Archive | August 2012

Marriage 911: What is Love (Part 2)

We continue looking at love in an effort to define and understand what real love is, and how this impacts our marriages.  Something needs to happen to stem the tide of destruction and restore stability in marriages that are in jeopardy.  Understanding love is just a part of the emergency care Marriage 911 will help provide.

 

Love is:

  • Unconditional
  • Unconventional
  • Uncondemning
  • Uncomfortable
  • Uncompromising
  • Uncondescending

Love—real love—never fails!

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Marriage 911–Real Love (Part 1)

Half of marriages fail.  I believe this is due to misunderstandings when it comes to what love is.  This webisode of Marriage 911 introduces the subject of real love.  This is part one of several.

4 Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails;

                      (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a New American Standard Bible 1977)

Video of Dave Bentley presenting Marriage 911–Real Love Part 1

Marriage 9-1-1: Kindness

Marriage 9-1-1

Someone needs to call 9-1-1 because there are marriages that need some serious help. Perhaps you are in one of those marriages, or you know someone who is. This might not be for you specifically right now, but it might be useful later, or you can pass it along to someone who might benefit from it.

Where’s the Kindness?

It’s astounding the number of couples I’ve encountered recently who just don’t treat each other very kindly. (At times that includes the man I see in the mirror.)

The wisdom of the Bible offers some guidance in our relationships with others that we would be wise to apply:

And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.

Eph 4:32 (HCSB)

· Be Kind in Words and Actions

· Be Kind by being moved and responding

· Be Kind by forgiving

Take this Home With You Before You Start a Fight:

A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath. Prov 15:1 (HCSB)

Special Education and the Christian Mandate

The following is from a discussion board post I was assigned this week in my class, Foundations of Exceptionalities at Liberty University. 

The Difference Between a Christian and Secular Approach toward Students with Exceptionalities

In reading and pondering this topic it becomes clear that the only real difference between the secular approach to special education and the Christian approach is the source of the mandate requiring action.  The secular (public) school systems are driven by federal laws, such as the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), which mandates Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE) for all students (Weintraub, 2005).  These laws and regulations, the oldest of which are just reaching the half century mark, have continued to evolve and develop over the course of years, adjusting to fiscal constraints and rising demand for services.  Public school districts must follow these mandates and laws or face punitive measures.

The mandate for the Christian, and the Christian school, is different, but no less demanding.  In fact, as believers, we are commanded to uphold the laws that govern our communities in addition to following the mandates of the Lord Jesus.  As a result, we ought not to see this as an opportunity to lessen our responsibility, but rather a challenge to be a model that raises what we offer to a position of excellence.  The mandate we must follow is found in both the words, and the actions of our primary example, Jesus Christ.  In the Scriptures we find the purpose for which He came and we remain.

Jesus’ Purpose Declared by the Prophet:

o The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to Him, and unrolling the scroll, He found the place where it was written:18 The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed,19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:17-19 Holman Christian Standard Bible). 

Our Purpose Defined by the Savior:

o And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28.18-20 New American Standard Bible 1977).

Jesus, as He lived out His example before the eyes of His followers, never shied away from the challenge that people with special needs brought to Him.  Blind, deaf, crippled, diseased, they all found in Christ a refuge and a hope.  As His followers, our mandate is to offer those same things to the people with special needs today.

 

Weintraub, F. (2005). The evolution of ld policy and future challenges. Learning Disability

     Quarterly, 28(2), 97-99

Educational Research Literature Review

The following was submitted as part of my coursework this past Summer.  I thought it might be helpful to teachers preparing to head back into the class room.

A Literature Review: Intentional Educational Practice and Connection between Class and Home

David Bentley

Liberty University

Lynchburg, VA

_Thumb_school and home connection copy

Abstract

Parental involvement has long been recognized as a marker for scholastic success. If a parent or guardian is able to be a partner with the teacher in the educational experience of a student, then that child has a greater probability of achieving academically. Research has confirmed this causal relationship; however, teachers and schools have struggled to find effective methods of enlisting parents, and engaging them in the sort of home-based involvement that can lead to meaningful results. In addition, many teacher leave their formal education saturated with content knowledge, but possessing limited skills in connecting with parents and developing effective collaborative relationships with families in the educational process. The question arises; can teachers be effective in intentional educational practice if they fail to build bridges with the parents of our students? In addition, are there effective ways of developing meaningful communication and collaborative relationships between the classroom and the home? This literature review explores related journal articles, qualitative and quantitative research, and class textbooks in search of answers to these questions, as well as methods that can be employed effectively in the classroom.

Keywords: Teacher Parent Interaction, Involvement, Home Visits, Intentional Strategies, Communication, Newsletters,

Intentional Educational Practice and Connection between Class and Home

How many times have parents experienced this scene: A student arrives home and announces that the following day there is a class project that needs to be completed that night? If those parents are fortunate enough to have the supplies on hand, the next several hours are spent putting together a scale model of a volcano…a steam locomotive…a model of the solar system. Most times, however, parents are sent scrambling to the department store in hopes of locating the needed supplies, seizing them before other desperate parents who are under the same deadline. The teacher sent a note home explaining the project in plenty of time, but it remains hidden in the bottom of the child’s backpack, unfound until the family camping trip in mid-July.

Teachers have more communication tools at their disposal than at any other time in history. The world today is saturated with modes of communication. In moments, an educator can utilize a variety of mediums to get a message across such as, electronic communication, vocal communication, written communication, video communication, and face-to-face communication. The universal problem is that educators have all of these means of getting the message across, but often those messages are not communicated in a bidirectional way between the class and the home. The result is that the rich resource of parental involvement is often nonexistent in the classroom, and parents experience a growing disconnect from the school environment.

This communication disconnect is happening in spite of the current moves in educational reform which include and emphasis on family participation as part of a strategy for school improvement. In fact, federal and professional mandates call for increased family involvement in education (Bartles & Eskow, 2010). The importance of the home-school relationship is understood as it relates to cooperation between teachers and parents (Joshi, Eberly, & Konzal, 2005) in the education of the children. The need for a good relationship and open communication is evident and backed by a multitude of research (Joshi, et al. 2005). It is in the best interest of the students that bridges of communication and collaboration are built between the class and the home.

This literature review examines available articles and research related to, home-school communication and cooperation, difficulties that produce barriers to effective partnerships with families, and methods of overcoming those barriers through training and engaging educators in meaningful collaborative relationships. Quantitative and qualitative research studies, recorded experiences of teachers and parents, and textbooks from the field of education will be referenced. These sources will be synthesized to provide an understanding of intentionality in education, and the significance of the home-school relationship as it relates to the educational practice of intentional teaching.

Defining Intentional Educational Practice

Intentional educational practice is defined by one researcher as, ”educational practice based on knowledge and purpose with the goal of helping students acquire the skills they need in school and beyond.” (Epstein, 2007, p. 1) The syntax of the concept of the intentional teacher identifies this as teaching for a purpose and basing the curriculum on the desired outcomes (Slavin, 2012). A quick perusal of the thesaurus will generate a wide range of synonyms for the word intentional; all could be included to amplify one’s understanding of this term. Words such as; calculated, designed, prearranged, premeditated and willful help further clarify what it means to engage in the practice of intentional teaching. Because intentional educational practice teaches with a purpose and goal in mind, it answers the question “why” for the teaching plan (Epstein, 2007) and serves to keep the teacher on track. In essence, intentional educational practice is setting out on a journey with a destination in mind and the turn-by-turn directions enabling the travelers to arrive at the chosen location.

The Importance of Communication between Class and Home

In a normal school day, there are a multitude of messages being shared and lessons being learned in the classroom. However, ask the average middle school student walking through the front door of the home what they learned in school and the response is, “nothing.” Clearly, this is not the case, but if that exchange is the only interaction the parents have with the educational process it will lead to a major disconnect between their understanding of what takes place in the school, and the reality of the student’s experience. Communication between teachers and families allows parent to be knowledgeable (Schulz & Kantor, 2005) about what the “nothing” really represents in the classroom. The results of a study done by Charlotte Akin (2004) found that even in schools that had good programing, well trained faculty, and parental involvement, focusing on communication enhanced the overall experience of both staff and families.

Effective communication from the class to the home is about more than just what happens in the class. In one study, concerning chronic absenteeism (Sheldon & Epstein, 2004) it was discovered that frequent and positive communication with parents about attendance lead to a reduction in absenteeism. Frequently, however, communication from the class to the home occurs in relation to behavior, poor grades, or attendance (Flanigan, 2007), making positivity in the message difficult.

Communication between the Class and Home Must be Bidirectional

Teaching is primarily about knowledge. The philosophy of most educators would express that the more that is known about a particular subject the better off the student will be. With that thought, the educator would do well to become a student when it comes to the pupils in the classroom and the families represented there. As one educational research project related, in order truly be intentional a teacher should not only understand where students are developmentally, but also have a grasp of the background of the students. Understanding how the students’ socio-economic experiences impact learning (Mogharreban, McIntyre, & Raisor, 2009) will enable to teacher to teach with the whole child in view and accommodate for individual differences in the students. As one research subject stated, “Just knowing children’s development helps you to realize that not everybody’s on the same page. Everybody needs accommodation.” (Mogharreban, et al. 2009 p. 237)

Joshi, Eberly, and Konzal (2005) state that since “it is acknowledged that both parents and teachers are responsible for educating our children, it would seem that it would be in the child’s best interest for us all to be working toward the same goals (p. 1).” The only way to get both parents and teachers working on the same goals is through mutual communication. In developing intentionality in educational practice, it is important to develop and build on a complete knowledge of the students (Mogharreban, McIntyre, & Raisor, 2009) which would include the family background. As one research participant shared, “I know some of these kids’ stories, and they have other issues going on at home. I’m not going to be the mean old teacher who says, ‘you didn’t get your homework done,’ when I don’t know what they heard last night or if they got much sleep…(Mogharreban et al. 2009, p. 237)”

Barriers to Two-Way Communication

Researchers tell us that two-way communication is essential for building mutual trust (Joshi, Eberly, & Knozal, 2005), yet one of the lessons from the research is that what people view as communication is often a unidirectional transfer of information. Parents, who know their child best, have a valuable perspective (Forney, 2009) that can help the teacher who will take time to not only send messages, but receive them as well. This is true of every child, but especially true if the child happens to have special needs or disabilities (Forney, 2009). Such two-way communication on a daily basis is mandated by those special circumstances.

The Problem of Negative Attitudes and Professional Demands

Among the things that result in barriers to effective communication, according to the research results, are; negative attitudes about parents, bias against parents, feelings of inadequacy when dealing with parents, teacher’s historical perspective and experience based on their own childhood (Flanigan, 2007) in addition to time constraints and professional demands. It becomes obvious that these negative feelings coupled with the professional burdens of teaching can effectively derail meaningful communication. Interestingly, among the remedies for those negative feelings towards parents is increased communication and relation with parents. Often, the more a teacher becomes acquainted with parents of students the less powerful those prejudices seem (Eberly, Joshi, & Konzal, 2007). As one article stated, “regardless of educational background, homes of poor families are rich with funds of knowledge which are often unrecognized and untapped by the educational community. When educators recognize the resources or funds of knowledge of all families, communication and trust is improved. (Schulz & Kantor, 2005 p. 63).”

Our Current Methods are Generally Unidirectional Communication

Findings indicate that there is a misunderstanding of the relationship between parental involvement and real communication and relational building. When asked about the most effective means of communication involving parents and teachers, teachers responded that written communication and conferences were most effective. However, do the events that are commonly associated with communication actually result in a meaningful and beneficial interchange? “Are teachers and parents getting to know each other better during these activities (Joshi, et al, 2005 p. 14)?” For example, the common parent-teacher conference has all of the indications of promising communication. There is the potential for a face-to-face exchange of information taking place in a quiet environment over a period of time specifically designated for this purpose. However, most of these meetings dissolve into the teacher transferring copious amounts of information to the parents with little or no opportunity for feedback. If, however, teachers use these meetings to conduct open-ended interviews and allow the parents to tell their relevant stories (Schulz & Kantor, 2005)

Other methods of communication are equally uncommunicative when honestly examined. One research participant listed a number of methods she uses to communicate with parents (Shulz & Kantor, 2005) but when explored giving attention to opportunity for feedback, most of these were found to be unidirectional transfer of information rather than an interchange resulting in communication. If educators are going to be successful in joining intentionality in practice with relevant information about their students (Mogharreban, McIntyre, & Raisor, 2009), then greater attention must be given to developing effective bidirectional communication practices.

Developing Bidirectional Communication Practices

There is nothing inherently wrong with how teachers communicate. What the research indicates is that a focus on bidirectional communication needs to be added to the current list of methods being employed. The practice of sending home notes, utilizing the “Friday folder,” and comments on report cards and other “send home communications” should simply be supplemented with additional open means of communication. There is great promise among some of these other methods of connecting with parents (Schulz & Kantor, 2005).

The intentional teacher will make efforts to reach out to parents with the goal of learning from them (Eberly, Joshi, Konzal, 2007) and in the hopes of enlisting them and engaging them as partners in the educational enterprise (Sheldon & Epstein, 2004). As teachers work to build these bridges with families through open communication studies indicate there will be measurable increase in the trust, respect, expectations, and meaningful exchange of relevant information as it relates to the students (Eberly, Joshi, & Konzal, 2007).

Is Our Message Getting Through?

In every aspect of life, people face challenges when it comes to communication. Marriages have dissolved over an inability to communicate. Businesses have struggled into bankruptcy because they were unable to articulate their message. Politicians have discovered too late that the message they thought they were delivering to the populace was not actually getting across to them. Teacher, with all good intentions, send out notes to the home that, like the experience in the opening vignette, lie undisturbed and undiscovered in the bottom of a student’s backpack. The question must be asked and answered, “Is the message getting through?”

Eberly, Joshi, and Konzal (2007) explain, in their theoretical framework, that Children are raised with an overlapping set of systems with regard to family and schools. These two elements form a microsystem for the life of the student. I am reminded of the game Jenga in which players take turns removing blocks from a tower until one player or the other remove the block that causes the tower to crumble. This overlapping and interconnected system in the child’s life requires that the parents and educators share responsibility to serve as partners to avoid imbalance and disunity in these microsystems. The authors (Eberly, et al 2007) continue, no one knows everything, therefore everyone needs to work together to help children succeed academically. Everyone has value when it comes to this process.

In recent years, there have been additions to schools of education curricula and professional development programs aimed at helping teachers learn skills and practices of engaging parents as partners. Promising results have come from extended membership in professional networks (Sanders, Sheldon, & Epstein, 2005) in developing effective partnership practices. As the study related to chronic absenteeism (Sheldon & Epstein, 2004) illustrates, the benefits of gaining parents as allies in the enterprise of education are too great to take for granted.

The research points to the benefits of developing effective and meaningful communication in the area of intentionality in educational practice. The educators who were participants in the research come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, but all became more aware of the need for bidirectional connections with the home. The investment of time and energy in the process is great, especially for teachers already burdened with the demands of the educational system. It is understandable that, as in other areas of life, it might be easy to neglect the area of communication to focus time and energy elsewhere.

There are questions and problems that need to be answered. How can a teacher find time to make a home visit to build bridges with parents? Where can an educator squeeze in time to write and respond to parent emails with a pile of papers to grade? What are the most effective proven means of communication between the class and the home?

References

Akin, C. (2004). Messages for Parents and Teachers. Waco, TX. Prufrock Press.

Bartels, S. Eskow, K. (2010). Training school professionals to engage families: A pilot university/state department of education partnership. Lincoln, IL. Academic Development Inst.

Eberly, J. Joshi, A. Knozal, J. (2007). Communicating with families across cultures: and investigation of teacher perceptions and practices. Lincoln, IL. Academic Development Institute.

Epstein, A. (2007) The intentional teacher: Choosing the best strategies for young children’s learning. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Flanigan, C. (2007). Preparing preservice teachers to partner with parents and communities: An analysis of college of education faculty focus groups. Lincoln, IL. Academic Development Inst.

Forney, J. (2009). Partnering: Teachers and parents design a plan for student success. Washington, DC. Odyssey.

Joshi, A., Eberly, J., Konzal, J. (2005). Dialogue across cultures: Teachers’ perception about communication with diverse families. San Francisco, CA. Caddo Gap Press.

Mogharreban, C. McIntyre, C. Raisor, J. (2009). Early childhood preservice teacher’s constructions of becoming an intentional teacher. Denver, CO: National Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators.

Sanders, M. Sheldon, S, Epstein, J. (2005). Improving schools’ partnership programs in the national network of partnership schools. Fayetteville, AR. National Office for Research on Measurement and Evaluation Systems. University of Arkansas.

Schulz, M. Kantor, R. (2005). Understanding the home-school interface in a culturally diverse family. Worthington. Reading Recovery Council of North America.

Sheldon, S. Epstein, J. (2004). Getting students to school: Using family and community involvement to reduce chronic absenteeism. Lincoln, IL. Academic Development Inst.

Slavin, R. (2012). Educational psychology: Theory and practice. Boston, MA: Pearson

Guest Post: Tolerance is Overrated

This is a guest post from Dr. Terry Dorsett, director of missions for the state of Vermont.  It is reposted here with his permission.  The pictures and headings have been added to his original post.

We’ve Been Known as the Baptist Boycotters

For many years churches were known for what they were against. This negative position often turned off non-believers. Many people felt being “against” stuff was partly responsible for why some churches were no longer growing. Such churches were accused of being intolerant of others and since intolerance has become the greatest “sin” of our postmodern culture, churches became “bad” in the minds of many people.

People often know what we are against.  What are we For?

In the last ten years, many church leaders have seen the weakness of only being known for what they are against. Many Christian leaders have restyled their message in a positive way. They look for ways to talk about what they are for instead of what they are against. Instead of being “against abortion,” churches are now “for” adoption and helping single moms. Instead of being “against’ alcoholism, they are “for” helping people celebrate recovery. Instead of being “against” same sex marriage, churches are now “for” traditional marriage. Instead of telling their parishioners to boycott a particular company, they tell them to buy chicken sandwiches from a specific fast food chain.

This positive way of expressing a biblical viewpoint is beginning to impact how people “in the middle” think of the church. Many people have not thought through the issues themselves and rely on someone else to tell them what to think. Because most people prefer to be for something, instead of against something, that group in the middle was not attracted to the negative positions that many churches previously offered. Now that many churches have changed the way they talk about the issues, the massive middle finds that it actually agrees with the church on many issues after all. The positions themselves have not changed much, just the way those positions are expressed.

Those Who Espouse Tolerance Have Zero Tolerance for Tolerance

Though the people in the middle may appreciate the church’s more tolerant way of expressing their views, the radical left does not. If anything, it has made those on the far left even more angry and hateful toward Christians. Perhaps those on the far left realize their positions are weak and self-focused. They only way the radical left could promote their weak ideas has been on the back of someone whom they made the “enemy.” Now that the enemy has become the hero, the radical left must become even more vicious in order to draw an ever shrinking number from the middle to their bizarre views.

In a recent exchange with a friend on the far left, I expressed surprise at how bigoted and intolerant his views were about Christians. After all, for years he has told me to be “more tolerant.” But in a clear case in which he was showing bigotry toward Christians simply because they were “for” a cause he did not like, I pressed him on his own lack of tolerance. His response was, “Tolerance is overrated.” Thus revealing his true feelings about tolerance.

The far left has no plans to practice toward others the tolerance they have preached for so many years. Instead, they will increasingly become known as Christo-phobic, anti-Christian, anti-god, hate mongers. I say, let them win the “anti” war. We already know all that will gain them is a loss of the middle and a marginalization of their ideas. To my friends on the left, “hate” away. I am still for all things good and wholesome.

Why There’s Still Room on that Ol’ Bandwagon I’m not on…

Someone asked me recently, why don’t I post politically charged messages on FaceBook like my other conservative friends frequently do (This was actual not a conservative asking).  My initial response, thinking back to it, was a cop-out, and I’m sorry that I didn’t think before responding with some lame reply that didn’t really give an answer, and probably was more of an excuse than a valid reason. 

The fact is, I have heard the call to get on the bandwagon.  I do feel passionately about things, and, though I’m not a fan of labels, I am generally conservative politically.  The reason I don’t “like” all the postings that slam the president, or “share” as many politically conservative images and slogans as my other friends is because that is not where my priorities are found.  The message that I am most concerned with posting and getting out there is…well, these lyrics from a song I heard several years ago say it as well as I could:  

It’s not conservative or liberal,
However they’re defined;
It’s not about interpretation,
Or the judgment of the mind;
It’s the opposite of politics,
Power or prestige;
It’s about a simple message,
And whether we believe.

Chorus:
It’s still the cross,
It’s still the blood of Calvary;
That cleanses sins,
And sets the captives free.
It’s still the name,
The name of Jesus,
That has power to save the lost;
It’s still the cross.

Here’s a Video of the Song from YouTube if you want to watch it:

“It’s Still The Cross”

See, for me, the most important message I have to share has little to do with politics or who occupies the oval office.  Not that those things are not important, it’s just that they pale in comparison with the significance of the message of the cross of Jesus Christ.  The hope for our communities, for our state, for our country is not found in the alabaster building in our capital cities, but in the message of the love of God for rebellious children, demonstrated in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross (Romans 5.8).

So, I have family and  friends who are conservative and liberal, and they share those views in a variety of ways on the social media sites.  What I am most concerned with, however, is have they met Jesus Christ, the one whose name has the power to save the lost?  That’s the status update I most wish to see.  That’s why I share the messages I do and let the other ones pass by.  This is what matters most to me.

Blessings!