Thoughts for my Fellow Christian Educators and our Friends…

Two years ago, we were all thrown into the deep end and had to sink or swim with the likes of Zoom technology. We had to learn the basics about starting a meeting, using the chat feature, and unmuting our microphones before we tried to speak. Chat rooms and digital view boards and Google document comments seemed overwhelming back then when we moved to a virtual setting for classes and meetings with students. We were concerned about curriculum, but even more about our students’ social and emotional well-being. Most of us were making the biggest pivot of our careers.

Fast forward. Now we can smoothly instruct whether we are in the same room with our students or not. Technology is no longer so intimidating, and we can troubleshoot with confidence to overcome any blips in the process. Virtual meetings are as normal as taking attendance and keeping a gradebook with a digital student information system. The technology allows us to explore a much bigger world than ever before. Actually, I participated in a virtual experience this evening that I’d like to share with you.

I was honored to attend a Zoom meeting through Christian Educators Association International (CEAI) where we listened to a first-hand account from a Polish educator who is deeply involved in helping Ukrainian refugees. Her small town in Poland has a Proem Ministries camp that is now turned into a refugee living space. The camp provides all necessities for refugees who are seeking shelter from the war. Most arrive with one suitcase or one plastic sack of belongings. She explained that when the Ukrainian people arrive, they come from places that have been bombed and completely destroyed, so they are looking to begin new lives. This camp provides shelter, food, medicine, clothes, and trauma care. Also, she and her co-workers staff a Proem Ministries Christian school of over 400 students. Around 30 Ukrainian students have joined classes and are trying to restore some semblance of normalcy to their young lives while their fathers are still in Ukraine fighting and their mothers are securing permanent lodging and work in Poland. After hearing her stories, our adjustment to virtual learning in 2020 doesn’t seem like such a big pivot after all. 

The main purpose for the meeting is exciting. Our group of Christian educators is given a wonderful opportunity to offer monetary assistance to the camp and school in Poland. CEAI is accepting donations where 100% of the money will go straight to the Proem Ministries. Also, CEAI leadership has secured a $25,000 matching program with very generous donors. So, if Christian educators and our friends can donate the $25,000, the matching will make our donation to the Polish educators a $50K deposit!

I invite you to learn about the partner ministry, Proem Poland, who is serving desperate Ukrainian refugees.

https://proemministries.org/

I ask you to pray for all of the people in harm’s way because of this war. Then, if you are led to do so, you can join other educators and our friends to meet the monetary goal and support this humanitarian effort.

Donate Here

Tonight, I’m pondering the progression of time and technology over the past couple of years. The connections we can make from the little Zoom squares of pictures is amazing. The difference God can make in the lives of vulnerable people across the Atlantic because of those connections is miraculous.

A Word for Teachers

Dear Auspicious Teacher,                                                                                                                     

We didn’t see this one coming, did we? The committees who worked to organize one-to-one formatting for schools, to solidify the eLearning plans, and to inform the stakeholders didn’t realize that their research would lay the groundwork for our response to a pandemic’s shut down of the educational system. My heart was first broken for the students, so I wrote them a letter. Then, I could see the parents working so hard to make the “next few weeks” work well; I wrote them a letter, too. After a week of online instruction with my own students and listening to stories from friends both near and far, I need to share a thought with my fellow teachers. One word. Simplify.

I know that you love to learn, and I do, too. The new technology that we have all been forced to not only incorporate, but also use as the basis for our classroom processes is a challenge, and I can see you all meeting the challenge in amazing ways. We teachers are moving lessons to Zoom and Google Meet rooms. We are using software that companies have placed in our hands as free resources for us and our students. We are making packets, creating slide shows, sharing our screens, opening conversation threads, writing new content, and possibly, rekindling a fire for creativity and excitement that we haven’t felt in a long time. We are experiencing a new sense of appreciation as many parents and public figures are openly thanking us for our work. It’s good to be recognized, right? Still. Simplify.

You have your own family to love and support during this time. Please, get your nose out of the book and the screen to go cook and play and paint with them. I know how you feel about your students. I am fiercely protective of mine, too; however, look at the faces of the ones in your home. Have no regrets when this is over. Just like you are telling your students and their parents to have a routine and plan times for each event during the day, you should do the same. We are used to taking home HOURS of work each night and weekend, but now isn’t the time to spend locked away planning or grading. (I’m talking to myself here, too, guys.) Set your schedule and follow it, including a time to put down the pencil and close the laptop. Simplify.

Also, I urge you to realize that as we all are learning new skills and trying new and exciting methods, we can’t let our students become our test subjects. Whether you are planning all the topics for your 28 elementary kids or planning your four preps for your 128 high schoolers, dial back the amount of work. I’ve heard many stories in the last week of kids working several hours a day just to keep up with all the work being assigned. Our students deserve better than that. We must remember their mental stress load as much as we remember our own. Get to the heart of your fourth quarter plans and focus on those basic concepts. Introduce new content if you must but slow down your pacing. No students should be working on the same class for several hours every day. Simplify.

You and I both love our students. No doubt. We both also love learning and the buzz we feel from creating good content for our kids. Just remember to go slowly to keep from overwhelming your students and yourself.

Simplify.

Blessings to you, my friends.