Category Archives: Classroom Success

Brain-Based Education and Quantum Learning Core Concept 2: Atmosphere

This post is the third in a series of blogs focusing on the comprehensive model of education called “brain-based learning” and the Quantum Learning method that most effectively applies that model. It is our hope that this series will help you to learn more about both the model and the method. Utilizing this methodology in Sunday Church school lessons will enable teachers to heighten the learning ability of each student in their class.

 

In this part of our series on the brain-based learning program, Quantum Learning, we will explore the first of the five core concepts in this method of teaching. (If you missed our introduction to the program, you can find it here: https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2020/03/13/brain-based-education-and-quantum-learning-an-introduction/. Brain-based learning is a teaching methodology based on research that helps teachers to be more effective while also helping students to learn in the best way possible.) The five core components of the Quantum Learning System are Foundation, Atmosphere, Environment, Design, and Delivery. All five of these components work together, but even if you are only able to implement one of them in your Sunday Church school class, you and your students will greatly benefit.

This post will take a closer look at the second core concept, “Atmosphere.” In this context, the “atmosphere” of a classroom is not a physical aspect of the room. It is, rather, the general feeling that everyone in the room – teacher included – senses while there. This atmosphere of a classroom is critical to quality and quantity of the learning that can happen therein.

When the atmosphere of a classroom is optimal for learning, the following happens:
The students in the class feel that they are supported and that this is a safe place for them to be. Those in the classroom feel strongly that they belong there. The teacher sets a tone that implies that work will be done, but they do so in a comfortable and motivating way. Everyone in the classroom is working to develop their character, which in turn grows respect and rapport between students and between students and the teacher. Effort is acknowledged, every time that it is put forth, and learnings and achievements are all celebrated.

In any classroom seeking to be successful, but perhaps especially in the Sunday Church school classroom, the atmosphere should be full of joy. The teachers or catechists in a joy-filled Church school class aim to create a sense of community, and koinonia, or fellowship, in their classroom. One way they do so is by showing genuine interest in each student, caring and respecting each of them, and encouraging the students to respond to everyone else in the same way. If each person in the classroom is growing in the “Eight Keys” (the virtues), their growth will help to set such mutual respect in motion. Although the room should have a relaxed atmosphere, students should still be able to pray reverently. The “opening prayer” before each lesson should set a tone of holiness for the forthcoming lesson. Each lesson should contain joy and wonder. Catechists (and students alike) in a joyful class should acknowledge every effort that is made in the classroom and celebrate all learning and achievement.

The atmosphere of your classroom includes the way that you choose to speak to and with your students. It is heavily influenced by your rapport with them. Your personal attitude about Church, Church school and even about learning itself will all contribute to (or detract from, depending on your attitude!) the atmosphere of your classroom. If you work to grow an atmosphere of joy in your Sunday Church school classroom, you will create an atmosphere of joyful learning for both you and your students!

In the future, we will be taking a closer look at the other core components of the Quantum Learning system, and offering ways to apply this method in your Church school lessons.

 

Here are some links related to the atmosphere of a classroom:

***

As we wrote before, extending hospitality to our students is a very important way to work towards a healthy atmosphere in our classroom. Here’s what we wrote before, in case you missed it: https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2019/09/20/pursuing-church-school-success-offering-hospitality-in-the-classroom/

***

This Methodist-created document offers teachers a few important things to consider when planning for the atmosphere of their classroom. It suggests that students will respond best if “a friendly voice calls; everyone knows my name; there is a place for me at the table; I feel comfortable here; (and) God is in this safe place.” Read more about each of those learning-enhancing student impressions here: https://nccumc.org/christianformation/files/Classroom-Environment.pdf

***

“I learned that it was up to me to be happy. It wasn’t up to my students to make me happy, or my coworkers, or anybody else. Being happy was my job. So what if this year was a little tough? I needed to roll with it, continue to love my students, and move on. I needed to CHOOSE to be happy.” Read more about teacher Teresa Kwant’s decision to face time with her class, including 5 practical ways in which a teacher can choose happiness, here: https://teresakwant.com/choose-to-be-happy-teacher/

***

Check out the practical suggestions for improving the atmosphere of your classroom through classroom climate, stress reduction, and individual differences as suggested here: https://thesecondprinciple.com/optimal-learning/brain-based-education/

***

Boost  your students’ achievement by focusing on two of these ten boosters which are related to the atmosphere of your classroom. Booster #3 (Connections) and #7 (Engagement) will both help toward that end: http://www.jensenlearning.com/survey/Top-10-Boosters-Student-Achievement.pdf

***

“Building rapport and safety takes intention, compassion and risk on your part… The Quantum Teaching way suggests that from Day One, we get out from behind our content and policy, and just get to know our students and build rapport with them. It’s part of establishing an open, effective atmosphere…” (pp. 25-26) If you are interested in implementing the Quantum Learning Method in your classroom, you’ll find an entire chapter dedicated to the concept of Atmosphere in “Quantum Teaching: Orchestrating Student Success”  by Bobbi DePorter, Mark Reardon, and Sarah Singer-Nourie, published by Allyn and Bacon in 1999. It is available for sale here https://www.amazon.com/Quantum-Teaching-Orchestrating-Student-Success/dp/020528664X

 

Brain-Based Education and Quantum Learning Core Concept 1: Foundation

This post is the second in a series of blogs focusing on the comprehensive model of education called “brain-based learning” and the Quantum Learning method that most effectively applies that model. It is our hope that this series will help you to learn more about both the model and the method. Utilizing this methodology in Sunday Church school lessons will enable teachers to heighten the learning ability of each student in their class.

In this part of our series on the brain-based learning program, Quantum Learning, we will explore the first of the five core concepts in this method of teaching. (If you missed our introduction to the program, you can find it here: https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2020/03/13/brain-based-education-and-quantum-learning-an-introduction/. Brain-based learning is a teaching methodology based on research that helps teachers to be more effective while also helping students to learn in the best way possible.) The five core components of the Quantum Learning System include Foundation, Atmosphere, Environment, Design, and Delivery. All five of these components work best together, but even if you are only able to implement one of them in your Sunday Church school class, it will benefit both you and your students.

This post will take a closer look at the very first core concept, which the Quantum Learning Method calls “Foundation.” In this context, Foundation refers to the context or culture of the classroom. A classroom that is utilizing the Quantum Learning program has at its Foundation the aim of aligning the teacher and the students with a common goal: a learning experience that is successful and positive.

What can we do to make this happen? How can we reach this goal? The Quantum Learning System suggests that students’ and teachers’ goals align when together we create, communicate, and implement clear procedures and rules. Students in a classroom with clear procedures and rules know what is expected and can thus better function in class. This common Foundation prepares students to work towards particular values, while also making them aware of the goals that are set not just for themselves but also for their teacher. The classroom’s culture becomes one based on high expectations, and students rise to the occasion. When classroom procedures and the intentions for interactions are clear, the learning environment is greatly enhanced.

The Quantum Learning System offers several elements that guide the building of a solid Foundation in your classroom. A shared purpose will bring the classroom community together from day 1, and everything else will build on that purpose. Shared principles and values will help the community to support each other in working toward that purpose. Believing in each other’s abilities to learn strengthens the community. And finally, agreeing together on clear policies, procedures, and rules creates an environment that encourages learning and growth.

Quantum Learning recommends setting the purpose of the class with a clear statement, at the very beginning of the year. (For example, “By the end of the year, our goal is that everyone here will be able to explain why each of the major feasts of the Church year is an important part of our Orthodox Christian life.”) Teachers using the Quantum Learning System will enthusiastically transmit this purpose, and coach their students toward that end throughout their time together. Students and teachers alike are continually wondering “what’s in it for me?”, and this purpose begins to answer that recurring question.

Once the purpose of the class has been clearly communicated, it is time to build on that foundation. The 8 Keys of Excellence character principles set the tone for the classroom and act as shared standards which are essential to a successful learning environment. The Keys improve learning for everyone because both students and teachers operating under them feel cherished and respected. The Keys include: Integrity (acting in line with our values); Failure Leads to Success (learning from our mistakes); Speak with Good Purpose (speaking only honestly and kindly); This is it (maximizing our time); Commitment (taking positive steps towards making dreams happen); Ownership (accepting responsibility for our actions); Flexibility (changing the way we approach things if needed); and Balance (nurturing our whole self). These keys fit very well with the virtues which we are always aiming to live by in our Orthodox Christian life. Because of this, they should already be implemented in our Church school classroom. Let us take a moment to look closely at each key and see what we are doing to help our students (and ourselves!) live up to them, and how we can improve. It is important to incorporate the Keys into lessons whenever possible, to help students to see that they’re not just a “stand-alone lesson about a virtue”, but rather that they keep showing up all of the time, because they are actually an important part of our daily life. (Perhaps it would be helpful to create a set of physical keys out of poster board to hang on the classroom wall, as a reminder to ourselves and our students of this Foundation.)

Once our common purpose is established, and we are implementing the 8 Keys, it is important that everyone (both teachers and students) take a scrutinizing look at what we believe about learning and teaching. If we teachers come into a classroom believing that we or our students are not up to a task, we will be less successful in teaching them. If, instead, we choose to carry ourselves with confidence and to teach our students with the expectation they are able to learn what we’re teaching them, it will improve their success. This is an attitude adjustment, but not only that: it may also require physical actions, such as asides that point out to the student(s) what it is that successful students do in order to be successful (for example: “Successful students sit near the front of the room so that they can hear and see what is being taught. Because I know that you can learn this and that you want to grow towards our purpose of becoming more like Christ, I welcome you to sit in the front next Sunday.”). It is imperative that our students know that we truly believe in them and their ability to learn, and it is important that we find ways to communicate that belief to them.

The final piece that creates a successful classroom Foundation is establishing clear parameters and expectations. Clarity in agreements, policies, procedures, and rules gives everyone in the learning community a sense of security and reduces the fear that accompanies the unknown. In addition to being clearly communicated, each of these should have clear guidelines for action if they are not followed, and all should be created and agreed upon by the entire learning community.

This core concept of Foundation is an excellent way to build a classroom based on brain-based learning. But it is not simply a static event or experience: it is a continual process. Classrooms that are utilizing the Quantum Learning System will continually be pointing to their purpose; constantly building the 8 Keys in their life; daily expecting the best success from themselves and each other; and repeatedly revisiting and reclarifying their agreements, policies, procedures, and rules. A classroom with this sort of foundation at its base sets itself up for mutual encouragement and learning success.

In future weeks, we will be taking a closer look at the other four core components of the Quantum Learning system, and offering ways to apply this method in your Church school lessons.

Here are some links related to this component:

***

“Foundation is the framework: the shared purpose, beliefs, agreements, policies, procedures and rules that give you and your students the guidelines for operating within your learning community.” (p. 14) If you are interested in implementing the Quantum Learning Method in your classroom, you’ll find an entire chapter dedicated to the concept of Foundation in “Quantum Teaching: Orchestrating Student Success”  by Bobbi DePorter, Mark Reardon, and Sarah Singer-Nourie, published by Allyn and Bacon in 1999. It is available for sale here https://www.amazon.com/Quantum-Teaching-Orchestrating-Student-Success/dp/020528664X

***

Find more details about each of the 8 Keys of Excellence at this web page. Each key is fleshed out, including a series of introspective questions that will help students and teacher alike to consider how well they are living up to this key.  https://www.8keys.org/8keys_defined.aspx

***

Read more about the 8 Keys and about working together as a class to develop classroom procedures and agreements, in order to form a better foundation for your classroom, in this blog post: http://www.quantumlearning.com/qleblog/excerpts-excellence-teaching-learning-quantum-learning-system/

***

“Your students are generally terrible at making the “mental bridges” that link X behavior with Y outcomes. For example, when they put out extra effort, they don’t know that it sets the trend for a lifelong habit of persistence. Attribution, linking what they do to what they get or will get in the future turns out to have a sky-high effect…” p. 4-5 of this document speaks to building bridges by valuing goals (such as the purpose stated in a classroom’s Foundation) and daily pointing students back to that goal. This process helps students to see “what’s in it for me” and how what you are currently learning is relevant to their life. http://www.jensenlearning.com/survey/Top-10-Boosters-Student-Achievement.pdf

***

“There are many ways to build grit. Create a common vocabulary for it. Tell kids what it is, and what it is not. ‘Doing THAT shows me a lot of grit!’ Reinforce it every time you see a student pushing through obstacles. ‘I love the way you’re being so gritty with that task.’ Use reflection when ‘grit drops.’ How? You help them connect their values to the task to infuse new energy and effort for success.” pp. 9-10 of this document discuss the “nitty-gritty”, and suggests ways to encourage your students to connect their values with their work. (And there is an object lesson suggestion included that, if you do it, your students will never forget the value of bouncing back and trying again when something does not go right the first time!) http://www.jensenlearning.com/survey/Top-10-Boosters-Student-Achievement.pdf

***

 

Gleanings from a Book: “50 Ways to Improve Student Behavior: Simple Solutions to Complex Challenges” by Annette Breaux and Todd Whitaker

“50 Ways to Improve Student Behavior: Simple Solutions to Complex Challenges” by Annette Breaux and Todd Whitaker is a general-education resource full of ideas and suggestions that will be helpful to any teacher, including Sunday Church school teachers. It is not a religiously-oriented book, but many of the suggestions of ways that teachers can better connect with their students honor those students (even the “difficult” ones) in a very godly, loving manner. Teachers who read this book will be challenged to be the best that they can, and will likely re-read it over the years, in order to continue improving.

The book offers simple suggestions of ways that teachers can improve the environment and interactions that take place within their classroom. The book is based on the premise that “you have to reach a student before you can teach him” (preface), and suggests 50 ways that teachers can best reach their students. The underlying premise is that students are more likely to behave and be engaged in a classroom where they are welcomed, their presence is desired, and they feel valued.

Ideas include: writing to students (and their parents) before the year even begins; greeting every student as they come into your classroom each day; learning about your students’ individual interests; being enthusiastic about what you are presenting in order to breed enthusiasm for learning; being humble enough to admit mistakes rather than covering them up; bragging on your students to others instead of using guilt trips to modify behavior; and much more. Each of the 50 ideas is presented in a bite-sized mini-chapter, including the reasoning behind the idea, how/why it works, points to ponder related to the idea, and classroom strategy(ies) for successful application of the concept.

Orthodox Christians reading this book will see the love of Christ shining through the suggestions that it offers. Teachers who read and implement this book will be honoring and loving their students in an even better, more godly way. Although it’s not “preachy” or religious, it engenders the application of the virtues within a classroom setting. Teachers who read this book from a Christian perspective will feel encouraged to become a more caring teacher, and thus better follow the loving, caring example of Christ.

“50 Ways to Improve Student Behavior: Simple Solutions to Complex Challenges” by Annette Breaux and Todd Whitaker can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/50-Ways-Improve-Student-Behavior/dp/1596671327

Here are a few “gleanings” from the book, to give you a taste of the ideas therein:

***
“In a classroom where teachers separate themselves physically from their students, behavior suffers. Want a simple solution? Get out from behind your desk or podium and get right in the middle of your students and teach away! This simple act, on your part will send a message that you are ‘right in there’ with them.” (p. 14,  “50 Ways to Improve Student Behavior: Simple Solutions to Complex Challenges” by Annette Breaux and Todd Whitaker)

***

“When students think they have gotten you, you lose every time. When they begin pushing your buttons, there’s no stopping them. But wait a minute. Who showed them your buttons? You did… Students have to think that you are one of those teachers who just does not have any buttons… So what do you do when a student really aggravates you? …You maintain a calm, composed demeanor and deal with the misbehavior in a rational, controlled way.” (p. 45,  “50 Ways to Improve Student Behavior: Simple Solutions to Complex Challenges” by Annette Breaux and Todd Whitaker)

***

“In the classroom, we tend to see more of what we encourage… The very best teachers always ‘catch’ their students behaving, thus discouraging the students who are misbehaving. They know what to ignore and what to notice.” (p. 59,  “50 Ways to Improve Student Behavior: Simple Solutions to Complex Challenges” by Annette Breaux and Todd Whitaker)

***

“…take note of your actions and ask yourself if you are ever prone to intentionally embarrassing students in front of others. Do you single out students who are not paying attention so that everyone else can be made aware of that student’s lack of attention? …Do you ask for public apologies when a student has misbehaved in front of his peers? The list is endless, but we believe we have made our point… There simply is no justification for humiliation… We have yet to meet a truly effective teacher who uses humiliation as a form of behavior management.” (p. 67,  “50 Ways to Improve Student Behavior: Simple Solutions to Complex Challenges” by Annette Breaux and Todd Whitaker)

***

“…students like and need to feel that their teachers find them interesting. Convince a student that you like her and find her interesting, and you’ve forged a connection. When students feel connected to their teachers, they achieve more and behave better.” (p. 84,  “50 Ways to Improve Student Behavior: Simple Solutions to Complex Challenges” by Annette Breaux and Todd Whitaker)

***

“If one of your goals is that you aspire to be the perfect teacher, we advise you to run away from teaching… there is no perfect teacher. Even the very best teachers make mistakes. But one trait that separates the best from the rest is that the best teachers are not afraid to admit their mistakes, even (and especially) in front of their students… part of being a positive role model involves teaching students, through example, how to admit mistakes and how to use them as stepping stones to achievement.” (p. 89,  “50 Ways to Improve Student Behavior: Simple Solutions to Complex Challenges” by Annette Breaux and Todd Whitaker)

***

“Success comes from taking small, consistent steps toward a goal. Effective teachers make their students successful on a daily basis by making everything doable and chewable. Just as, in eating, small bites are better for digestion, in learning, small bites are better for success!” (p. 101,  “50 Ways to Improve Student Behavior: Simple Solutions to Complex Challenges” by Annette Breaux and Todd Whitaker)

***

“…a simple strategy is to get to know your students and find out who they are as people. Do you know your students’ dreams? …Do they know you care? Do you make a concerted effort to show them that you value them as real people with real dreams?” (p. 111,  “50 Ways to Improve Student Behavior: Simple Solutions to Complex Challenges” by Annette Breaux and Todd Whitaker)

***

“We have all experienced the phenomenon of telling a problem to someone who listens intently, only to realize that in sharing the problem we were able to devise our own solution. We often leave that person saying, ‘Thanks for all of your help.’ He often replies, ‘But I didn’t do anything.’ Oh, but he did. He listened… sometimes that is exactly what we need—for someone to simply listen to what we have to say. So listen, lisen, listen to your students.” (p. 124,  “50 Ways to Improve Student Behavior: Simple Solutions to Complex Challenges” by Annette Breaux and Todd Whitaker)

***

 

Pursuing Church School Success: Reaching Students Who Face Other Challenges

In this series, we featured resources and ideas that can increase the learning success of a Church school classroom. In each post, we shared some tips for classroom management and/or ideas for increased student participation. What we have shared is not a comprehensive list by any stretch of the imagination: there are many more ideas available. It is our hope that what we have encountered and passed on can act as a starting point toward enhancing the learning that takes place in our Church school classroom. This is the final post in the series.

For this final post of the series, we have gathered a handful of resources for challenges that we have not yet addressed, which teachers in this community may be facing regularly in their Sunday Church school classroom. The resources are as varied as the challenges they address. Perhaps you may find it helpful to review all of the resources, in the event that one or more would suddenly become helpful in your classroom.

Here is an overview of the challenges which these resources address. Students with invisible disabilities may have physical pain or mental or emotional instability which affects their learning. Students with Oppositional Defiant Disorder may unintentionally disrupt the classroom as they try to make sense of their world. Students who are constantly wiggling may have a physiological or cognitive reason for doing so; whether or not they have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Students who struggle with anxiety may need additional margins or space in which to decompress. Gifted children may react intensely to their world; perhaps even with unpredictable angry outbursts because of the difference of their mental capacity from that of their peers.

Each of these challenges is unique and requires a different approach, so we will share a link or two related to each. It is our hope that one or more of these links will be helpful for your Sunday Church school classroom. If none seem necessary at the moment, hang on to the list; next year could be entirely different in your classroom!

Here are the links that we found related to the above topics. Do you face any of these challenges in your classroom? If so, what has worked for you? What related resources would you recommend to the community? Please share them below!

***

Some time ago, we shared the following resources that can be helpful to Sunday Church school teachers who are working with students with invisible disabilities. Here they are again, in case you missed them the first time around:

https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2018/12/07/a-handful-of-resources-to-help-us-better-care-for-children-with-invisible-disabilities/

***

Here’s a wish list for churches, written by one person who is experiencing an invisible illness. This list applies to Sunday Church schools, as well. https://morningcoffee.blogspot.com/2011/09/i-found-out-just-now-that-someone-out.html

***

“Their disabilities are invisible to our eyes but complicate their every waking minute. As sojourners in a world that seems too bright, too loud, too harsh — too much — they need our love, as an echo of the perfect love they’ll find in Christ.” Read more about the reality of individuals with special needs who sojourn in our midst here: https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/not-wired-for-this-world?fbclid=IwAR3o

***

Find a helpful definition of Oppositional Defiant Disorder, as well as 9 hands-on steps to work with a student with this disorder, here: https://www.merakilane.com/dealing-with-oppositional-defiant-disorder-18-tips-for-parents-and-teachers/

***

What happens if one of our students is unable to “sit still and listen” or doesn’t turn around and look when we’re talking to them? Why is this happening, and what should we do about it? It may be occurring because the student is simply tired of being still during Liturgy, or it could signify more. Learn what different types of movement from your student could indicate, and how you can handle each, here: http://mcnattlearningcenter.com/files/Turning-Point.pdf 

***

Teachers of students who may have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder will find helpful suggestions here:

https://incm.org/what-to-do-with-the-movers-and-shakers-in-your-sunday-school-class/

***

Find a host of suggested ways to help students who struggle with anxiety, here: https://adayinourshoes.com/anxiety-iep-504-accommodations/

***

Gifted people can be very intense. This intensity can affect their relationships, but it is not always a bad thing. Find 11 suggested strategies for embracing the intensity of gifted people here: https://reneeatgreatpeace.com/embracing-gifted-intensity/#_a5y_p=3284209

***

The mother of gifted children (who sometimes has angry outbursts) has written this piece to help others understand and learn how to best work with her children: https://www.notsoformulaic.com/angry-gifted-kid/

***

 

Pursuing Church School Success: a Handful of Resources for Welcoming Students with Special Needs and Handicaps

In this series, we will feature resources and ideas that can increase the learning success of a Church school classroom. In each post, we will share some tips for classroom management and/or ideas for increased student participation. What we share is not a comprehensive list by any stretch of the imagination: there are many more ideas available. It is our hope that what we proffer can act as a starting point toward enhancing the learning that takes place in our Church school classroom. 

Every student who steps into our classroom is unique, and has needs that are individual to them. It is a great challenge for a teacher to teach such a great variety of individuals and lead them together through a lesson or learning time. It is a challenge, yes, but it is also a great honor and blessing.

From time to time, God gives a teacher the gift of a student whose needs are so unique that the teacher has the opportunity to seek new ways to teach. The student may have physical limitations, social struggles, or mental challenges that require special accommodations in a classroom setting. At first, it may be tempting for the teacher to greet those challenges with fear or dread, simply because they are new and different. However, it is our duty as Christians to love our fellow humans so much that we will help them in any way that we can. It is our honor as servants of God to extend mercy as completely as we are able. And it is our job as teachers to rise above our hesitance and learn all that we can about our students’ needs, then make the necessary adjustments in our classroom space, our teaching style, and our expectations of our students. When we take the time and effort to do so, we will not only do a better job of welcoming our students, but we will also be better able to receive from them the gifts that God intends to bestow.

In this series on pursuing Church school success, we would be remiss to not share a few resources that help Sunday Church school teachers to prepare to meet the needs of their students with handicaps or other special needs. We have encountered a few materials that can help teachers to teach such students. There are so many different kinds of handicaps and special needs that we will neither be able to include all of them, nor thoroughly address any of them. However, we will share a handful of assets which we thought may be of help to the community in this regard. We will begin by sharing general resources as well as some which focus on physical challenges and limitations. It is our hope that these will be a helpful starting place for us all as we seek to better love and help our students with extraordinary challenges.

May the Lord have mercy on us and on our students, as we learn how to learn together!

 

Here are some links that you may find helpful as you work with students with special needs and/or handicaps. Do you have any related resources that you would recommend to the community? Please share them below!

***

This article may be a decade old, but the thoughts it contains and the questions that follow would be a valuable basis of a discussion amongst any group of Sunday Church school workers who desire to better welcome students of all abilities and needs. https://www.oca.org/parish-ministry/parishdevelopment/disability-and-communion

***

Summer Kinard’s book, “Of Such is the Kingdom: A Practical Theology of Disability” is a wonderful Orthodox resource that helps parishioners to embrace each other, whatever their challenges may be. If you have not yet read it, we encourage you to do so, as it will bolster your love for Christ by helping you to better value and love everyone around you. We wrote about this book here: https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2019/10/25/gleanings-from-a-book-of-such-is-the-kingdom-a-practical-theology-of-disability-by-summer-kinnard/

***

Summer Kinard’s website offers so many resources (many listed here: https://summerkinard.com/special-needs-resources/). Check out her free month of hands-on Sunday Church school lessons (which offers a glimpse into a teaching style that reaches a variety of needs of the students in your class) here: https://summerkinard.com/2019/08/11/free-month-of-hands-on-Sunday-school-curriculum/

***

Those among us who “thought we had the advantages in life… find that on a spiritual level we can be severely disabled compared to our brothers and sisters who lack those intellectual giftings, but whose spiritual life can be marked by abilities and giftings we never suspected.” Read this perspective in this reflection on what the scriptures have to say about those in our midst with special needs: https://www.bethinking.org/human-life/a-biblical-view-of-disability

***

“Church, we have a great opportunity to show love! The need is great. Kids are hurting. Adults are too. Families are struggling. The first step in being able to help is understanding the need. Jesus met people where they were, and so can we.” So concludes this presentation of the findings of one study on disability and the church. Read the findings here: https://church4everychild.org/2016/02/09/what-are-the-stats-on-disability-and-church/#_edn1

***

This webinar can be a helpful starting point for Sunday Church school teachers and/or parishes desiring to better embrace the parishioners in their midst who face disabilities and other special needs:

https://www.goarch.org/en/-/the-church-and-families-of-children-with-special-needs-webinar

***

Check out this list of resources: https://www.goarch.org/-/families-of-children-with-special-needs-resource-list

***

This article offers suggestions of ways to make a church building more accessible for those with physical challenges. The article is not written from an Orthodox perspective, but many of the accessibility suggestions can be helpful as we plan (or alter) our physical space, to make it more accomodating. https://churchesbydaniels.com/four-ways-accommodate-special-needs-church-design/

***

Something as seemingly innocuous as food can be very dangerous to someone who is allergic to certain ingredients. Summer Kinard’s free printable is a quick and easy way for parish members to communicate what is in the foods that they bring, so that people with allergies can be aware as they choose what to eat at coffee hour or in the Sunday school hall. It is so important that we take steps like this to show every member that their parish cares enough about them to ensure their safety. https://summerkinard.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/allergen-check-list-free-printable.pdf

***

In Russia and Greece, parishes are including their deaf members by signing the liturgy. It is beautiful to behold, as evidenced in the video clips found here. https://orthocath.wordpress.com/2010/11/17/orthodox-christians-who-are-deaf-and-blind/
***

In addition to Byzantine music, you will find some liturgical texts in braille at this page: http://www.stanthonysmonastery.org/music/BrailleByzantineMusic.html#Links

***

In this article, a mom of a child with a genetic skin disorder expresses her wishes with regard to what happens when other children notice her daughter and her challenges. She says, “What I wish you would do? I wish you would leave this conversation with your children open to me and my family, so it could become with us, instead of about us…When your child points and tells you to look, I wish you would respond clearly, ‘Yes, look at that sweet little girl. It looks like she’s having so much fun playing, just like you are!’” Read the article in its entirety here: https://community.today.com/parentingteam/post/dear-parents-what-i-wish-you-would-do-when-your-child-comments-on-my-daughters-special-needs

***

Here are helpful tips for those in our community who do not have a child with a disability, for awareness: https://www.facebook.com/ellenstumbowriter/videos/371339980392324/

 

Pursuing Church School Success: Working with Difficult Students

In this series, we will feature resources and ideas that can increase the learning success of a Church school classroom. In each post, we will share some tips for classroom management and/or ideas for increased student participation. What we share is not a comprehensive list by any stretch of the imagination: there are many more ideas available. It is our hope that what we proffer can act as a starting point toward enhancing the learning that takes place in our Church school classroom. 

Have you ever experienced something like this: right in the middle of a Sunday Church school lesson, one student attempts to derail the class by creating unrelated noise, making faces, and/or answering questions with sass or inappropriate answers. What do you do in this scenario? How can you best care for and help this student, while also continuing to teach the rest of the class?

We set out to find some ideas for how to handle difficult students (or students having a difficult moment), and found quite a wide range of ideas. We will share a few of them with you, in the event that any of them will be helpful. Should you ever find yourself in a situation similar to the one described above, perhaps having read several of these ideas will help.

As always, we would really love to hear what you do. How do YOU handle difficult students or difficult moments in the classroom? Please share your wisdom with the community, so that we can all benefit and better lead our Sunday Church school students to Christ and His Church!

Here are the links that we found, in no particular order:

***

Have you found any of the 10 “tricks of the trade” mentioned here to be helpful as you face a student that’s disrupting the class? https://ministry-to-children.com/manage-behavior-problems/?
***

The author of this article suggests that teachers pretend that their most difficult students are well behaved, explaining why this suggestion works, and how to carry it out. “Practically, you’re going to smile and joke with them like you do those students who are near perfectly behaved. You’re going to make eye contact with them. You’re going to believe in them and have the expectation that they will follow rules and behave as you desire.

Although you’ll never stop being a vigilant observer of all your students, you’ll find yourself quite naturally refraining from hovering and micromanaging, warning and reminding, and glaring and glowering around them… Your stress level will drop a few notches and a sea of tension will drain from your classroom… But the real benefit resides within the heart, mind, and self-worth of the difficult students themselves.When you treat them like everyone else, they begin to feel like a valued member of the class.”

Though the article is not specifically Orthodox, showing this degree of acceptance and mercy to all is certainly how we Orthodox Christians should be treating our fellow humans! Read the article in its entirety here:
https://www.smartclassroommanagement.com/2017/01/07/why-you-should-pretend-your-most-difficult-students-are-perfectly-well-behaved/

***

Many of the ideas offered here for working with difficult students (and/or a challenging class) are for a regular classroom with all-day classes. However, a handful of them can certainly apply to a Sunday Church school class. The tenth suggestion is particularly important, regardless of class size or length:

http://dragonsdencurriculum.blogspot.com/2015/08/ive-lost-control-now-what.html

***

The author of this article offers four strategies for working with students who are disrupting a lesson. The  strategy of addressing sensory needs is not an oft-considered strategy, but it should be!

https://educationtothecore.com/2015/11/strategies-for-disruptive-behavior/

***

The writers of this article emphasize again and again the importance of communication: whether while setting up, justifying, or enforcing expectations, communication will need to be clear in any classroom, especially one which includes difficult students. https://www.thoughtco.com/tips-on-handling-difficult-students-2081545

***

What about older students with rude or disrespectful attitudes? This transcripted podcast offers some helpful suggestions, including the following twist in our way of thinking: “A discipline problem is anything that disrupts instruction. Anything. Which means that a child can be a discipline problem, but it also means that a teacher can be a discipline problem. When you choose not to escalate the situation as a teacher, you choose not to become a discipline problem, because the moment that you start getting in the last word with that student, you now are playing that student’s game. What you’re trying to do is get the student on your page, not get on the student’s page.” Read more (or listen to the podcast) here:

https://thecornerstoneforteachers.com/truth-for-teachers-podcast/respond-rude-disrespectful-student-attitudes/

***

What if a “difficult” student is in truth genuinely upset about something, and not just trying to disrupt the class? This article encourages teachers to think about themselves and how they would react to an upset student, long before they experience something like this, so that they are able to better react in the moment. The author encourages teachers to think through what pushes their buttons, how they feel when their buttons are pushed, and how it impacts their relationship with the students. (The article also includes 5 ways to deescalate an upset student.) Read the article in its entirety here: http://friendofreading.blogspot.com/2015/08/5-ways-to-deescalate-upset-students-in_15.html

***

What if you don’t have just one difficult student in class? In this article, a classroom management expert addresses the concern of a reader who had not one or two, but SIX difficult, intentionally disruptive students in class.

https://www.smartclassroommanagement.com/2016/03/12/how-to-handle-six-disrespectful-students-in-one-class/

***

Pursuing Church School Success: Utilizing Effective Classroom Consequences

In this series, we will feature resources and ideas that can increase the learning success of a Church school classroom. In each post, we will share some tips for classroom management and/or ideas for increased student participation. What we share is not a comprehensive list by any stretch of the imagination: there are many more ideas available. It is our hope that what we proffer can act as a starting point toward enhancing the learning that takes place in our Church school classroom. 

Unfortunately, not every Sunday Church school student is delighted to be in class, or is enthralled with learning in the Sunday Church school setting. This truth is evidenced by the fact that there are times when students willfully act out, disrespect the teacher, and/or break classroom rules. What is a Church school teacher to do when that happens? How can the teacher best respond? What consequences are the most effective in a classroom?

We have gathered a few resources that address this issue. They are primarily geared towards regular education classrooms, but contain information and ideas that we deemed helpful to the Church School community, as well. We hope that if you are struggling to find appropriate and effective consequences for behaviors in your class, you will find encouragement and help in one or more of these sources.

Across the board, we noticed a few themes. First, effective consequences reflect a teacher’s love for and respect of the student. (Orthodox Christians should be able to excel in this loving response to our students, since we are commanded to love everyone, anyway!) Another theme is the importance of consistency: that is, fairly metering out consequences and sticking to them without waffling, wavering, or bargaining. A third theme suggests that consequences should be logical results of the behavior, a “you break it, you fix it” type of mentality in lieu of a random, disconnected result. These are just a few themes we encountered as we read about this topic.

May we each do what we can to set in place – and then enforce – the best possible consequences in our classroom. Some forethought, clear communication with our students, and consistent follow-through will go a long way in helping our Sunday Church school students know what consequences to expect. Then, if they should one day choose to require those consequences, they will not be surprised.

Here are some links on classroom consequences that you may find helpful. What has worked for you? What related resources would you recommend to the community? Please share them below!

***

“Effective classroom managers expect good behavior and follow through with consequences equitably when it is not displayed.” Consistency in consequences is the fourth of five characteristics of an effective classroom manager, as suggested here: https://minds-in-bloom.com/effective-classroom-managers-do-these-5/

***

We do not do our students any favors when we offer them choices instead of consequences. According to this article, “our job is to teach our students how to overcome obstacles, not avoid them with excuses and manipulation… When you offer choices in exchange for not disrupting the class, when you lighten the workload and remove responsibility, you are in every sense giving up on them. You are in every sense telling them that they’re not worth holding accountable.” Read more about this here: https://www.smartclassroommanagement.com/2015/02/07/why-you-should-never-give-choices-instead-of-consequences/

***

This article brings to light three mistakes teachers often make when enforcing consequences. It also offers the words you can say when doing so: https://www.smartclassroommanagement.com/2015/08/01/3-big-mistakes-teachers-make-when-enforcing-consequences/

(The end of the article links to this related article, in which teachers are given details on how to let students know what their consequences will be: https://www.smartclassroommanagement.com/2012/03/17/how-best-to-inform-students-of-a-consequence/)

***

This blog post offers five consequences to misbehavior. Each consequence will teach correct behavior: https://www.heidisongs.com/blogs/heidi-songs/consequences-that-teach-better-behavior-instead-of-punish

***

Here’s an article that was written in response to one teacher’s inquiry: The teacher was struggling because there were 6 students in the class who were disrupting things for everyone else, and the teacher needed help to know how to handle those students. Read the excellent response to the teacher’s questions, here: https://www.smartclassroommanagement.com/2016/03/12/how-to-handle-six-disrespectful-students-in-one-class/

***

Find suggestions for logical consequences to misbehavior here: https://www.weareteachers.com/logical-consequences-in-the-classroom-2/

***

Among other useful things, this blog post contains a helpful chart which pits consequences vs. punishments, clarifying the difference between the two. It also offers useful criteria for creating consequences. http://www.cuppacocoa.com/how-to-use-consequences-effectively/

***

This blog post suggests ways to create and enforce logical consequences in a way that communicates love and respect to the students who choose to need them. The post is geared towards teens, but teachers of students of other ages will benefit from reading it, as well. https://www.mathgiraffe.com/blog/logical-consequences-for-teens

***