Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Teach Your Children Well

Proverbs 4:1, Give attention that you may gain understanding.

Do you like to read a lot, like I do? If I do not have a good book hanging on in my life, I feel a little lost. Usually, I have a fiction selection and a non-fiction thought provoker going on at the same time – which reminds me that I need to make a trip to the library or else I will spend some dollars through the amazing maze of wireless shopping to find a new nook-book. Who were the marketing geniuses who made up that name to sound sort of like a pacifier? Ok – I just broke down & did my online Barnes & Noble shopping – instant gratification: Seven Days in Utopia, Heaven Is For Real and That Used to Be Us. Distracting myself – stop it!

Part of my regular reading is actually education journals where I try to find the latest research reports to direct me to push my students in the right direction. Lately, the research is telling that so much more than content knowledge (my Papaw called this book learnin’) indicates continued academic progress. Character traits such as self-control, social awareness and perseverance appear to be strong predictors for future success. So how do I teach that????
Well, one way to teach it is to bring it up for discussion at every opportunity. In teaching math to 7th and 8th graders, believe it or not, there are a bajillion opportunities! When I give the “warm-up – challenge” problem to start class each day I am given the chance the encourage those who have the “Sit & stare at blank paper syndrome.” Learn from your peers who are chosen to share their work and explain the solution – look at their mark outs, erasures and changes – we talk often about persistence in problem solving. Now when I am redirecting behavior, they know the purpose is to support their future success. I just use the keys words to remind them, “Michael, social awareness,” reminds him to look around and be aware that his class mates are involved in a task & he needs to follow their lead. Or it might be, “Sara, self-control.” They are smart kids – they get it!

Lately, educational research has particularly commented about how this character growth has become especially difficult for children from affluent families (whom I happen to teach). Their parents while trying to actively support them in academic success are sometimes doing the exact opposite when they try to shield them from possible failure. In his recent article in New York Times Magazine, What if the secret to success is failure? Published: September 14, 2011, Paul Tough, quotes educational researchers and writers, Levin, Randolph and Levine listing the character traits that they find most supportive of success:  zest, grit, self-control, social intelligence, gratitude, optimism, persistence and curiosity.

Another way to teach character besides discussion is modeling. How do we show them to interact with others? How do we show them to find contentment and “success”? All of the necessary qualities seem to come back to the fruits of the spirit that God will give to us as we continually seek Him.

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

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