Monday, April 23, 2012

Love in the classroom

The “9” in the 16-9 Movement is learning to display the Fruit of the Spirit in a public school classroom while honoring the laws of our great nation.  Have you ever noticed that the 9 fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” are really the fruit of the Spirit (singular). When we truly live out our faith, all 9 fruit are exuded as one. Wow, that’s a huge charge. Teachers who are living out their faith know that there are just too many of those days when we don’t feel so joyful or peaceful or even under self-control.  However, as Christians we are forgiven for our sins and convicted quickly to repent.  When we don’t display these fruit, we must acknowledge before God and with His Spirit be transformed. It’s no easy process and will certainly take us a lifetime, but for this discussion, I would like to take the classroom-eye view of what it looks like to LOVE in the classroom.
Love is powerful. It covers all sin. That student that gives us the most difficult time is loved also. Loving the unlovable is God’s way.  To be Jesus people, we look to Him.  Who did He touch? – the untouchable. Who did He seek? – the lost. Who did He love? – the outcast. Our classrooms of America are filled with students who have never had a kind word, a touch without strings attached and a life of difficulty. It’s not easy to love the unlovable, but that’s what we are called to do as Christian educators.  What does love look like in the classroom? When we love our students, we serve them.  We seek ways to enter into a personal relationship with them to truly get to know their needs in order to meet them. We all know how hard that is to do with classrooms that are too huge or full of issues, but love always covers.  Loving our students means setting boundaries that are clear and consistent. Students always want to know the limits and will push them until the boundary is defined.
Loving our students can also be a simple task of greeting them at the door as they come in. This small but powerful move, sets the stage of caring. One of my favorite teachers of all time greets his students at the door every day, every class period with a fist pump and the words, “Welcome home.” His students feel loved and know they can trust him.  Love is always displayed in unexpected ways. No one has a right to love, that is why it is such an elusive commodity. We all hunger for it, yet are often afraid to love.  Be bold. Love your students with kind words, random acts of kindness, Pay It Forward initiatives and smiling. Jesus loved the little children and we may be the only touch of Jesus on some of the lives of these children.  John 13:34
 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Please let us know other ways to display love in the classroom in the comment area.  You are loved!

Prayerfully yours,

Note: To more fully understand the 16-9 Movement, please read the first blog entry by clicking here.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

High Stakes Testing

What is high stakes testing? What does the 16-9 Movement have to do with high stakes testing? What is the role of a Christian educator during this time of evaluation?  High stakes tests have become the norm across the nation in the last decade.  SAT testing has been around for many decades, but federal and statewide mandates have touched every teacher and student with data driven decisions. High stakes testing refers to basing the results of testing on funding, grading and sometimes even passing to the next grade level. Is it any wonder that students and teachers are experiencing high levels of stress? The 16-9 Movement guidelines can help Christian teachers to be reminded of the high calling of our positions.  I have often been asked about prayer in the classroom and one of the greatest proofs that there still is prayer is during high stakes testing.  What Christian child, parent or teacher has not prayed for wisdom, guidance, peace and more during this season?

As a Christian in the public school, you must remind yourself always of the first “16” words of the First Amendment – “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” The prayers you are praying for your students are private, not with the students. Praying in and around the testing area, sitting in the student desks and requesting specific prayers on behalf of the students is highly encouraged when the students are not present. Students are perfectly free to pray with each other in the halls, waiting areas, cafeteria, etc. as long as they do not interrupt instructional time.  Most states have passed voluntary and even some mandatory “Moment of Silence” at the beginning of each day where students are free to pray or not to pray by choice.  (This is a link to the individual state mandates.) A believer has incredible Power to rely on during this time of testing. Sometimes we just need a little reminder. No one who is Christian should go into such an important time without prayer and dependence upon the One Who created us.  He will grant us a peace that surpasses all understanding.

Another very important part of high stakes testing for the Christian educator is our ability to exude the “9” Fruit of the Spirit. During a time of stress, a teacher who displays love, joy, peace, goodness, kindness, gentleness, patience, self-control and faithfulness will be contagious. It is our responsibility to be different and to be fragrant.  During the testing period, I believe the “9” Fruit of the Spirit can be summarized by the word integrity. Testing materials, testing schedules, testing guidelines must all be handled with integrity. Nothing should be taken for granted and all guidelines should be followed. It is incredible to see teachers who have been trained in all the guidelines, close the door of their testing room and “do their own thing.” A Christian educator is held to the highest standards and must exemplify the high expectations of the testing requirements. Let’s encourage our students to do their best, leave their worries behind and enter this testing period knowing they are well prepared. The value of their being is not based on any single test, but by the One Who created them.

May God bless you and your students with peace and a contagious spirit of joy on your campuses over the next few weeks of high stakes testing.  Ps. 143:1 - Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may Your Good Spirit lead me on level ground

Prayerfully yours,

Note: To more fully understand the 16-9 Movement, please read the first blog entry by clicking here.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Just Be

The Name of God that summarizes all His Names is “I Am.” What a name! I’m sure that there are theological scholarly studies that can help with a thorough and beautiful understanding of this powerful name, but I met a teacher in Charlotte this week that applied its power to us as teachers.  Karen Barber said that all she needs to remember when she walks in the classroom is to “just be.” Isn’t “am” one of the conjugations of the verb “to be?” When we are in our classrooms, we don’t need to say we are Christians, we need to “just be” Christians. What does that look like? How would you know?  Can it be learned? Why would you want to “just be?”  How can our actions reflect the Great I AM? The simplest things are not the easiest things and on our own it is impossible, but we are Jesus with skin on in our classrooms and without a word spoken about it, we can “just be.”  You know you are there when people ask, “Why are you always so happy?” “Why do you always smile?” or “What makes you so nice?” and/or any combination thereof. That is our opportunity to tell them about “I AM.”

I would like to suggest 5 Baby Steps for Christian educators in the public and even private schools. In this blog entry, I’ll do just a short summary of each step, but will give more specific examples and details in future entries.  The 5 Baby Steps are:
1. Know Jesus
2. Frame your worldview
3. Practice the Fruit of the Spirit
4. Learn the law
5. Be in communion

Baby Step #1 – Know Jesus.  Read about Jesus. Sing about Jesus. Listen to audio/video about Jesus. Immerse yourself in Jesus. He’s so amazing.  Who wouldn’t want to be more like Him? Begin to apply his questioning skills, embrace everyone who is needy, laugh with the downtrodden and love the unlovable. These are quite the shoes to fill, but when you can recall stories about Jesus, you can place yourself in His shoes (or at least try to!)

Baby Step #2 – Frame your worldview. This is what makes us different that other teachers. We look at everything through the lens of the Bible. We frame our thinking around life and love and what God has done for us. We are in humble adoration of the great I AM and know where we have come from and where we are going. That quiet confidence can be a cornerstone to “just be.”

Baby Step #3 – Practice the Fruit of the Spirit. Memorize them. Can you “be” love, joy, peace, goodness, kindness, gentleness, patience, self-control and faithfulness? (Gal. 5:22-23) I am looking for teachers to help me describe what each of these fruits looks like on daily basis in the classroom. Do you have a story or example to share?  Theory is great, but teachers want practice.  Please let me know what you do and consider being a guest blogger for the 16-9 movement!

Baby Step #4 – Learn the law.  As government employees, public school teachers must what they can and cannot say and do in the classroom.  We have been incredibly misinformed over the past 3-4 decades about separation of church and state and at times do not even realize just how much we can do under the First Amendment. It is imperative that all teachers and administrators come to know and understand, at least the first 16 words of the First Amendment, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; ………”

Baby Step #5 – Be in communion. Our God is in constant communion with Himself and us. He created us to be in communion with Him and others. As a Christian educator, you are not alone.  There are thousands upon thousands of us who share this high calling. Unfortunately, we can be in a school for years without even realizing that some of our colleagues are Christian also. We need to seek prayer partners and friends on campus who want to learn how to “just be” so that we may transform our schools through the power of I AM. Being in an organization like CEAI, is a huge start in uniting Christians across our nation. Won’t you consider joining us to build this communion between Christians in our schools, districts, states and nation?

Prayerfully yours,

Note: To more fully understand the 16-9 Movement, please read the first blog entry by clicking here.