A Term of Lessons

Normally teachers teach. That is the idea of teaching. This term, however, I have been taught a lot. Over the last 11 weeks I have not only been completing my normal teaching load but I have also been learning how to teach English to migrants. From teaching the big ideas in literature I have had to move to teaching sentences in the simple present tense. After using the complicated meta language of English I have had to use simple descriptions and definitions. It has been hard.

I speak too fast. My writing is unintelligible. My words are too big …  for me it has been a head spinning time of redefining my teaching.

But I have learnt much more. I have learned about courage, hope, resilience, persistence … human qualities that we, in our comfortable lifestyles, have forgotten about. The stories that the refugees and migrants have told me of their past lives have reminded me of the best we can discover in human character. Last month I mentioned “Ahmed” who had to wait five years to be reunited with his wife and children. I didn’t mention another man whose eyes welled with tears when he told me about his wife and eight year old son. His son was one year old when he last saw him. That waiting requires courage and patience.

I have learned about other cultures and attitudes. To be honest, I have learned more than I have taught.

One final thought. According to polls Australians seem to love the “turn the boats back” policy held to by our major parties. Maybe it has saved lives by stopping drownings at sea. My challenge to our politicians and the general public is to rub shoulders with our migrants and refugees. My wager would be that our nation would have a far more compassionate policy. A policy that actually reflected the best of our history of taking in the alien and stranger into our midst.

Categories: Teaching, Uncategorized | Tags: , | 5 Comments

The Seven Up Series

7 upThe “7 Up” series is often described as the best documentary ever made. Starting with a one off program in 1964 it explored the future of British society through the lives of a group of 7 year old children.

Seven years later Michael Apted, who had been a researcher on the original program revisted the young people and continued exploring the direction of their lives. Last year 56 Up was released. Apted had returned to their lives with a film crew every 7 years for nearly 50 years.

I have always admired these people as they have had their lives audited and scrutinised by Apted and then the viewer. Yet because of their sacrifice in this process we have a record of changes, large and small, in British society over a 50 year period. From the class system, attitudes to marriage and children, through to the rise of technology and the changes in fashion, have all been recorded – both consciously and unconsciously. Their lives, and in some real sense, our Western lives have been etched into history.

As a teacher I have used this resource in a variety of ways. The series chronicles human decisions, character, history and society. However I have always been conscious that we are dealing with the lives of real people and that these lives have been filtered through the interviewing and editing by Michael Apted and his team. Whenever I use this series I remind my students to be respectful because the people are not Hollywood creations but fellow human beings with strengths and weaknesses, hopes and fears just like the rest of us.

I have never been disappointed by my classes responses. Yes they may like one person more than another but we have that in life anyway. It also wonderful to see how students respond to decisions that the participants make and modify their views and responses. I will relate some of these in the future.

I admire all the people in this project simply because of their courage and openness. When we see their lives we get a glimpse of our own.

I hope to write more in the days ahead.

Categories: Education, Family, people i admire, Reflections, Teaching, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

Carrot or Stick?

Sand Desk at the Jamtli Folk Museum, Ostersund Sweden

Sand Desk at the Jamtli Folk Museum, Ostersund Sweden

Carrot or stick?
Which is
the teacher’s best friend?

A word in season,
A well timed smile,
A friendly nudge,
will melt ice
soften frowns
and make hearts,
minds and hands
willing and wanting
to learn.

Categories: Education, Poem, poetry, Teaching | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Parents and Education

Yesterday we had our first Parent Teacher interviews for the year. One of the outstanding characteristics of these interviews is that these parents are passionately concerned about their children’s success. They want to partner with the teachers to enable their son or daughter to achieve their best.

That school/family partnership is a crucial element for a child’s success. This liaison enables the discovery of learning styles and intelligence areas. Weaknesses can be worked on and strengths developed. For the student he or she is aware that there is a solid support team upholding their education.

The examples parents set for their children is also important. Do children see their parents as life long learners? Do they see mum and dad expanding their horizons through the books read, films watched and courses taken? Does this “learning” inform the family and meal time conversations? The family atmosphere can have a huge impact on whether a child has a positive or negative view of learning.

When I was teaching in the UK I came across the phrase, “Second generation disaffection with school.” It refers to parents who had a poor experience of school which in turn impacts  their lack of encouragement or negativity with regard to their own children’s education. For the teacher the consequences are obvious – unmotivated students who disrupt classes and the education of their peers. It can become a disastrous downward spiral.

The most prominent influence I have observed over the years is a dad’s influence on his son(s). As a general rule, if the dad doesn’t read, his son will not read. Or to put it positively, a dad who reads, gives his son(s) a powerful example that will radically influence his child’s education. All the encouragement from mum can be outweighed by dad’s attitude – positive or negative.

Our children are no longer competing for jobs with their peers in a school (I must stress that education is not just about jobs!), but in the global economy, with students in schools all across the world. The support, encouragement and example of parents is, consequently, also important. Many of the jobs that our children will enter into have not even been invented yet. So the best example a parent can give is an attitude of life long, on going learning. Personal growth becomes an attribute of how we live life.

This attitude also mitigates against boredom and complacency. It make life exciting and positive.  Learning and discovery becomes part of who we are as complete people.  It will also stop us from being passive consumers of entertainment, but that is a topic for another day.

Categories: Education, Teaching | Tags: | 7 Comments

Report Writing Time

The discordant output of
youthful recorder players
wafts in through the open windows;
Students busily tapping keyboards 
and scratching pens on paper;
Older students regretting the wasted evenings;
Others rushing to teachers’ offices
in a last minute flurry; 
Teachers with stress lines etched like road maps
on their tired faces;
Tolerance rubbed thin
by demands and expectations
exams and essays;
The sun’s warmth beckons 
for Summer to come quickly,
but the “to do” list is too long to notice
its invitation …
It must be “Report Writing Time”!
Categories: Education, Reflections, Teaching, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Family Disfunction and Teach-ability.

I have been reflecting lately on the task of the teacher and how it has changed in the last 40 years. The most dramatic change in that time has been the growing instability of the family. I recognise that the family has always been a volatile place but its volatility has increased markedly.

Let me put my reflection succinctly: unless the child is remarkable, children’s education is radically affected, in a negative manner, the greater the instability at home. If the home is a place of tension, anger, argument and uncertainty, the child’s ability to concentrate at school is adversely affected. There are some children who make a conscious decision to put home strife behind them and work hard at school. However, the vast majority of children do not have the maturity or emotional stamina to achieve that aim.

My challenge is simple ( some may say simplistic) yet profound. Adults in charge of children must seriously consider the atmosphere of the home if they wish their children to succeed at school. Adults are the adults. They have the responsibility, beyond their own desires and grievances, to ensure a harmonious well ordered house for the emotional, and I would add, spiritual, well being of the household.

In one place I was teaching, the staff spoke of “second generation disaffection with school”. To put it simply, disfuctional undereducated people were raising the next generation of disfunctional even more uneducated and unprepared children.

My plea: Those of us in charge of children have a huge responsibility for these young minds and souls. The way we structure and order our homes is important. Life has enough trauma with the unexpected events that life throws at us. The home should be a secure oasis: a place of refuge and comfort – not a battlefield.

With hindsight parents often remark how few years their children were at home and at school. These years seem to go so quickly. Parents and guardians do not have the luxury for petulant self obsession. Their responsibility is to the young minds and hearts in their care. The child’s future and future welfare depends on it.

Categories: Christianity, Education, Family, Teaching, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

The New Conspirators: A Review

The New Conspirators: Creating the future one mustard seed at a time, Tom Sine, IVP 2008.

In 1980 Tom Sine challenged western Christians in the “Mustard Seed Conspiracy” to use their wealth in small seemingly insignificant ways to make a real difference in the world. He heightened that call in 1999 in “Mustard Seed versus Mac World” when he explored the dangers of Globalism and the consumer culture and suggested ways in which, via the mustard seed metaphor, Christians/the church could respond in Biblical ways.

“The New Conspirators” maintains the metaphor and the call. Written before the GFC occurred, it nevertheless says much to challenge us .

He starts off by taking us on a journey, exploring how “new conspirators” are being and doing church, in what Michael Frost would call this “Exilic” age.  Sine explores 4 models: Emerging, Missional, Mosaic and Monastic. I found this section particularly exciting as it revealed ways in which church can be relevant in an age that (in western cultures) is rapidly turning its back on the Christian faith. This section also shows that there is no one answer and that our God given creativity is a key to how we make ourselves relevant.

In the next section Sine asks to what extent globalisation is shaping our culture (and imagination) . This scenario becomes the basis for his call that Christians have been called to create life transforming alternatives – alternatives that take regard for all sections of society – in particular the vulnerable.

He concludes by giving us five imaginative challenges with regard to the world as it is, stewardship, mission, community and entrepreneurship.

This is a challenging book, but unlike many that can be deflating by revealing a disheartening picture that is too immense, Sine’s mustard seed approach, littered with current examples of effective action, is spirit enlivening. If you are challenged by what it means to be a relevant Kingdom worker in this post GFC globalised economy, in which the Kingdom of Christ is being marginalised – take heart and instruction from this book. After all, it only requires a mustard seed.

P.S. This book has handy questions at the end of each chapter that can be used to engender discussion and action.

Categories: Book Review, christian, Christianity, Church, Teaching | Leave a comment

15 Reasons Why Christian Education is Important

  1. Sound Christian Education takes the Bible seriously.
  2. Truth is seen as absolute.
  3. Christian Education believes a Christian worldview can make a positive difference.
  4. It gives students a strong foundation in a world of shifting values and morals.
  5. Christian Education recognizes God’s sovereignty and Christ’s Kingship, and …
  6. therefore God’s claims over all of creation are taken seriously.
  7. No subject or curriculum is outside the orbit of God.
  8. Students are recognised for who they are: sinners in need of God’s grace in Christ.
  9. Also students are given a vision of God’s Kingdom and their place in it.
  10. Good Christian education recognises the unique, God given gifts and talents of the students and
  11. challenges them to achieve their amazing potential.
  12. It assists parents in their God given mandate.
  13. Sound Christian Education treats the student as a whole person whose aim is to grow in Christ-likeness..
  14. A foundation in God and His world prepares the student for tomorrow.
  15. Healthy Christian Education develops critical thinking by having the courage to explore other world views from the perspective of its own worldview.

What reasons can you add?

As this post proves to be regularly accessed I have included some other sites:


http://www.cen.edu.au/   Christian Education National

http://csa.edu.au/  Christian Schools Australia

A wonderfully informative website:




http://www.csionline.org/  Christian Schools Internation

http://aacs.org/ American Association of Christian Schools


http://www.christianschoolstrust.co.uk/find_a_school  Christian Schools Trust UK

Categories: christian, Education, Faith, Family, Future, Jesus, Teaching | Tags: , , , , , | 22 Comments

Who Made the Moon Part 2

 A continuation of my short review of Sigmund Brouwer’s book

I encourage Christians to read this book and struggle with his ideas. He challenges us to know our science before we make uninformed comments which make us look foolish. He makes a compelling argument for Theistic Evolution.

But I am uncomfortable about a number of things. The distinction Brouwer makes between Evolution and Evolutionism is weak. He suggests one comes from a world view and the other from well considered science. He fails to recognise that no human endeavour is neutral. We all come from faith and value positions (often unconsidered!) in all our life’s actions.

However the biggest problem I have is a profoundly theological one. The book fails to make room for the “Fall”. This is profound because it is the whole “raison d’etre” for salvation history: From the first glimpse of the gospel in Genesis 3 to the Cross of Christ. If there was no first Adam who consciously rebelled, why was there need for the second? I believe the historicity of the first Adam is crucial in our understanding of Jesus Christ.

Is it worth reading? I believe it is. It has challenges for the Christian to take science seriously and to engage in intelligent, not blindly emotional, debate. It challenges parents to prepare their children for the world of scientific thought. It reminds Christians that they do need to have an answer to the faith they possess in a sceptical world. These are all crucial issues which Brouwer raises and ones for which we need competent answers – if not his, then our own.

Categories: Book Review, christian, Christianity, Education, Faith, Family, Teaching | Leave a comment


WHO MADE THE MOON:  A Father Explores How Faith and Science Agree

by Sigmund Brouwer

In this articulate book the author sets out, for his children’s sake, to show how science and the Bible agree. It is a journey fraught with pitfalls as both conservative Christians and athiest scientists will be offended by much of what he writes.

Brouwer writes with grace and insight and one cannot argue with his sensitivity towards the topic and its emotional tensions. However, his overriding concern is that the creation debate does not thwart young Christians (in age or maturity) from growing in their faith.

With meticulous research he strives to show how the “Big Bang Theory” is supported by the creation accounts in Genesis. He adds to this the voices of other conservative evangelical Christians (such as Billy Graham) or Christian bodies that support or do not decry the “old earth” view of the creation account.

The big questions is, of course, are his views correct? Or, one could add, do his views weaken the very thing he is striving to support and strengthen – the Christian faith.

… to be continued

Categories: Book Review, Education, Faith, Family, Teaching | Leave a comment

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