Archives For education

Today, I’m heading back to school.

In another week, the kids will show up, and until they do, teachers around the country will try to get ready. We will clean and decorate classrooms. We will make nametags. We will hang posters. If kids have elaborate first-day-of-school rituals, then teachers, even more so.

I have been having first days of school, practically my entire life, and really the excitement never stops. I know parents are excited to get the kids back in school. But my excitement is different. It’s not a relief that the summer is finally over. As teachers, we have the unique perspective of a fresh start every year. I think I’m actually more excited about this school year than I have been in the last couple of years.

As a teacher, I spend a lot of time thinking about what I want to teach my students. I think about the lessons I want to give my high schoolers and the projects I want to do with my younger kids. I think about the Art Show in the Spring.

But what I really spend time thinking about, what actually keeps me from sleeping the night before the first day of school, is thinking about how I’m going to teach the really important stuff to the kids.

How am I going to show them my passion for teaching and learning?

How am I going to show them my passion for them?

How am I going to share my heart with them?

I have had a lot of teachers. But the ones I remember the most weren’t the ones who got through the curriculum with time to spare in the Spring. They aren’t the teachers who let us watch movies on Fridays.

The teachers I remember most were the ones who took chances to share their hearts with us as students. They told us what was really important. Some of those moments were probably carefully planned. Some of them were spontaneous.

The thing is, you don’t have to be a teacher to give that to a child. We all have ways we can invest in the children around us. Not everyone is called to teach vocationally. But all of us can teach.

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All it takes is an open and honest heart.

By now, just about everyone is on summer vacation, and if you are not, then I just feel sorry for you.

I think it’s a well known fact that teachers need summer vacation as much as kids and families need them. I don’t care what people say about the benefits of year-round school, our society is just built around summer vacation (even if it is a month shorter now than it used to be.)

When it comes to summer vacation, though, I think a lot of families are missing out on something huge. Parents dread the thought of having to occupy the kids all day, so we come up with playdates, camps, and other activities to keep the kids “busy.” Quantity over quality.

However, have you ever considered how much kids love learning?

They probably love it more than most adults. If kids love learning so much, then shouldn’t we stay in school all year?

If kids love learning, though, then why do they complain about school so much? Because they don’t go to school to learn what they want to know. We send our kids to school to pass standardized tests, to jump through hoops, and every once in a while, to learn something that is interesting.

But in the summer, kids can learn what they want. 

Parents, how many of you are starting your kids’ summer with this idea?

What do you want to learn about?

In the course of a summer, your kids can soak up the equivalent of a master’s course in anything. Your kid likes plants? Take them to the library, and then the botanical gardens. He likes history? Take him to a museum.

The summer offers some of the best opportunities for learning, because it won’t happen in a classroom. It won’t happen in the confines of a test. They will learn by experiences, those rare joyful jewels that are reserved for the occasional field trip.

Here’s my thing: too many adults do not love to learn. You can tell, because adults have shut their ears to the world and have oriented their lives around collecting stuff rather than experiences. Most of the people in our culture got out of school, and stopped looking at the world inquisitively (if they ever did). Life became just about a job to pay for more stuff.

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Get your kids off the couch. Put them in charge of something meaningful this summer. What will they learn this summer?

What will you as a family learn this summer?

I’ll be honest, I hated watching the debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye.  I couldn’t take much of it.bill-nye-ken-ham-debate

It’s not because I don’t believe God created the universe.  He did.

It’s not because Bill Nye is not a childhood hero of mine who helped develop in me a love of science.  He is.

From the moment I learned the debate would be happening, I knew I would not be able to stand it.  I have not been able to stand looking at the torrent of tweets being written in anticipation of it.  Yes, it was probably the strongest show of willpower I have exerted in quite a while to do anything except avert my eyes.

Maybe I failed as a Christian by not cheering my “team.”  Maybe I failed as someone who is supposed to be “informed” about current events.  But I’ll be honest, I think we are all poorer for this debate happening, not richer.  We have not gained deeper knowledge, sounder wisdom, or greater insight.

This is why I wish the debate had never happened.

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You may have seen it in the news.  Recess is over.school

A school in New York recently made headlines by banning traditional sports balls from recess (allowing soft Nerf balls instead) as well as games of tag, cartwheels and other forms of “unorganized” play.

And although this is just one school, it is happening everywhere.  Schools in my own city are doing the same thing.  No soccer balls or footballs.  No rough games.  Basically, no fun.

Now, I’m not saying that a trip to the ER is my idea of fun.  But the issue that is raised in my mind is the negative and downright false lessons our kids our learning from our hyper-vigilant safety crusade.

What could be so bad about keeping our kids from getting hurt?  How about this…

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The scene of some dangerous finger pointing, noise making and make-believe playtime. Crisis averted, thanks to quick thinking by heroic school officials.

Kids get in trouble at school every day.  Nothing unusual there.

Getting suspended from school used to be the worst punishment that a kid could get.  It was the last resort, reserved for kids who picked fights and were serious offenders.

Today, on a pretty regular basis, you can read stories about a new kind of elementary school hooligan.

Every week or two, there’s a new story of a kid who doesn’t actually bring a weapon to school, or make actual threats toward others, or actually hurts anyone. No, these new playground terrorists get suspended for having a Hello Kitty bubble gun, pointing fingers at playmates while making the ubiquitous “pow” sound of a gun, or even disposing of an imaginary bomb in order to save the world.

Thank God these school administrators are here to save our playgrounds from future Jack Bauers, MacGyvers and Chuck Norrises.

Before you think I’m coming down too hard on principals who have to enforce their “zero tolerance” policies about weapons and violence in an age of school shootings, think about how easy the zero tolerance policy has made the task of suspending kids, and how we are increasingly living in a stark black-and-white world with fewer and fewer shades of gray.

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Commence eye rolling.

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This is exactly how your children’s teachers grade papers.

The color red has been put on notice.  It is not welcome in schools.  I thought we were supposed to be colorblind, but I guess that’s not the case.

Yes, not all colors are created equal, at least when it comes to the colors teachers choose to grade student papers with.  For ages, the color of choice has been red, for it’s boldness and contrast against black or blue student writing.  But a recent study is being wielded by a new wave of parents who apparently have solved every other problem with our educational system.

Parents point to the “scientific” proof that the color red needlessly stresses their kids out, and is commonly associated with warnings and being wrong.  You read that right.  Kids whose papers get marked up in red might feel that the teacher is calling their answers “wrong,” according to parents.

Now, if you can recover from your eyes rolling all the way back into your heads, let me continue.

If I were a parent, I’d go to the store and buy my kids’ teachers a big box of red pens right now.  Here’s why.

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