This Is Why You’re Not Getting a Christmas Card From Us This Year (or maybe ever again)

6 12 2012

No More Christmas Cards explains how we came to our decision to NOT send Christmas cards this year.

So, the winner of what would have been our Christmas money was Safe Haven Family Shelter, by almost a 3-1 vote.  I was introduced to Safe Haven almost two years ago, and since then, both Caleb and Jason have joined me on various occasions to help provide dinner for the residents.

Besides the money issue, the other reason you are not getting a Christmas card from us is because this is it!  SURPRISE dear readers!  We’re going all-digital this year.

Many of you keep up with us via Facebook anyway, so you already know our year in review.  For those who don’t, here you go:

The Huddleston 2012 Year in Review

Matthew continues to teach physics and launch high altitude balloons at Trevecca Nazarene University.  He loves his job, and even took on the challenge of hosting a national high altitude balloon conference at TNU in June.

He finished his first (and possibly, probably, hopefully last) full marathon in April.  His goal was an ambitious 4:00, but he made it around 4:25.  This is incredibly impressive considering he only “trained” once each week . . . most of the time.

He has also completed several mud runs, the latest rage in running races around the country.  Now that he’s in a new age bracket, he will probably start placing and winning some nice prizes.

On a heavier note, Matthew’s dad, Mark, was diagnosed with colon cancer in October.  He had surgery just a few days after.  The doctors thought they got all of the cancer, but subsequent tests showed a spot on a lymph node.  He is currently undergoing chemo therapy once every two weeks for six months.  His doctors remain very optimistic, but we’d still appreciate your prayers for complete healing and for strength and endurance for Mark and Martha during this time.

Kelly (me) continues to teach technology and journalism/graphic design at Franklin Road Academy.  I also love my job.  I did NOT do a ½ (or full) marathon this year, and I feel great!  Triathlons are my new thing (My First Triathlon).  Having successfully finished three of them, I can no longer qualify for placings in the Beginner category.  However, being really a really weak swimmer, mediocre bicyclist, and slow runner, I wouldn’t qualify for placings in any category anyway.  Maybe when I’m 80 and still doing triathlons will I win something.

Gourmet cupcakes are my newest indulgence so if you are ever looking for a gift . . .  (I also love chocolate and a good extra sharp cheddar cheese.)  However, I really need to be eating more fruit and vegetables, so a membership in some sort of fruit-of-the-month club would be a better gift.

Matthew and Kelly’s (our) international trip this year took us to Nicaragua in July.  We met another one of the kids we sponsor through Compassion International.  Always an eye-opening, life-changing event, you can read about it here:  Open My Eyes.  You can also read about the amazing amount of fun hell we had as we hiked a volcano on Ometepe Island.

Next year’s trip is another once-in-a-lifetime trip:  india!  For three weeks we will traverse a good chunk of the country in June.  The first 10 days or so will be spent in Chennai and traveling up the Indian Ocean coast of south eastern India, mainly to visit two more kids they sponsor through Compassion International (link) as well as spend some time with a friend who pastors a church in a small village there.  During the second half of the trip, we will get to play tourist:  visit the Taj Mahal, ride elephants and camels in the dessert, visit Agra, Jaipur, New Delhi, and take a boat tour along the Ganges River in Varanasi, the heart of the Hindu culture.  Expect great blog posts to come from this adventure.

Other big news for 2012 included placing membership in a new church, Priest Lake Christian Fellowship.  Our former home church group, the Gathering, fizzled out as families found new churches around the Nashville area, so we started looking, too.  Being less than a mile from our home was a great benefit, but the people were the main draw.  We have never been to a more humble church where the Holy Spirit is so alive and thriving among its members.  It’s inspiring and challenging and moving each week.

Caleb is in fourth grade at Franklin Road Academy and continues to love school and excel in his academics.  To brag on this child for a moment, he has yet to receive a B in any term grade since he started PK.  He’s got his Daddy’s brains and aptitude for math and building things.  Caleb continues to love all things Star Wars, but his Pokemon obsession (thank goodness!) has come to an end.  If you know of anyone interested in buying a 700+ card Pokemon collection, please let us know.

Caleb’s newest obsession is legos.  The kid lives and breathes legos, which we are fine with.  He actually builds some really cool things, like a working flashlight—complete with an on/off lever and working bulb.

Caleb is also learning to play the recorder and trumpet, and we (as in Kelly) are trying desperately (and futilely) to get him to sing “This Song is Just Six Words Long” by Weird Al Yankovic in the Fourth Grade Variety Show in January.  Weird Al is another recent obsession of Caleb’s, and being the cool parents we are, for his birthday we bought him tickets to see Weird Al in concert in April when he comes to Nashville.

Caleb is a Webelo scout this year, and is a popcorn selling machine!  He sold over $1500 to win first place again in his cub scout pack.  He won an archery set, 8% of his total sales in cash, a $50 Walmart gift card, an LED head lamp, a patch, Predators’ tickets, and a trophy.  (Don’t get me started on winning trophies for something like selling popcorn.  Let’s just say, I’m not a fan of the practice.)

Caleb’s most exciting adventure this year, though, was his ER trip that led to a hospital stay for a couple of days at the end of August for pneumonia.  Despite this bump in the road, we are still tremendously blessed.  His asthma and allergies have plagued him something fierce this fall, much worse than normal.  We have an appointment with an asthma/allergy specialist next week so we are praying for something to help manage this better.

Jason started preK at FRA this year, and is loving it.  Being the second child, we did not work with him on things like the alphabet, drawing, writing, or reading much (hardly at all) before he started school.  Thankfully, the kid has a mind like a sponge and is taking off in the writing and reading department.  He also loves to draw.

Jason, too, is obsessed with Star Wars and legos.  At three he could recite entire scenes from Star Wars.  I’m not sure if I should be proud or embarrassed by this.  Did I mention he was three at the time?  The kid can build lego creations with the best of them . . . well, maybe not a working flashlight yet, but he can build really cool spaceships, race cars, jails, mouse traps, and monsters.

Jason and Caleb took their first official swimming lessons this summer.  Lesson 1 involved Jason crying and screaming for the full 45 minute session.  He had snot running out of both nostrils to his belly button when I picked him up.  He only cried for about 15 minutes of lesson 2, and by lesson 3 he was actually excited to go.  Now, of course, the kid is terrified to put his head in the water, which reminds Kelly of herself as a child forced to take swimming lessons.

Packer, our dog, continues to love to eat anything that falls on the floor including baby spit-up (true story) as well as grass to later make herself throw-up said baby spit-up.  She loves to sleep during the day and wake us up around 4:00 a.m. to pee and play.

Finley Bubbles the VIII, our beta fish, didn’t last the year.  At this time, we are uncertain if we will buy Finley Bubbles the IX.

Hopes and prayers for 2013:

  • Good health for everyone
  • A safe and amazing trip to India
  • Jobs we love
  • Caleb and Jason would continue to grow and mature in their faith, following Christ
  • Matthew and Kelly possibly beginning a new Marriage Builders home church group
  • Kelly hopes to begin working on her MBA at Trevecca in the fall

As we reflect back and look forward, may we always remember WHY we celebrate.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son,
who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
-John 1:14

Love and prayers to all,
the Huddleston Family

PS.  If any of you find yourselves in Nashville and need a place to stay, we’ve got plenty of room and love house guests.


Appreciating Your Teachers

15 05 2012

Teacher Appreciation Day has been celebrated around the country over the past few weeks, my school included.  I began thinking about the things I appreciate most as a teacher.

  1. Chocolate, in almost any form.
  2. Gift cards to almost anywhere.
  3. Cupcakes in almost any flavor.
  4. Free food from almost anywhere.

On a more serious note, the things that make me value and enjoy my job are a little less tangible.  (Please note, most of these are directed to high school students and parents as that is the level I teach.)  As a teacher, I appreciate it when:

  1. Parents pray for their children’s teachers and administrators.  This is one of the most encouraging things a parent can do for me.
  2. Students are respectful.  Yes ma’am and yes sir still go a long way.  Taking pride in your appearance demonstrates you respect the rules, even if you don’t agree with the dress code.  Being on time to class says something about your character.  Trust me, all of these “little” things matter and have an impact on your reputation.
  3. Parents let their children fight their own battles.  If your child has an issue with a teacher, please encourage your child to talk to the teacher first.  If that doesn’t resolve the matter, then jump in.  The sooner your children learn to deal with concerns on their own, the better prepared they will be when they leave home.
  4. Parents let their children make mistakes and teach them to accept responsibility.  Some of life’s greatest lessons come through failure and bad decisions.  Don’t deny your children the opportunity to make poor decisions and mistakes.  You must also teach your children to take ownership of those decisions.  (I’m not talking about health-related or life-and-death situations.)  Better they learn those hard lessons in high school than in college or the workforce where the consequences are often much more severe.
  5. Parents follow through with discipline.   If your child’s whining, complaining, or whatever wins out, and you give in without disciplining as you said you would, you are teaching your child that 1) your word doesn’t mean much and 2) endurance—even when it’s a negative action—wins out.  Please do not train your children that all they need to do to get out of being disciplined is whine louder or longer.
  6. Parents teach their children how to handle disappointment in a godly manner.  No good will ever come from yelling at the ref or berating a teacher who “gave” your child a bad grade.  All you are doing is showing yourself to be a poor role model.

I was a teacher long before I was a parent, but being a parent has made me realize that I am my children’s most important teacher.  Ever.  I have a larger influence on them, especially in their early years, than anyone else. 

My habits—positive or negative—will become my children’s habits.

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.
-Proverbs 22:6

Things That Make Me a Bad Parent

17 10 2011

A friend recently started blogging (Painter’s Canvas), and her first post was a list of things she does that show her imperfections as a mother, a wife, and a child of God.  It was brilliant!  I laughed many a time, mainly because so many of her thoughts resonated with me and my struggles.

So thank you, Annette, for the idea for my blog post this week:  Things That Make Me a Bad Parent.

We have two boys; Jason is 3.5 and Caleb is almost 9.  Perhaps you can relate to some of these?  In no particular order:

  1. We let our sons watch The Simpsons and King of the Hill.  Caleb could hum the theme song to The Simpsons around age 3, and Jason gets very excited when he hears the King of the Hill theme song because he knows “Bobby is on.”
  2. Our boys might go several days without bathing.  We do sniff them on a regular basis.
  3. Oral hygiene?  Even less regular than bathing.  Caleb is pretty good about brushing his teeth on a daily basis.  Jason is another story.  Some days, he’ll even ask me to brush his teeth, and I’ll say no.
  4. We sometimes count popcorn as a veggie at meal times.
  5. I despise Sesame Street, The Electric Company, Teletubbies, PooBah, and the Wiggles.
  6. I can’t stand reading “The Little Engine That Could,” one of Jason’s favorites.  If Jason picks that story at bedtime, I’ll tell him to have Daddy read it, and I’ll pick a different, usually shorter, story that I will read.
  7. I take pictures of Jason’s sneezes because they are so incredibly epic.  People don’t believe me when I describe them.  Now I have proof.
  8. New iPhones arrive?  Children . . . what children?
  9. Arts and crafts?  Forget it.  I hate play-do, glitter, stamps, ink, markers, and paint.  I can handle stickers.
  10. If you are having a birthday party that involves catered food, bouncy play things, pony rides, climbing walls, or anything else that is going to make my child walk away saying, “I want hot air balloon rides at my next party,” we’re not coming, and I will make up some excuse about a prior commitment.  Thank you for setting unattainable and ridiculously expensive expectations that we cannot reach.
  11. I loathe the idea of goodie bags.  I grew up with the impression that the birthday boy or girl was supposed to be the only one getting goodies on his or her special day.
  12. I detest the practice of giving children ribbons when they finish in 32nd place, or anything past third. 
  13. I find it ridiculous that Caleb will receive a trophy for selling popcorn for a cub scout fundraiser. 
  14. If a playground has sand, I will make up a pathetic excuse why we can’t play there.
  15. On Mother’s Day, my favorite gift—which I will never ask for—is a day to myself, away from my kids, or at least not having to take care of them.  At. All.

I do plenty of things right as well.  I play with my kids.  I pray with my kids many times a day.  I read to them and sing to them and tell them made up stories about the troll who lives in the woods behind our house who guards the golden egg that their friend, the baby dragon, needs to get better.  I teach them about God and Jesus, forgiveness, and how to be kind to one another.  I let them know as often as I can that they are adored and cherished and loved very deeply.  I tell them how special they are to me, what blessings they are to me, and I thank God for them every day.

Post-IEF (How 2 Days in Seattle Changed the Way I Teach)

12 09 2011

After two intense, fun-filled, educational, innovative, amazing days, I walked away thinking, WOW!!  Over a month later, I’m still thinking, WOW!!

On July 28-29, I was invited to attend Microsoft’s Innovative Education Forum held on their main campus in Redmond, Washington.  To attend this conference, teachers from around the country had to submit innovative technology projects they use in their classrooms.  I was told thousands applied, and 100 teachers, representing 78 projects, from around the country were selected.  I was one of them, and I was the only one from Tennessee.  (To view my project, please see my post on the Innovative Education Forum.)

Microsoft HQ - Redmond, WA - July 27, 2011

Microsoft HQ - Redmond, WA - July 27, 2011

Upon arrival in Seattle, a day early, a small group of us were lucky enough to tour the Microsoft Home of the Future and Envisioning the Future Center.  Unfortunately, I can’t tell you anything about them, because Microsoft could sue me.  Seriously.  The non-disclosure agreement we had to sign before being allowed in was intense.  Suffice it to say, it was A.MAZ.ING!  It’s unbelievable to think that some of this mind-blowing technology we saw will be readily available in just a few years.

Friday night we had a nice welcome reception at our hotel, the Bellevue Hyatt, and the craziness began Saturday morning.  We frantically set up our exhibit areas before a simple breakfast at the building we would call home for the next two days on the Microsoft campus.  Note for future attenders:  a 4’ x 4’ poster is the way to go for your display area.  Invest the time and money in doing a nice one.  You will greatly appreciate the ease of setup!

IEF 2011 - Poster Session

IEF 2011 - Poster Session

After setup, we had our first keynote address by Dr. John Medina, author of Brain Rules.  I had read his book the year before as part of my school’s professional development program.  While the book was interesting, it was a little dry, but Dr. Medina more than made up for that in his presentation.  He is incredibly personable, energetic, dynamic and really quite funny.  Especially intriguing to me was his discussion on how 30 minutes of aerobic activity at least times a week can significantly improve math skills (and the evidence to back this up.)

Next was the reason we even there—the judging and exhibition.  During a three-hour time frame, split up by lunch, each presenter had three judges visit them.  Judges were experts in their various fields and truly came from all over the world.  One of my judges was from Dubai.  When we were not being judged, we were encouraged to walk around and view the other projects.  One of the winners would be decided by the Educator’s Choice vote.

I was deeply humbled as I reviewed other projects and talked to some incredible teachers.  I remember thinking I was way out of my league after seeing other projects.  But someone, somewhere thought my classroom project was worthy.  Whoever you are, I thank you!

IEF 2011 - Seattle Underground - Learning Excursion Team 2
IEF 2011 – Seattle Underground – Learning Excursion Team 2

That afternoon, we were sent off by teams of five to various locations around Seattle:  the Space Needle, the Asian Art Museum, Pike’s Place Market, the Olympic Sculpture Park, the Seattle Art Museum, and the Seattle Underground.  My group, known as Team 2 or Chief Seattle, toured the Seattle Underground.  Based on our Learning Excursions, as they were called, each team had to come up with sort of cross-curricular project that could work anywhere in the country.  We were given time to work on this on day two, but a lot of the work was done after the conference.  Final project submissions weren’t due until August 31.  We will be voting, as a team, on the top three learning excursion projects in the next couple weeks, and the winning team will be awarded the final spot to attend the Global Forum in Washington, D.C. in November.

That evening we were treated to a reception at the Space Needle.  We even had our own express elevator, superb appetizers, and a Kinect set up for us to use.

Day two was a little more laid back and not so rushed.  We attended two workshops in the morning.   Our choices included learning about OneNote; using games in the classroom such as Kodu, InterroBANG, and Kinect; a global teach tech in which a panel of international teachers shared their innovative technology projects; and using Microsoft’s newer free resources like Photosynth,  Movie Maker and Photo Gallery.

Our closing keynote speaker that afternoon was Dr. Jane McGonigal, author of Reality is Broken:  Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World.  I also read her book before attending IEF.  You can read a synopsis of her book here: Reality is Broken.)  Like Dr. Medina, Dr. McGonigal got our creative, innovative, and technological juices flowing.  She began her address by having the entire room of over 100 people play a game of thumb wars in which every person was somehow connected to at least 2-3 other people.  What followed was a fascinating discussion on the importance of gaming in society and how gaming can help education.

Our final dinner together was down at the Bell Harbor Seattle on the waterfront and ended with nine amazing teachers winning a spot to attend the Global Forum in November.  The top two winners in each of the following categories will attend:

  1. Collaboration
  2. Knowledge Building and Critical Thinking
  3. Use of Technology in Learning
  4. Extending Learning Beyond the Classroom.
  5. The ninth spot went to the educator who received the Teacher’s Choice Award
  6. The tenth spot will go to the team whose learning excursion project wins. 

I was not among the chosen, but I am deeply impressed by those who did win.  The educators I met, befriended, and collaborated with left a permanent mark on me.  I left the conference with a list of a dozen ideas I want to try in my classroom this year, and I have already incorporated some of them.

  1. I’ve begun using Twitter with my students as another means of communication.  If there is any one piece of technology most of us have on ourselves most of the time, it’s our phones.  Twitter is fast, convenient, and to the point.  I’ve been using it to send out reminders and to post questions for bonus points on assignments.  I’m still new at tweeting, but I hope to expand its usefulness as I become more familiar with everything it can do.  (You can follow my classroom goings-on at HuddlestonKFRA.)
  2. I have updated the name of my project.  I never really liked the original name, Create a Business, but I never put time into coming up with something different.  At IEF, I finally came up with something better.  The new name is Entrepreneur 101.
  3. I have incorporated a “Best in Class” judging component into Entrepreneur 101.  After all projects have been presented in class, student teams will vote on the one project—not their own—that they feel is the best all-around project.  They will base their vote on overall concept, feasibility of the business, realism, creativity, design, and presentation.  The winning team in each class will receive bonus points added onto their project grade.
  4. I also hope to incorporate a “Best in Show” award.  With this, I would like to pull in a panel of three outside judges, business men and women who have nothing to do with my school or my students.  I will ask them to judge each project on basically the same criteria as mentioned in #3.  The one team among all my classes with the highest total score from the judges will receive bonus points added onto their project grade.
  5. I am researching a way to get a Kinect set up in an empty classroom for students to use during their study halls throughout the day.  Dr. Medina spoke on the overwhelming evidence that 30 minutes of aerobic activity (not weight training and conditioning) at least three times per week can significantly increase math scores.  I would love for those students who are struggling in math to be able to get some aerobic exercise during the day playing Kinect.
  6.  I have created a new project for my Tech classes called Project Innovate that will be done over the course of the semester.
    1. In part one, each student has to find 10 news articles that have to do with innovative technology in any area of life:  medicine, education, automobiles, athletics, fashion, architecture, space travel, etc.  For each article, students simply have to write a one paragraph summary.
    2. In part two, students will pick one of their 10 articles and present it to the class.
    3. For part three, I will split the class up into teams of 3-4 students.  Each group will come up with one innovative new product or an innovative use for a current product.  They will need to research how this new product will be made, where it will be manufactured, who will buy it, where it will be sold, etc.  Each group will present their idea to the rest of the class at the end of the semester.

This is the first semester I’m doing all of these things.  I can’t wait to see what will happen with everything.

  • Thank you, Microsoft, for allowing me the opportunity to participate in such an incredible conference.  IEF was a game-changer for how I teach.
  • Thank you for treating all of us like royalty.  Considering the economic hardships much of our country is experiencing, you spared no expense.  What a delight!
  • Thank you for affirming me as an educator and letting me know you value what I do. 

 I hope to return someday!

A Teacher’s Prayer

17 08 2011

Lord God,

Thank you for giving me another day on your creation.  Help me not to take advantage of your many blessings. 

Help me to be the teacher you want me to be—kind, patient, compassionate, gentle, and humble, yet firm and steadfast in the Truth.

May the words of my mouth be beneficial to the listener; encouraging and always building my students up, never tearing down.

Be at the forefront of my mind in all I say and do today.  Help me to use the gifts you have given me to bring glory to you in my teaching.  May I continually be a model of your unconditional love.

I pray for your peace, grace, mercy and perfect order to permeate my classroom.  May this space be a refuge to those who enter in.  Send your angels to protect us all from Satan’s tricks and deceptions.

Infuse me with energy, stamina, and perseverance to sustain me throughout the day.  When I am weary, rejuvenate me.  When I am frustrated, calm me.  When I am confused, guide me.

As you multiplied the fishes and loaves to feed thousands, take my meager efforts and bless my students abundantly.  Turn my failures into victories.  Satisfy the needs I have not met.  Remind my students of your presence when they stand at the crossroads of right and wrong.  

All I can give is my best, and I will continue to do that.  Help me to train my students in the way they should go so that when they are no longer under the roof of our school building, they will not wander off the right path.

I submit my students to you now and rededicate myself to the task you have placed before me.


Innovative Education Forum

10 06 2011

Innovative Education Forum

I saw an ad on Facebook for the Microsoft Innovative Education Forum, a conference hosted by Microsoft at their headquarters in Redmond, Washington, in July.  They were seeking educators who could demonstrate how they used Microsoft products in their classes in unique, innovative, and real-world ways.

Microsoft experienced the highest number of applicants ever for this conference, and I was selected for one of the 100 slots.  I am also the only educator in the entire state of Tennessee attending this all-expenses paid, two day, whirl-wind conference.  I am quite excited and deeply honored.

Several have asked about my submission so I thought I’d detail it here.

For lack of a better name, I simply call this project “Create a Business.”  Students in my Tech class, mainly freshman, do this project each semester, and I’ve been doing it for about eight years.  It continually evolves and changes, but this is where I’m at now with it.

Basically, students create a business—as much as is feasible in four months and for high school freshmen.  They can work with a partner or go solo.  There are many things we leave out due to time constraints such as talking about incorporating, licensing fees, legal/liability issues, creating a shopping cart for their website, etc.

My only guidelines for the types of businesses they may pursue are:

  1. All products/services must be legal.
  2. There cannot be any minimum age requirements.  For example, students are allowed to sell alcohol, tobacco products, firearms, permanent tattoos, etc.
  3. They may not sell anything that is morally or ethically questionable even it satisfies requirements one and two.

Step 1:  Create a business plan detailing such things as the business name, products/services sold and their costs, contact information, operational hours, competition, etc. (Microsoft Word)

Step 2:  Write a mission statement and tag line/slogan/motto.  (Microsoft Word)

Step 3:  Design a logo (Adobe Photoshop)

Step 4:  Create business cards, letterhead, and other promotional print materials.  (Microsoft Publisher)

Step 5:  Create a series of six spreadsheets to track income, consumable inventory, capital expenses, fixed monthly expenses, payroll, and finally a net/profit loss statement for the first year with projections for the second year.  (Microsoft Excel)

Step 6:  Produce a :30 second commercial.  (Microsoft Moviemaker)

Step 7:  Create a website with a minimum of six pages:  home page, about us page, contact us page, and pages to highlight all products/services sold—pictures, prices, descriptions, warranties/guarantees, return/shipping policies, customer testimonials, etc.  (Adobe Dreamweaver)

Step 8:  Create a presentation to showcase everything that was done to create this business.  (Microsoft PowerPoint)

Step 9:  Present everything to the rest of the class in a 10-15 minute presentation complete with professional business attire and bringing in “samples” of their products.

Implementation Tips

  1. Have a thorough grading rubric to present to students at the start of the project.  I find students calculate their own grades as they go.  Those who make As usually realize around the halfway point that need do some sort of extra credit to make an A.  Those who don’t make the grades they desire cannot tell me they didn’t know something was required.
  2. Checkpoint progress throughout the process.  For example, I will give my students one week to create their business cards and other Publisher documents.  At the end of the week, I will check them off for a grade to make sure they are done and all basic requirements have been met.  I do not grade their spelling, grammar, creativity or things of that nature at this time, although if I notice an error or design flaw, I will make suggestions.
  3. Show students finished examples of each new phase before they begin in.  Example, before we start working on the commercial I will show my students dozens of examples of commercials the past group of students have produced.  I will point out elements that were well done, creative and/or effective, and I will point out those items that could have been done better or should have done differently.  I will show them A examples as well as C examples so they know what to expect going into it.


  • Due to the nature of our school, many of my students will become owners or managers of businesses someday.  I’ve actually had students so inspired by this project to start or manage their own businesses while still in high school.  I’ve also had students who enjoyed and excelled at the web design part so much, they later went on to make business web sites for friends and family—for pay.
  • Students are highly engaged in this project, often spending additional time outside the classroom working on it—by their choice, not because they have to.  They are allowed a tremendous amount of freedom in design and creativity.
  • This project prepares them for their future careers in a very authentic, real-world manner.
  • I have had numerous parents each year comment to me how they wished they had a project like this when they were in school.
  • I’ve had many students and parents thank me for teaching them or their children things they will actually use in the “real world.” 

There is no greater complement to me.

If you are interested in the details of this project for your own use in your classroom, or if you are interested in the Innovative Education Forum, please leave me a comment.

Master Teacher (Part 1)

3 03 2011

“Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers,
because you know that we who teach
will be judged more strictly.”
-James 3:1

In 2005, I began working on my Masters of Education degree at Lipscomb University.  The first class I took was called the Master Teacher, and it was honestly life-changing.  Not many people can say that about any college class they’ve ever taken.

Our one major paper had to do with reading through the gospel of Luke in one sitting and then writing about the methodologies Jesus used as a teacher. 

I haven’t read this paper since I turned it in to my professors six years ago, but I find the material just as relevant to my teaching and parenting today as it was then.

Because this was originally a 10-page paper, I have split it up into several shorter posts.  So whether you are a teacher in a private or public school, at the elementary or university level, teach science or fine arts, Christian or not, or even if you are not a teacher but are a parent, I believe the methodologies Jesus used are applicable to all of us.

In the past 16 years since becoming a born-again follower of Christ, I have learned much about what it means to be a disciple of Christ, but the old saying is true for me:  “the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.”

One example to illustrate this is in my teaching.  I am in my fifteenth year of teaching, and it does get better and easier each year.  I am more relaxed with my students, and I can get the information out a little better each semester.  I thought I had my job pretty well under control.  I know I’m not at the level of a “master” or “expert” teacher, but I don’t consider myself a rookie anymore, either.  Until I studied Jesus as a teacher, that is. 

Since my first graduate assignment of reading the Gospel of Luke, I have critiqued myself in the classroom more than I have ever done since I began teaching in 1996.  God has shown me weaknesses in my teaching that I didn’t know I had—nothing devastating—but areas I can improve upon nonetheless.  He has also reaffirmed to me the things I am doing right to glorify Him in my classroom.  My time in the Master Teacher class showed me many facets of Jesus as a teacher that I had never thought about, but that do directly affect who I am in the classroom.

Perhaps the most important teaching point that is relevant to me as a teacher is the fact that Jesus always took time to hear an individual’s problem, despite the time or the crowds around him.  Often, it was necessary for Jesus to teach the masses—the modern approach could be classified as lecturing.  This is not a bad methodology; it is simply one way to get information out to a multitude of people at one time.

However, when I lecture, if a student had a question, I would often ask him to wait until I finished.  Sometimes this was necessary, sometimes it was not.  I still find myself thinking about this principle every time I tell a student to “hold on—let me finish this” or “I’ll be there in one minute.”  I really can’t imagine Jesus telling another person to “wait a second.”  This point more than any other has deeply convicted me.  Far too often I have made students wait until it was convenient for me to help them.  Since becoming aware of this practice six years ago in my classroom, I often find that answering the question then and there is the best course of action.  I don’t have a chance to forget, as has happened far too frequently, and my students certainly appreciate the attention given to them when they really need it.

A second teaching point I learned from studying Jesus’ teaching methodologies is that silence is sometimes the best answer.  Jesus frequently used silence in response to a question as is illustrated in his encounter with the angry mob who wanted to stone the unfaithful wife or when he was falsely accused during his trials before his crucifixion.  I find myself using silence more for several reasons. 

  1. If I think a student already knows the answer, I will often wait before jumping in.  This has proven quite successful.  I have been too quick to answer a question from a student when I know she knows the answer.  I now simply give my students “the look,” and they know that I’m not going to give them the easy way out.
  2. Another positive aspect of this methodology is that the number of “stupid questions” I get has decreased.  My students think more before they speak which is always a good thing.
  3. Silence is a great way to get someone’s attention.  My students know that when I’m not talking but am standing and ready, what I’ve got to say next is important.  They settle down quicker and listen more attentively.

A third methodology  is the art of answering questions with questions.  As mentioned in the previous paragraph, I used to be way too quick to want to jump right in with the answer.  Most of the time, I have discovered, this habit stemmed from laziness.  I didn’t want to have to help or explain something again; giving the answer directly was just quicker and easier.

I have worked on this greatly over the years—using leading questions and learning to use the Socratic method with my students.  These are great strategies if you ask the right questions.  However, asking the right questions to direct the student’s thinking is the difficult part.

Jesus was the master at this.  Of course, his being God, in nature all-knowing, was very helpful.  He knew the hearts of the men and women he spoke with so he could easily pinpoint the source of conflict and ask a pointed question right to the heart of the matter.  If I don’t really know my students and their abilities, asking leading questions could be frustrating for all of us.

To go along with answering questions with questions is Jesus’ use of parables as a way of teaching new or difficult concepts by using common and relevant ideas.  While Jesus was a master at this, I am not, but I do tell personal stories whenever possible if they help get the point across.  In fact, I find my students repeating examples from such stories on their essays and quizzes.  The personal touch resonates much stronger with my students than a general Power Point presentation.

I hope you stay tuned for my next few posts on this topic in which I will address:

  • Answering questions with scripture.
  • Jesus was not immune from frustration.
  • The importance of pro-active prayer.
  • Did Jesus treat everyone the same?
  • Using different learning and teaching styles to your advantage.
  • We teach by example.