If you had previously followed this blog, I thank you. Though it was temporarily hidden because I did not anticipate needing it again, I am back and with a pretty exciting journey to chronicle. The last several years, I have been working with Learning Disability students through the Discovery Program. This year, I have been given the privilege to work with gifted students in what we call the STEWARDS program; a student environment for arduous studies.
This pull-out program for 3-6 grade students, works through differentiated enrichment units. The purpose of these units is to foster the gifts the students have and to train them to be good stewards of those gifts. This year the topics are as follows: Conservation, Architecture, Constellations, Circulatory System, Bizarre Animals, Aerodynamics, Culinary Arts, Inventors/Inventions, and Travel/Touring.
This blog will primarily chronicle the journey that will make up the architecture unit. Why you ask? Because we are not going to be talking about bridges or the history of architectural design. No toothpicks and marshmallows here!
For about three years I have extensively research a growing movement within our country – the Tiny House. Though I am certain I will not live in a house that is a mere 117 sq ft., I might just own one for traveling the country. My vision for this unit consists of briefly covering the history and impact of the movement as well as contrasting the benefits and drawbacks of such houses. Along with that, I thought this unit would prove the ultimate platform for HANDS ON learning.
How would I accomplish this? Why not build one as a class and auction it as a fundraiser?
I laid out this crazy idea, not thinking it would legitimately take hold, and am now at the stage where plans have been purchased, the trailer is being ordered, and timelines are in place. Here is the outline of how it happened…in one weeks time.
Monday – Topic Ideas were given to my boss.
Tuesday – Upon inquiring what project I would consider for the Tiny House unit, I cast the vision for building a house.
Wednesday – Next came the question of cost – a mere $25,000. I thought the project would stop here, but momentum kept building.
Thursday – By this time, the Administration was behind the idea. Now we had to be about finding a donor.
Friday – I participated in a 45 minute meeting with a Lees Summit Plans Examiner, Project Manager, and Planner where preliminary approval was granted!!! (The City is stoked and wants to watch what happens.)
I am completely blown away. We went from concept to preliminary approval in 4 days.
After approval was granted, the search for a donor commenced. Though it was a short time, it seemed to drag on. My hope waned and I began to draw up lesson plan B. The donor deadline came and went without funds. Yet, three days after the deadline, through a providential conversation, a donor stepped forward and is gladly putting forth the whole amount for the project.
I was sitting at home after back-to-school night, pondering what would be taking place in “lesson plan B” when my boss called me and informed me of this incredible provision. I was stunned to say the least. I don’t think I said anything during the conversation except an emotionless OK. I hung up the phone and let the news sink in. I had given up hope, but now I was back in the midst of the project! I raced back to the school at 10pm and began to collect all the material I had shelved and to produce parent letters, schedule spreadsheets, and project timelines.
Since then, many details have fallen into place, and I’m ecstatic to announce the following:
During the 2014-2015 school year, Summit Christian Academy’s Stewards class will be building a Tiny House and auctioning it off as a school fundraiser!
For the last week and a half, I have been pouring over material lists and blue prints. Little by little, I am seeing this grand dream come into reality. Yet, I am still completely blown away that this is actually taking place. (I also have the occasional “What have I gotten myself into” moment). Never did I think it would move beyond a crazy idea! The Lord has already worked in incredible and unexpected ways. What a year this will be!
It has been some time since I last wrote on this blog; mainly because I have been running another blog about theology and did not think I would be returning to this blog.
Yet, as it stands, I am now in my third year of teaching at Summit Christian Academy with the change this year that I will be working with gifted students. At SCA, we use a pull-out program called Stewards. Here these students work together to cover extracurricular units that hone their skills and teach them responsible use of their gifts. This year, these gifted students will cover unique units running the gamut of Conservation, Culinary Arts, Architecture, and Aerodynamics to Body Systems, Inventions, and World Travel.
That is where this blog comes in.
There is one particular section of our study this year that will provide a lot of hands on experience, challenges, and opportunities for my students. Currently, the project has the enthusiastic approval of the administration as well as the local City Hall. Lord willing, I will know tomorrow if all of the funding is in place and whether we can begin the project. Accordingly, look for an update soon as I reveal what exactly this project is!
If/When the project is underway, I and my students will post regular updates (complete with photos). I hope you will follow our progress and encourage my students in this journey.
Well, the week has come to an end and I have successfully completed both the online course work and residency training for level two of educational therapy! (With a final score of 94%) The last month has been non-stop work since I returned from vacation June 1. (This probably explains why June vanished…)
This past week of residency training has been incredible. Generally, I really struggle with online course work since the in-class interaction with teacher and peers is absent; I thrive on immediate interaction and being able to hone ideas with my peers. Accordingly, a week of residency training (5 days, 8:30a-4:30p) is essential for me to solidify the new knowledge I gained during the course work. Further, I find learning and growing in community to be invigorating and rejuvenating. (Something much-needed after my overloaded first year.) Finally, I found that gathering with my peers this week proved beneficial in growing my understanding of how to be more empathetic with students. I am sure we all rubbed off on each other and will benefit from our collective experience for years to come.
Therefore, I am so thankful to the Lord for placing me in a field that is consistently stimulating intellectually and involves frequent problem solving as I study student’s tests and determine which techniques will best stimulate the deficits. Further, I am thankful for such a dynamic instructor for the course and partner in the field; Tony has been with NILD almost longer than I have been alive. He is zealous for the cause of NILD, 100% convinced of the efficacy of the techniques we use, effective in his instruction, and encouraging in his critique of growing therapists. Finally, I cannot imagine taking the class with a better group of people; we had interacted over the course of the 4-week online work, but really clicked when we gathered together this week. These ladies brought so much life to the course and imparted to me their years of experience and working with students; I can’t wait to meet back up at conferences.
I walk away from this course holding many memories (the “I like you mouse“, and the “panic button”), equipped with new techniques, encouraged in my field, further skilled in previous techniques, and ready to take on the new year of school.
Recharged and writing from the desk,
P.S. – You may be asking, “What is NILD Educational Therapy?” I will answer that question on Monday! Stay tuned.
Professionalism weighs heavy upon me in the midst of anything I do. This attitude was instilled in me by my father who has been a top-notch salesman for over 20 years; often standing within the top 5 sales persons in his company from year to year. Further, professionalism has been in my recent deliberations concerning my career due to a recent survey I embarked upon regarding the doctrine of vocation (perhaps summed up best by Martin Luther when he said: God does not need your works, your neighbor does). Since I have been placed in the field of educational therapy, I am to glorify God in every aspect; one of those aspects involves professionalism and integrity.
It is important for Christians to practice with integrity and professionalism in the midst of a world, especially in special education, that looks down on Christians. However, if Christians are to practice with integrity there must be goals and plans in place for it to occur; professionalism does not occur overnight. Further, I believe that in order to maintain a professional practice, you must always be learning from colleagues and adapting your practice to ensure best practice methods. Professional practice requires ardent work, self-sacrifice, and faithful application of conviction and practice. Accordingly, when reflecting upon my own practice, there are two areas I wish to work on in the coming year in an effort to improve my professional practice.
First, I must be empathetic. I am not naturally empathetic when it comes to educational expectations. I frequently battle the temptation to chalk up a student’s shortcomings to conscious and willful laziness or a failure to apply one’s self adequately (though this does happen from time to time). When reading the chapter entitled “Empathic Intelligence” from The Clinical Practice of Educational Therapy, I was convicted of the role empathy is to play in our educational practice. Though there was much I learned this year regarding empathy and the practice thereof, there is still much I could do: daily practice patience when frustration is evident, continue to provide a safe, encouraging, and personable environment for therapy, and go out of my way to provide positive feedback and encouragement in progress throughout the year.
Second, I resolve to zealously learn my students. My students are made in the image of God and inhabit more than figures on a page; it is imperative that this never leave the forefront of my mind in my practice. As I learned this past year, interaction with my students extends beyond the therapy walls. Moving forward, it is my earnest goal to learn the academic desires, wishes, passions, ambitions, temperaments, study practices, and family dynamics of my students in order to fully accommodates their needs in a manner that involves them and is not merely about them.
What about you? Do you have thoughts regarding professionalism in your vocation? Share them in the comments below and let us begin a dialogue!
Well my first year of teaching and working in Special Education has come to an end and I want to summarize my experience in the ring. Currently, I am writing a mere 100 yards from the ocean in Salvo, NC as my vacation comes to an end; I cannot image a better way to conclude a great first year. As I have been away and relaxing, I have been mulling over my experience in an effort to elucidate the lessons I am to learn and apply to make next year even better.
The last month of the school year was hectic and full of uncertainty for where I would be in 3 months time. The end of the year is always marked by a mad dash to summarize reports, grade final projects, finish course material, and complete the necessary in-service days before the end of the school year. This makes for a rapid end that flies by in such a manner that one could easily overlook all the lessons one is to take from the year. When one is glad that the race has ended and a time of repose has begun, the last thing on the summer list is to learn from the success and failures of the previous year.
Here are the top six things I can gather from my experiences and put forth for you and I to learn from.
The power of saying NO and the power of saying YES. There were many things I should have said NO to this year. However, in my desire to be the best coworker I could be, there were a lot of things I said YES to and the result was a schedule gorged with work and starving for leisure. I should have listened earlier in the year to my former 5th & 6th grade teacher (now coworker) when she explained why I needed to be careful what I took on to prevent burnout. Though I did not burn out, there were times I was very close. (As the year progressed, I did learn to be comfortable saying NO) That being said, there is also great value in saying YES. There were times when I would fill in during a spare hour to fill the gap for a teacher with an emergency or a sub who was running late. Being flexible and being able to fill in the gap aids in creating a mutual environment of support and care; I will always help my coworkers to the best of my capabilities and opportunities.
When dealing with students who are more literal than normal (i.e. does not understand metaphors, colloquialisms, etc.), choose your words very carefully. If you do not, you will be misinterpreted, parents will be upset, meetings will follow, and you get the picture.
Avoid the temptation of taking work home with you. I did this way too much at the beginning of the year. While I am single and do not have pets and taking work home is not as much of an issue now, it is certainly not a habit I want to establish before I am married and have a family of my own. I learned that I would be most productive with certain tasks at the beginning of the day as opposed to putting them off to the end of the day. Accordingly, it was easier for me to arrive early to work (6-6:30 range) rather than to stay after school; after a day of intense individual Discovery Therapy, one does not have much energy left.
Relationship enforces discipline. I found that it was futile to issue discipline if I did not have a relationship or rapport with the student. Without the common ground, discipline is viewed as capricious and as though the teacher has it out for the student, instead of being an instance where the teacher can help form students and aid them in understanding correct conduct. This manifest itself most evidently in my duty as cafeteria monitor for the high school. Since only 1% of the high school actually had me as a teacher, the only context the other 99% of the students knew me was in the cafeteria as the guy who made them clean up. Accordingly, meaningful discipline was near impossible. I am still trying to determine how that scenario can be remedied.
Keeping track of communication is key in education. A log of when parents are emailed and why is a life saver sometimes. It also allows you to determine if you are communicating too much or not enough.
Something that worked well this year was to include my boss on every important email; I learned this trick from my father. Though not every email would require any action on her part, it allowed her to keep a pulse on what was going on in the department and how parents/students were being handled. Further, if a situation were to come up, she already knew about the previous track of communication and was not blindsided. This is one practice that will stay in my quiver.
Why do people respond differently to various situations? Whether explicitly stated or not, people possess a series of categorized beliefs about God, reality, knowledge, ethics and man (Nash, 1992, 26), known as a philosophy of life or a worldview. “A worldview, then, is a conceptual scheme by which we consciously or unconsciously place or fit everything we believe and by which we interpret and judge reality” (Nash, 1992, 16). Though many people may not be able to articulate their worldview, they no doubt have one. One’s worldview is either explicitly learned through dialogue, literature and diligent instruction, or it is implicitly learned through culture, role models, and literature. Finally, worldviews are always evident by the manner in which a person conducts himself or herself; though it may be in direct opposition to their articulated worldview.
When a worldview is based upon something outside of the self, something impervious to the whims and changing desires of the individual, solidity is found. However, when a worldview is based upon the self and subject to the ever-changing sea of human desires, the worldview produces confusion, inconsistency and contradiction. With such a fluid worldview, succinct and adequate answers to the questions of morality, ethics, law, and mankind cannot be given; rather, answers are subjective and subservient to preference.
The impact of a worldview upon education can be clearly seen in a cursory observation since it is the function of a worldview that allows an individual to interpret data and events and to assign them significance. Thus, teaching occurs through the filter of an individual’s worldview. Accordingly, to error in one’s worldview creates a foundation for teaching destined for catastrophe.
Philosophy of Life
I have found that there are two aspects of a worldview that are crucial in the arena of education: our view of God and our view of man. Our view of man, ultimately deriving from our view of God, necessarily forms how we teach. To have an errant view of God and man is to implement an educational philosophy full of holes and inadequate for the task. It is not enough to have a convenient answer when the task of educating successive generations is at hand; it is imperative that the right view be ascertained in order that right answers may be given to students’ questions.
Due to the fact that I believe God to be the sovereign, transcendent yet immanent, creator and upholder of the universe, his word has final authority. The laws he has set forth and the redemption he has provided govern how I live, and how I live influences how I teach. Further, my view of God necessarily informs my view of man. Man was created as the pinnacle of creation, yet due to Adam and Eve’s sin, the image of God has been distorted in every way. It is only through the redemption of Christ, given by God not earned by man, that man is made whole again through the process of sanctification.
Our view of man determines how we teach our students, to the end that we either teach solely to their mind, or we teach to the heart while teaching the mind. When I was in college, my theology professor instilled in his students the idea that you could have a perfect and sound argument for Christianity, but in the end the heart of the individual would trump the mind. Therefore, we must teach to the heart as well as the mind if we are to be effective. If we merely teach to the mind, all we have done is create a knowledgeable sinner whose driving force is still in need of transformation.
Philosophy of Education
The development of my philosophy of education occurred primarily in college, though there were some grade school influences. It was during my time in college that I became profoundly aware of the fallen nature of man and the fact that only God has the power to change people. Unless God is directing our methods, our efforts are frivolous.
Further, two teachers were instrumental in my growth. First, my fifth and sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Green, who handled her class with such sincere care while remaining steadfast in her standards. From her example, I seek to model the same tender sternness. Second, my college theology professor, Mr. Smith, taught me to ask deep questions and to evaluate everything including my own beliefs. From his example, I seek to encourage my students to learn the reasons behind the answers they hold, not simply to know the answer. It is only through the exercise of rigorous questioning that our beliefs are honed and solidified as iron sharpens iron.
In recent decades, the purpose of education seems to have shift from aiding individuals to use their created potential and glorify God through the gifts man has been endowed with, to creating individuals in manners that society deems appropriate or necessary, thereby molding society in their image and dreams. Here are the days of using education to shape society and gone are the days of God honoring education in the public sector.
Man was created with certain faculties that set him apart from the animals. It is through the faculties of intellect and will that man is to rule and subdue the earth. Education therefore, is to give mankind the necessary information and strategies that enable him or her to reach their God-given potential as the pinnacle of creation. It is through the proper acquisition of the faculties man has been given, that he most glorifies God’s handiwork.
With this view in mind, what then is the role of teacher in the classroom? Today, the teacher in many instances seems to replace the parents as the developer of children. There are many reasons as to why this should never be, no matter the situation, but perhaps the most necessary reason is that God has given a role to parents that no teacher can fulfill. Rather, the teacher is to partner with the parents in order to bring about the best educational decisions and results. It is through the unity of the parents and teacher that a school can aim to inspire students to reach their God-given potential.
In 1840, William Ellery Channing said, “Easy, pleasant work does not make robust minds, does not give men a consciousness of their powers, does not train them to endurance, to perseverance, to steady force of will, that force without which all other acquisitions avail nothing (Bennett, 2011 ).” This quote has had a deep impact on how I develop my instructional methods and curriculum. I believe that we should ever lead our students to high goals and quality. It would be easy to simply cater to the student, but without the consistent stretching of their minds, students may fail to realize exactly what they are capable of. Too much of curriculum today is soft, seeking to foster the students’ creativity. Yet, there are ways to foster that creativity without creating a lax curriculum. Because I know that each student has been created by God and endowed for certain tasks on earth, I assume that each student has the ability within them to master any subject. Therefore, curriculum should be robust in an age appropriate manner, ever aiming to grow them in maturity and critical thinking.
How then should we assess such a curriculum? Should assessment be based solely upon exams? I postulate that exams, though helpful, should not be the only means to assess a student’s mastery of a subject. I realize that exams are beneficial and to do away with exams all together is foolhardy, but other creative means should be sought, such as projects, class presentations, and dialogue. Creating diverse evaluating methods allows students who may not excel at test taking to prove that they do genuinely know the material.
Finally, I believe that classroom management should be conducted in such a manner that students realize the teacher’s goal is not a mere acquiescence to rules. Through our classroom management, the grace and love of Christ should be evident. This does not discount the times when proper discipline is to be enacted, but under such circumstances, we are to foster proper understanding in the students by working with them through their discipline. Further, in these times, perhaps the best option is not a cut and dry consequence but working with the student to bring about maturity and responsibility. It is not for our benefit that we desire students to follow standards, but for their benefit and safety. It is through submission to the leaders God has placed over us, regardless of whether we agree with them or not, that we honor God.
In conclusion, our teaching practice is informed by our beliefs about God and man. If these areas are not held in accordance with Scripture, we hold to a philosophy that does not sufficiently instruct the individual or foster their God-given potential. It is absolutely imperative that the foundation of our teaching practice be securely rooted in Scripture. Only then can we properly inspire students to achieve their God-given potential through excellent academics and a Christian environment.