empty handed) “I’ll do it later.”

Me: (following close behind him) “Move your clothes now. Take them from the living room to your bedroom now.”

Chris: (in the bathroom) “I’m going to take a shower now.”

Me: (putting my foot in the door to keep it from closing) “Move your clothes now. Take them from the living room to your bedroom now.”

Chris: (still in the bathroom) “I don’t have any clothes on.”

Me: “Put a towel around you and move your clothes now. Take them from the living room to your bedroom now.”

Chris: (huffing in frustration and resignation) “Oh, all right.”

Practice watching adult-child interactions in the mall.

Look for parents telling their children simply what not to do.  They’ve entered the Land of Not -where people speak only “don’t” and “stop.”

Then listen for parents telling their children what to do.

“Hold onto my coat. Look for a white jacket. Tell me when you see a sale sign.”

Before our sons could read, I gave them their own food list. Pictures on their list were of things I needed to buy. Their job was to look for those items. It kept them busy and helped me.

If you’re interested in learning more about this method of behavior management, check out Michael Valentine’s website.

http://www.michael-valentine.com/outline.html

What’s your greatest behavior management challenge?





Is it OK to emphasize learning styles?

17 01 2012

Focusing on learning styles has become controversial. Learning is much more complex than simply discovering the best method of teaching for a student.

Many factors impact academic performance. When a student is struggling to succeed, there are many things to consider. All of the following elements contribute to school success.

  • The teaching methods (There are countless categories of learning styles.)
  • The environment (physical factors and the atmosphere)
  • The student (gender, age, culture, health, development, self-awareness, motivation, pace, etc.)
  • The teacher (training, experience, etc.)
  • The process of learning (constructing knowledge based on the context, reflection and closure – fitting it into related information previously learned)
  • The system (support services, resources, etc.)
  • The parent (ability to support child, own past experiences, current life stressors)
  • The content (information to be learned) – Types of knowledge:
  1. Procedural (knowing how), declarative (knowing what), connective (knowing who – knowledge of and by the connections that exist in the world), experiential
  2. Separate (learned through explicit instruction) vs. connective (learned through empathy)

The secret to success in school can’t be as simple as a single learning style. It would be wrong to say that each person learns from one specific method of teaching. Learning is enhanced when information is presented in different ways.

Teaching methods, learning environment, the student, the teacher, the content, the system, and the parent all affect academic performance.

But…

We admit everyone has strengths and needs. Some things are easy to learn; some are harder.

Specific strategies can help tremendously.

Math comes easy for me. It’s harder for me to memorize important dates in history. I’ve found that if I draw a picture of an important event and include the date, I’m more likely to remember the date. This realization that I learn difficult things using illustrations has helped me throughout school.

I once taught a student who was legally blind and mildly mentally retarded. He was a gifted musician. Learning to spell correctly was hard for him. I challenged him to make a rap out of his weekly spelling words. His spelling tests were very entertaining. His performance soared!

So, should we abandon all emphasis on learning styles? Certainly not.

Helping a struggling learner is detective work. It’s a systematic search for what works.

It’s important to keep in mind all factors: teaching methods, learning environment, the student, the teacher, the content, the system, and the parent.

One component of optimal differentiated instruction for a particular student may be a teaching method which has promoted progress or success.

Students can develop strategies which are in accordance with their strengths and preferred learning styles. Those strategies become their tool box for learning. Educators can certainly identify accommodations which would yield improvements for a student.

Visit my ‘Equipping the Saints’ website to find a learning styles ppt. I developed.

Click on the Learning Styles ppt. for more information.





Combating a Materialized Christmas

6 12 2011

When our sons 3 and 5 yrs. old people would ask them, “What do you want for Christmas?”

I found a way to teach them the Biblical meaning of the holiday and at the same time share God’s Word with unsuspecting strangers.

I taught them the entire Christmas passage in Luke. If young children can learn all the words to a song, they can learn Luke 2:8-14. Using lots of expression in my tone of voice coupled with hand motions, I taught our boys the passage.

When someone asked them, “What do you want for Christmas?” they responded, “Well that’s not what Christmas is all about.” They would go on to share the true meaning of Christmas by reciting the passage.  “And there were in the same country shepherds…”

Listen to our son, Bobby reciting that passage. He was 4 yrs. old at the time. Now he’s 29.

YouTube: Five year old recites Christmas passage

What do you do to help your children focus on the real meaning of Christmas?