Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Classroom Management and Successful Strategies in the Classroom Part 1

In approaching your classroom management each day, I encourage you to consider some of the items below. Classroom management is difficult but is worth the time in doing it in a way that honors the Lord. 

  1. Build positive relationships that improve discipline in the classroom. Those that have good relationships with students typically have good classroom management as well.
  2. Seek to provide a classroom that spends much more time naming and giving examples of what positive behavior looks like.
  3. Choose our words wisely. Positive words are always better than negative words.
  4. Demerits should never look like a stick that bludgeons a student but instead, they should look like guardrails that guide a student along a proper path.
  5. Spend more time on “meritious” behavior instead of so much time on the “de-meritious” behavior.
  6. The younger the student, the more time that you will spend teaching the positive and proper behavior...what you are looking for instead of resorting to throwing demerits of punishment at students.
  7. Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS or ROAR) was in your classroom before the demerit system. There is a reason why it is first.
  8. Students should NOT be consumed with fear that they are going to receive demerits but should have a respect for the boundary that is in place.
  9. Make the invisible visible. Sometimes students forget the boundary that is in place.
  10. Remind students of the presence of a guardrail before they actually run into it.
  11. If a verbal reminder is enough to prevent an actual infraction, then use it.
  12. It is much easier having a conversation with a parent when we are able to point out that the child was getting really close through warnings and then made a conscious choice to cross the line anyway.
  13. Demerits should be given when there is a wanton desire to be defiant.
  14. The Lord disciplines those that He loves.The same is true for students. Teachers discipline those they love but there must be no mistaking that the teacher loves those in their class.
  15. The Old Testament Law was fulfilled in New Testament Love.
  16. Our system should be viewed as one that disciplines and not one that punishes (see Why We Don’t Punish Our Kids below).
  17. Punishment is an easy (and wrong) approach to correcting behavior while discipline is hard (and the correct) approach to correcting behavior.
  18. Seek to transform the heart in the discipline and in the consequences that are meted out.

Thank you for your good work, each and every day!

The Gospel Coalition Articles

  1. Teach proactively, rather reactively.
  2. Give both consequences and rewards.
  3. Enforce the rules you give.
  4. The method of discipline must be effective.
  5. Catch them doing right

  1. Discipline seeks a changed heart.
  2. Discipline seeks a changed relationship.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Why Choose Christian Education?

At a recent GCACS (Greater Charlotte Association of Christian Schools) meeting, I shared the following words in regards to our ministry. I think the words are fitting for all of us as educators in Christian schools so we can better understand the importance of our mission.

In discussing the importance of Christian education, it stands over and sometimes against homeschooling, public school, and the secular private non-Christian education institutions. There are certainly benefits for the Christian family in regards to homeschooling, and a solid academic program can be found in all the aforementioned forms of education, but there are benefits for Christian families that typically can be found only in Christian schools. We live in a world that teaches children that truth is relative. In fact, many if not most, of the schools that are non-Christian in nature actually reach over into a category that is staunchly aligned with relativism and is actually   antagonistic to a Christian worldview.

Relativism is found in a secular, humanistic worldview that portrays truth as beholden to each individual believer. It takes voluminous liberties with facts which leads to a distinct turn away from a morality that has served society well for millennia. The result of the turning away is a society that has turned morality on its head, a morality that is right and descent and substituted a freewheeling, no-holds-barred morality that has led to a disintegration of the family unit as seen in Scripture...a family unit that is good for our society. Christian education stands against the tenets of relativism and teaches students that truth is absolute. As believers, we are taught to live in the world with all of the mundane, day to day life activities, but, while living in that world, we are taught not to be of that world.

Non-Christian education teaches students to not only live in the world but to live in harmony with all that the world stands for in regards to the relativism that permeates our culture and has led to issues in all walks of life, especially governmental, societal and even within the church. The secular humanistic agenda is juxtaposed with our Christian education, a Christian education that teaches students to be knowledgeable of the things of the world. However, the world is teaching the false presupposition that knowledge is relative to the beholder; it is a worldview that leads to the societal problems that we are seeing on a daily basis.

A public school or secular education appears to even have a non-Christian agenda which is at odds with Bible-believing families. The agenda often pushes on children a secular, humanistic worldview that Christian education and Christian parents are passionately at odds with. Secular schools, even within our own state, push forward worldviews and concepts in regards to gender identity, alternative lifestyles, and sexuality, while refusing to allow a Biblically-based worldview to be addressed. That worldview is often met with antagonistic hostility.

Therefore, It should be the desire of Christian educational institutions to provide a well structured, Biblically-based worldview coupled with a bona fide opportunity for an intentional effort to foster a Godly relationship between our students and the LORD, particularly at an early age. Only Christian education will be able to capture a  “lost generation” that is leaving the church, leaving basic morality and are inflating the demographic of “NONES” that seems to be growing each day. That “lost generation”  is careening towards a path that is dangerous for society as a whole.

Our window of opportunity to engage with culture is small. Consistently, we receive from students comments that, in retrospect, thank Hickory Grove for the preparation that they have received through Christian education. For example,

Student example 1...

(College omitted) My college has these required courses that you must take in order to graduate and one of them, which I'm in now, is (Course name omitted). The other day we were "discussing" truth and how truth could possibly be personal to each individual. However, I really couldn't wrap my head around what the professor was saying, so I raised my hand and said, "Would that mean if I ran a stoplight that I said was green because that was true for me, that I wouldn't be breaking the law because that's what I believe to be true?" (In addition) She (the professor) was talking to us about how the Bible cannot be trusted because we don't know what has been changed, etc. over the course of the years since it has been written, but I specifically remembered in (Teacher’s name omitted) class watching several videos on the accuracy of scribes and the copying of manuscripts.  I raised my hand again and said that scribes played a big role in the copying of manuscripts because their job was to do so accurately and my professor laughed and told me that scribes were not accurate and that they were very "messy" with their work.

In both instances, the professor offered no support and validation for her viewpoint.

Student example 2…

My (Course name omitted) professor said today that John the Baptist changed Jesus’ life and that he wasn’t looking to do ministry until John the Baptist changed his life. He provided no evidence, He had said that we know nothing about Jesus’ early life and (Jesus) then basically wandered up to John the Baptist who changed his life. He then went out and started teaching, healing, etc. Further, Paul was the only reason that Christianity spread.

Student example 3…

My (Course name omitted) professor at (College omitted) told us that David and Jonathan were homosexuals and the Bible cannot be trusted.

Once again, this was stated without support.

Student example 4...

I just wanted to let you know that I am taking a philosophy class at (College omitted) and I am really enjoying it. It is my favorite class so far. However, being in a secular philosophy class there are some concepts and discussions that we are having that sound very logical and even reasonable, but entirely against some of the beliefs I have been taught about Christianity and God, to be specific. If I was not examining my professor's words carefully, some of the things he says would make much sense and I would be agreeing with him

I say all of this to point out that there is a not so subtle attempt to begin an indoctrination process with our children that is neither open-minded or fair. That process often begins in elementary school for non-Christian education students and extends into college. These professors are engaging in “hit and run” tactics that can leave our students wondering what just happened. In three of the four examples above, the schools mentioned were formerly labeled as Christian schools.

We are on the front line of the battle for the minds of our students, and we should never undervalue the work that we do as Christian educators. Keep it up, and even extend, the good fight to keep Christian education a viable alternative in education. We should offer the most rigorous classes possible and not short sell academics in any way lest we do not prepare students that will be able to engage and articulate with the smartest and the brightest that the secular worldview offers. They will face these obstacles in friendships and future instructors. I implore you to do your part to make your students engaging, yet not offensive, and to make our schools bastions of clear thinking Christian education institutions.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

"Mrs. Green Syndrome" and Maintaining Order in School

In, 1999, Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey published their now famous book entitled How Now Shall We Live? In this book, Colson argues for a Biblical worldview application in all walks of life. In the chapter entitled, “There Goes the Neighborhood,” Colson argued that order in society is rooted in an understanding of the creation account found in Genesis. The values that the school deems important are lived out when everyone assumes responsibility for maintaining those values. If the participants of our mini-society are held accountable by others (primarily by teachers and secondarily by students) then studies have clearly demonstrated that the violation of the policies and established practices is reduced. Colson, quoting one of his Prison Fellowship colleagues, called this the “Mrs. Green Syndrome.”

The Mrs. Green Syndrome occurred when she considered it her business to watch out for everyone's kids in the neighborhood. If she saw someone else doing something that was not right, she made it her business to correct it and even to inform parents of the misbehavior. If the children knew that they could not get away with anything, then they eventually stopped misbehaving in her neighborhood. Similarly in Charleston, South Carolina police chief Reuben Greenberg employed this concept when faced with open-air drug dealing that had taken over parts of the city. To combat this problem, Greenberg simply placed uniformed officers on the corners where the drugs were being sold to watch and maintain order. The drug-dealing had to stop and all that was necessary to make it stop was simply to place people who could enforce policy next to people who were breaking policy.

In our school, we see a watered-down version of the same proven theories and observations. In the school, we have enacted an Honor Code that must be signed by all of our students. One of the elements of the honor code is to turn in students that they witness cheating. Supposedly, we have nearly 300 students that are asked to monitor a Biblical value. If these young Mrs. Greenberg's enforce Biblical values, then our classrooms will see a sharp decrease in the amount of cheating that may be occurring. This establishes an orderly society in the classroom and similarly in our school. Likewise in Chapel, we have noticed some students were misbehaving during service. It stands to reason that if those that are called to maintain order in the school simply stood on the street corner of misbehavior where misconduct was occurring then the misbehavior would diminish.

It is everyone's responsibility to monitor and correct incorrect misbehavior when we see it and to enforce policies, but if we are not in proximity to the behavior, it will be close to impossible to maintain the order that is necessary for the decorum that is expected for Chapel Services here at Hickory Grove. In order to correct these misbehaviors, teachers will need to be near their students throughout the service.

In the fourth century St. Augustine taught that peace or shalom is the “tranquillitas ordinis” produced by order. I urge students and teachers to insist on having tranquillitas ordinis in our classrooms and in our school. It will be our example to the world of our having met the commands of the Lord that have been ordered in the creation and will bring the peace that you seek in your classroom. Thank you in advance for what you are doing to maintain the order for our school.

Colson, C. W., & Pearcey, N. (2004). How now shall we live? Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Why Choose HGCS: Advanced Placement Classes Part 1

As parents make decisions about the high school education that their child will receive, most parents will agree that having a rigorous, established curriculum is important. Hickory Grove Christian School (HGCS) can provide that through our established Advanced Placement (AP) Program. Beginning in the 2018 school year, HGCS will offer 17 different AP classes. These courses include United States Politics and Government, United States History, Human Geography, Psychology, Calculus AB, Calculus BC, Statistics, Biology, Environmental Science, Chemistry, Physics, English Language, English Literature, Computer Science, Art Studio, AP CapStone and AP Research

The latest addition to this list is the AP CapStone and AP Research Program. These two new classes allow students to investigate real-world topics of the student's choosing. Students will learn to collect and analyze information with accuracy and precision, develop arguments based on facts and effectively communicate them. Further, once students take and pass four additional AP Exams, then they will receive the prestigious AP Capstone Diploma. Students who earn 3 or higher in AP Seminar and AP Research will receive the AP Seminary and Research Certificate. This diploma and the certificate is ONLY available to schools participating in the AP Capstone program and HGCS is a member of this prestigious program.

So as you make decisions about your child's school and compare HGCS with other schools in the area, consider a school which offers vast array of courses in many different areas. You will find that there are no schools in the area that can offer the range of courses that HGCS offers at the price that HGCS charges for its tuition.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Successful Strategies in the Classroom Part 2

Just a few weeks ago, I posted a checklist of items to think about as our teachers approached their classrooms each day. Since that time, I have started a list of what I believe are ways to continue to improve instructional practices for our teachers and ultimately for our students based upon ongoing feedback. These items are in no particular order, but I thought that it was important to share some of the items that our teachers could and probably should be employing in the classroom. It is our desire that our teachers will be in a state of continuous improvement so we can provide the best education possible for our students. If you are a teacher, then I hope you find this list useful.

  • Are you greeting students at the door EVERY day?
  • Are you having ongoing and consistent conversations with EVERY student that says “I care?”
  • Are you meeting students at the door as they leave EVERY day?
  • Are you gathering feedback from students on what makes this class enjoyable, boring, more fun, less fun, etc?
  • Do you ever embarrass students with your corrections OR your praise?
  • Knowing your students is as important as knowing your content.

  • Do your students really know how to take notes?
  • Have you considered spending time in class teaching students this skill?
  • Have you considered Cornell notetaking (see here for a visual on Cornell notetaking), collaborative note-taking in Google Docs (see here for instructions on collaborative notetaking), developing graphic organizers before OR after to reinforce note taking and tapping into other multiple intelligences in the process?
  • Do you provide them with outlines to structure their notetaking?
  • Do students understand that we communicate with words as they outline and words are simply abbreviated places that link to ideas (this is important for Cornell notetaking)? Henry Ward Beecher said, “All words are pegs to hang ideas on.”

Pop Quizzes
  • Do they provide feedback or are they used to punish?
  • They should not be used as a means to maintain discipline.
  • Better instruction is always better than control and compliance in the classroom.
  • Although students are quiet and controlled in the classroom, does the pop quiz act as it is intended...as a formative assessment tool?
  • Spend more time in your preparation and you will reap benefits in your classroom management.

Prior Knowledge
  • Are you accessing prior knowledge? Most units build on past units and moving to the next unit should not be a time to forget the last unit. Mention prior knowledge where possible. Give students what they need from the past unit demonstrating that they will need the old information in the current unit as you introduce new material.

Exit Tickets
  • Have you considered using exit tickets either on a slip of paper or in a Google form (see here for an idea) before students leave (or when they enter after doing the previous night’s homework)? This can include items that they are struggling with, having students state how it is relevant to their life, how current knowledge accesses prior knowledge, etc.

  • Are you letting students dictate your emotions to you?
  • Are you always in control of your emotions?
  • Are you staying calm?
  • Do you get quieter or louder during a confrontation?
  • Are you overreacting and escalating a minor situation into a major situation?
  • Are you avoiding the audience and the embarrassment associated with public confrontations by handling discipline in front of a student's’ peers?
  • The private is always better than the public. Put away your pride in tough situations.
  • Avoid threats that cheapen the discipline that is later given.

If you have ideas, then feel free to share them with me and I will collect those for a later post.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

1:1 Use of Tech...Not Always a Good Thing

Hickory Grove Christian School is a 1:1 school in grades eight through twelve. This means that there is at least one computer for every student in those grades. At HGCS, we provide the students with a Chromebook to facilitate instruction in the classroom. The hope is that instruction will improve if the computer is used properly in the classroom. But, there is a danger that one can overemphasize any tool (like a computer) or strategy which could actually decrease expected performance in the classroom.

A computer is a tool but it is only a tool. It is a good tool if used properly in the classroom but should not be thought of as the only needed tool in the bag. This seems to be a logical approach to education, but we must ask, what if this is the only method of instruction that a student is engaged? If it is overused, then there is the possibility that educators could actually be limiting content acquisition. Jack Grove in his article stated that it might even decrease grades.

A necessary component of learning is to provide students time to process information. Howard Gardner (see link on Multiple Intelligences) proposed that students have preferred learning styles (and teachers have preferred teaching styles) and posited that students seem to learn better when they are engaged in their preferred learning style. If this is true, then a student that had a preferred learning style that was only auditory, might not be maximizing their learning if they never engaged in visual learning. An approach that employs multiple intelligences might enhance learning and provide a better educational experience.

For example, spending time taking notes by hand allows students to assimilate information by using multiple senses (e.g. visual, auditory, kinesthetic) to acquire and to organize information, and this might be a more productive way to take notes than with the computer only. This is not to say that the computer should not be used, but teachers should strive to find ways to incorporate new and innovative ways to take notes in the classroom that utilizes many methods of learning. The process of redundancy utilizing multiple intelligences of learning while taking notes by hand might prove to be a more productive approach.

We could extend this thought to other strategies in the classroom as well. For example, if students only engaged in the “gamification” of learning, would they be maximizing their learning potential? Further, if your students only use their computers to engage learning, aren’t they missing out on other meaningful opportunities to acquire information? Consider best practices, multiple best practices for your classroom and seek to utilize a variety of methods to reach your students.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Racial reconciliation

Over the last several weeks and months, there has been an increased focus on the racial injustice that is so often seen in our country. With this focus, there have come protest from people seeking to shed light on the festering wounds of race relations in our country that have ranged from Ferguson to Charleston to Charlottesville to our own city of Charlotte.

Many seek to demonstrate their allegiance to flags, cultures, and identities which stand below an allegiance to our Lord. As a school, Hickory Grove Christian School seeks to push forward the belief that our allegiance is to a holy God who seeks to redeem and reconcile unbelievers to himself.

As believers, we seek to use the instruments of God, such as prayer and worship, over the devices of man to bring about harmony and to work toward an end to the racial injustice in our world by using Godly means. As Dr. Martin Luther King stated, “cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.” I contend that the real check that gives us freedom relies on a faithful relationship with our Lord.

Philippians 2:1-11 says, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a  servant,  being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Monday, February 13, 2017

Celebrating Black History Month at Hickory Grove Christian School

To honor the African American contribution to United States history we have planned several activities and events to celebrate Black History Month.  Students have been excited about helping with the many student led activities being held throughout the month.

Our 7th grade students used IPADS to create interactive digital presentations highlighting African Americans in the fields of science and math.

Students in grades 6-12 are creating several displays, one honoring Dr. Martin Luther King and the other spotlighting various African Americans who have made significant contributions to society.

High School students will have the opportunity to attend African American History seminars held by Mr. Coltrane each Friday during lunch to learn about the rich history of African Americans.

Our art students have created a dynamic art display featuring important African American figures that will be displayed in the cafeteria.

Our performing arts students will hold a mini concerts showcasing African American song and dance during high school lunch.

I have been blessed by the hard work and enthusiasm our students and staff have put forth for these projects and performances.  As the month progresses we will post pictures and videos highlighting all of these events on our social media sites and blog post.

Wanda Royal