“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 3 John 1:4 NIV “Teaching Children Truth” was the conference theme. ICEC (International Christian Educator’s Conference) is sponsored by Association of Christian Schools International(ACSI). The conference was hosted by Grace International School, Chiang Mai, Thailand and held at the Empress Hotel, Chiang Mai, Thailand. It was well organized and nice to be able to attend the workshops right in the hotel and conference center next to the hotel. Thank you to all who made the conference what it was.
What are some of my take aways from the conference?
Beginning with the first general session – Living the Christ-Centered Life by Dr. Bill Brown from Cedarville University. Dr. Brown asked, “Where have all the dreamers gone?” There is a loss of spiritual foundation, of truth and morality and of meaningful symbols. What do we celebrate in our schools? What awards and rewards do we give? How do we restore the dream? Begin with Jesus, live a life of example~loving and serving the Lord. Where have all the dreamers gone? They are in my classroom. What am I doing to provide them with opportunities to have a vision of how they can impact the world for Christ?
The first workshop I attended was Finding God in Children’s Literature by John McCracken from Indiana Wesleyan University. He asked each of us to write about “Where have I seen God in unexpected places?” The Bible is full of unexpected places God shows himself. He continues today to show himself in many unexpected places including children’s picture books. But to find God in secular literature you need to study the God of the Bible and understand his character and his truths. To lead students to find the truths in literature we need to begin with the “grand conversations” and not the comprehension questions. Start with the BIG IDEA not the inconsequential details, reflect on what God’s word says, support children in a deeper meaning of the text and point to the truth. Dr. McCracken shared Arlene the Sardine by Christopher Raschka. It is a book well worth checking out and reading. What is the truth in the story? Arlene wants to be a sardine, but what is it that she needs to sacrifice to get what she wants? Read the book to find out.
It was amazing and encouraging to hear about how God is working in many countries in Asia and around the world. An offering was taken on Friday morning to support ACSI Leadership Training. One leader equips hundreds of educators who transform thousands of students. A total of $5016.41 was collected by the 600+ educators at the conference. In the old Spiderman movie there was a line, “With great power comes great responsibility.” As educators we have the power to influence, to dream, to impart truth but mostly a responsibility to pray for our students.
Friday morning, Dr. Tim Stuart, principal of Singapore American School spoke. 90% of all students are at risk of not reaching their potential. The “privileged” students that many of us interact with in international schools are at an even higher risk than many of the traditionally “at risk” students. Our students are more likely to “self-medicate,” have anxiety disorders, depression, and more. What is the definition of “success” at your school? Generally we think it is a person who gets a good education and therefore will get a good job. They will have power, influence and wealth. But our definition should really look at the contribution a person makes to society not the acquisition of things they take from society. We need to see each student as “full of potential” not “full of risk.” We are working with the sons and daughters of the King of Kings. We help our students and children develop character by walking through adversity with them not shielding or protecting them from adversity.
Dr. Jan Dormer from Messiah College spoke about What Makes a Good Language Learner? “Language learning time should be invested wisely in activities that result in real language acquisition. Clear learning goals and an understanding of personal learning styles can help the learner to use language learning time strategically.” We even had the opportunity to participate in a lesson and learn some Portugese.
In the Job Alike Session I was glad to learn of some other ACSI schools that are using Daily 5. There is a wide variety in the training and knowledge of best practice in teaching strategies and in curriculum. At CAJ we have many wonderful opportunities for professional development and continued growth as an educator.
Mark Mc Crindle, a social researcher and trends expert from Australia talked about Christian Community in the 21st Century. Did you know that YouTube has 60 hours of uploads every minute? Google has 4,700,000,000 searches a day? Generation Y and Z are connected through more than 200 social media sites. How do we create an Authentic and Engaging Community that Generation Y, Z and beyond want to be a part of? Our community needs to be defined by its center, what is at the core. Members need to not only belong but also contribute. Belonging is not dependent on contributing, but contributing enhances and fulfills one’s belonging. Our community is comprised of friendships and family and functional networks. “Strength of a community comes from its legacy and traditions, yet the survival of a community depends on its relevance and innovation.” Several years ago, one of the teachers would dress up as the founder of our school and come and tell my second graders about how God spoke to her in a vision and how she found the property that is the present location of CAJ. Maybe it is time to resurrect Mrs. Akichika to help our school community understand its legacy.
Tom Thompson was a special speaker on Friday evening after dinner. Tom was the youngest son of Ed and Ruth Thompson who were killed in Vietnam in 1968. Here is their story told by Ruth’s brother.
Saturday morning I gave my workshop on Integrating Technology into the Elementary School. The resources and slide show are on the Technology Resource page. I was pleased to have about 20 participants. Hopefully I was able to share some of the journey we have taken at CAJ and some of the excitement in seeing students share their learning and of communicating with others around the world. I truly appreciate all I’ve learned from Kim Cofino and through COETAIL. I did give a plug for COETAIL and the wonderful workshops help at YIS.
Joy Manda a fourth grade teacher from Faith Academy-Mindanao, Philippines shared It’s All in Your Head! Why Some Children Can’t Stay Focused. She gave more information than we could possibly take in during the 75 minutes. Several things to remember when working with AD/HD students:
- Every person with AD/HD is unique
- What works for one may not work for another
- Everyone must find the mix that works for him/her
- The more approaches that can be woven together the better
“Brain scans have shown that the frontal lobe of a person with ADD has a decreased blood flow and decreased use of glucose which is carried in the blood. As the person tries to concentrate the blood flow decreases even more. The pressure of a situation causes the brain to “shut down”. When the stressors go UP the executive function goes DOWN. Telling a child to “pay attention” just adds to the stress. Find ways to engage and redirect the child with attention issues. Be a coach and an advocate for the child who is struggling.
The last general session was Dr. Bill Brown talking about Christ Centered Schools. He challenged us with 4 crucial questions we need to be asking:
- What is our school doing to ensure our students are receiving an education of EXCELLENCE?
- What is our school doing to equip our students to ENGAGE OUR CULTURE with the heart and mind of Christ?
- What is our school doing to develop LEADERSHIP?
- What is our school doing to drive into the minds and hearts of our students the most important truth of Christianity – GRACE?
The conference offered an opportunity to connect with other Christian educators and to see how God is working. One part that I was disappointed in was the pre-conference session I went to on Best Practice. Although the speaker gave a few practical examples of best practice, he did not use best practice as he read slides jammed packed with words. I came away with an interest in learning more about why some schools are no longer teaching printing but going directly to cursive writing. A few years ago I had a student who came from the states and had been taught cursive in 1st grade. I thought it was a bit strange but also had to wonder as his cursive was beautiful while when I tried to get him to print it was almost illegible. Do students need to learn printing? Prior to John Dewey in the 1920’s no one learned to print. I would also like to try “Inside-Outside” circles to review vocabulary and bible memory verses, maybe even math facts.
I hope to post photos and some of the things I learned about Thailand and Thai culture on our classroom blog or Fluffy’s blog since he joined me on the trip.