". . .the word of God is not bound." II Tim. 2:9b

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A Paying Opportunity for Writing About Teaching

For those of you who are writers in addition to being teachers, check out this paid writing opportunity from Chicken Soup for the Soul. Just scroll down to the "Stories about teachers and teaching" section header. If you're new to freelance writing but have always wanted to give it a try, be sure to visit the Story Guidelines page before getting started. Follow directions precisely for best chances of success. Because the editorial process takes time, you might wait up to 60 days to hear that you've been accepted. Writers learn to be patient while waiting. This particular market will not inform you if they have rejected your work. And remember, it's highly competitive, so rejection does happen. Keep your head up and try again!

Deadline for this collection: June 30
Word count: under 1200 words
Pay: $200 one month after publication

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Let's Write in David French

I've been shamelessly urging people to read everything by David French, a writer for National Review. Now Bill Krystal over at the Weekly Standard says French would make a better president than anyone currently running. What's all this election business got to do with education? Just ask any school administrator who recently received guidance from the Obama administration on how to keep receiving Federal funds. Or look no further than the Supreme Court. We need a third-party candidate of high moral caliber, and we need one now.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Planboard, a Really Good Free Online Planner

The 2015/2016 school year, now blissfully over for my district, was the first year I used an online teacher planner exclusively. Planboard by Chalk.com has been user-friendly and efficient. (See my comparo to Commoncurriculum here). After a full year of Planboard lesson planning, I'm still a believer. A plus I'm appreciating today is the easy migration of one year's plans to a new year. Allowing that I'll be tweaking those plans here and there, adding standards, etc., my plans for the whole of next school year are ready to go.

The only major negative with Planboard is that it (still) does not allow you to print or share unit plans. Today I emailed their IT about the matter, and Planboard's people promptly got back to me: They're (still) working on it.

Unit plan sharing aside, Planboard is free and has lots of bells and whistles, while remaining intuitive.

This year I plan to use the Sticky Note feature to paste a Bible verse at the top of my plan for each day. It'll take a little time, but that word of encouragement for my teaching day will be worth it. What favorite verses should I add to my planner? Please share!

ESV Single Column Journaling Bible, Summer Garden

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Teaching Literary Elements with Famous Shakespearean Quotes

Famous quotes from Julius Caesar

Before I introduce a Shakespeare play to any of my classes, I familiarize students with some of the famous quotes from the play. In addition to giving them a glimpse of what's ahead and building anticipation, it's an opportunity to teach literary elements. I start as much as a semester before reading the play in class.

Famous quotes from Macbeth

Students enjoy memorizing short, easy quotes, especially since many Shakespearean quotes are already familiar from movies and cartoons. As a bonus, when you later read the play, the quotes appear in context. It's like meeting up with an old friend.

Visit my Teachers Pay Teachers store, Brevity, to purchase the wall docs for quotes from Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, and Julius Caesar.

Kindergarten, First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Homeschooler, Not Grade Specific - TeachersPayTeachers.com

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Vocabulary Reboot

Bulletin boards add color and fun

It's no secret: teachers work in the summertime. In addition to catching up on their "real lives," they attend training, revamp lessons or units, and redecorate their classrooms. In July they hit the back-to-school sales with their classroom supply money, which never seems to go as far as they would like. And summer never lasts as long as they would like, either.

This summer, one of my projects is to reboot a home-grown Greek and Latin root vocabulary program I inherited from the teacher before me, who inherited it from the teacher before her. I want to find research-based practices that engage the students with words and word parts in more meaningful ways.

What are your favorite vocab strategies?

Kindergarten, First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Homeschooler, Not Grade Specific - TeachersPayTeachers.com

Monday, May 16, 2016

Snopes Gets It Wrong

"Why is the Obama administration's Transgender 'guidance' for public schools dangerous?"

The Left won't accept just any answer to that question. If I say that I as a woman am endangered by it, they have an answer for that. If I say that my child is endangered by it, they have an answer for that. Liberal women will have to be quick on their feet to keep up with the many directions they are being pulled. (So will Americans in general). But to a Liberal, all change is good change, so long as it is not a regression toward moral absolutes. That means a whole lot of justification of some anti-women dictates coming their way.

Here's why I think the May 13 "guidance" is dangerous: It is a third nail in the coffin of America's moral fiber. We can rank it as such, along with Roe v. Wade and last year's Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage. While the letter is not legally binding, it carries the threat of a loss of Federal funding. Bullying in schools is acceptable, it would seem, as long as it's the Left doing the bullying.

This is precisely the point where liberals and conservatives split. The liberal believes morality itself is the whole problem. The conservative either answers to a higher power or at least believes in the rule of law and the individual liberty the law provides.

The Obama administration has dispelled the illusion that the Left is chipping away at American values. They've brought out the sledge hammer.

You've probably used Snopes.com to check up on the more shocking stories you see on the Web. Today, I happened upon Snopes's disappointing representation of the May 13 "guidance" for schools. According to Snopes under 'What's False,' "no students would be forced under its provisions to share bathrooms or locker rooms."

Have you read the letter? It directs, under the heading of Restrooms and Locker Rooms, " A school may provide separate facilities on the basis of sex, but must allow transgender students access to such facilities consistent with their gender identity. A school may not require transgender students to use facilities inconsistent with their gender identity or to use individual-user facilities when other students are not required to do so. A school may, however, make individual-user options available to all students who voluntarily seek additional privacy."

Snopes is wrong. Let's take your average American kid who expects to use a public bathroom designated for his or her sex. And that's most of them. (Their parents expect it, too). This average American kid will, contrary to Snopes, be forced to share a bathroom and/or locker room with people he or she considers to be of the opposite sex. "Oh, but there's the bit about individual-user bathrooms that schools may make available. Your kid can use those." The school may make them available. Then again, the school may not. And in a large district, individual-user bathrooms may be in high demand.

Snopes, I have used thee and loved thee. I now cast thee to the gutter without a second thought. I'll do my own fact-checking, starting with reading the documents in question, which diligence thou seem'st unable to manage.

The letter is not just about bathrooms. It's about supporting gender confusion by all. While Snopes masquerades as your friend in the quest for truth, it's deliberately downplaying the destruction of America's conscience.

It's the old foot-in-the-door technique. Will we accept this affront to the American religious right? Because the next one will be bigger. Conservatives and Christians may not be able to stop the tide of confusion and discrimination coming down on us, but we can speak out against it.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Public School Teacher as Homeschool Mom

The recent "guidance" from the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education may have you wondering about a subject that is taboo among public school teachers: homeschooling your own children. It's a tough topic, partly because so many people are ignorant of state laws regarding homeschooling. Besides thinking homeschooling is illegal, many people think it's neglectful. You'll have some assumptions to overcome.

One assumption people will make is that if you teach in a public school, you should be loyal to the system and all that it stands for. Meaning, keep your child in school. Another is that you won't be able to manage homeschooling and holding down your job--one or the other will suffer. Still another is that your child will automatically fall behind. I've heard it many times: the one-time homeschooled child re-enrolls in public school, and teachers whisper about placement testing to find out "which areas have the most gaps." But homeschooling doesn't have to leave gaps. It fills many that the public school cannot.

It is true that many parents who withdraw their children from public school in order to homeschool them are unprepared to do so. They may sign their child up for online classes, or they may try following a more traditional curriculum. Either way, it takes time and dedication to make it work, and some families just aren't up for the task.

But parents should not let the difficulty of the journey keep them from making a positive change in their child's education. God calls some parents to remove their children from public school. If you're one, know that public opinion ultimately does not matter. Homeschooling is legal, affordable, and fulfilling. And there are people and organizations there to help you.

This topic isn't purely academic to me. I was homeschooled K-12 by my mom, inspirational author Susan Page Davis. I know whereof I speak. Now, even though I teach in the public school system, I made the tough choice to homeschool one of my kids. My middle child is enrolled in the public school where I teach, while my husband and I homeschool our firstborn using Google Docs as a planning interface. I create lessons that align with the state standards, linking to relevant Internet content and tapping into Reagan's God-given interest in art and science. It's not perfect, but she's thriving--something she was not doing in public school.

Every homeschool family has a personal reason (or reasons) for choosing home as school. No matter your beliefs, home is the best place to teach values. Now that the White House is reaching in and illegally bullying students and staff of America's public schools, I expect homeschooling to attract a new wave of followers. If you're among them, here are a few parting thoughts.

1. The Left does not like homeschoolers. If you do it, do it well. Document everything. Have your child create a learning portfolio. Know your state's laws.
2. Join a homeschool co-op. Other parents can help supplement your teaching, and you and your kids will make lifelong, like-minded friends.
3. Teach your child the Word of God, and prayerfully trust God to bring that child into the flock.
4. Tap into select activities of the public school system, from music or PE class to extra-curriculars and even testing.
5. Embrace liberty. It comes from God because of His love.

Homeschooling is not for everyone. Do your research before taking the plunge. For starters, Reader's Digest recently posted 13 Things Homeschoolers Wish They Could Tell You. And here, read David French's reasons why it's time to declare independence from public schools.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Public Schools, Transgender Kids, and a Breakneck Run Toward Totalitarianism

"Have a nice weekend," Obama says to the world. "And here's my latest totalitarian manifesto for your reading pleasure."

What the Department of Justice and the Department of Education call "guidance," Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick calls "blackmail" and Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas "social engineering."

David French of National Review puts it bluntly: "You may not have realized it yet, but the Obama administration just destroyed the traditional American public school." The battle has come home. If you are a parent, it now affects your child. If you are a public school teacher, it now affects your workplace, your calling, your livelihood.

This isn't about what the Bible says about sex. (For biblical perspective on the transgender bathroom issue, I wouldn't steer you to the usual passages about sex just at this moment. Instead, check out Romans 9:20, and in the King James at that: "Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?") Instead, this is about what the United States Constitution says about government interference in the daily lives of American citizens.

Even before legalized gay marriage, the Obama administration was passing off the word "sex" in Title IX for the word "sexual orientation." Now schools are told, under threat of being defunded, to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their sexual orientation. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Students and staff alike will have a new lexicon to learn.

The letter, while not legally binding, has Texas considering cutting ties with government-funded schooling altogether. And how will Christian parents respond? Will there be a mass exodus from public schools? As Christian parents, what is the right response?

The Christian citizen should not react by saying, "I believe homosexuality and sex changes are sinful, so this is an outrage." We're talking about a fallen world, a human-made government, and a government school system. Expecting that system or that government or that world to follow the laws of the Bible would be naive (or worse). America does have a Constitution, however. It's there to protect the citizen from tyranny by government.

I commend to you the words of Ronald Reagan: "The most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help."

Obama may be on his way out, but voters have bleak options at the polls this election cycle. The likely nominees of both major parties appear all too willing to issue Obama-like fiats guiding individual Americans toward more help from the Government. Is it time to lose hope?

God would not have us despair. Paul wrote to the Romans, "Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." That's not just for when things are going well and the economy is good and there's a conservative President and Congress and Supreme Court doing things our way. It's for when we need hope the most. Paul certainly knew persecution for faith--he'd doled it out to others, and, after his conversion, endured it.

Teachers, let's continue in hope. And let's be praying.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

New Pencils for Finals Week

At the end of the year, it seems like nobody has a pencil or notebook paper. Here my Mother's Day flowers dress up a supply station for students heading into finals.

Monday, May 9, 2016

A Call to Christian Teachers

'. . .your Teacher will no longer hide Himself, but your eyes will behold your Teacher. Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left. And you will defile your graven images overlaid with silver, and your molten images plated with gold. You will scatter them as an impure thing, and say to them, “Be gone!”'
Isaiah 30:20b-22

The headlines are bleak. The world is shifting. It's easy to be discouraged by the way Christians specifically and Conservatives generally are being actively targeted. The Left is stepping up its game. Where is God?

The passage from Isaiah 30 is a glimpse of God's heart for Israel, and by extension, for Gentile believers. The world can shift its values, but we are asked not to follow--not to turn to the right or to the left. In fact, we are to live lives that are purer and higher, defiling our own idols, scattering them, disowning them. In a time when the world has disowned the concept of Sin, we are asked to be iconoclasts, smashers of idols.

The idols we have allowed ourselves have to go. Whatever it is that takes our eyes off God and our God-given calling has to go. A big thing can be an idol--envy, lust, self. A little thing like an iPhone can make a very pretty idol, too.

The world doesn't know where it's going or what it's doing. It just wants to go anywhere, so long as it's away from God. It'll take us all with it if it can. We have to stand somewhere and draw a line. We have to walk a path that God has blessed: "This is the way, walk in it."

We have to make the decision for ourselves. I can't force you and you can't force me. I hope that when I'm no longer here and my children have to choose to live for God or live for idols, they'll choose the right path, the one Way.

And these are things I can't mull over with my students, since I am a public school teacher who abides by the law. If it means so much to me to light the way to God for others, how can I stay in this line of work? How can I be at peace when I have to hold my peace to keep my job?

The answer is faith. One of my heroes is Christian missionary martyr Jim Elliot, who said,
"Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”

We must do all for the glory of God and do it diligently. Examples abound of Christians who said not a word but were lights for the Gospel.

Another missionary hero, Olympic athlete Eric Liddell, said,
“I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast! And when I run I feel his pleasure.”

Are you a writer? Write for God, every word, whether it be a grocery list or an editorial. Are you a teacher? Teach for Him. Your students may not hear you speak of your God, but they will learn of Him by knowing you. Faith makes it possible. Teachers, we can't see the path to its end, but there will be a voice behind us saying, "This is the way, walk in it."

And we do not walk by sight. We walk by faith.

Friday, May 6, 2016

"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same."
Ronald Reagan

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Teachers Pay Teachers

Find lessons and activities to end the year on a high note at Brevity, my store on Teachers Pay Teachers. The shop's motto is "Short and sweet for busy teachers."

Kindergarten, First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Homeschooler, Not Grade Specific - TeachersPayTeachers.com

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

New Ideas for Alternate-Ending Story Activities

Had a wonderful time today with my fellow Idaho Core Coach Network teachers and guests at our spring conference. My presentation on Choose Your Own Adventure narratives drew a small but enthusiastic group. They suggested strategies and applications I hadn't thought of (turns out Google Slides works pretty well for linking to new pages; a rubric would be helpful) and dove into the writing part with zest. Thanks for a fun session!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Choose Your Own Adventure: Writing and Publishing Narratives Using Digital Technology

Test driving my presentation on Choose Your Own Adventure: Writing and Publishing Narratives Using Digital Technology May 4 at the Idaho Core Coach Network regional meeting/spring conference in Twin Falls. You can access the handout here. Hoping to bring the session to a larger audience in October. In the meantime, visit my post on using Choose Your Own Adventure theory in the classroom here.

A Stance on Creationism and Evolution in the Public Schools

Many Christian teachers are required to teach evolutionary theory as fact in their classrooms. In some states, laws outline how cosmology and biology may and may not be taught. A simple Google search will reveal some of the more recent battles state legislatures have fought over evolution in schools.

See, for example, NPR's summary here or the Pew Research Center's take here.

Many Christians are tired of the topic. Is it really that important? Can't I be a Christian without believing the Biblical account of Creation?

The trouble is, the Creation account is everywhere in the Bible, and it's considered part of the Gospel (Rev. 14:6-7):
"And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; and he said with a loud voice, 'Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and springs of waters.'"

It's not something you can pry out of the Word of God. It's part of the final message to a dying earth: Believe in the Creator.

So how about teaching Creationism in the public schools?

The way I see it, we have to be realistic about the world in which we live. The public schools belong to the state and not the church. Just as I cannot expect my unsaved neighbor to obey God's laws in his home, I cannot expect a fallen government (and they are all fallen governments on this earth) to enact God-centered laws for their schools. There are several implications of this perspective.

First, if I'm a voter, I vote.

Second, if I'm a parent, I consider prayerfully whether to place my child in public school or to home school him or her or seek some other school. If choosing public school, I interview my child's teachers and dialog often with my child about my beliefs, knowing I can't force my child to believe the same way I do. I can only lead and pray. Every parent has to work through the school choice question for himself.

Third, if I'm a public school teacher, it means I look carefully at the expectations placed on me in my job. Will I be required to teach evolution? If so, how must I teach it according to state laws?

I would like to hear from other Christian teachers about this tough topic. The matter of Evolution vs. Creationism is no small matter to Christians. We may never convince others to agree with us, but that doesn't mean we should roll over and play dead. The God of the universe asks us to persevere. What does this mean to you? How has Creation affected your thinking about your profession?