Saturday, February 27, 2010

Teaching With Persistence

It took almost thirty years. But Safaa never gave up.

Safaa is a preacher in Egypt. Years ago, he became convicted of the need to preach only what is in the Bible. He has faced much opposition over the years, especially from those in his own denomination who feel he is being heretical. But now, people, churches, even an entire denomination is ready to turn away from historical traditions to embrace New Testament principles and be Christians only.

You can read this exciting account in my article, "Egyptian Churches Move Toward New Testament Principles" ’ in the latest issue of the Christian Standard magazine.

Safaa’s story is inspirational not only to other missionaries. His persistence is a light for any church worker, any Christian for that matter. What we teach might be unpopular. What we teach might have to go through the purifying fire of opposition. Yet, if we stay at it, if we remain faithful, we will see the results.

Do you have a tiny class where kids are too busy playing softball to attend church? Hang in there.

Do you have an ADD disruptive student who foils your best laid plans? Hang in there.

Do people from other departments keep “borrowing” your supplies without returning them? Hang in there.

Do you have controlling co-workers who insist that things be done their way and undermine your work with lies and gossip? Hang in there.

Keep doing what’s right. God will reward you. God sees and He will strengthen you to hang in there. You can do it (Philippians 4:13). Work with the Holy Spirit who resides within you. Make Him your partner and He will ease the burden. (Matthew 11:28-30).

It’s His work, not yours and He cares what is happening to you very much.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Resources for Teachers

What can you do with a coffee filter – besides make coffee? The food editor of the Canton Respository came up with a creative list:
1. Cover food to be cooked in the microwave. Good idea. A coffee filter would probably stay put better than a paper towel.
2. Pan protectors: Store and protect good dishes by placing a coffee filter between each dish. Just the right size Hey, this would work for storing old photos too – maybe cut the filter in half first.
3. Food wrappers: Great for holding popcorn or a taco.
4. Grease soaker for bacon or hamburgers. Now why didn’t I think of that?
5. Drip stopper for a popsicle or ice cream cone. Too bad my kids are grown and gone. They would I’m so clever – or crazy.
6. Cleaning windows and mirrors. After all, a coffee filter is lint free.

Sounds wasteful? Think about it. As the article points out, coffee filters are cheap – cheaper probably than paper towels.

I just love these ideas! They epitomize the educational philosophy I’ve had since student teaching: use every available resource to communicate your message. A preacher from my childhood, R. Lowell Applebury, gave that philosophy Kingdom purpose when he told me, “Use every available opportunity to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord.”

Jesus visualized this basic principle in his parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. Christian students often misinterpret this parable by getting tangled up on the word “talent.” Yes, we need to invest our money in church and mission projects that will expand the Kingdom and it’s a good idea to use the talents (abilities) we have for the Lord and His church. But I think Jesus had a far broader perspective than just money and abilities. His point was that we need to take whatever God has given us – small, large, insignificant and use it the advance God’s kingdom on earth. Instead of moaning that we can’t be effective because we have so little, Jesus wants us to get to work using the little He has given us – whether it’s money, volunteers, number of students or classroom supplies.

Use every available resource to communicate your message. Use every opportunity to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord. Even coffee filters.

So how can you use coffee filters in your classroom? After just five minutes of brainstorming, here are my ideas:
1. Make snowflakes by folding the filter in fourths then snipping diamond shaped cuts in the folds and scalloping the edge Make flowers by scalloping the edge and sticking a small rod up the center.
2. Write the words of a memory verse, one word per filter. Stack the filters randomly and have the students put the words in order.
3. Demonstrate how a coffee maker works, that the filter is used to make the coffee pure, without any grounds. Discuss Bible verses that talk about purity, like Matthew 5:8 and James 1:27, that Jesus is like our filter that keeps us from being polluted by the world.
6. Take digital pictures of your students and print them out. Glue the pictures inside the coffee filter, using the filter as a frame. Make a bulletin board with the pictures. Your title could be taken from the verse in Psalm 139:14, “God’s Works Are Wonderful!”

Now it’s your turn. What could you do with a coffee filter to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord? Look around your house and choose another simple, low cost item. How could you use it in your next lesson?

Jesus’ message is simple: Use what you have to build the Kingdom. Then watch God multiply the results!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Classroom Conflict Management: It's All in How You Drive

As my husband and I neared Atlanta on a trip to visit family, cars merged into a heavy flow. Ahead of us, a driver tried to change lanes, unaware of the car a few feet behind her in her blind spot. I sucked in my breath, fearing the worse and realizing, in the heavy flow, we were too close. Without saying a word, my husband slowed our car, putting distance between us, and moved into the left lane. The tense moment passed and all were safe.

The common term used in driver’s ed classes for what my husband did is defensive driving. My husband called it situational awareness. He saw what could happen and took steps to avert the potential crisis.

An experienced teacher uses situational awareness inside the classroom too. I’ve taught in a classroom with boys who have more energy than a Jack Russell Terrier high on Mountain Dew. I have two choices. I could continue with my regularly scheduled curriculum and get annoyed and frustrated that they won’t sit down and shut – er - be quiet. Or I can back away for a moment then change direction so I can avert the impending crash of their perpetual motion and my perfected lesson plan. I’ve learned to start my Sunday morning class with a very active bible verse game that still comes from my basic lesson plan but gets rid of some of that energy so, when it’s time to listen, they will sit moderately still.

Paul used situational awareness when he entered the city of Athens. In Acts 17, we read how Paul quickly assessed that the class God gave him wasn’t ready to hear about Jesus’ resurrection. Why, they didn’t even have a clear concept of who God was. So, Paul started where they were at, an obsessive dedication to any idol they could find plus one to cover any they had missed in the form of the plaque “To the Unknown God.” He went from there, teaching them who this God was whom they longed to worship.

How do you apply situational awareness in your class? First, list the situations that frustrate you. What problems have threatened to cause your tears to thin the finger paint? What recurring issues do you face? What students don’t get along or get along too well? Role play and brainstorm with fellow teachers ways you can drive defensively the next time you enter your classroom. Here are some examples:

Two students perpetually pick on each other: Find a way to have the two troublemakers sit away from each other or in separate small group. Don’t bring attention to them or their bad behavior. Find some difference between them such as birthdays, last names or color of clothes, then have kids with birthdays in one group of months sit together and the other group of months sit at the other end of the table. Only the smartest of kids will figure out your motive.

A distraught child clings to you: Get them busy. Have them be your special helper. Ask them to be in charge of a small group skit Again, don’t bring attention to the problem. Give a positive reason why you would like them to be your helper.

A girl comes to church wearing last year’s Easter dress: It’s the day you planned a rough and tumble relay: Have Susie be the time keeper or judge of which teams wins.

Finally, pray before you enter your classroom that the Lord will give you insight as you see a problem looming toward you and that you will be able to anticipate the problem before it becomes a problem. The key to situational classroom awareness is to handle the issue in such a way, no one notices what you have done. Just like my husband’s driving, it fits so well into the flow of your lesson, you hardly remember there was ever a problem.