Aug 20

How we treat others

Here’s another wonderful point from What the Best College Teachers Do. A Harvard Law professor, Derrick Bell, was the first African American to be granted tenure at the school. He was noted for being one of the most effective teachers in ways in which he treated his students. He treated his students with courtesy and dignity. Class time was for the students, but he would take a few minutes at the beginning of class to talk with them about their lives and share personal moments of his own with them (page 148). One of his students reported that he and his wife were walking in the Village near NYU one morning and pointed out that Derrick Bell teaches there. The man’s wife suggested that he apply to the program so he did, was accepted, and studied with Bell. He treated his students with decency, respect, and concern (page 149).

How many people in the towns where we live, in our workplaces, or in our schools want to attend our churches because of how we treat others? Are we treating people with decency, respect, and concern? Do we treat them in ways showing we care and want to talk with them?

Or are we busy with our own lives? Do we have separate lives … a work life, a neighborhood life, a school life … and we do our own thing on church days?

Aug 17

You’re not the pastor/teacher.

In continuing my read through What the Best College Teachers Do, I have come to one of the important principles of effective teachers: focus on the student rather than the discipline (page 110). Teaching should be student-centered, not discipline-centered or teacher-centered. Teachers must focus on the interests of the students, what they care about, what they know, what they think they know instead of simply giving them an outline of information. In a sense, the students are the teachers. When involved in the lessons and encouraged to participate in the discussions, then they will listen, think, and respond and reach conclusions on their own understanding and reason.

This technique is often easier to accomplish in a small group Bible study rather than in a large worship service. In this Bible study group, students (or participants) should be comfortably allowed to think and talk about the topic, even if their ideas aren’t the most correct answers. Teachers can use warm language, which is actually story telling, to effectively explain ideas and concepts (page 122).

The most effective teachers guide students into discussing ideas that may help them in solving their problems. Overall, the teacher and the students are learning together from each other.

Aug 16

Find your own answers

I often recall a lesson from one of my favorite school teachers. During vocabulary lessons of looking up the definitions of words, she reminded her students not to use the word or a form of the word in the definition. We were expected to research completely different phrases in the definitions.

This teaching technique was brought to memory when I read one of the aspects of a natural critical learning environment in What the Best College Teachers Do. This environment helps students answer the question when the teacher gets the students to answer the question for themselves (page 103). Students are challenged to develop explanations and arrive at their own conclusions, rather than simply being told the answer.

As an elementary student looking up definitions in a dictionary, I could have simply copied the definitions even though some words may have been defined in the dictionary by a form of the same root word. My teacher encouraged me to seek the definitions of words without using any forms of the root word.

Effective teachers do not give students answers; they encourage them to find their own answers and research all parts of that answer.

Aug 09

Early childhood or college teachers?

I’m currently teaching early childhood students …in my paid position …and I love it. It’s a special way of doing children’s ministry without the minister title. Many more relationships to foster without that minister wall to climb over, go around, or look through.

I’m continuing to read What the Best College Teachers Do and it’s more than what college teachers do; these ideas can be applied to any teacher of any age group.

On page 88, the author states, “Highly effective teachers must choose questions and issues carefully and select common readings even more cautiously…easier reading first, more difficult later.”

He explains that some professors don’t want to hear students talk about their subject because they don’t know enough, but he reminds us of piano teachers who don’t expect their students to play the piano like Mozart. They don’t push them off the piano bench for a few bad notes early in their lessons. They give them practice and guidance, and they have faith in their students.

Early childhood students start from the beginning in most every subject and aspect of education and life. They must be taught the basics of life and survival as well as academic knowledge. As teachers, we don’t expect them to know how to do double digit addition problems from the first day of school. We begin with basic number recognition and one concept builds on another.

The same is true for college students in any subject area. Teachers don’t expect students to know all about their subject on the first day of classes. They give them simple readings that build on more difficult ones. I like what this author says about those reading assignments: (page 88-89) “They don’t discuss readings with students; they get them involved in thinking about issues, taking positions, and drawing from their readings to make arguments and solve problems.”

Early childhood teachers do the same thing. They are the facilitators who get students involved in the learning process by asking those same involvement questions.

Even though teachers work with different age groups and on different levels, the concept is similar and many of the same aspects can be applied.

Aug 05

An intrinsic interest in God

I was recently turned on to What the Best College Teachers Do by Ken Bain. It is not necessarily a book about teaching college courses; it is more a book about general teaching and the concepts can be applied to any age group.

I like the section in the book on pages 46-47. People have an intrinsic interest guiding their quest for knowledge. I began to think specifically as a children’s minister and how to apply that to a child’s intrinsic interest in understanding God and faith. In my years of ministry and teaching children at church, I have never really been one to come right out and ask children the “salvation question.” I feel like that is probing them to make a faith decision before they truly understand what salvation is all about. Rather, I strive to create learning environments of various forms by giving all the information children need to peak their intrinsic interests and make the important faith decision on their own. Then I keep my eyes and ears open for those moments when they ask questions, or more importantly, when they begin to tell me about salvation. If they can solve the problem on their own then they’ve mastered their quest. It is even more exciting when parents say their children are talking about salvation at home. That way I know the children are thinking about it during personal times and not only in Bible study.

Aug 02

And the winner is…

Whatever happened to making up our own minds? Now people don’t even have to decide and choose their own religion and faith.

Whatever happened to sharing the Good News of Jesus with our friends? That message definitely doesn’t have to be the only words out of our mouths or even the first thing we say to our friends. It doesn’t have to come in the form of an outline. Showing Jesus in our actions, reactions, and decision-making processes is one of the easiest ways of sharing with others. When they observe our reactions in situations and how we make decisions, often they want to know more about that process. A new friend recently asked me how I knew I wanted to work in the early childhood field. We’ve only had a work relationship together for 2 weeks; that’s not adequate time to build a trust relationship enough to share intimate faith details, but as we continue to work together, she will be able to see how Jesus guides my work habits.

We are failing in evangelism and building relationships and friendships when all people have to do is spin a wheel to see which faith suits them the best.

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