3 L’s to promote your child’s spiritual gifts

IMG_1342    Your child is receiving a promotion.

Sounds good, right? What are some of the first things that come to mind?

Maybe you thought about skipping a grade, being named captain of a sports team, or if they have a job perhaps they were offered more money and responsibility.

Promotions sound great on the surface. Who doesn’t want to be recognized for their skills and hard work?

We need to ask ourselves an important question about promotion opportunities. Especially when it comes to our children.

Will this promotion lead toward God’s calling? Or will it require time and energy that moves us away from that?

My leadership team begins every week with a devotion. This week my lower school director shared a message about promotions that got me thinking.

My thoughts led to three things we need to do, as teachers and parents, to promote our child’s gifts.

But first, a story.

This weekend I had one of those – darn it, there goes my father-of-the-year award moments.

My wife was on call, so she wasn’t home. That was the beginning of my downfall now that I think about it. The boys and I get home from church and I go right into action plan mode. After all, my wife’s absence left me in charge of the honey do list.

We had spent the day Saturday taking apart our old play set in the backyard to give to a friend. My giant boys outgrew it. In fact, my youngest son is so tall, he got stuck in the twisty slide when he was 5 years old. It was terrifying trying to extract his long body from that plastic tube.

My oldest son wanted to help take it apart. He was so excited about giving it away. He has a big heart.

It has been a rainy spring in South Carolina and we FINALLY had a nice day. Both of my boys play baseball. And on any nice day, we go out to train. Taking apart the play set took longer than expected, so I decided to give them the rest of the day off.

Fast forward back to Sunday.

I’m scurrying about so we can get outside to hit baseballs when my oldest son comes into the kitchen and announces he wants to sell lemonade in the front yard.

Okay, full disclosure – I can’t stand yard sales. Sitting outside on a beautiful day to sell stuff is one of the last things I want to do.

I launch right into the economics of the cost/benefit ratio of selling lemonade. There is not much traffic on our street. It’s Sunday, people are out to eat. Etc.

My son listens and agrees. I can tell he was a little discouraged, so I decided to take a step back and exercise one of the 7 habits of highly effective people – seek first to understand. 

I ask, “Why do you even want to sell lemonade, anyway?”

“I just want to make people smile,” he replies.


I’m feeling about three feet tall now. I thought he wanted to make money and needed an economics lesson. The boy just wanted to make people smile.

This really got me thinking about promoting the gifts that will lead toward God’s calling.

Sunday afternoon I was preparing to help my son improve his batting average and defense in the corner outfield after teaching him a valuable economics lesson that could help him manage his time and money better.

If I had stopped to listen to the message, not just the words, I would have heard the Holy Spirit prompting me to guide my son down the path the Lord had already laid out for him 11 years ago when I first gazed into those beautiful blue eyes of his.

I started thinking about another one of those 7 habits. Start with the end in mind. 

Who does my son remind me of and how did that young man develop his gifts?

I lead an awesome school full of some pretty remarkable young people. As I thought about it, I immediately thought of one of our seniors – a goofy, tender-hearted young man with a big smile and an even bigger heart named Robert Caldwell.

Robert had just made front page news for his senior project. He started a non-profit to support local ministries.

Yes. You read that correctly. An 18 year-old high school senior started a business to support humanitarian efforts.

Robert’s dad is a friend of mine and the president of a successful national company. No doubt Robert got some of his father’s business savvy.

 However, what Robert received was so much more.

His parents recognized his gifts. They placed him in a school where his gifts would be nurtured and they supported his wacky, creative ideas.

While I know his dad would prefer his big-hearted son focus on traditional school stuff more at times, Robert’s parents provided him the love and support to grow in his gifts.

And that young man has made a difference in the world because of it.

How do we do it? How do we create those conditions that set our children on the path toward their calling?

It’s NOT always about the promotion opportunities that the world values. Such as test scores that lead to more homework. 

I wonder if Robert would have grown into such a remarkable young man had his parents focused more on his standardized test reports and less on his creative mind and huge heart. 

If we start with the end in mind, we gain valuable insight from Robert’s parents, Bob and Sarah. 

Listen. Learn. Lead. 

Listen to your child. Don’t just listen to her words; hear the message she is relaying to you. Her gifts exist inside of her already. Discover them.

Learn what motivates your child. Hear God’s voice speak to you when she gets excited about something. These are the seeds God planted in her heart that lead toward her calling.

Lead your child toward her calling. You are the best person to do that. You know your child. You know what she is capable of.

Create the conditions for promotion opportunities that will lead your children toward their calling. And be careful of the ones that won’t.

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Embers crucial to an Educator’s Fire

To keep our Educator Fire burning I have observed three crucial embers that, when fanned, keep the fire flaming brightest. An educator who understands his mindset, has the ability to listen, and willingness to surround himself with others who are smarter will burn the brightest.

Educator Mindset 

An article titled “Why Mindset Trumps Strategy Every Time,” in Entrepreneur Magazine caught my attention. As I began to read the author was making perfect sense – she was talking business. My business is Education – and it fit. She writes, “ I knew this about strategy; any strategy not informed by, and in alignment with, the prevailing mindset in the business will fail every single time.”  Is this not true of the strategies we attempt in the classroom or at our school? What is successful for one is not so successful for another and that largely depends on the mindset of the one implementing the practice. As educators our classroom strategies should align with our Educator Mindset. Define your beliefs, habits, perspective, and ideas of learning, students, and your role in the classroom. Reflect on the strategies used in the classroom. Then set out to use those strategies that most align with your mindset. There are also seasons when our mindsets need to be reflected on, evaluated, and perhaps altered.


Continuous improvement requires constant dialogue. As you execute and try new things, keep listening. Ask your students what they need and how you can help. Ask them to share about the aspects they find challenging, rewarding, and difficult. Ask and listen. It is the wise teacher who has the ability to listen to students and hear their voice – an ember worth fanning.

Surround Yourself

The best of leaders know their weaknesses and surround themselves with those who are smarter and stronger in those areas. Fortunate educators have the beauty of working with teams or departments. Make the most of the time with your peers – you are a resource for one another. Begin to grow your personal professional development. I am a part of a community of educators on Twitter and Pinterest. I follow and learn from those smarter than me who tweet about #edu #edchat #edtech! Their tweets lead to posts and articles with a wealth of information; it’s one way I am being a constant learner. I also follow Education boards on Pinterest where I find ideas and useful tools to teach and guide my students in their discovery of my subject. Surround yourself and continue growing – an ember to never let die out.

Posted in Teaching that Transforms | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Keep Calm and Innovate


Over the past two weeks various members of my administrative team and I attended national education conferences. It is always good for educators to connect with other educators and share best practices.

The conference themes included words like ignite and design thinking. We heard from keynote speakers about the need for administrators to exercise creative leadership, about the need for students to think like designers, and for teachers to promote 21st century skills.

Much of the discussion centered on how to promote innovation in schools.

At one workshop, however, a presenter shared that their students spent 97 out of 180 days taking standardized tests at their public high school. Another educator shared that they administered 22 different standardized tests to each student at their public middle school.

Seriously? Some of our nation’s public schools are spending more than half of the year administering standardized tests? I don’t get that. Here’s why.

How do we promote innovation in American schools when many of our public schools spend half of their time testing and the other half getting ready for tests?

While we have history on our side, the future may not be as bright.

Over the last three decades of the 19th century, we saw new patents double in America. As we became known as the land of opportunity, American ingenuity blossomed when many European scientists, recognizing the creative potential, migrated to America between the two world wars.

Innovation boomed throughout the 20th century in America.

Today, however, we stand at a crossroads.

As legislators became increasingly concerned over math and science test scores lagging behind China, we strove to close the gap. In order to bring up math and science test scores, however, we began slowly killing creativity in our schools. We cut arts and recess time and replaced it with more standardized testing.

Prep for tests. Take tests. Repeat.

It’s ok, right? America has a long history of ingenuity. We are still the king of innovation, aren’t we?

What most people don’t realize is that right around the time we introduced NCLB and began our race to catch up to China in math and science test scores, China also introduced revolutionary education reform – they began to focus on creativity.

What does this mean for the future? Time will tell. However, we cannot idly sit by resting on the laurels of past American ingenuity. Otherwise, we might as well start teaching our students how to ask, “Do you want fries with that?” in Chinese.

These conferences reminded me that our nation is hungry for innovation. Our students, our teachers, and our schools need to keep the spirit of innovation alive. But right now, we are KILLING creativity in our schools. We are stomping out imagination with an overabundance of standardized tests.

I’m not saying that standardized tests are evil. They are important. However, they are just one small part of a child’s story.

We are testing this week in my school and I write this partly to remind our parents that this provides data to help us help your children. It does not and will not provide data that will predict your child’s future success.

Don’t allow these tests to form labels that turn into self-fulfilling prophecies.

I also write this partly as a challenge for us to think differently about the future of education in America.

I returned to my school inspired to hear about schools creating maker spaces to promote design thinking and innovation centers to guide students through the stages of creativity in many of our nation’s independent schools.

This gives me hope for the future.

The words of Albert Einstein, “imagination is more important than knowledge,” ring true today when we think about education in America.

keep calm and innovate

Posted in Teaching that Transforms | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why do I care? Connecting current events and the classroom


When my journalism students pitch an idea for a story, they know I’m going to ask one question.

“Why do I care?”

While they may struggle, it’s important for them to understand that their audience will ask the same question. Just as you are asking yourself right now, “What can I learn from this?”

In order to do this effectively, the students must have an understanding and appreciation for what’s happening in the lives of people both locally and around the world. They have to be plugged into their readers as well as politics, the economy, the environment, and the entertainment world.

Unfortunately, studies show that young Americans today are less concerned about what’s happening in the world compared to previous generations. And that’s because they aren’t being taught to care.

As educators, it’s our job to connect current events to the classroom in order to engage students and create more informed, thoughtful citizens. We should be doing this in each of our classrooms. When I talk to students and they don’t have an understanding of the news beyond what’s trending or the day’s headlines, it disturbs me. I know there’s hardly enough time to get everything you need to accomplish into one lesson, but I challenge you to incorporate one article, or one story into your teaching each day.

In my journalism class, like many others, we talk a lot about relevance because there’s almost no point in writing a story if it doesn’t connect with the reader. It’s your responsibility to draw a line from the content you’re teaching to your students. Blending current events into your lessons will not only help you accomplish this, it will multiply the impact. Whether you teach social studies, art, math, or German, you can find dozens of articles or videos each day that are relevant to your students.

Incorporating current events into the classroom can help your students in so many ways beyond giving them a look into someone else’s life. It helps with vocabulary and critical thinking skills. Your students will also learn different models for presenting information or telling a story.

Helping students to develop an understanding of the importance of issues, events, and people will not only make them better citizens, but it will also increase their chances of being lifelong readers.

At the very least, discussing one current event topic each day can help foster cooperative learning and get your students talking to you and one another. Ask them what they’re reading on Facebook or Twitter besides their friends’ status update. Tell them what stories interest you. I bet it won’t take long for them to see why they should care about what you have to say.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Through what lens do you see the children you teach?

How do you view the children (young and old) you teach? Through what lens do you see them? Often times we carry over the way that adults viewed us as children.

The two most common lenses through which children are seen are “adorable” and “nuisance.” The adorable lens is typically tinted a rose color and the nuisance lens has a tint of disdain.

The adorable lens gives only one perspective – these young ones are precious and created for our delight. Their wrongs are not truly wrongs, but merely children being silly and behaving as children do. Aren’t they just precious? They will grow out of the shenanigans. There’s no real need for correction.

The nuisance lens creates a narrow, negative vision of children. Simply put – children are bad. They are sneaky and always looking for a way to disobey or play a prank. Certainly these creatures should be seen and not heard.

After taking a moment to think of how you really view children, it may be necessary to wipe clean your lenses. In fact, try on a whole new set of glasses.

Allow yourself to begin to view children through a God lens. Your understanding and view of children is going to directly affect how you relate to them.

On one lens of your new glasses there is “Image Reflector.” This little person, a child, was created in the image of God. Therefore, he has some of his Creators attributes. Every child possesses them. In some children these attributes are easily recognizable. The child that extends mercy to others, is gracious in her sharing, or has that “natural” sense of morals, wanting to do the right thing. These attributes that they possess reflect their Creator. In some children, we must look a little harder to see how he reflects God. At first glance the child we think of as the constant prankster may actually be reflecting our Heavenly Father’s sense of humor. Trust me, He has one! The child who seems to always be in a different world and constantly doodling possesses the creativity and imagination in whose image she was created. Look for it. It is there.

Are you beginning to see your children differently, understanding them a bit better?

On the other lens there is “Fallen Creation.” Usually, we see this in our children right away! Children, like adults without the Holy Spirit, lack self-control, are most often selfish in their thoughts and wants, and are more easily drawn to the pull of sin. They need to be spoken to with truth. Consequences should follow wrongdoing.

However, if we do not view children through each lens equally we are not viewing them as God does, and we lack an ability to truly understand them. With our lenses properly adjusted, we can now begin to better relate to our children. God has you in that classroom and He is using you to make a difference.

Here are three practical ways of relating to the children you teach in the classroom or at home:

Meet children where they are: naturally desiring for knowledge. Feed them God’s truths just as you would feed them food. Point out the majesty of our Creator through His creation. A child’s curiosity can lead into abundant truths. Their natural desire for knowledge needs to be feed. Vary what you serve and the manner in which it is cooked.

Make eye contact and ask him questions. Get to truly know him. Learn his likes, dislikes, and interests so that you can engage him. This genuine interest in your students generates a deep respect and trust from them. Asking a question and looking away while a student is answering is no good. Stay focused on the one you have in front of you for that brief moment.

Model Christ. Children are great at playing “Follow the Leader.” Ensure that you are modeling for them in a way that most glorifies God. Season your speech with Jesus, note your reactions to them, and depend on the Holy Spirit to come alongside you to encourage the children you teach. Students will come to respect who you are above what you say and teach.

Posted in Parenting with Purpose, Teaching that Transforms | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Overprotecting boys from becoming Godly men


Last Saturday I was coaching my son’s basketball team and I watched my 5+ foot tall 3rd grader politely go up for rebound after rebound. Rather than push anyone out of the way, my gracious son, who is a head taller than anyone else, allowed his teammates and opponents a chance at the ball.

After the game I was talking with one of the dads about it. He commented, “Well, he may not win at the game of basketball, but he will win at the game of life.”

That got me thinking. Will he?

There has been a societal shift over the last few decades for boys to be nice and girls to be tough. There is nothing wrong with being nice, but as a society are we emasculating boys?

Admittedly, I did not go to school to become an administrator, but apparently they have classes on how to overreact and make stupid decisions because boys are suspended for pretending their finger is a gun or for chewing a pop tart into the shape of a gun.

When my cousin was in high school, he was a computer genius. He still is. Back then computers were still relatively new in schools. One day he hacked into the school’s system and changed his grades. What the school did was genius.

Instead of expulsion, his punishment was to work for the district to help them make sure that wouldn’t happen again. Today he works in computer security for a large bank.

We are so obsessed with protecting our children or schools from harm that we act like insurance adjustors, constantly analyzing and removing the risks of childhood. When I was a kid, learning to navigate a bully on the playground was my responsibility. It prepared me with the conflict resolution skills that I use on a daily basis today.

Listen, I don’t condone bullying and I have dismissed students for it. But here is my point, we hear all this research from Ivy League universities about how grit and resilience are major indicators of success and read in the bible about how suffering leads to perseverance and perseverance to hope.

If we want our boys to become Godly men, WE MUST STOP emasculating boys and then turn around and complain about a generation of men who lack ambition and drive.

I believe we have allowed the media, and it’s propaganda of fear, to infiltrate our psyche as parents and school administrators.

Over the past few years I have sat through hours upon hours of meetings about school safety. We brought in members of the SWAT team to do safety audits, we wrote anti-bullying policies, we wrestled through whether or not I should carry a gun on campus…you name it, and we probably discussed it. After all, we love our students and want them to be safe.

Are we trying to promote real safety or the perception of safety?

You see, we are scared. We are scared that something bad will happen to our children. So in our attempt to do what we think is right, we rush in to avoid anything potentially harmful. So then how does a child develop grit? How will he learn, as Paul writes, that perseverance leads to hope?

Do we want our boys to be nice and kind? Sure we do. I coach my son’s teams so I can emphasize character along with competition. But there is a gap between research and practice. Kids need grit. They need to be resilient. We want them to have hope. Yet, we don’t want them to struggle?

My upper school director has seen a shift over the past 10 years at my school. Every fall we take our students on a retreat. Ten years ago the boys were the ones doing all the challenging activities. Each year we see fewer boys trying the toughest tasks.

I’m glad we are raising more confident and bold young ladies. I really am. I’m glad we have youth programs that give both boys and girls opportunities to taste success. As the father of two boys, I want my sons to grow up to be bold and confident. I want them to have the resilience to bounce back when life is hard. I want them to look at obstacles and see opportunities.

That will never happen if I remove all the obstacles for them.

Posted in Parenting with Purpose, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

From the newsroom to the classroom: Lessons from a recovering reporter

I’m a reporter. Yes, I work at a school, but journalism will always be a part of who I am because it combines my love for learning new things, meeting interesting people, and telling stories. If you’re trying to generate more participation in your classes, these five journalism principles could help inspire and engage your students.

Get moving
I love being in a busy newsroom because of the energy — phones ringing, reporters talking to editors or frantically typing a story to meet a deadline — but great reporting can rarely be accomplished by sitting at a desk. So, the first thing we do in my class is get moving. The old image of a classroom with the teacher at the board while the students sit and take notes is being replaced with active learning. Get your students moving around with small group discussion or activities while you move from student-to-student providing feedback, answering questions, and assessing their progress.

Keep asking questions…and listen up
Foster curiosity in your classrooms by asking lots of questions and encouraging your students to do the same. The best learning usually comes from stimulating class discussions. Educators call this inquiry-based learning while reporters know a great interview is born from a great conversation. I always ended every interview with, “What have I not asked you?” or “Have I left anything out that you wanted to discuss?” Most of the time the interview ended there, but there were several occasions when I learned something completely unexpected because I was willing to ask the right questions. Don’t stop there, though. You also have to listen. Allow your students to have a voice in your classroom. I have a habit of being a chatterbox. This really hurt me when I began my journalism career because in order to write a compelling article, I had to have the information. When I moved from the newsroom to the classroom, I once again found myself talking too much. Listen to your students and let them — and the conversation — guide the learning process.

I never turned in a story to an editor without asking another reporter to read it first. My coworkers always helped me improve my skills by pointing out an error or suggesting a better lead. Allow your students to learn from one another. Set the guidelines and divide them into groups and encourage them to brainstorm together. Every shared byline helped me learn from my coworkers. Have your students quiz each other or evaluate one another’s work for accuracy. You can give them a bonus grade on how well they work together as a group or the creativity of their work.

Quote the experts
Meaningful quotes often decide whether an article will make the front page or be buried inside. As teachers, we have a responsibility to admit that we don’t know everything about the subject we teach. Don’t be afraid to bring in an expert. Have someone in the field guest lecture or take your students on a field trip. Great teachers inspire students to never stop learning by modeling this practice everyday. If you don’t have direct access to an expert, use technology. Integrate the flipped classroom model by having students watch videos online at home and then come to class ready to to discuss what they learned. The most important thing is to be willing to learn alongside your students.

Go live
Have your students become journalists too and regularly produce podcasts, digital newspapers, or radio shows. Every subject has its own news sites, publications, and journals with examples students can recreate or use as a reference. Your students will learn to present the information and write for an audience. This gets gets their creative juices flowing and teaches them the responsibility of providing accurate and succinct information.

Journalism is about exploring curiosity through gathering and processing information. These tips can help transform your classroom into a place where stories come alive and learning is the centerpiece.

Posted in Moments that Matter, Teaching that Transforms | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Wear Your Cape with Confidence


I teach. What’s your super power?
(Here’s the thing –  this truth, this villain, can strike us in our parenting, in any workplace, in any profession.)

Teachers can certainly be called superheroes. We rush to the aid of the struggling learner, knock down barriers often labeled “disabilities,” inspire and equip future leaders, and along the way empower students to unleash their own super powers!

Around the corner, lingering in the dark alley, awaits our greatest antagonist…Comparison.

Ugh, he strikes when we are running low of energy, slightly discouraged for the day, and capitalizes when our peers are at their strongest, making good use of their own super powers.

Comparison is one of the greatest villains. When given a foothold into our classrooms or schools, he can wreak havoc.

Teacher, Superhero that you are, don’t be trapped by Comparison. He has a tricky way of making you think you don’t have it, your lessons bore even a sloth and those fireworks aren’t happening in your classroom – like they are down the hall. Comparison robs us of our confidence. He “twists what should be unique about us into something that we are either grossly dissatisfied with or disproportionately proud of.” That super power unique to you – making students see things differently, think beyond themselves, use experimentation, well, that’s yours. And just because someone down the hall doesn’t have that same superpower, doesn’t mean they don’t wear a cape! Their cape color and powers are different than yours. That fact is good.

Do we really want nothing but Superman’s flying around? I like being Wonder Woman. I know a good Spider Man. Iron Man teaches English next door, Captain America covers U.S. History in the next building, Batman teaches just down the hallway, and the Hulk has our weight room covered! They are all incredible teachers. Their different super powers are gifts to students and myself alike. I learn from and depend on their strengths.

Unfortunately, the havoc Comparison spreads can lead to the stench of jealousy. It stinks like that of a Guinea pig cage overdue for a cleaning. Seriously, it spoils the best efforts of teamwork and weakens the super powers you have been gifted with. Jealousy begins to “look for faults, share ‘concerns’ with others, and diminishes our credibility.” You have been given your own set of powers – you teach well with them.

With your gifts and talents that are unique to you, you are inspiring learners, growing thinkers, and teaching skills needed for tomorrows leaders. You have your own style. Don’t allow Comparison to make you doubt your calling or get frustrated because your super power doesn’t look like that of another’s. Put your cape on, the bell is about to ring, your students await their Super Hero.

**Quotes are taken from a great read, Clout: Discover and Unleash Your God-Given Influence by Jenni Catron

Posted in Moments that Matter, Parenting with Purpose, Teaching that Transforms | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Foster well-being in children: 3 lessons from positive psychology


The fundamental point of sending children to school has always been and will always be the same – a good life.

A subfield of psychology that examines the good life is positive psychology. Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, referred to the good life as using your signature strengths to produce authentic happiness.

The connection between using your strengths and being happy makes sense. This is not a new idea, but relatively new to psychological research.

For the past 150 years, the field of psychology focused on the identification and treatment of problems associated with thinking and behavior. This comes from the medical model of thinking where we identify and fix problems.

Since education deals with thinking and behavior, it is not surprising that teacher training involves coursework in educational psychology. This is a good thing, but also problematic when the underlying premise is what’s wrong with people.

I think we focus too much on the deficits of our children.

It’s the start of a new year. Whether you make resolutions or not, let’s commit to focusing less attention on what’s wrong with kids and more on what’s right.

God endowed every child with unique gifts and created him or her for a purpose. While that purpose may not always fit within the narrow confines of how schools define success, the connection between using your strengths and happiness is well established. It is no surprise that if children are not utilizing their strengths in school, they will be unhappy.

Although we don’t set out to ignore the well-being of children in schools, it may result from mandating top-down initiatives that force teachers into boxes. If we don’t allow a teacher to think for herself, how can we expect her to empower a student to think for himself?

There are three lessons from positive psychology that I believe can help us, as both parents and teachers, foster the well-being of children. These key concepts are being explored in schools around the world and include grit, curiosity, and a growth mindset.

  1. Praise effort rather than results to help children develop Grit

Dr. Angela Duckworth, from the University of Pennsylvania, has been studying resilience and perseverance to long-term goals. She found that grit is a better indicator of success than IQ or talent. These non-cognitive traits are critical to both academic and personal achievement. However, we don’t focus nearly enough time fostering this form of intrinsic motivation in children. From helicopter parenting to common core standards in schools, we have not only set the destination for success, we prescribe every step of the path. We have become so results-oriented and protective that our children miss out on opportunities to develop resilience. While results are important, let’s not allow things such as common core standards to squash the hopes and dreams of our children. Instead of praising the results of achievement, focus more energy this year on praising the effort that went into a project and reinforcing the lessons learned from mistakes.

  1. Make children look for the answers to develop Curiosity

How much time do you spend asking your children or students questions? Inquiry-based instruction starts with problems, questions, or scenarios that ignite curiosity. Instilling curiosity in students encourages their desire to learn. When students are magnetized by a new idea or a new situation and are compelled to explore further, regardless of external rewards, they can be said to be truly motivated. Inquiry-based learning is also fundamental to the development of higher order thinking skills. When our primary goal is helping students pass a standardized test, our focus shifts from fostering curiosity to promoting conformity. While our public school teachers cannot escape the perils of standardization today, they can try to swim upstream by asking as many questions as they provide facts. While we have to get students ready for tests, that is not all we have to do. Good AP teachers know they have to instill concepts to help students pass a test, but they also set the conditions along the way to help students become passionate about their subject by asking the right questions or posing projects in the form of problems.

  1. Use if-then statements to promote a Growth Mindset

Someone with a fixed mindset believes intelligence is static, whereas someone with a growth mindset finds opportunities to develop intelligence. Another problem with standardization in schools is that children can believe their potential is limited. While the destination of education today is noble – we want kids to achieve, the journey we take them on is flawed. We do not promote a growth mindset enough in our children by helping them realize their potential is not limited to numerical grades and test scores. However, we know that a growth mindset is a predictor of academic success and is positively correlated with motivation, grades, and test scores. So if we want kids to pass tests, we should focus more on getting students to use if-then statements to trigger foresight and planning, the executive functioning skills that are so necessary to higher order thinking.

We all want our children to be happy. We want them to have a good life. Let’s commit to providing them with the right tools they need to make that happen. Those tools are not facts they will forget from tests, they include grit, curiosity, and a growth mindset.

At the end of the day what separates successful students from unsuccessful students is whether or not they believe their abilities can be developed or are fixed. Allow the strengths of our children to form their path toward happiness, well-being, and success.

Posted in Parenting with Purpose, Teaching that Transforms | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Following a Shepherd

Odd as it may sound at first…I have found that those with the heart of a “lowly shepherd” make the best of leaders.

It may surprise us that God, some thousand years prior to the birth of His son, Jesus, chose an unlikely shepherd boy, David, to be annointed king of his people. He chose David to be the leader of a nation. David spent his youth as a shepherd. He would know how to lead and care for the nation that “God so loved.” David knew what it meant to chase after the one lost sheep. He knew what it meant to spend hours leading the sometimes stubborn sheep to fertile ground and still waters. David knew how to attend to those sheep who had lost their way and gotten hurt. David knew to be on the lookout for the evil snares, wolves and lions, that waited for easy prey. He was well seasoned at protecting those he led. David, the shepherd, who with his shepherd’s staff, protected, corrected, and led his sheep.

Now imagine with me being on a hillside late into night.The warmth of the sun long forgotten and the chill of a dark night has set in. Those awake at this what seems to be God-forsaken hour are the lowly shepherds. The menial job in a family usually given to youngest of the children able to corral the sheep. It is the least important of the family who must keep watch at this hour over the flocks. On that hillside while attending the wayward sheep, often lost without their shepherd, appears from the sky brilliant angels from heaven proclaiming the birth of the long awaited Messiah, our Savior. God chose shepherds to give a majestic birth announcement. His Son, the Savior of the world has been born!

Now fast forward with me some thirty years later from this very scene. Here Jesus proclaims, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep….I lay down my life that I may take it up again.” John 10. Hmmm, Jesus would dare to compare himself with that of a ‘lowly shepherd.’ Indeed, I would say that those who lead best lead with that of a shepherd’s heart. Choose wisely those who you allow to shepherd you. Jesus – good choice. He has proven that he would and did lay down his life.

We have other shepherds in our lives: pastors, mentors, parents, teachers, adminstrators. Look closely to see if they hold those charcterstics of a true shepherd. Every good and worthy shepherd/shepherdess leads ultimately to the Good Shepherd, Jesus. You are a shepherd of your family, your class, your school, your church. Follow the example set before you.

“So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them with his skillful hands. Psalm 78:72

This sweet season of Christmas read with your loved ones Luke 2:1-20. Follow the lead of the shepherds on the hillside who listened to the angels who appeared. The shepherds traveled to an inconspicuous city, Bethlehem, where there they found the Savior of the world.

Posted in Moments that Matter, Parenting with Purpose | Tagged , , | 1 Comment