Monthly Archives: June 2008

Teachers Use Summer Vacations for Work, Too!

You know you’re a Christian Teacher Forum candidate if you use your summer vacation to…

1. Review textbooks for the upcoming year.

2. Take your kid on vacation…I mean, a FIELD TRIP!

3. Use the first week just to catch up on sleep–you feel as though you haven’t slept in weeks!

4. Take a continuing education course online or at a local college.

5. Study for the GRE’s.

6. Write an Advanced Placement or IB syllabus.

7. Go on a missions trip.

8. Go back to the States for some much-needed family connection after living overseas.

9. Take over a Sunday School class since now your schedule is “free.”

10. Teach summer courses–Driver’s Ed, anyone?

11. Work at a summer camp for kids with disabilities or disadvantaged youth.

12. Catch up on your reading; You haven’t been able to read for pleasure on a daily basis the entire year!

13. Finish that novel you started last summer…and the summer before…and the summer before…

14. Exercise–it has been sadly neglected lately.

15. Rearrange your portfolio.

Did I miss anything? I’m sure that my readers at Christian Teacher Forum have plenty of things to add. Go ahead and tell me about your summer plans!



Filed under Discussion Topics

Online Education Degrees–How do you choose?

So you’re ready for the next step–the Master’s degree. However, you are either teaching overseas or are so busy working that an online course seems like the most efficient way of earning your degree. However, you could waste hours and hours looking for the perfect online Master’s degree in Education. This post is designed to save you some time and help you consider your best options. Before choosing a program, you should carefully consider your personal career goals and choose the degree that will best drive you to reach your ultimate “dream job” in education. Use the following questions as a guide to help you choose the right school.

1. Are you already certified in a particular content area? Perhaps you hold an active certificate in math, science, elementary, history or English. If this is not the case, you can gain your Master’s degree and gain certification at the same time. Most universities specify which programs are for initial certification and which are for professionals who already hold a certificate. Be aware–some Master’s degrees may give you more training in an area such as TESOL, but may not culminate in the awarding of certification to teach in that area. If you are hoping to gain certification through your program, make sure you read the full descriptions and course content of your Master’s degree course.

2. M.A.T., M.Ed., or M.S.Ed?  This was, for me, one of the most confusing areas of Master’s programs at universities; there is so much variation in the significance of each title. However, I will try to break it down for you. Most degrees that are for advanced practice in instructional methods such as classroom management, inclusion strategies, instructional technology and reading in the content areas are given the title of M.A.T. (Master of Arts in Teaching) The M.A.T. degree is very useful for those applying for initial certification, and for those who wish to brush up on theory and practices that they may have learned in their 4-year degree. The M.S.Ed. (Master of Science in Education), in contrast, is usually based on research and theory in a specific specialization area such as Educational Leadership, Teacher Leadership, Instructional Technology, and Special Education. Educational Leadership places you on an administrative track, should you be considering that future career. Those hoping for future leadership on the university level may want to pursue and M.S.Ed. An M.Ed. (Master of Education) degree may prepare you for a specific content area such as Secondary Education in English, History, Science or Math, Curriculum and Instruction, Teaching and Learning or Elementary Education. Again, some of these content areas cross over between an M.Ed. and an M.S.Ed., depending on the focus of the program, whether it is research-based or practice-based.

3. What should I look for in a University?

a. Accreditation. If you are looking for an online course, you should consider the accreditation of the university and the specific online degree. Is it accredited regionally and national for the advancement of teacher education? If you are hoping to simply teach in non-accredited schools, then this may not matter so much to you. However, the quality of the course will depend on how much you get out of your studies, and considering the cost of getting a degree, you will most likely want to look for the best education for your money.

b. Course descriptions. When you read the descriptions of the classes, do they seem as though they would align with your educational philosophy and values? For example, some English Education courses that I have seen may contain a class for the purpose of encouraging diversity, not just on racial and cultural boundaries, but also in areas of homosexuality in the classroom. Some schools are more liberal than others, and it really is up to you to research the types of classes you will be taking to make sure that they fit your values and goals. 

c. Age of program and age of university. While I was researching, I found an online Master’s degree at a great price. But, after researching, I discovered that the University was a fairly young one. I also noted that the 2008-2009 year was their first time offering the online degree. For some of you, you may be comfortable being the “guinea pig” for the lower cost. However, considering the vast differences between the quality of online courses, length of time offering the program and number of students taking the program does matter. It also helps if the online class follows the same format of an actual physical class that takes place on the campus at the same time.

d. University specialization. Most universities are known for specialization in a certain area. Since I am an English teacher, I most likely will want to choose a university that has fully developed courses in English and the humanities instead of a school whose offerings mostly cover the science, engineering, health and math-based fields. If I am a science teacher, it is better to choose a school that excels in the science professions. Check the other undergraduate and graduate degrees offered. Is there a variety of degrees or limited offerings? What other content areas are offered besides Education?

e. Cost. I don’t know about you, but I definitely end up scraping together funding for my Master’s degree. Credits run from $400-$1,000 a credit for non-residents and from $150-800 for residents. In general, you pay for the name. Private universities are more expensive than public universities as a general rule, especially if they have a prestigious reputation. Christian private schools are certainly no exception to this rule. If you can find a degree for around $400 a credit, you are certainly blessed. I have seen that Georgia residents pay significant less than non-residents. The University of Missouri charges the same online course fee for residents as it does for non-residents, which I consider a nice little bonus.

Where can I find information about all the programs available? You can go to U.S. News & World Report, click on “ratings,” and then “Education.” Type in the search box for “Online Degrees” and then a list will come up for you to narrow your search to Education. You can type on the names of the universities that filled out the reports and find out the tuition, the degrees offered, the accreditation, the year the program was initiated, and everything you need to know! Good luck!



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Teaching Students How to Think, Not What to Think

Daniel, a 17-year-old blogger, was frustrated. In his post entitled, “Why I Closed the Oprah Post After 224 Comments,” he mourned the reasons for his frustration:

“I had hope for excellent dialogue. Yet i could not find a single point of entry. This discourse had taken off at a blazing speed only to find itself revolving in the circular arguments of the “Oprah will burn in hell” and “Thou shall not judge” camps,” he wrote with a virtual sigh.

Daniel is a Christian, but he is well aware of how much Christians hide behind blanket statements and blind acceptance of doctrines, sometimes without even being aware of what the Bible has to say on the subject. He gives some healthy tips for those trying to defend an argument from a Christian perspective: “

“Stating how certain you are of her damnation doesn’t defeat her argument. Unless you come to a deeper understanding of your faith and learn how to articulate it graciously… then it really seems like you just want to bring people into line with your dogma,” he explains. To the “Do Not Judge Camp,” he responds, “Unfortunately, there are many people in this world who are extremely rude and truly judgmental..sorry . Don’t retreat to Matthew 7:1 or John 8:7 in cowardice when someone has not judged you but actually debunked you.”

He then went on in his blog to model what he expected from the website dialogue, deconstructing the philosophies held by Oprah and her latest guru, Eckhart Tolle. Daniel read the guru’s book, A New Earth, for the sole purpose of “understand[ing] their side of the argument.” He challenges statements made by Eckhart that all paths lead to the same “truth’ and that there is no absolute esoteric truth by pointing out the logical flaw in the inherent philosophical argument in a quote by Tim Keller: “How could you possibly know that no religion can see the whole truth unless you yourself have the superior, comprehensive knowledge of spiritual reality you just claimed that none of the religions have?”

After I finished reading Daniel’s arguments, I was stunned at his ability to, first of all, shun the offensive, blanket statements many Christians make when they find themselves unable to articulate and create logical apologetics for their beliefs. Second of all, I loved how he was able to pinpoint the heart of the argument and get to the bottom of the logical fallacy. Finally, I found myself thinking to myself, “This is what I want my students to do!”

Lately, many Christian teachers have been discussing with me their self-doubts and confusion about how to be Christian teachers. My question is this: Are we teaching our students WHAT to think (i.e. “Evolution is bad!”) or are we teaching them HOW to think? (i.e. How do we recognize fallacies in arguments? Can we create and defend arguments against cultural relativism, nihilism, and postmodernism?) Today is a very dangerous world to live in, and if our students are to grow into maturity of faith, we really have to consider whether we are giving them the tools to do so, or whether our bottom line is that they memorize the scripture verse (preferably outside of context), and learn to parrot the basic doctrines of the faith.

Michael Essenburg, a fellow Christian teacher, recently sent me an email of the following online tutorials he was planning on offering as an alternative for Christian school students or homeschooled students.

Since Michael is a “friend of the site” and not necessarily a personal friend, I cannot recommend them based on personal experience. Yet, as I read the topics he is addressing it, and his Socratic Method approach, it becomes clear to me that he is moving in the right direction. We need to do more than just throw in a Bible verse alongside a lesson plan or use homeroom to present a devotional. We need to train our students how to think in a world that has forgotten how to think for itself.



Michael Essenburg




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Filed under Topic Lesson Plan Ideas