What about when it’s not OK

AI may help find why kids struggle at school - The Hindu
Remote Learning is not as Easy as it Might Sound for our Children

A parent I know shared the following experience with her 4th grader:

Welp today was the day… whatever day we are at in this quarantine nonsense. Today broke my child and I couldn’t fix him. We had a few technical issues, assignments were posted late, specials were messed up, his one on one chat time was almost canceled (we were able to just reschedule for later in the day thank God), water got spilled on his keyboard (twice), and the weather was miserable (AGAIN); it all ended up being too much for a ten year old to handle. Instead of getting a good night’s sleep tonight to try to get ready to tackle tomorrow and whatever horrible ‘distance learning’ curve he gets thrown he was sobbing. Sobbing that he can’t finish 4th grade with his friends, sobbing that he can’t play baseball this year, sobbing that he doesn’t want to go forever without seeing his family again, sobbing because his emotions are so real and he doesn’t understand it all. Enough is enough. Let’s stop pretending like these kids aren’t going through hell with us. Let’s stop acting like this didn’t uproot everything they knew to be true. Let’s stop going through the days as if any of this is normal. This is not normal. This is breaking people. This is not okay.

Experience and Maturity

During my post-graduate schooling I took most of my classes online, and I enjoyed it, once I got used to it. However, there were times of frustration and struggle when things didn’t work right, or technology got in the way. That was as a “mature” adult. I had some tools that time and experience had deposited in my toolbox. As tech savvy as we might believe the youngsters of our day to be, they do not possess the stamina and problem-solving capacity that comes with experience and maturity. As a result, what seems like a small challenge to us as teachers can be a major frustration to our students. A link that doesn’t work, an assignment that cant be submitted, or the common loss of connection because so many are accessing the network at the same time.

What do we do about it? There are no easy answers.

Every classroom teacher who is currently having to teach from home had no intention of doing this at the start of the school year. As we faced the monumental tasks of transitioning our entire practice to a new environment, there were colossal elements to consider. Shifting directives from administration who were faced with the same challenges from state education agencies left all of us wondering how we would be able to pull this together and effectively meet the needs of our students.

Parents, who are likely not trained educators, find themselves at once, stripped of the jobs that identified them, and pushed into the position of motivating students and following up with assignments for their children. Faced with math that is different than they learned, terms that may not be familiar, and technology that doesn’t always perform, parents do the best they can, but often fall into bed feeling inadequate.

Students, like the child my friend is raising, may be navigating the realm of remote learning successfully, but when the inevitable challenge comes, how are they managing those set-backs?

Here is What I Have Found Works Best for My World

Unplug – We often encourage people to get away from screens as a regular practice, but when life revolves around the screen for remote learning and remote working, it becomes even more important to find time to unplug. Put down the devices, turn off the television, mute the music, and listen to natural sounds for a while. It might be just conversation, or simply the cricket in the yard, but disconnect from the digital daily.

Manage – Be sure that you are managing expectations and balancing that with ability and priorities. I limit assignments on purpose because I am not living in the home with my students. I don’t want them overwhelmed or frustrated because I have given them something they are not able to accomplish. If I had a student in my home, I would help them measure what is expected by the teacher with their personal ability to complete the work and with the priorities that we have established as a family. For instance, if the algebra homework is going to mean my son is on-line for an hour evey night, but my family priority dictates that we are going to unplug and gather for supper at the table, perhaps play a board game or work on a puzzle, the homework gets shelved. I believe that nearly all teachers will respect those priorities and will not penalize students, especially in response to our current situation.

Relate – We are all missing out on things. Picnics, parties, and entertainment that we would normally be enjoying, but are now not able to attend. For the children, those missed opportunities create an even greater sense of loss. As my friend noted, baseball that will not be happening, and family that cannot get together, have significant impacts on her son’s childish understanding of current life. For some, visitst to Mimi and Papa’s house–typicaly a highlight for a child–are not happening. They are missing out on being “spoiled” and that matters. So, try to relate to their feeling of loss, and be sensitive to the fact that, while it may not seem so important to you at the moment, for them it is a huge loss.

We’re in this together-sort of…

Celebrities, politicians, and athletes have all expressed that we are in this together. Each of us feels a sense of loss and an increase in anxiety as life is upended by this virus. However, you know best where you are right now, and no celebrity or other famous person can fully relate to your life in your home with your family. So, while as a global community we are indeed “in this together,” you are in your home together solely with your family. Do what works for each member in your home and your household as a whole.

A final piece of advice, don’t be afraid to reach out and find some help when you need it. There are people who can talk you through…and walk you through…some of the struggles we are encountering. Connect with people, and you may learn that there are others who have navigated the courses that you find yourself challenged with right now.

Dear Friend…

A guest post by Danielle Hayre:

Dear Friend,

​For what feels like forever I have been searching for something, but perhaps over this past year really, I have actively been pursuing an answer to a question I didn’t even fully understand. My first question was why can’t I lose weight and my second question was why do I care? What is wrong with my body and what is wrong with my body? I struggled with the discrepancies in what the world told me. You should love your body. You should want to be thinner. You need to work out and eat right. Who cares?! Just be you! From a multitude of voices came a ton of different counsel (some contradictory, some valuable, some not). Honestly, it felt like a mess, like a Gordian knot- an unsolvable problem. If you’ve been surrounded by all of those voices, and as a woman, you likely have, then you know the problem I’m talking about. You may have come to a final conclusion, even. I didn’t. I could not settle completely on an answer because I had been asking the wrong question…I had not formulated a good question to ask (you know, your science teacher wouldn’t have approved it!).

​Then came the moment when it hit me. I was not asking what God wanted from me, from my body, from my eating. I started to ask, “Does He even care? If I’m going to get a new body one day, does it matter if I eat whatever I want and if I love my body in each stage, like one part of society is screaming at me?” I started to ask, “Does He care if I stop eating or if I begin a workout regimen or a diet plan or pay an arm and a leg (which feels awful, by the way—and is a large cause for many people heading a different route, I’m sure) to meet my physical goals, more specifically my weight and jean-size goals? Does He care if I chase the world’s standard of beauty, to be thinner? Do you see any problems with what is happening? I can paint each discrepancy in a truly confusing light. Seeing the problem in each viewpoint did not help me. It just made me feel lost….Frozen fans—I was lost in the woods and here was the real problem….

​Food was my true north. Food was my love and what I was pursuing. What’s wrong with my body…? Um, food. Food was my god. My idol. But, I’m a Jesus-girl (in Lysa’s words—I’ll get there in a minute). I don’t have idols. I know that is wrong. It’s a sin. It’s stupid really. They are powerless. Yet I had one! Took a while to come to this conclusion. Some failure philosophies had rooted deeply in me and deceived me and ultimately numbed me. This led to a multitude of problems…because sin always does, ya know? You start down one path with one little thing that is your weakness and soon your swarmed in a pile of weaknesses, a pit of destruction, Jesus-girl or not.

​Well, what happened? I realized that there had to be a GOOD question and an answer in the Word of God and while I’ve read my Bible (daily, often, cover to cover), I hadn’t found it, heard it, recognized it. I read all of the verses that would eventually resonate deeply in my soul and shake me loose, that would unsettle me and upend me! Yet I didn’t target my problem. 

​God is truly amazing. He aligns things in our life that we may not understand until finally it’s like the first sunny day after winter dawning in full force with 70 degrees, a light breeze, and you step out saying, “OH! YES!”. (Can I get an amen?!) Over the summer, I was able to write a series of lessons for our Junior Church program that dug deep, way deep, into the Sermon on the Mount beginning with the Beatitudes—which is a really amazing thing to study. One of Jesus’ most famous, lengthy sermons on the hillside—I mean, of course it’s worth delving into. I realize now, it was probably more for me than anyone else. No teacher of these lessons got what I got from them. No kid listening to these lessons understood what I did. I studied and studied and studied. I was consumed by the truths Jesus taught in this sermon. But that is what scripture does. It changes us. It cuts to the heart. And, what is newly evident to me, or at least refreshed, it prepares the heart. I would encourage you to deeply study the Beatitudes, the Sermon on the Mount. Study the words: poor in spirit, meek, hungry and thirsty, mourn, etc. Read commentaries, read children’s lessons, and look up what it means to turn the other cheek and see how many people say, “I would never teach my kids to be a door mat” because they have misunderstood! There is so much rich truth here and you should try and understand this truth under the umbrella of Hebrews—where one of the themes is that Jesus is BETTER, a better teacher, a better priest, a better rest. The truths I learned from the Beatitudes study set me up to teach and study the Ten Commandments. By God’s divine providence I had to write the first three lessons on the first three commandments because the book/curriculum hadn’t arrived. I see, now, God’s hand and how He finally planned His breakthrough to me. I didn’t recognize at the time. In fact, I felt like a failure for not realizing how delayed I was in ordering the book. Oi, how great His grace and sovereignty are! Of course, we must list the first three commandments (Exodus 20:1-7, KJV): 

And God spake all these words, saying, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. 

I have brought you out of the house of bondage. I am the Lord thy God. You will not have any other gods before me. You won’t make idols for yourself! You won’t bow down to them or serve them. (My paraphrase). Who’s nodding along? Yes, yes, I know. And yet of course Israel, God’s chosen people failed miserably- we see this over and over throughout the Old Testament and then the ultimate rejection of Jesus in the New Testament. I don’t know why I walked around ignorantly prideful that at least I didn’t…. like the Israelites. Am I kidding? I didn’t worship Hekate or Ashtaroth. I didn’t sacrifice my children on the altar of Molech or thank the river gods for flooding and giving me good crops. 

​Here’s some hard truth: But didn’t I?

​No, I didn’t build an altar and literally sacrifice my children on it in the name of a false god, but food has waged war in my house and been the significant source of strife between me and my daughter. Funnily enough it had its emergence in my relationship with my mom as well (and my dad). So didn’t I? Did I daily sacrifice my children on the altar of my god? Did I make our celebrations surround food? Did I cause my kids to stumble over the same unhealthy choices when we had a particularly challenging day or believed we deserved some kind of reward? “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me”… I will not be so bold as to blame my struggles with the god of my belly on my parents or their grandparents, etc. I made my own decisions and I’ve found God’s truth because I was searching for it! However, I see the relation to breaking these commandments knowingly or unknowingly and I recognize the harm it can do to our children and grandchildren. Furthermore, when I chose to turn to food in times of joy, sadness, pain, stress, exhaustion, etc., instead of turning to God, instead of delighting in God, instead of finding refuge in God, wasn’t I setting up an idol? Yes, yes I was. 

​At a ladies retreat I attended in February of 2020, I saw this book on the table, Made to Crave by my new friend Lysa TerKeurst (though she’s completely unaware of me). The tagline caught my eye. “Satisfying your deepest desire with God, not food.” I was skeptical. I’m not going to lie. I walked away from the table and did not purchase the book (and my friends know that I am a book devourer). I didn’t buy a single book…because I knew the one I needed to read was not something I was interested in purchasing. I actually don’t know why I didn’t. It wasn’t the money. I could have honestly afforded one book. I was already eating on a plan (that I purchased-Optavia for you gurus). I was aware that I needed to make changes and I was trying. Perhaps it was the fact that some of the women around me wouldn’t have understood, would have razed me, or put me in the “fun-killer”, dieter, dessert-nazi category, and I am much too fragile to be labelled. Already I was battling with whether to have dessert and how to have just one oreo. Maybe it was guilt? Or that I was not convinced. I actually was not even sure that’s what I needed. 

I had heard of other books like “Weigh Down”. My mom gave me the Bible study companion and the book Weigh Down. She reminded me of a time when she did the weigh down challenge and it worked. She said she ate cheesecake every time she was hungry. She said she carried cheesecake around with her and eventually she was disgusted by cheesecake. It is an intriguing concept but still something was missing for me. How would I carry my drug of choice with me when it was so widespread? What would I do? One food at a time? Bread for a week. Then pasta, followed by cookies, cake, ice cream? Is getting sick to death of my favorite treats the answer? Surely “Made to Crave” is just another weight loss trick book or something telling me everything I already know without giving me a definite answer.

​I went home, got on my library’s webpage, logged in and preceded to look up all the books on the list so I could request whatever is available. My favorite way to check out books from my library, so I can avoid the shelf scan and the giant bag of books. I still get a giant bag of books, but I end up reading them or having my kids read them. When I shelf can and bring them home to “preview”, I return half unread. Anyways, fast forward two weeks after getting Made to Crave, when I finally read the first chapter. 

You can download a sample here and sign up for a devotional or the 21-day challenge which is like a piecemeal of the book (condensed form) for those who need an “assignment” a day, but feel overwhelmed by a book. I’m telling you, it’s not something to be skeptical over. Give it a shot. Because here is the first and most important truth I needed to learn. My weakness with food was not merely a physical weakness. It’s a spiritual one and I was looking to grow in Christ. I want my eating to glorify the Lord. I want everything I do to glorify God. He DOES care what I put into my body and I’m not going to “insert pithy statement you’ve heard before” here. Read the book. There is nothing pithy about the truths that Lysa shares. I couldn’t put the book down. She said everything I’ve been needing to hear and answered every question I couldn’t put into words. If the book didn’t resonate deeply enough with me, then the next three days I spent wrestling my flesh and surrendering to the Lord would. 

It wasn’t the book. It was Christ. I’m always astounded at the lengths He will go to for me. I don’t know why I’m surprised. You should hear some of my other moments when Christ changes me…Actually, writing those words I can see that I am really thick-skulled, and stubborn. It does take an act of the Lord to turn me towards truth! Oh Lord, change me and use my stubbornness to your glory or break it down brick by stubborn brick.

I’m a music lover. I love to sing, worship, jam, dance. It’s fun. It’s a good way to move, groove, motivate. My family and friends called me a human iPod and eventually led to me receiving an iPod as a gift. I can memorize lyrics and tunes. I have a million and twelve songs in my head at any time (my daughter is following in my steps. She is awesome.). So while reading this book, towards the end (which was really day 2 of reading), I started singing “You are my all in all”:

You are my strength when I am weak

You are the treasure that I seek

You are my all in all

Seeking You as a precious jewel

Lord to give up I’d be a fool

You are my all in all

Jesus, Lamb of God, worthy is Your name

Jesus, Lamb of God, worthy is Your name

Taking my sin, my cross, my shame,

Rising again, I bless Your name.

You are my all in all

When I fall down You pick me up

When I am dry You fill my cup

You are my all in all.

There is no mention of food, however, there is a clear message in this song that  I have no power of my own accord, that there is nothing that can FILL me apart from Christ, and that when I fail, in my human fleshy weakness, Christ is there to pick me up. He is my Sustainer and my Strength. He holds me together. He makes me new. What is my cross to bear? Well, right now it is the sin of gluttony, indulgence, idol-worship, food. And my obedience to Christ means laying it on the altar to God, surrendering, and for a time, saying no to things that have been a crutch and a poor replacement for dependence I should have placed on God.  It isn’t about a weight, a jean-size, or losing my love handles and back fat (which I do want to do), but not more than I want to be obedient to Christ, and not more than I want to be filled with Christ.

​From the beginning of time, Satan, our great adversary has known that we women can be swayed and manipulated through food. He has lied and deceived us about what we will feel and be like when we just take one bite… Hasn’t he? It is not far-fetched to put my struggle alongside of Eve’s. She was a God following girl, swayed by the devil. Her husband loved her and thought she was gorgeous! Hello?! WHOA-man! J So what in the world, Satan! He knew exactly how to entice her to turn to something other than God for fulfillment. It’s a plague that has affected generations! Follow the line down to the Israelites in the wilderness after they left Egypt. Deuteronomy 8:3 says, “He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord”. Psalm 78:18 says, “They willfully put God to the test, by asking for food that they desired.” And in the New Testament, Philippians 3:18-19 says, “For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things”. Think I’m taking it out of context? Well, nope. Look at the remainder of Philippians 3, verse 20-21. “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.” Direct reference to the fact that my humble, sinful body will one day have to be exchanged for Christ’s glorified version, follows a warning that there are many controlled by the god of their appetites…and I know the Israelites were often ruled by their hunger and thirst. So you consider the truths of Scripture, weigh them against one another and see that God commands us to seek Him, to follow His commands, to love Him more than all else, to be filled by Him (the bread of life), to seek Him for comfort and protection. Yet constantly I turned to food! 

​Well I listened to several Psalm’s the other day and you know what keeps playing over and over in my head? “How long will you love what is worthless?” Psalm 4:2. I need food to survive. Food is not my god, my provider, my deliverer. Food does not bring joy. Food is not a sustainer. I should not honor and love the gift, but the Giver. And if that wasn’t clear enough I recently signed up for the “daily Bible verse texts” from the Bible app. There is something sweet about getting a quick blurb as a notification on my phone from the Word of God. I do a daily quiet time but I like to have constant reminders that the Lord loves me and gave me His Word! It is so precious. Look at this progression. 

March 3- Danielle stares at the book Made to Crave, due in three days, haven’t opened it yet. Maybe today…decides to read something else—also from the ladies conference.

Bible verse: “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” Isaiah 55:6-7.

Saturday, March 7- Knows something needs to change, wonders what could God possible require, eats out wayyyy too much over the weekend because I had nothing in the fridge and certainly nothing healthy.

Bible verse: “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neighter shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls; Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” Habakkuk 3:17-18

Sunday, March 8- Finishes the other book. Ugh, I guess I will start Made to Crave, it’s overdue after all. 

Bible verse: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” John 14:6

Monday, March 9- Finishes Made to Crave, devours it for the Biblical truth poured into my life. Finally realizes what has been missing!

Bible verse: Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” Matthew 5:6 (a reminder of all the study I did in the Beatitudes, the preparation in my own heart to produce lasting and real, God-designed change)

Tuesday, March 10- a day where some changes must be made, where prayer is my source of comfort and guidance. A day where a plan is formed because the Word of God designed it for me! To seek God, to spend more time in prayer! To do battle against the wiles of Satan who would lie and torment me with the false, weak, insufficient god of food!

Bible verse: “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:” 1 John 5:14 (By the way, studying the book of 1 John with my kids and student this week too—so that’s divine). 

Wednesday, March 11- deciding to be a good steward of what I’m given, to not be “indulgent”, to indulge in Christ and to devour his word, not my pantry! I will not eat out of convenience but out of the promise that Christ will fill me. I will eat because it is necessary but will find strength and sustenance in Christ, not bread. I will also post signs in every area of my kitchen, and my work (where I am first thing every morning) as reminders that I am made new in Christ and He is capable.

Bible verse: “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” 1 Peter 4:10

Thursday, March 12—recognizing that I am not perfect, and I will mess up (though I don’t think I have yet). I am concerned with obedience, walking faithfully in prayer. I am battling the temptation for treats and battling the “need” for a diet when my energy wanes, but choosing to find strength in Christ instead.

Bible verse: “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” James 4:8

Also brought to my attention was this verse, “I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” Psalms 16:8

Friday, March 13- deciding to share what I have learned, though I don’t know why or for who. Maybe I need accountability. Maybe someone needs what I have learned too. 

Bible verse: “Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.”

Oh, the glorious, amazing, gracious, and merciful God that I serve. He pursues me and prepares me. I am so in awe. I am struck by His infinite kindness. How could I not place Him ever before me? How could I ever seek to be filled by anything but Him? Thank you Jesus! Thank you Lord! I surrender and I am so sorry for my mistakes. Cleanse me, change me, and make me more like You. Fill me with Your presence and Your holiness. Jesus, consume me and let me not be consumed by my food. I eat to survive, but food is not my provider or sustainer. You are. May I run to You when I am weary, when I am stressed, when I am celebrating. May food be a necessary part of life but not my whole life! J Thank you for protecting me, for calling me out of an addiction often overlooked in light of “worser” addictions. Thank you for the blessing of this great desperate desire to be filled and may I stop attempting to replace the “filling”. J I am so excited to see how God will use this new… craving! J J I’m so blessed and honored to be His chosen child, that He would see me and meet my every need. Spiritual and physical. I am praying for you friend. Know that God pursues you just the same. He loves you and He is calling!

Love, 

In Christ,

Danielle

Finding Yourself Working at Home: Some Advice

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Some advice for people who find themselves working from home:

1. Still keep working.

If you have the ability to work remotely, then continue to do your job to the best of your ability. Someone is counting on you being at your best, even though things around us may be at their worst.

2. Set specific work hours and stick to them.

The danger, as one who is guilty, is the temptation to keep working beyond “normal” hours. Answering work emails, texts, calls, etc. can become consuming, and you need to unplug. Setting specific hours that you will be “at work” will help limit that.

3. Respect the other workers in your home.

These are different days now with everyone staying home. You are likely not the only one working from home. Spouses and children may also have things they are doing remotely. It is important to find ways to avoid interfering with their “jobs.”

——Help your in-home co-workers manage their time as well.

If you have other suggestions, plug them in the comments below.

Enjoy the Journey,

Dave

I Remember…

Just a few days ago my dad, David White, passed from this earthly realm into eternity.  I wandered through my mind and memories and penned some of those here in his memory.

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I remember…

I remember snooping through some papers, finding an address, and sending a letter, sure that it would never reach its final intended destination, and not knowing if I really wanted it to or not.

I remember getting a life-changing phone call on a Wednesday night, while my parents were bowling and my grandmother was watching the kids.  A man on the phone with an unusual accent.

I remember exchanging letters and calls and pictures.

I remember playing basketball at the corner hoop when a huge station wagon pulled up and five familiar faces piled out for a surprise visit.  The first of many “Ice Cream Road Trips.”

I remember the turmoil as I sought to figure out who I was, and whose I was.

I remember that life, my life, began to make more sense, but also became more confusing.  I had found answers but still had so many questions.

I remember meeting the love of my life in the midst of the chaos of my life. Another stabilizing force, but an equally confusing development.

I remember how well everyone fit together when all sides of the family gathered.

I remember the questions that continued gnawing in my mind, and the pain they caused.

I remember the years of wandering as I ran from everything, running toward nothing.

I remember the letter that dissected my heart and life after years of trying to shield it.

I remember that you didn’t give up, even when I thought that was what I wanted, needed.

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I remember the birth of my son, named in honor of the heritage, and confusion of my past.

I remember another “Ice Cream Trip,” to meet grandchildren, and my in-laws.

I remember our first trip to “home” and discovering more than a slight connection.

I remember the decision to uproot from all that had become familiar and comfortable.

I remember the challenges and difficulties of making our way to where we belonged all along.

I remember hunting trips, and fishing trips, and rides through the mountains.

I remember long talks, and quiet walks.

I remember praying and praising together.

I remember projects and the smell of sawdust in the building.

I remember the head shake when I was messing up, and the smiles when I repented.

I remember football on the tv and food on the table, and laughter in every room.

I remember the pride when I began to follow God’s call in ministry at last.

I remember the sorrow when following that call meant leaving “home” once again.

I remember the church doors of various churches opening more than a few times on Sunday morning at the end of another “Ice Cream Road Trip,” leaving me flustered at the pulpit.

I remember toolboxes in the back of your truck, “Just In Case” — it was almost always the case.

I remember playing “Papaw Truck” with my kids as we traveled the interstates in search of Overnite Trucking rigs.

I remember cards, letters, calls, and pictures, all eventually giving way to digital media and computer e-communication, perhaps for the better, but sometimes at a loss.

I remember advice, assistance, and affirmations as life changed and I faced varied trials.

I remember celebrations, baptisms, graduations, weddings, anniversaries, joy.

I remember illness, cancer–touching so many seemingly all at once in my life.

I remember the assurance of prayer, of faith, of families who love and care.

I remember waiting for word following surgeries and treatments.

I remember calls to Lewis Gale, some answered, some not.

I remember the victories after each battle, and the faith to face the next one.

I remember your hugs, though you could barely get your arms around my at times, you always managed to.

I remember the call that your days were numbered, and the greatest victory would soon be yours.

I remember the sound of your voice, the grip of your hand, and the smile on your face less than a week ago.

I remember the call that you had left this earthly dwelling, bound for something indescribable.

I remember, and those memories bring smiles, sometimes tears, but always gratitude.

I remember, and I thank God for those memories.

Dave Bentley's portrait.

I will miss you Pops. I will still wait for the doors to the church to swing open on Sunday.  I will still wait for the warmth of that loving embrace in your hugs.  I will still wait for the wry smile to cross your face when you got one of those ideas. I will still wait for morning coffee, and trips to the store together before anyone else was up.

EYES HAVE SEEN

A poem for Easter 2019

by Dave Bentley

He spoke of His Body in the bread

Broken before their eyes

He spoke of blood, crimson red

Shed before their eyes

They jockeyed for position

They fretted over promotion

While He lived before their eyes

He prayed for a different way

While they closed their eyes

He sought a way of escape

While they closed their eyes

But He would yield to His will

The promise of God would be fulfilled

He was seized before their eyes

He bore the stripes of every lash

Beaten bloody before their eyes

The cross lain heavy on His back

As He was led before their eyes

To a hill outside the gate

The price of sin would now be paid

He died before their eyes.

He breathed his last hung on a cross

Suffering there before their eyes

His life would satisfy the cost

Sacrificed before their eyes

The crowd would turn away

As darkness covered the day

It is finished before their eyes

The tomb, the guards, the heavy stone

Sealed before their eyes

The body lain, cold and alone

Dead before their eyes

The garden laying still and quiet

The fading sounds of the crowds and riot

As everyone departed with tear filled eyes

The day of rest had ended

As they opened in their eyes

The stone had been upended

As they saw with their own eyes

And the tomb was cold and bare

The broken body was not there

And they would see Him risen with their own eyes

—“Eyes Have Seen”

Dave Bentley (2019)

Differentiation

Image from IRIS Module (2010)


For all students, typical or disabled, differentiation involves process, the teaching, and product, the pieces of assessment that demonstrate  proficiency. In looking at this over the past few days I found copious resources in a variety of formats. One particularly useful items is the powerpoint linked here (Differentiation Slides).  It is concise and informative and provides examples of differentiation for a variety of subjects.

Interestingly, our PD for the school year has been focused on PBGR (Proficiency Based Graduation Requirements) and I have been part of the team looking at differentiating instruction and assessment.  As a Special Educator working as a co-teacher, this training has been more informative and useful that other PD I have been part of in our district. Between the PD, the IRIS module, and the other resources I’ve been exposed to recently, I feel I have a much better grasp on differentiation in the classroom.

Preparing for Differentiation

Preparing students for differentiation means gradually introducing the process, teaching and learning practices, and providing scaffolding as they learn the system.  Most of what I have read and heard relates that a key part of the process is getting to know the students in the class. What do they possess for prior knowledge? What are their learning styles? Where are their skills and challenges? What is their level of interest?  These steps take time and effort, and in a field where both come at a premium, it is easy to try to shortcut and skip steps. The result of effective planning for differentiation is the potential for successful differentiation. Failing to strategically plan will result in a failure to effectively differentiate.

All it Takes is Time

As a co-teacher in ELA and Math classes I realize that the one thing that I can never seem to have is time.  I have resources, information, texts, and the availability of technology and applications, but carving out time to plan with the content teacher is next to impossible.  We have had to sacrifice and deliberately set time aside to do this effectively. Even with that, however, we still struggle to be as strategic as we would like with differentiating in the classroom.

What does Differentiation Look Like for LD?

I know what differentiation is not, that is the addition of novelties to the classroom intended to substitute for systematically and strategically planned instruction and assessment.  Several years ago I was observing a class as part of my teacher coursework and was very interested in the number of ways technology was used in the classroom. At the time it seemed that the teacher had found ways to keep everyone in the class engaged.  Later, however, I learned that it was frequently done in that class to substitute for poor or absent planning. The philosophy was that keeping the kids engaged on devices at least looked like learning.

This is not to say that a differentiated classroom would be absent of technology, on the contrary the devices may be an integral part of using assistive technology for learning.  However, without meaningful inclusion they are little more than window dressing intended to mask a lack of differentiated instruction.

One class that I observed had students working in stations.  That class provided differentiation through a variety of activities.  There were students working with their hands, students listening to the teacher, students writing or drawing responses to a story, and students talking to each other in a lit. circle.

In the slide show I referenced earlier the presenter shows what differentiation in Math and Reading would involve.  In a nutshell:

  • Variety of Materials (based on level and learning preference)
  • Variety of Levels of Support and Scaffolding
  • Variety of Sensory Opportunities
  • Variety of Interaction Opportunities (Inquiry, Sharing)
  • Variety of Means to Demonstrate Learning

References:

The IRIS Center. (2010). Differentiated instruction: Maximizing the learning

of all students. Retrieved from https://iris.peabody.vanderbilt.edu/module/di/

What If

“What If”

Dave Bentley (1967-)

What if all the stories we’ve been told

Fairy tales and nursery rhymes

Were played out on the world stage

Not just imagined in our minds

And the characters, heroes, and villains

Lived among us every day

What a remarkable world we would live in

It would be a wonderful place

 

There’d be star crossed lovers

Holding hands across the street

Kissing beneath the moonlight

Whispering words that are so sweet

While evil henchmen hunted

For some treasure they could steal

’til the brave hero captures them

A life of fantasy, a life that’s real.

 

The eyes and ears of little children

Stirred by those Once Upon a Times

To envision worlds of wonder

To transcend the bonds of time

Gazing ahead unto tomorrow

Leaning back toward yesterday

Resting still within the present

Living their story out today

 

There would be the swoosh of dragon wings

Cutting the silence of the night

And a princess trapped in a tower

Awaiting the arrival of a brave knight

Enchanted mirrors reflecting faces

Of the folks who search for fame

WHile sorcerers and witches gather

In a secret hidden cave

 

The things that dream are made of

Could be the things that life becomes

If imaginary creatures

Made our world their home

And the cheerful glee of children

Would be heard near and far

As fantasy meets reality

To see things as they really are.

 

“What If” by Dave Bentley (2016)

A Note Home from Mr. B.

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Hi All,
Once in a while, I feel the need to send a note reminding parents to be aware of what kids are watching and doing at home.  This is not intended as a judgment of your family values, but as a caution related to how those influences translate into behavior at school.  Please believe that I want the best for your student and their experience in our school.
That said, there are two particular things that are showing a significant influence on student behavior in the classes where I co-teach and in the school as a whole.  The YouTube sensation Jeffy the Rapper shows up in phrases and gestures by students as they mimic his behavior.  I encourage you to read the attached webpage (linked here) related to how Jeffy’s influence has a negative impact on students.
The second is the uber-popular video game Fortnite.  Here is a link to a page related to FORTNITE PAGE.  The challenge is something that becomes so consuming for students it that it tends to monopolize their thinking and leaves little room for effort related to learning and academics.
I would not presume to tell you what to do.  I simply want you to be aware of the influences of outside elements within the school.  There will always be something, PopCulture will filter in somehow.  The more adults are aware of these things, the better prepared they will be to guide students through those influences.
Enjoy the Journey,
Dave
_______________________________
Dave Bentley (dbentley@ssdvt.org)
Teacher on 6th Grade Team
Riverside Middle School
Springfield, Vermont
(802) 885-8436

Make Mistakes

If you have made a mistake raise your hand.  That’s right, all of us should have our hands up, perhaps with some enthusiastic waving because we have all made mistakes, and some of them have been doozies.  Let’s explore a few other questions.

  • Has a mistake ever made you quit?
  • Has a mistake ever cost you more than you expected?
  • Has a mistake ever hurt yourself or people you care about?

It’s likely that we all answered in the affirmative with those questions.  These and other reasons are why we fear making mistakes.  We don’t like to be wrong.  We don’t like to feel as if we have failed.  It can be embarrassing.  It can hurt.  It can cost.  As a result we may avoid situations where we could potentially make a mistake.  We are particularly wary of circumstances where mistakes might be public.  It might be that we don’t raise our hands in class.  Perhaps we avoid volunteering for committees or teams where we work or worship.  Maybe we have refused to host the annual family reunion.  Fear of mistakes and failure can keep us from a number of things.  It may be that avoiding mistakes and the possibility of failure has cost us opportunities.

Let’s explore a couple of other questions:

  • Can you think of a way that you learned something from a mistake?
  • Can you think of a time that a mistake lead you in different, and ultimately better direction?

A few years ago we were traveling through the Smokey Mountains on a family trip.  I had taken a wrong turn, and ended up well off course.  However, we found a number of interesting things along that accidental detour that made the mistake worth making.  Another mistake I recall is a dish that my mother once made with or Thanksgiving leftovers.  It was supposed to be soup, but she had accidentally doubled parts of the recipe.  What resulted is a delicious casserole that we dubbed Turkey Mistake.  To this day it remains one of our favorite post holiday dishes.

The challenge for us is to view mistakes through a different lens.  To see them as opportunities and not as endings.  The clip below of an acronym for mistakes gives us some sage advice for positive ways of viewing our missteps.

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The difference is determined by whether we will permit the mistakes we make to stress us or strengthen us.  It’s not that the mistakes will become less painful, costly, or embarrassing.  Rather, it is that we would recognize mistakes as a natural (and intended) part of learning and growing as human beings.

Don’t be afraid to mess up, you might discover that the mistake you make leads to even better things than you initially planned to accomplish.

Emotional-Behavioral Resources

Dave Bentley – Emotional & Behavioral Issues in Special Education

Fall, 2017

This blog post contains resources related to Special Education and working with students who may have emotional or behavioral challenges.  The resources are intended to provide teachers and other staff with links to sites and information that assist in meeting the needs of students, establishing supports for students, and tracking progress of students.  If you are a teacher or administrator please leave a comment with other resources that you have found helpful. 

 

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Positive Behavior Intervention and Support

The Website indicates that PBIS intends to improve the effectiveness, efficiency and equity of schools and other agencies by improving social, emotional and academic outcomes for all students.  While there are benefits for students with special needs, there are also benefits for the school as a whole.

 

PBIS WORLD – http://www.pbisworld.com/

PBIS World is a comprehensive and invaluable resource of forms and information related to MTSS and the implementation of a PBIS strategy for classrooms and schools.  I encourage people to spend some time exploring the site and learning how to navigate through the materials available for the three tiers of support.

 

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Responsive Classroom – https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/ 

Responsive Classroom is an evidence-based approach to education that focuses on the strong relationship between academic success and social-emotional learning (SEL). The Responsive Classroom website provides links to training, information, and resources for implementing the strategy in the school and classroom.  While primarily employed with younger students, middle level learners also can benefit from the structure and practices of Responsive Classroom.

 

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A Site for Behavioral Forms

 Documents for a Systematic Behavioral Analysis (FBA)

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Articles Related to EB Issues:

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Videos

 

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  Dave Bentley is a Special Educator in Springfield, Vermont.