As parents of preschoolers, you've likely heard some of this language. As we think about formal schooling (preschool and Kindergarten) for our littles, we likely think first of the ABC's and 123's, the art activities that teach colors and shapes, name-writing practice--basic building blocks of an education. But one thing that may be easily overlooked at this age is the development of social skills.
As I scan news headlines and scroll through social media feeds, my heart grows increasingly heavy for the world in which I’m raising my two littles. The violence and division that stem from issues of race and justice are particularly weighty. This heaviness has caused me to examine my own attitudes and actions regarding racial reconciliation and justice and forced me to consider how this impacts my parenting.
When my firstborn son was a toddler, I had a particularly memorable bad dream. I was with a small group of familiar faces. In the way that only makes sense in dreams, we knew we needed to get to a certain destination and we were headed in that (ambiguous) direction. Determined though we were, around every corner of our journey we were met by another life-threatening obstacle. Quicksand, falling rocks, medieval weaponry—the obstacles became more and more terrifying and relentless. In the dream, I remember feeling real fear. I also began to dread the next turn in the journey because I knew something else was coming, most likely more awful than the previous passage.
Our children desperately need models of what it looks like to live and speak within the Christian story. Modeling has always been shown to be the most effective form of moral and religious education. For that reason, parents should want to speak about God continually and place their children around teachers who speak often about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and what they are doing in the world and their lives.
Fear is arguably one of the biggest threats to modern parenting. Whether we’re parenting toddlers or teenagers, there are myriad reasons to fear for our children. In the words of pastor and author Rich Nathan, “We live in a world that bombards us 24/7 with threats to our kids.” Amber alerts, abduction stories, school shootings, screen time and internet predators…the list of these threats to our kids goes on and on. It feels impossible to protect our kids from all the things.
A study on tween and teen media use conducted by Common Sense Media in 2019 revealed some intriguing data. They found that over two-thirds (69%) of kids have their own smartphone by 12 years of age. That means that most middle schoolers and their parents have entered the world of smartphones, with all its apps, online entertainment, and social media interaction.
Another particularly eyebrow-raising finding is that only 15% of tweens report using an app or a tool to track their device time, and only about one in four tweens (28%) say that their parent uses an app or tool to track their child’s time spent on a device. While 50% of tweens say that their parent does use some type of app or tool to monitor what they do on their devices, this still leaves a lot of young people unchecked with what they do and how long they use their phones each day.
Years ago I had to step away from teaching, the vocation that I love, in order to be present for my family in a time of acute need. Not knowing how long my time away from teaching would be, I wrote out a message to my fellow teachers at that time. This message was essentially a list of my personal goals as a teacher, attributes of what I consider to be an effective Christian teacher. Not that each of my colleagues--or any other Christian teacher--must have these exact same goals in order to be effective, but to offer some thoughts to consider as they continue in their calling.
I have witnessed that it is easy for teachers to get caught up in being graders instead of being teachers. It is also easy for Christian teachers to add their faith on top of their subject, rather than weaving their faith into all that they do--the presentation of material, the curriculum itself, assessments, interactions with students, conduct with colleagues. Faith can be incorporated into every element of teaching because it is part of our identity.
So to remind myself and encourage others, here is the list of attributes I consider vital to being an effective Christian teacher.
There seems to be a growing sense of apathy because of all the change, uncertainty, unpredictability that we are living in these days. None of us know what's really going to happen or how it's going to happen, so it can feel hard to get excited and look forward to things that we've been expecting. If you are finding yourself feeling anxious or unmotivated or apathetic, know that you are not alone. It is helpful to identify these feelings and even share them with a trusted friend.
Many significant changes have taken place in higher education institutions recently, from massive shifts to online learning models, to the nature of on-campus life, to athletics. These changes directly impact the college admissions process. For parents and students looking ahead to big decisions like what colleges to pursue and what scholarships to apply for, the changing landscape of college admissions adds a layer of uncertainty and novelty to an already-difficult process. There are two major changes to college admissions that parents and students need to be aware of...
In his play "As You Like It," William Shakespeare uses the line "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts..." As cliché as is it to use a quotation from Shakespeare to begin a theatre blog post, those particular lines highlight the permeating nature of theatre as an art form. It’s not just about “play[ing] many parts” on a stage in a dark room.
For the final lesson I teach my eighth grade students at the end of each school year, I want it be something they will remember long after they leave my classroom. In the days leading up to this final lesson, I challenge them to ask the questions that will matter most as they navigate high school and life beyond like "What are wisdom and truth and where do they come from?" and "What am I consuming?" My final charge to them is to practice self-reflection as they progress in life and consider whether they are conforming or transforming.