Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Importance of Professional Development

How do you strive to make improvements in your classroom? When I first started as a teacher, I greatly valued Scholastic's New Teacher website. I loved their calendars of fun activities and their forums that provided me a place to ask questions to improve as a teacher.

After a few years, I was blessed with the opportunity to develop a 1:1 technology program. I joined Twitter and other social networks to develop my personal learning network. I learned from some of the best in Lutheran schools regarding the implementation of a technology program. I am so thankful for those that collaborate and discuss in #luthed each week.

Most recently, I have been working on my master's degree in educational leadership and administration. I enjoy the rigor of the program as well as the experience with educators in public schools. Their knowledge and experience in a setting different than Lutheran schools is of high value to me. Yet, the Christian university still allows me to present my research from a Lutheran perspective.

Now, I am blessed to serve on the Lutheran Educators Association (LEA) elementary leadership team. The LEA organization has long been something that I have valued. While there are many professional learning organizations, LEA provides connections and ideas that are distinctly Lutheran. Shaping the Future discusses topics that are relevant to Lutheran schools and their communities. The forums provide a place for us to seek advice and concepts with other Lutheran teachers.

What form of professional development are you currently using? Consider making a New Year's resolution of 15 minutes per day or 30 minutes per week to grow as an educator. God's blessings on your time of renewal and relaxation during the Christmas season!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Is Your Website Ready for Enrollment Season?

Are you preparing for enrollment season? It is an exciting time of the year - one anticipates all of the new students that may join the school. Teachers eagerly await the students that will rejoin their classes. We are eager for students to know their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

According to Nielson (2011), users often leave Web pages in 10-20 seconds, but pages with a clear plan of action can hold people's attention for much longer. As you are reviewing your school's website, how does your content connect your perspective families to your school? Does the website offer the following:
  1. A form to book a tour on-line.
  2. Contact information for the admissions counselor, principal, or director.
  3. Clearly identify the sections that are for parents, students, and alumni.
  4. Pictures of school spirit and opportunities.
  5. Clear application process for future students.
  6. Donor support forms.
  7. Contact information for other groups in the school community - athletics, music, etc.
  8. Interaction with social networks.
  9. Links that are easy to navigate
  10. A clear message proclaiming Christ
If users have a positive experience with your website, they are more likely to judge it favorably in the future and continuing using it. On the other hand, if they have a poor experience, they will make judgements and be less likely to return. Even if the website is redesigned, the users will still carry that negative expectation with them. What does that mean for schools? A good website can simplify and transfer a great deal of the admissions workload from the office staff to on-line communication. It is also important to be aware of the effects of a poor website on perspective and current families. The school may need to provide additional guidance and encouragement to use the website after a poor experience.

I will also add a shameless plus to join us for #luthed this evening! Vote for the topic at http://luthedchats.wordpress.com/2014/12/05/luthed-twitter-chat-poll-for-1282014/

God's blessings to all of you on your week!

Nielsen, J. (2011). How long do users stay on web pages? http://www.nngroup.com/articles/how-long-do-users-stay-on-web-pages/

Friday, November 28, 2014

Why Choose Lutheran Schools?

Why choose a Lutheran school? As Lutheran schools are struggling with enrollment and communicating the importance of a Lutheran school to communities that are increasingly non-Lutheran, are we being proactive about our role in this great opportunity for outreach that we have? A new study (Bedrick, 2013) reveals that parents are choosing private schools for the following top five reasons:
  1. Better learning discipline
  2. Better learning environment
  3. Smaller class sizes
  4. Improved student safety
  5. More individual attention
How are we communicating these strengths of our schools to current and prospective parents? One method is through a school website. As you look at your school website, are these five reasons effectively communicated to parents through words and pictures?
  1. As Lutheran schools, we have the unique opportunity to teach Christian faith and values set in God's Word and Lutheran doctrine.
  2. Lutheran schools have some of the best academics and receive accreditation through the Lutheran and secular agencies. 
  3. Lutheran schools can offer smaller class sizes (Finn, 2002) that lead to higher grades, better test results, and improved relationships between the home and school.
  4. Lutheran schools with accreditation and strong morals create communities that are safe for student learning.
  5. Smaller class sizes allow Lutheran school teachers to focus on the individual needs of student growth in the classroom.
If you were to review the communications from your school, would you see these reasons highlighted on your website and in your newsletter? Take a moment this week to find these five aspects. Lutheran schools are a great place to be, and we want our parents to know it as well!



Bedrick, J. (2013) New study explains how and why parents choose private schools. Retrieved from http://www.cato.org/blog/new-study-explains-how-why-parents-choose-private-schools

Finn, J. (2002) Class size reduction, grades k-3. Retrieved from http://www.asu.edu/educ/epsl/EPRU/ducments/EPRU%202002-101/Chapter%2002-Finn-Final.pdf
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Finn
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Final.pdf

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Teach by Faith

What does it mean to teach by faith? The title of this blog derives from my philosophy that I teach by faith. I have wanted to be a teacher since I was about seven years old, and I would help my mom in the classroom after school. My best friend and I would help in the library in elementary school. In high school, I aided for a teacher, and by the time I graduated, I knew I wanted to go to a Concordia for a degree in education.

As teachers, we teach by many things. We teach by the standards of education. We teach by the assessments we give. We teach by the lesson plans we use. We teach by the curriculum. We teach by the school handbooks and state laws. In Lutheran schools, we teach by something that is greater than any of these - faith.

All of the above are very important, but that is not what makes Lutheran schools great. We are great because of an awesome God! For it is by faith that we teach by our worship on Sunday mornings. We teach by our personal devotions with the Lord and our prayers. We teach by the daily time our students spend in religion classes and integrating faith into other subjects. We teach by our interactions with others.

At times, we fail. Yet, we awesome God has also sent his Son to die cross for our sins so that we may freely serve Him! How will you be more intentional about teaching by faith this week?

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Responsibility in Leadership

According to Merriam-Webster, leadership is the office or position of a leader, the capacity to lead, and the act or instance of leading. I am currently in my last class on leadership, and it is fascinating to learn about the traits that make a great leader. Leadership is attractive to people for many reasons. I know that I first aspired to go into leadership to make a difference in the lives of other people. As a child, I received so many benefits from Lutheran schools - caring teachers, quality education, and most importantly, a deep faith in an almighty God. I have been privileged to work with some impressive leaders over the years who took the time to train me. Leadership is not always about the glory, the power, or the great things we do. Sometimes, it is tough. Our Lutheran schools are going to need leaders who are prepared for the responsibilities that come with them. What better place to look for examples than God's Word?
  1. Are you prepared to make the right decisions even if you are alone? In Genesis 6, God tells Noah to build a boat because he is going to destroy the world. Noah did not have a team of supporters encouraging to build that boat. He did it because God told him to do so. How are you making decisions as you serve in ministry because they are the right thing to do?
  2. Do you embrace the unknown? God told Abraham to leave the comfort of his hometown and go to a new place in Genesis 12. How are you doing something different in your ministry?
  3. Are you enduring in spite of your circumstances? God orchestrated the events in Joseph's life to make him second in command to Pharaoh. He had a vision from God to sustain them in difficult times. Are you prepared to help your ministry during difficult times.
  4. Do you stand up for your people? In Exodus 3, Moses gave every excuse as to why he was not the person for the job. When he finally answers God's call, he goes to Pharaoh and tell him to let his people go. They were his native people, and he stood up for their freedom. As leaders, are we prepared to stand up for the people we serve?
  5. Do we lead by example rather than commanding others? In Joshua 24, Joshua tells his people that his house will serve the Lord. The people answer in a united voice that they will serve God. Joshua didn't tell them to serve God or threaten them to do so. They did it by following His example. As leaders, what example do we set for those we lead?
  6. Are we afraid of challenges? In 1 Samuel 17, a small boy named David defeats a 9-foot Goliath. The Israelites thought the challenge was too great, but David had the conviction and strength to do so. How are you facing the giants in your ministry?
  7. Do we rise to the occasion? In Isaiah 6, God asks for a prophet for His people. Isaiah responds, "Here am I. Send me!" He doesn't wait to see if someone else will do it. He has initiative. They speak up and make decisions. How are you taking action in your ministry?
  8. Do you know how to recover from failure? Peter denies Jesus three times, realizes what he has done, and weeps bitterly. In Acts 2, Peter gives the first sermon after Jesus' ascension. Leaders don't become discouraged when they fail. They have the problem solving skills to carry on. How do you recover from your mistakes in ministry?
  9. Are you passionate about what you do? In Acts 9, Paul changes his mind. He goes from violently opposing Christianity to spreadin the Gospel throughout the world. He has a sense of purpose and feels compelled to lead. How are serving passionately in your ministry?
  10. Are you a servant? In John 13, Jesus, the King of kings, washes the feet of his disciples. He focuses on serving those who follow Him. What an excellent example of teamwork! How are you serving others in your ministry?
Finally, remember the responsibilities that are truly God's decisions. We are his workmanship, but it is by His grace that we are saved. It is not our doing, but it is a gift of God. We can only boast because of Him!



Bible Gateway. (2001). Retrieved from https://www.biblegateway.com/

Merriam Webster. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/leadership

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Worker Approved by God

This evening, I sat down to read the Portals of Prayer, my daily devotion of choice. The text for the devotion was from 2 Timothy 2:14-19. The following selection includes the full portion regarding workers approved by God from the second book of Timothy.

Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. But God's firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”

Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

As I was reading, there are some key points that Timothy is making regarding our work for the Lord. Take a moment to consider the following dos and don'ts:

1. Don't quarrel about words.
2. Don't babble irreverantly.
3. Don't pursue youthful passions.
4. Don't be involved in ignorant controversies.

1. Do your best to present yourself to God.
2. Do cleanse yourself from what is dishonorable.
3. Do pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace.
4. Do be kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.

How often do we, as sinners, quarrel over simple things? We disagree over words, gossip, act immature, and dispute matters of little importance. How frequently do we miss moments for ministry with these things? God calls us to present our best to Him. He reminds us to repents of our sins and honor Him. We are to pursue matters that are righteous, demonstrate faithfulness to Him, proclaim His love, and work in peace with others. He calls us to be kind to everyone, teaching and correcting with gentleness, even enduring evil.

God's word certainly does not say that His world will be perfect. Gossip, disagreements, and immaturity are not worthy of praise. As church workers, we are called to live to a higher standard in righteousness, faith, love, peace, kindness, and gentleness with the knowledge of forgiveness we have been given so freely through Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God that He has already approved of our work!

God's blessings on your week in ministry!

2 Timothy 2:14-25. (2001) Retrieved from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2%20Timothy%202&version=ESV


Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Joys (and Challenges) of a Divine Call

I am two months into my third Call in an LCMS school, and I have been recently thinking about the Call in ministry. A good colleague and former supervisor once told me that we never leave a Call. We go to a new one. My most recent "Call" was not official but to my family, myself, and my education in Michigan. Now, I have been serving two months in my new ministry. However, sometimes I think that we, as forgiven sinners in Christ, need a review of the meaning of a divine Call.

As humans, I think the idea of a divine Call can also be difficult. I know that I have made many friends, developed professional relationships, and taught many kids that are dear to me. It can be hard to leave them, but I have also learned that it is important to do so. Part of the Call process means that we transition to a new place. I still keep in touch with with many of the people who I have developed relationships with over the years, but there comes a time when we have a new focus - the kids and the families that we currently serve.

"I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.  But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift.  Therefore it says, "When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, And He gave gifts to men."  Now this expression, "He ascended," what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things. And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ.  As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love." Ephesians 4:1-16

I think the aforementioned verses are a great reminder to us all. Whether you are new to ministry this year, starting in a new place, or have many years of experience, are you walking in a manner worthy of your calling? How are you using your gifts for equipping the saints? Are we careful to avoid trickery and scheming? Are we working toward the growth of His church through the grace that God has given us?

May the God of your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, work richly in your schools this week!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Postcard Exchange 2014-2015

A few years ago, my students and I created "Skype Across America." See the following link: http://skypeacrossamerica.blogspot.com/ It began as a social studies project in which the students would learn about state information through collaborating and communicating with other classrooms rather than researching in books. As the project developed, the students grew in confidence in their speaking skills as well as developing their listening skills. They became fluent in Skype etiquette and learned how to manage a large group project with spreadsheets, e-mails, and Twitter. Finally, their writing skills were enhanced as they took the information gathered and created a blog post for each state we visited. They developed skills in writing organization, creative word choice, and developed their own voice to portray to their audience. As an added bonus, I was able to connect with other educators across the country and learn about their styles.

This year, the my are creating a project that is a little more retro. We are going on a road trip - from the comfort of our classroom! We are looking for 49 classrooms - one from each state - to join us in a postcard exchange. In return, your class will receive 49 postcards, one from each state. You and your students will enjoy building a United States of Friendship Map/Bulletin Board! What a great way to learn about the 50 states in our wonderful country! Once all states have been accounted for, I will assemble all the information and e-mail it to the participants.

Learn more at the following website:

https://postcardexchange2014-2015.wikispaces.com/

We are still looking for about 20 more states to join us! Please share with someone who might be interested!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Most Important School "Supply"

It's that time of year again! School uniforms, backpacks, new pencils, and lunches! Teachers are preparing for back to school, too. Bulletin boards to make, laminating to cut, and materials to prepare! I am greatly looking forward to being back in the classroom full-time. Since I will be back in the classroom, my posts will switch focus a little to the happenings going on in fourth grade. Over the last few weeks, I have been busy (with the help of a former student and my mom) preparing my classroom. On the top left, the theme verse and Texas history board are ready to go. Classroom jobs are on the right. The classroom library is unpacked and textbooks are waiting for students. Name tags are on desks and the reading boxes are ready to go.


While all of these things are great, the best supply of this classroom cannot be seen. I am privileged to teach in a Lutheran school. Therefore, the best part of this classroom is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I pray that the Holy Spirit would be at work in the hearts and minds of my students in order that the light of Christ might be seen through them!


Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Gift of the Fourth Commandment

When I taught the commandments last two years, I noticed something that I have never paid much attention to in the past. If you look at Luther's Small Catechism, you will notice that each of the commandments comes with a gift. The fourth commandment states that you should honor your father and your mother. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise or anger our parents or those in authority over us, but honor, serve and obey them, and hold them in love and esteem.

In a previous post, I spoke about the gift of the eighth commandment. The gift of the fourth commandment states that we are all God's representatives. That is a pretty powerful thought. We are representatives of God. The fourth commandment states that we are supposed to honor, serve and obey, and hold those in authority over us in love and esteem. In my classroom, we talk about those in authority including moms, dads, grandparents, teachers, principals, and pastors. However, there is one that has greater authority than all of those people combined - God.

In my classroom, we learn about what it means to be a representative of God. If we are honoring our parents, we are cleaning our rooms and doing our chores. If we are honoring our teachers and principals, we are completing our homework and respecting our school in our words and actions. If we are honoring our pastor, we listen to the sermon and go to Sunday school. That alone seems pretty overwhelming! Yet, the greatest authority we answer to is God. What does it mean to be a representative of God? That is a great responsibility!

Here are a few of God's words on the subject:

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother" (this is the first commandment with a promise), "that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land." Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:1-4

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

How are you a representative of God in your daily living?








Thursday, June 19, 2014

If the Germans aren't getting off the boat, go fishing!

For the last six months, I have been working on my master's degree in my hometown with a population about 600. After five and a half years in the field of ministry, it was nice to be home with my family for a while. I was able to go back and remember my German heritage. I enjoyed Lenten suppers at my home church, substitute taught at my grade school and my high school, and spent time with my aging grandparents. During this time, my home church was in the process of calling a pastor. My grandfather, who has Alzheimer's and now struggles with daily routine, sat in the church pew and asked, "Does this pastor have an interest in school ministry?" Even in his aging years, Lutheran schools are still important to him.

Lutheran ministry goes back in my family for generations. My great-great-uncle was a pastor in Minnesota. My grandmother was a graduate of River Forest and taught grade school. Both my mom and my aunt are Lutheran school teachers. I have wanted to be a Lutheran school teacher since I was seven years old. However, I must admit that the Lutheran school career that I have is far different from what I may have imagined.

As a girl from a small German Lutheran community, the schools that I taught in were very different from the ones where I taught. I had been teaching for three weeks when one of my second graders came up to me and said, "Miss Engelhard, why does that snake talk?" I was floored. By the time I was in second grade, we had memorized the basic Bible stories. Yet, my students were questioning me about creation. My principal had told me that this school required skills in outreach ministry, and she wasn't sure if I had that gift. Now, I have a bit of a bad habit. When I am told that I am not very good at something, it almost naturally becomes my personal mission to improve in that area. That was how the story began.

To this day, I can no longer count the number of students that have learned about Jesus for the first time in my classroom or in those of the teachers I have worked with. I remember many Friday afternoons working in childcare with a little boy who loved to sing Fishers of Men slightly off-key. There was the fourth grader who constantly questioned how we went to heaven - good works or faith in Christ. The fifth grader who had read her Bible more times than myself. The second grader who could loved all things about Jesus in every aspect of her day at school. The best part - not one of those students was brought up in the Lutheran church.

In Lutheran schools today, we have an opportunity to do something truly great. Students learn about the love of Christ in our classrooms each day. However, it does not stop there. Those students go home each night and share the faith in their homes. That is done in their words and in their actions. Let's take a look at Matthew 4:18-22:

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Here is my question to you for the day: If the Germans aren't getting off the boat, how can you go fishing?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Graduation Day

Last weekend, my family celebrated a special occasion. One of my cousins graduated from high school, and she is headed off my alma mater, Concordia University Wisconsin, in the fall.

Graduation day. It brings so many thoughts to mind. How many of you remember a cardboard hat and paper gown for your preschool graduation? It conjures up images of young children so excited to head off to kindergarten in the fall. If you attend a Lutheran school, I am sure that many of you also had an eighth grade graduation. It was a time to reflect back on eight years of daily instruction in Lutheran schools. Then, there is high school graduation. This one might be a little more momentous. High school pass more quickly. It is only half the time one spends in grade school. Yet, it is filled with anticipation of a bright future. Students head out into the workforce and into colleges.

This time of year often brings plenty of advice for young graduates. As a teacher and a fan of the great Dr. Seuss, I thought I would recommend a few good reads. The first book is a classic gift that was given to me by a dear friend when I graduated from high school. The whimsical humor reminds us of childhood while depicting a world that is ours for the taking.

Oh, The Places You'll Go by Dr. Seuss

Now, let's take a sharp turn from the humorous to the truth found in God's Word. When I graduated from high school, my aunt gave me a first aid kit filled with band-aids, aspirin and the like. However, she also included a daily dose of scripture. She had filled a small bag with Bible verses. While sleep, food, and studying are all necessities of successful college life, one must also remember spiritual care. The following Bible verses were some of the ones included in my kit:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:11-13

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

What advice would you offer to new graduates?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Leaps of Faith

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. Hebrews 11:1-2

The other day, I was substitute teaching and watching a student struggle through a math problem using mental math. She wanted to return to her seat to complete the problem with paper-and-pencil, but I asked her to work with me in order to complete it. I could see that the answer was at the tip of her tongue, but she was afraid of being incorrect. Slowly but surely she wrote out the correct answer. For her, that was a pretty big leap of faith.
 
What is a leap of faith? I think many of us have taken them over the years. A new job. Marriage. Change. A leap of faith. In times of new changes, people tend to wish the other person "Good luck!" However, in my line of work, we don't work on luck. We work on faith. Over the years, I have been privileged to watch and take some pretty amazing leaps of faith over the years.

I have watched a unruly student turn to the Lord in prayer for help. I have watched a family join a church through the witness of their child. I have watched numerous friends take a leap of faith by accepting a Call to serve in a new place. On Tuesday, many new pastors and their families will be going through Call Day. They will be learning of the places they will serve for both vicarage and pastoral roles.

If you would like to learn more, visit: http://callday.csl.edu/. Take some time to include these families in your prayers as the Lord blesses and prepares them for ministry.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Rainmaking

"Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves." Philippians 2:3

A pastor once told me that the book of Philippians uses the word joy 18 times, more than any other book in the Bible. I recently took some time to review one of my favorite books on leadership, Leading from the Lion's Den, by Tom Harper. In the book, he reviews each book of the Bible and pulls out a leadership lesson from God's unchanging Word. The chapter on Philippians is based on the verse above.

As a teacher, one of the greatest gifts I have been given is the opportunity to mentor young students. In my classroom, I see students who will be future government officials, lawyers, doctors, and entrepreneurs. However, the vocation of church work is one of the greatest professions that I have the opportunity to encourage. We are often concerned about how we will need more teachers, principals, pastors, deaconesses, and other church workers in this Synod. Therefore, it can be a little disheartening when one tries to sway someone away from the profession or discourage their ideas.

When it comes to finding a solution to our ministries, sometimes we tend to look for a new hire that will fix all of the problems. However, we should be careful not miss the diamond in the rough that may already be amongst us. The teacher that is gifted in science and waiting for the opportunity to put those talents to use. The teacher who loves project-based learning and wants the opportunity to offer input. The deaconess who imparts wisdom of God's word on a daily basis.

A great leader is able to give the credit away. Enter rainmaking. That silver lining in the clouds. How are some of our best leaders created? They develop new leaders. Yet, a rainmaker takes it a step further. A rainmaker doesn't just develop one leader. A rainmaker teaches a person how to make other rainmakers. A rainmaker can recognize a person's strengths and helps them succeed. There are some future rainmakers sitting in Lutheran school classrooms around the world. They are learning and growing - putting their faith into action. Making rain.

How are you making rain?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Fishbowl Effect

I am blessed to call myself the daughter of a Lutheran school teacher. I grew up coloring during choir practice and doing my homework while my mom graded papers at school. I have been privileged to have 16 years of Lutheran school training and have spent over 5 years teaching in the LCMS. However, this experience has also lead me to realize some very important boundaries about life.

As time goes along, lines sometimes tend to blur. We develop friendships within the church. We get busy with work, and we take it home. We have that quick conversation at church about something that needs to be ready for Monday. While it can be a wonderful thing that a church has a family-like feel, this can lead to some pretty unhealthy habits. It is important to protect the personal, professional, and spiritual lives of a church worker. Business should be done in the business setting. Personal lives should not be invaded without permission. Worship is not a place where business should be conducted

The Lord has some great thoughts on the importance of rest:

And He said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest a while." For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat. Mark 6:31

But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray. Luke 15:16

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. Mark 1:35

After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone. Matthew 14:23

How do you protect your time as a servant of the Lord?


 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Gift of the Eighth Commandment

As a Lutheran teacher, I am blessed with the opportunity to use the 10 commandments as a part of my classroom management strategies. When we learn about the commandments, we learn that they come with law, but that they also come with a gift. The eighth commandment states that we shall not give false testimony against our neighbors. We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him or give him a bad name, but defend him, speak well of him and take his words and actions in the kindest possible way.

That is where the gift of eighth commandment comes into play. In the same way that we put rules into our classroom for safety reasons, God gives us rules as well. He doesn't give us those rules to hurt us. All of the commandments come with a gift, and the eighth commandment comes with the gift of a good name. As I teach my students, I tell them that one of the worst things they can do is tell me a lie. When they lie to me, it becomes more difficult for me trust them. This leads me to question the way that they treat their friends and myself.

Why do we lie? Lying can get us out of awkward situations. It can spare the feelings of others. It can preserve or strengthen alliances. It can enhance our social standings. It can keep us out of trouble. It can even save our lies. I always feel for the young students that feel the need to lie to me at a such a young age. Little kids don't tend to lie like adults do. We often learn to lie as a defense mechanism to protect ourselves. Therefore, when I have a student that lies to me as such a young age, it usually means they have learned to do this because they were afraid of the truth. It takes time, care, and love to break them of that habit and learn that when they tell me the truth, the consequence will not be as great.

How have you used the gift of the eighth commandment recently?

Slater, S. (2013). Why do we lie? Retrieved from: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-dolphin-divide/201309/why-do-we-lie

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Step Back in Time

For the last two weeks, I have been blessed with the opportunity to substitute teach at my former high school. One of the staff members has been on an education exchange in Ghana, so I have been covering her classes in Global Issues, Latin, and Non-Western Civilizations. Learn more about her trip at http://www.bevfeldkamp.blogspot.com/

The hour commute has given me a great opportunity to be in prayer with the Lord. I must admit that this territory is a little unfamiliar as an elementary education major, but I have found these kids to be some great students! It has also been incredibly strange to step foot back in my high school as a teacher. There are many caring teachers who have come up to say hello. However, it is also wonderful to see such a strong Lutheran high school at work. While there are new faces in the staff and the students have certainly changed, much of the culture remains the same.

Someone is there to greet the students as they come in the door each morning. Each day begins with a devotion and a prayer. The daily chapel service is lead by a variety of local pastors and hosts different groups to offer a message. As classes are taught, one can hear the great learning environments that are being created. I love hearing the conversations of the staff as they mentor some great young people. I am also constantly impressed by the manners and Christian attitude of this school. It makes me incredibly thankful to have been blessed with such a great high school experience.

Here is my prompt to you this week: Who has been a mentor to you in your faith walk with the Lord?

Friday, February 21, 2014

President's Day

If anyone were to ask me about my favorite subject in school, I would have immediately answered social studies. That seems a bit strange considering the fact that none of my higher learning concentrations were in social studies. However, I always loved to teach my students about geography and the American Presidents. While American politics can often be a difficult topic to discuss, I find it so important we teach our students about founding fathers and some of the great leaders from this country. They loved being able to take a virtual Skype field trip to the Ford Theater. They also enjoyed seeing the homes of Washington and Jefferson through on-line tours.
When I was young, my dad had encouraged me to memorize all of the Presidents of the United States. He then added the Vice-Presidents. I must admit, there was a bribe included in this bet. I used to encourage my students to do the same. We would have weekly quizzes, and we used the following video to help them memorize it. We averaged 10 new presidents each week. It also gave them a mini-history lesson as we went. I would catch them singing it throughout the day. What a fantastic way to learn! Enjoy!

I will put a little bit of a disclaimer in. The video is not necessarily suitable for every grade level and should monitored for usage.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

What is Love?

What is love? If you are a teacher, Valentine's Day consists of decorated mailboxes, ensuring that every child has a copy of the class list for name writing, and students that have enjoyed a little too much sugar. Is that love? When I walk into Lutheran schools, I see acts of love everywhere. I see the student that offers to help a younger child tie his shoe. I see the parent offering to bring in a cold treat on a hot day. I see the retired pastor coming to the school to help students with their homework.


In my former ministry, the parents planned Valentine's Day parties for the classroom. After a few games, they passed out the treats for the kids. I am walking around chatting with them and capturing their joy in the classroom. As I was doing so, I stopped in front of one student's desk. A little background on this student: This student's red hair, freckles, and mischievous grin give away every bit of the class clown that he is. However, he is also caring and quite the engineer. In addition, he holds a very special place in my heart, but that is a story for another day. As I come to his desk, I find him sitting there looking at this cookie and the pretzel bits he used to make the three crosses.

Now, isn't that the act of ultimate love? God sent His son to die on the cross for our sins. There is nothing that we have to do to earn that forgiveness. He has given it to us as believers in Christ. He loves us, he cares for us, and we are His children. There is no great love than this!

Where do you see love in your school?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Importance of Team Ministry

What does team ministry look like? With all the discussion regarding marketing in our schools, I think it is still important to avoid competition for power and value and accept input from each other. The early church was founded by a team of 12 apostles. We know of the missionary venture of Paul and Barnabas. In Ephesians 5:21, the Bible asks all believers to submit to one another in love. This takes a level a spiritual maturity that we find in Titus 1:5-9. We are motivated by service, not recognition or influence. We have passion to see the church grow by God's grace.

What are some team killers?

  • Pride - 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. Philippians 2:3-4
  • Lack of Acceptance of Outsiders - And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-12
  • Suspicion - I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 1 Corinthians 1:10
  • Inflexibility - I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. Philippians 4:12-14
  • Docility - All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. 2 Timothy 3:16
How is your school working together as a team?

Friday, January 31, 2014

God Knows Our Heart

This week's post is a little later than normal as I wasn't sure of a topic to write for the week. Numerous ideas came to mind. It's National Lutheran Schools Week, and that has been one of my favorite celebrations after teaching in two schools in cities that did not have many Lutheran schools nearby. It's winter, and there are many themes that teachers could be studying in their classrooms. The Super Bowl is coming up, and I am sure that some teachers out there are developing some great unit revolving around math, science, and sports.

However, I had the opportunity to speak to a good friend recently, and the topic turned to how God knows what is on our heart. This makes me think of a little boy that came to my first school as first grade student. I had the opportunity to get to know him as I taught elementary Spanish and served as the assistant childcare director. He had a mop full of curls, and we had fondly nicknamed him Popcorn because he could never stay in his seat. He tended to drive his teacher crazy, but I remember coming to the staff meeting one afternoon and telling us a story. The little boy had gone up to the cross and asked why there was a man there. The teacher explained that it was Jesus, and He had died for our sins. In the four years that I had the opportunity to get know that little boy, his fascination with the church and the Bible was amazing. Our school was one of the few places where he learned about Jesus. He had the opportunity to grow in knowledge and in faith.

I think about some of my other students that believed that good works get them to heaven. I remember a boy that I taught for 2 years. I recall countless conversations where I would ask the students how they got to heaven. They would all reply, "Jesus!" Not this little boy. He would question me. He would tell me that he had been told that he had to earn his way to heaven. I am not sure we ever ended a discussion where he finally said that all you need is faith. That always broke my heart, but I knew that as teachers, I knew that we plant seeds, but God knows what is on our heart.

On those days when you may be tempted to make fun of friend or be disappointed by their actions and decisions, remember this: God knows what is on our hearts. How is God working in your heart today?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Common Core in Lutheran Schools

On Monday, I was privileged to join the Great Lakes Bay Region Educators Conference at Valley Lutheran High School in Saginaw, Michigan. The 45-minute commute on the snowy day was a little longer than normal, but it was a familiar path. As I step inside the doors, it was hard to believe that it has been 10 years since I graduated from that school. I was privileged to spend my four years of high school there. It was the place where I fell in love with the Spanish language. I was able to become involved in Lutherans for Life. My high school government teacher took us on a whirlwind 23-hour trip to Washington, D.C. I still remember sitting in my sophomore New Testament class when they turned on the news on 9/11. It was the reason that I chose to attend a Concordia for higher education and get my degree in elementary education to become a Lutheran teacher. As I ran into many familiar faces, I believe that the best thing about that school was the teachers. They cared about their students, got to know them personally, and did their best to make that school like a family.

The conference was also a great experience. The opening worship on the prodigal son with contemporary music from a pastor from St. Lorenz in Frankenmuth was outstanding. Bruce Braun, the district education executive from Michigan, had an excellent speech as the keynote speaker for the conference. I was able to enjoy fellowship with some former high school peers that are now teaching in the area. I also had the opportunity to listen to a great marketing seminar regarding Lutheran schools. He spoke about how it is important for us to showcase what makes our schools great, but he also stated that it is important to be honest with parents regarding what we are able to accomplish. In other words, there are times when it is better to tell a parent, "We love your child so much that we would like to recommend him to this place because we feel that they can offer him/her more support." We don't want to mislead parents into false hope, or we end up with indignant stakeholders.

The theme of the conference was on Common Core in the classroom. A college aquaintance had told me that they were looking for a few more facilitators to assist with the conference, so I offered to come present about Common Core in K-2 mathematics. I have attended a few webinars on the topic, but I am by no means an expert. It was wonderful to speak with fellow colleagues and hear their point of view regarding how they are approaching Common Core in their classrooms and in Lutheran schools. While the discussion was great, it is difficult to make any large statements regarding Common Core. They are still quite new, and the research regarding their effects on the classroom is still rather unfounded.

That is the question I am posing to you today. What are your thoughts on Common Core?  How are you implementing Common Core into your school or classroom? If you are a parent, what are your thoughts, concerns, or comments regarding Common Core? (Please remember to keep your comments tasteful!)



Thursday, January 16, 2014

I Have a Dream

I have a dream...

January 20 marks the 41st anniversary of the speech by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the "March on Washington." It was one of the greatest demonstrations of freedom in the history of our nation. He reflects upon the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. He states that we are all guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Most of the students in our Lutheran schools are too young to know of the equality that was fought for in the 1960s. Even though American history is one of my favorite subjects, I cannot really fathom the deep turmoil of our country at that time. I must admit that I had never even taken the time to read his speech until I started to write this post. He had a dream that his children will live in a nation where they are not judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream as well. I have a dream that our Lutheran schools will be a safe place for children to learn. I have a dream that our Lutheran schools will teach children how to share the Gospel. I have a dream that our Lutheran schools will be a place in our communities for families to fellowship in a quality Christian environment.

What is the dream of your Lutheran school? How will you as a parent, church member, or church worker create your dream?

Don't forget to join #LuthEd on January 20 at 9:00 PM EST. We'll be discussing ideas for National Lutheran Schools Week.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

What is #LuthEd?

Happy Thursday, Lutheran educators!

Many of you may have already heard of Twitter. Perhaps you have heard it mentioned on television, seen it on your Facebook feed, or even have an account that you started during a professional development session. If you haven't, it might be time to at least take a look. I recall a day when I was teaching my second graders how to put their name and number (we used numbers to help with grading management) on their homework with the # symbol, and one of them pipes up, "You mean a hashtag?" I chuckled and asked him how he knew that. He responded, "Oh, I saw it on YouTube." We are teaching a generation of digital natives, so we should at least be able to understand their langauage.

Here is a video that gives you a quick overview of Twitter:


If you don't have a Twitter account, the following link may be helpful in getting you started: 

Make a Twitter Account

I have found that the best way to get started on Twitter is to join a Twitter chat. Chats are generally held for one hour per week with a specific group of people. For example, I enjoy the #satchat on Saturday mornings where people are invited join in discussions regarding school leadership. The following link offers you an extensive list of Twitter chat offerings:

Weekly Twitter Chat Times

I have had a Twitter account for a few years, and it has always been a dream of mine to create one for Lutheran educators. I was so excited to see that a group of great Lutheran educators had already started one. Each Monday at 9:00 PM EST, #LuthEd meets to chat on topics from a Lutheran perspective. Some of the former topics have included:
  • Digital Collaboration in Lutheran Schools
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Leveraging technology in faith development projects and curriculum
  • Professional Development in Lutheran Schools
  • Managing Digital Distractions
  • Why and How to be a Part of Building our Students' Learning Networks, and the Limits of Internet Blocking
  • Classroom and School Devices
  • Best practices for developing collaborative projects with students
Now, I must admit, this post may have some shameless marketing of my own design. On January 20, I will be moderating a chat on National Lutheran Schools Week. I would really love to hear about how your school celebrates National Lutheran Schools Week. Please feel free to share ideas below!


Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Essence of Epiphany

And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2:9a-11

Epiphany is the celebration of the Three Wise Men. It is often referred to as the last day of Christmas, and it was the day where the wise men finally moved to the manger that sat in my classroom. As a teacher who taught in Arizona for four years with a background in Spanish and English as a Second Language, I became quite familiar with the holiday of Dia de los Reyes. In English, this translates to the Day of the Kings. 

In my Spanish classes, we would celebrate in a variety of ways, but it often included this special treat. The Rosca de Reyes (or Kings' Bread) was easily found in the local grocery stores, but I have included this holiday recipe below. A "baby Jesus" figurine is hidden within the bread.

Recipe
Ingredients:
- 6 cups flour
- 3 tablespoons yeast
- 5 egg yolks
- 5 eggs
- 1/2 cup of margarine
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons orange blossom water
- candied fruit
- 1 egg for brushing
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 lemon zest

Directions:
Dissolve the yeast into 4 tablespoons of warm water and add 1/2 a cup of flour to form a small ball of dough. Let it sit for 30 min. in a warm place until it has almost doubled in size.

Make a ring shape with the rest of the flour and pour the eggs, 1/2 a cup of sugar, and the salt in the middle. Mix together and then add the egg yolks, the orange blossom water, the lemon zest, the margarine and the small ball of dough. Knead together well, make a ball and let it rest in a warm place covering it with a damp towel for 20 min. until it's grown in size substantially.
Knead again and form a large ring (or two smaller ones). Place in a buttered and floured tray, brush it with a beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar. Before putting it in the oven decorate it with the candied fruit. Bake until golden.


I found this link for baby figurines for Jesus.

The recipe comes from this website.

I taught grade K-5, so the activities we did varied as well. I have included some links for vocabulary and a book in case you are interested:

http://www.speakinglatino.com/spanish-vocabulary-to-understand-three-kings-day-15-words-you-need-to-know/

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/celebra-la-navidad-y-el-d-a-de-los-reyes-magos-con-pablo-y-carlitos-alma-flor-ada/1104154457?ean=9781598201246

How do you celebrate Epiphany in your classroom?

May God bless you as you begin the new year in the Name of the Lord!