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.

- 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

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:

How do you celebrate Epiphany in your classroom?

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