Tag Archives: Students

Prayerful thoughts on closing 2018-19 school year, summer

Certainly I have not kept it secret that I am a retired educator, and also there is no secret that I served in the pulpit for 10 years in a bi-vocational role.  Therefore surely there are no surprises that my thoughts for this week are closely connected to the ending of the school year.

The postings on Facebook are flooded with graduation notes, and I cannot help reflect, especially on the ones that are students of my former students graduating.  

I have been watching one whose sons are graduating one from college and entering into the world of professional football, and his brother graduating from high school moving into college football. Oddly their dad was a basketball player, not football; but the pride he shows and the quality of athletes he and his wife have raised is evident.  And I admit a sense of pride seeing the postings.

Another graduation I watched via postings was a former student from an entirely different program who walked across the stage getting her masters degree.  I feel so privileged to be part of her academic journey.

I could continue listing graduations for all levels:  from pre-school to kindergarten, from kindergarten to elementary, from elementary to middle school and middle school to high school and the list goes on.

Each graduation marks the end of one set of struggle,s but also notes the beginning of the next challenges.  The resilience of our young people can be amazing, but there are those who may never experience the emotional high of moving from one transition to another for any number of reasons.  

Consider all the children who live in settings where there is no Christian foundation.  The values outlined in the Bible are unknown to these young ones and there may be no sense of being valued as an individual.  They may not even experience positive child-parent relationships.

The children who escape from negative home environments rely on school for a sense of safety, for being valued as an individual, to receive unconditional love, not to mention the physical needs of clothing, food and shelter that are provided during through school systsems.

And then comes the end of the school year and the students begin acting out when for months they have been doing so well. Educators know; and dread what is ahead for these students.  They must find ways to let go of their students with prayers for their continued well-being.

Today, I encourage all Christians, all people of faith, to join in concentrated prayers for the young people who are closing another school year.  

  • Pray that they may be safe in their homes.
  • Pray that they will have food.
  • Pray that they have an adult who mentors them.
  • Pray that there are programs that can provide positive experiences.
  • Pray that they are safe.

The list could be continued, but prayers are also needed for educators.  They too, have reached the end of a school year and the demands on them have worn them out.  

Even though they are adults, they too may struggle with the shift to their routine.  They may be highly gifted with interpersonal skills in the classroom, but the demands of the students—academically and emotionally—drain them and they need prayers too.

  • Pray that educators find mental rest.
  • Pray that educators have time to enjoy their own families.
  • Pray that educators can find ways to expand their professional growth.
  • Pray that educators can prepare for the upcoming year with enthusiasm.

Finally, there are others, too, who are critical to the education of our students.  These are the supporting teams who work along side the educators making sure that the entire system works smoothly.  

The secretaries, the maintenance crews, the technology teams, the kitchen staffs, and even the groundkeepers have so much to do when the students and educators are not in the buildings.  These individuals are essential and need prayers, too.

  • Pray that they have the energy needed to work long days to repair, to improve, and to prepare for the coming school year.
  • Pray that they are trained to do all that they can for the success of the students.
  • Pray that they are valued for all the extra effort that provide for the well-being of the students.

Undoubtedly the calendar is guiding my thoughts today, but how easy it is to forget the needs of our students, the educators, and the support teams working diligently through the school year.  How easy it is to forget they need our prayers now as well as during the school year.

And I know, summer vacation brings summer schools, advanced degree work, and vacations.  Maybe those of us who are not educators tied to the school calendars, should remember John Wesley’s principle:  Do all that you can in any way that you can for all students and educators that you can when ever you can–prayers and even more if you can.

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Enough is Enough: School shootings

I just sent off a letter to the editor at the KC Star.  Sometimes I just have enough.  Even though I already posted once this morning, I turned to the electronic of the KC Star and could not stop thinking about what has happened in Florida.  I can’t let this slide.  I can’t say enough about how change is needed.  Therefore, here is one of my entries I am calling Enough is Enough.  Please share if you agree.


Seeing Florida mom Lori Alhadeff’s outrage pains me and justifiably so.  The raw emotion should trigger the entire country’s sense of enough is enough. She rightfully screamed into the camera and asked that our country fix a problem that cannot be ignored another day, another week, another month.   

As a retired teacher, I hear the news and cringe.  I know the faces of the students, and I know them personally.  I may have taught in the Midwest, but that does not lessen the outrage I feel as the long litany of school shootings continues.
Young people carrying guns in backpacks is simply unacceptable.  Young people in school must focus on preparing for the adult world being educated how to learn, how to question, how to create, how to dream.  Schools must be filled with teachers and administrators focused on teaching the individual to the best of that student’s ability.
Our society is out of time.
Stop reacting and start shifting the paradigm now.
Education has become a numbers game:  educating all students as a mass, not as indviduals.
Education must value the students each as an individual at all cost.  And yes, it will cost; but we must not allow the cost to slam the door shut on the country’s future.
Enough is enough!

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Reality through R-2’s class of ’72

Admittedly graduates of 1972 are facing a new reality–we are reaching traditional retirement age.  Last week my hometown class faced the reality with the death of our classmate Steve.  The event might not seem noteworthy, but only one other classmate Debby has died and that was due to a train wreck within the first year after graduation.

Flash ahead to the events of another tragic school shooting this week.  How do these become connected?  For my classmates education was valued.  We were taught that school came first.  We were pushed to focus on academics even before sports–I know, that may shock many today.

My parents tasted college, but never finished a degree plan.  We lived in rural American when family farms were the norm in the Midwest.  They instilled the value of education for my brother and myself so we did complete college, even achieving our masters later in our adult lives.  We were blessed to have our parents and live in a rural community.

Reviewing the circumstances of the 1972 Class from Montgomery County R-II, I cannot escape making observations that may be overlooked in our current school environments, especially after this week’s horrific Florida school shooting:

  1. Numbers.  The size of our schools continues to grow reaching the size of a city.  How in the world can students be individuals if they are forced to bump shoulders, often literally, in the halls and classrooms of a building?
  2. Testing.  Another concern is that success in school is based on numbers, not on student individual growth.  The individual is lost in the demand that testing prove achievement. Some testing is necessary, but just as a marker not a permanent diagnosis.
  3. Teachers.  Value teachers!  What other profession places educational demands at the cost of the individual without fair and equitable salary and benefits.  The profession cannot maintain the gifted teachers who are called–yes called–to step into the classroom alone with 20-30 kids who no longer value education and/or have no stable home environment to support them as they step into the classroom.
  4. Students.  Yes, there are those who do value education, are respectful, and have a supportive system, but sadly they are being outnumbered by the students on the opposite side of the spectrum who need schools to be a safe, supportive, nurturing environment that can teach them how to dream, set a path to reach that dream, and to work successfully towards that dream once they are fed, clothed, and housed safely.

The classes of ’72 is waning and the generations now entering into the profession of education may not have any of the critical skills or understanding of how to teach the masses who are now generations removed from the Greatest Generation and its values.

Do I have recommendations?  Certainly,

  1. Reduce the size of schools.  Create a learning environment that is safe, family-like, and supportive.  I realize the cost is beyond consideration, but why not be inventive and establish settings in some of the places that are unused during the school week.  Think about empty store fronts, empty Sunday school classrooms, office buildings.  Use the spaces effectively and reduce the physical size of the schools were kids are crammed into one place.
  2. Establish reasonable testing expectations.  Numbers are NOT the only way to measure student growth.  You cannot boil education down to one standardized set of scores.  No child should be left behind, but education is not about a set of numbers, it is about growth and nourishing our young people to be the best they can be.
  3. Value teachers.  Provide a reasonable financial package, including appropriate benefits for teachers that attracts them into the profession rather than turn them away.  Teachers are life long learners, but the salaries do not support continued education even while requiring more formal education.  Masters degrees are expected within five years of starting one’s career.  Sadly the income cannot sustain a teacher to live at a comfortable standard and pay for the coursework demanded of the profession.  There is very little incentive to invest in teaching as a lifelong profession, especially if wanting to raise a family, too.
  4. Students are important.  Every teacher must be taught the neurology of learning and the development markers that all students inevitably must face and manage.  Education is malleable, not concrete.  No one student follows a prescribed formula. Each student is different and all teachers must be taught to know that and even to recognize that reality.  Students must be valued.  Students must not be just a number.

Our society must accept the reality that we are far removed from the Greatest Generation.  The truth is the potential for each generation to be the greatest is always present.  The horror is that we are not acknowledging the potential in our individual students by the devaluing of the human factors in education.

Our culture places the dollar before education.  Education is how we make American great again.  When we prioritize the profession, the teachers, and especially the students then we will make American great again.  This week’s violence must not be forgotten.  Let’s use it as a cry for the change at the very foundation of our society–our education of the future.  This is the way to stop the violence in the schools–shift the value, even the paradigm, of education in our schools today.

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There are Good People and Bad People

given on Sunday, August 16, 2015

Scripture base:

Psalm 1 (NLT)

Oh, the joys of those who do not
follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with mockers.
But they delight in the law of the Lord,
meditating on it day and night.
They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
and they prosper in all they do.

But not the wicked!
They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind.
They will be condemned at the time of judgment.
Sinners will have no place among the godly.
For the Lord watches over the path of the godly,
but the path of the wicked leads to destruction.

Ephesians 5:1-14 (NLT)

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us[a] and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.

Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.

Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. Don’t participate in the things these people do. For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.

10 Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. 11 Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. 12 It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. 13 But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, 14 for the light makes everything visible.



A wide range of shoot-em-up movies are in the theaters this summer. The good guys versus the bad guys meet on the large screens, and other, old shoot-em-up movies keep the ongoing battle of good versus evil on the smaller screens for new generations to discover. The settings may be different, the decades may be different, costumes and transportation images all are different—except, maybe the black and the white hats.

Everybody enjoys the fictional stories where the good guys battle the bad guys and win. Sometimes, a story line gets a little shady and the bad guy appears to have won the battle, but the question is whether or not the bad guy lived a good life. And the battles do not mean just man versus man, it can even be the Good Witch versus the Evil Witch of the North.

Good versus evil is a universal theme, and the battle between the two sides cannot be escaped. The good versus evil conflicts are present in our daily lives even though the character changes. Sometimes the conflict involves one person versus another, but the battle can take on all kinds of different formats. The human versus natures can be a similar battle, so can human versus animal cause conflict and can demonstrate the same type of theme.

In Psalm 1, the reader is taught that there are just two types of people everywhere. Primarily, there are the good people who have followed God’s instructions/laws, and there are the bad people who have lived in ungodly manners. The first verse sets up the lesson:

Oh, the joys of those who do not
follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with mockers.

In a world filled with so many people living closer and closer together. What happens? Many find ways to control others or to gain personal wealth or take what is not there just to make their lives appear richer.

The good and faithful, according to the psalmist, find joy in their lives. The good and faithful know to follow God’s laws, at that time was the Ten Commandments; but others chose a different life path and became wicked or ungodly. There is no joy for those.

The book of psalms was the hymnal for the ancient Jewish people. The choice of the first psalm provides the simplest instruction for the youngsters to learn. Basically be good by being with good people. Stay away from the bad people.

As simple as that sounds, we all know it is much harder to do than those few words seem to say. Looking at the other verses, the descriptor for the ungodly are listed:

But not the wicked!
They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind.
They will be condemned at the time of judgment.
Sinners will have no place among the godly.
For the Lord watches over the path of the godly,
but the path of the wicked leads to destruction.

The bad are listed in a variety of terms:

  1. 1 lists them as wicked, sinners, and mockers
  2. 4 uses a metaphor chaff
  3. 5 repeats sinners and the opposite of godly,

so that would be ungodly

  1. 6 finishes with the word wicked.

The psalmist does not leave the reader wondering what is right or what is wrong. The few verses clearly states that hanging out with the bad people will lead the good people away from God.

The rule is as old as humanity: If you hang out with bad people, you will become bad. This is a time-tested rule. In today’s culture, the number of good people who lose their direction is frightening. But one of the problems is that society has erased the clear lines between good and bad.

For instance, consider legalizing marijuana. Here in Missouri, a man spent 28 years in the state penitentiary for non-violent marijuana offenses. His sentence was for life. Someone who is charged and found guilty with that same amount today would be facing anything from simple tickets to minimal jail sentences with the possibility of parole. What is right and what is wrong? The dividing line changes constantly.

Take the discussion to our teens today. With the attitude toward pot changing from being criminal to a misdemeanor, how do our young people know what is right and what is wrong? The responsibility lies in the parenting generation to teach it, but even that generation has stumbled on this issue. Many have succumbed to the addictive nature of the drugs, even tobacco and alcohol or more complex drugs like meth, cocaine, and even synthetic drugs. Good people who simply hung out with evil people were convinced to do wrong things. They did not remain with the faithful, godly people.

The range of bad behaviors that can easily influence godly people to become ungodly continues to grow. How can this cancer be stopped? The same psalm has one major clue:

But they delight in the law of the Lord,
meditating on it day and night.

Meditate on the law day and night. That sounds like an impossible or at the very least, unreasonable expectation in our daily lives. Is it?

God does not penalize us for our decisions; we penalize ourselves. Meditating on the law is keeping the law. If we work to read the Bible, attend Sunday school, join Bible studies, keep prayer journals, read daily devotionals, attend worship regularly, we do meditate on the law. We know the law. We keep the law.

An example of how this can be kept manageable. This week the lectionary includes more words to the Ephesians. Remember Paul wrote this letter as encouragement to the young Christians. He shares more instructions:

  • Imitate God
  • Live a love-filled life
  • No sexual immorality
  • No impurity
  • No greed
  • No obscene stories
  • No foolish talk
  • No course jokes

Meditating on these rules keeps one focused on living a life that follows Jesus’ example.

When a news story comes on and it hurts our hearts and conscience we are listening with God’s ears. We are meditating on life as God has asked us to do.

When we see someone drinking too much and we step up to drive them home, we are doing what God asks us to do. We are living God’s law out loud.

When we see destruction from the typhons, from an industrial explosion, or a terrorist act, we meditate on God’s law. But do we act? God wants us to know the law, be able to meditate on it, to teach it, and to live our faith openly as activists, as parents, as neighbors, and as God’s emissary.

Read the Bible, study the law, seek out others to grow in faith together. Psalms I opened the faithful’s hymnal and continues to serve as a guiding textbook for today’s faithful. There is no time to lose. We must continue learning about God and teaching it to generations. If we do not, the evil cancer will continue growing.

According to Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus:

Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. Don’t participate in the things these people do. For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.

The reward—JOY! A good life filled with joy leads to life eternal along side Jesus.

Closing prayer:

Dearing Loving and Patient Father,

We hear your words, but we are often deaf.

Give us the resolve to meditate daily

On the holy words written

By generations of godly people.

With the fellowship of our Christian family,

Help us to grow in our faith

And to share words and actions

Modeling that of your son Jesus Christ. –Amen

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In my work world of education, Monday comes in with all kinds of excitement. Students this Monday had not seen each other for four days since we had had two snow days last week. Four days of not seeing each other sure does make teaching tough. Each student has a new story to share. Each student has to check in with every other student. There has to be a head count of sorts. Each student seems to have to make their own attendance check. Getting back to classes and trying to earn those grades does not mean a thing to them until all the connections are made again.

In the meantime, as a teacher, I have to find ways to get the students back into the school routine. It is not an easy task, but Mondays are always exciting. There is a sense of family that returns to our program. There is a sense of relief when all are accounted for. There is hope that since they showed up again, they will be able to graduate. The program is for at-risk students. It is a job many think would be difficult, but it is one I find challenging and exciting. Every one of these students is so important and show so much potential.

Mondays may be menacing, but they can be magical, too. Hopefully tomorrow, a Tuesday, we will be able to focus better. We will have three days to really get them working before it is Friday which is then a day of planning for the weekend and saying good bye until next Monday. There is a rhythm to the weeks, the week create the academic quarters, and the goal is graduation. Whew! The year is going so quickly.

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