Tag Archives: God

Good Books for Christian Teachers–The Chosen by Chaim Potok

As an English teacher, I am often called upon to select appropriate books to teach in my classes. Since I am the lead teacher in my department, selecting high school novels falls upon me, and this task I take very seriously. As a Christian teacher, I understand that my job requires sensitivity, detailed consideration and a logical rationale for each selection. Each book must be carefully read and selected with a Christian worldview in mind. However, each book must also strive to fulfill the academic requirements of my school as well, which has high expectations in mind. Students should be prepared to survive in an AP Literature and Composition course, which requires strong critical thinking skills and an ability to read discerningly.

One of my favorite picks is the novel The Chosen, by Chaim Potok. What can I say about this book? I love it! Not only does it relate to my students in Panama, it is perfect for discussing a different religion and religious tolerance. It is also excellent for use in a World Literature classroom since it provides so much opportunity for discussion of European history, especially history concerning the Jewish populations. In summary, The Chosen is a book narrated by a young Jewish boy named Reuven Malter, whose father is a professor who write articles about Jewish commentary and interpretation. At the beginning of the story, Reuven meets Danny Saunders, who is the son of an Hasidic Tzaddik rabbi. Although they meet under circumstances that should divide them concerning religion and identity, they somehow make a very unique friendship that helps them survive the coming-of-age process and coming to terms with their own roles within the Jewish faith. This book allows for critical discussion of the following topics:

–What should be the relationship between religion and the secular world?

–What are some Jewish beliefs and traditions? How are they similar/different from Christianity?

–What are the percentages of Jewish people residing in the U.S.? In Panama? In your particularly country? How did they get there and what type of Jewish religion do they practice? Are they Orthodox? Reformed?

–Why can we say that the Jewish faith is the “root” of Christianity? Knowing that, students will be able to develop a respect for Judaism.

–How can we maintain faith even when there seem to be “bad things” happening in the world? (For example, Reuven is living in NY city during the period of WWII.) What is our relationship to God, and how do we see Him?

This book is very multidisciplinary, as it allows students to look up statistics of Jewish populations and create graphs, research historical backgrounds to Zionism and WWII, learn a little bit about psychology and Freud, delve into the intricacies of a major world religion, write thoughtful journal entries and critical papers, and reflect upon a coming-of-age process that they themselves may be going through personally. If you haven’t yet read novels by Chaim Potok, check it out!

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Members of the Same Body–Teamwork in a Christian School

Today I had the immense privilege of participating in a Volunteer Appreciation Night at my school. I know that in public schools, the PTA help out in many ways through fundraising activities and other volunteer work. Our parent association is brand new and definitely fledgling. However, I have been so impressed with how much our parents give of their time, money and energy simply out of love for their kids and dedication to our school. We held two major fundraising events this year–one was a fall fair that included games and activities, and the other was a Walkathon held in a local park. Due to the money we raised, we were able to project the purchase of a laptop and projector for every single classroom. I am stunned at the generosity of our parents in terms of participation in these events, considering that THEY were the ones who organized them both! In the past, we teachers have had more responsibilities in these events. We had to come up with games, force our classes to participate and stay really, really late at night to clean up. But all that changed, and it turned out that they did an even better job than we have ever done! In a short devotional, I expressed to them my understanding that we as educators, administration and parents are all members of the same body–blessed with different functions, but united together in the same goal.

So, in this blog, I would especially like to focus on the fact that as Christian school teachers, whether in public, private or homeschools, we are all “members of the same body,” so to speak. We all fulfill very important roles in the education of kids and in society itself. It is time for those who are Christian educators to stop focusing on their differences and divisions and to start uniting together toward a common goal. It is time for public school teachers to stop insulting homeschooling as an option. It is time for public school teachers to stop denigrating the education that a Christian school might offer. It is time for Christian private school teachers to stop generalizing about the “evils” of all public schools. The truth of the matter is that we all have chosen our particular path for a reason and we all have an opportunity to fulfill God’s purpose. Let’s begin praying for each other to only increase our dedication for the academic and spiritual success of our students. Let’s begin helping each other by sharing our knowledge, our expertise and our experiences. Let’s encourage one another to keep trying to change the world, one student at a time.

When I first began writing this blog, it was simply as a way for me to connect my love of writing with my love of teaching in a wonderful Christian school. I never planned on becoming a Christian school teacher. In fact, I assumed my sophomore and most of my junior year in college, that I would eventually choose a public school. But God knew where I belonged and changed my plans. I feel as though this blog is the same way. I originally wanted it to be a networking site where we can share the nitty-gritty day-to-day stuff of teaching and bring each other the resources that we may not be able to find elsewhere. But in the end, I want it to be more than your average “Find-A-Lesson-Plan” website. I want it to be a place where we can safely and openly discuss our faith and how it applies to our teaching. I want it to be a place where we can feel less isolated from each other and realize that there are more of us out there than it may seem upon first glance. I want it to be a place where we can bind together differences and make the most of what God has given us. Idealistic? Perhaps. But what are Christian teachers if we are not idealists? If we do not continually hope in Christ’s ability to transform lives, we have become cynics. And the world already has plenty of those.

 

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Recorded Books and Lesson Plans with Recordings

Some teachers are trying to find new ways of incorporating technology into their lesson plans in a way that is fun, inviting and reaches out to auditory learners. I happened across this blog site that contained some very interesting lesson plans using audio recordings and books. I invite you to check it out. In particular, audio books can help struggling readers learn new vocabulary, read faster at home and improve their comprehension levels. It is strongly recommended that they listen to an audio recording of the reading and follow along in their books. In terms of usage, it is not appropriate for students to just listen to an audio book recording of their text without having the words in front of them as well. However, for fun in elementary classrooms, students can have a story listening corner using audio recordings. It may also help students comprehend Shakespeare a little better in the secondary classroom. What I noticed first, however, was the lesson plan title for listening to the sounds of bees and insects. The title was “Make a Joyful Noise.” That is one way to introduce praise and worship to God as Nature also has its own ways of showing praise. 🙂  I hope that the site will be helpful to you. I will also post it in the handy links section under Teaching Methodologies as “Audio Recordings and Lesson Plans.”

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“But I Don’t Have Enough Time!”: Some Thoughts on Inclusion

International schools and Christian schools in general tend to have a high turn-over rate. At our school, people sign a standard 2-year contract that is renewable, but so far I am the veteran, having 5 consecutive years teaching at our school. Due to this high turn-over rate, we have realized the need to have an extensive curriculum documentation process in place and to purchase textbooks that guide teachers in meeting the needs of ESL and Special Needs students. This year, I was very excited and happy to note that our school brought in a Resource specialist to work with our kids and guide us in instructional practices.

For some of our teachers, however, it was mystifying. Our Resource specialist tried to explain how to modify tests. Some teachers said, “But I don’t have enough time!” However, the law requires us to make time. And modified tests do not really need to take you longer than 15 minutes to make. Most teachers had this concept about modifying tests and instruction that they had to write two brand new tests every time they wanted one! For those who were relying on A Beka tearouts (We are still phasing A Beka out of our curriculum, not that those who use it should be offended…), this was a nightmare. In reality, the idea is that you are testing on the same material, but you just have to check the wording and make it look different on the page so that those with processing disorders, dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, and reading disabilities do not get points wrong simply because they are not understanding the instructions. Your 15 minutes of time may make the difference between a happy, confident, motivated student and a failing, miserable, depressed student. I ask you now, is it worth it?

Graphic organizers comes in handy for meeting the needs of special students. Most of them work well when they can picture the information that goes in the box and map it out in their heads. The important thing to remember is that multiple choice does not really work well with most special needs students. Long matching columns also can be confusing as they lose track of their thoughts. Give them smaller matching columns, graphic organizer responses and do not take points off for spelling. A graphic organizers link is located in my right hand column.

I would like to gather together some samples of your modified tests so that we can share and make them available for other teachers who are confused about how to create modified tests in a time-saving way. I will post these tests here on the Forum for people to view. Unfortunately, I cannot pay you for sharing your tests with all of us, but I hope that you are willing to trust that if you share your materials with us, one day you will find materials that you can use as well. I ask that all those who use the Forum respect the materials shared and do not sell them, post them on their own personal websites, or take credit for the work of another. Please upload your own tests/quizzes to your blogs/sites and then send me the URL link for access. For right now, here in a link that I discovered in the process of seeking lesson plans for inclusion:

http://www.reacheverychild.com/

The above site is a secular one, but I believe that reaching all children is a mutual goal of all educators. Also, if you have tips for instructing Special Needs students that have been key to your success, share them with us in a comment! I would love to hear from you!

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