Friday, September 23, 2016

CONFIRMATION: Excellent Bible History Resource!

1936 Concordia Publishing House
My husband, a former LCMS pastor, turned me on to a great book he used when he was younger. It's called Advanced Bible History in the Words of Holy Scripture with Illustrations, Maps, and Notes and it was published in 1936 by Concordia Publishing House. This book is fantastic! The way it's broken down is good for students and, contrary to questions we ask today, the review questions it asks are wonderfully challenging. They really make kids think about the reading!

Sadly, this book is no longer in print. I've seen the updated version, but haven't had the opportunity to examine all of it closely. It would appear that the majority of the changes were not in the choices of Bible readings, but in language and the questions asked. Sometimes today we are so busy trying to force big connections that we miss the smaller ones within the reading. We're in such a hurry for kids to get the "big picture" that we don't take the time to find out if they understand what they've just read.

Examples of Today's Questions 
(notice how they don't relate directly to the reading at hand)
  • Study Hebrews 11:3 and question 105 of Luther's Small Catechism. What attitudes should Christians have regarding the theory of evolution? (The answer is way too obvious in the given references.)
  • Why did the Son of God come into the world (1 John 3:8)? (The answer is way too obvious in the given passage.)
  • What are some ways God shows love for His people? (Applies to nearly every Bible reading.)

Examples of 1936 Questions 
(notice how they relate directly to the reading at hand)
  • Classify the parables of Christ according to the lessons they were to teach. 
  • Write or relate a short biography of Moses. 
  • Show how the promises of God were fulfilled in this section. 
  • Name some of the judges of Israel and state what they did for Israel.
  • What caused the repeated downfall of the Israelites?
As you can see from the examples, public schools are not the only place where we have "dumbed down" education and expectations of learning. If you need a good reference book for Confirmation or Bible literacy, this is the one. There are only a few copies that can be found used on Amazon or you can contact Concordia Publishing House and see if they have any in a closet somewhere. 

In the meantime, check out my Bible Reading Guide and Workbook for the Old Testament (Middle School and High School). You can get a pdf version and make photocopies if you don't want the actual workbooks. I'm almost done with the Gospels and am working as fast as I can. Keep your expectations up! Teaching is the most important thing you do! 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

LUTHERAN SCHOOLS: What's your philosophy?

A few weeks ago I was interviewed for a position in a K-8 Lutheran school (I'm licensed in H.S. math so my Lutheran school options are limited) and was asked the question I dread. What is the purpose of Lutheran schools? Oh no. (My heart beat faster.) There it is. The standard or expected answer is OUTREACH. Lutheran schools exist to share the Gospel of Jesus. So, when people ask about your school is that what you share first? How is that working for you? Do you have a waiting list? Are people talking about and trying to get into your school because of that? Hmm, from what I've seen, probably not. But why not?

Probably because when people are looking for a good school they're looking for a good school. That's their first priority and why I disagree with this purpose. It's not that I think Lutheran schools should be quiet about the gospel, but if a Christ-centered education is a priority then why aren't, at the very least, all Lutheran parents trying to get into Lutheran schools?

Here's the situation. Public schools aren't all bad. Some charter schools are pretty good. People choose schools for their excellent academics and EXCELLENT private schools have waiting lists whether they're Christian or not.

"But our Lutheran school is excellent!" 

How do you know? How do people outside the church know? How are you marketing your school? What are you doing to make it excellent? How are you getting that message out? What are you doing to shake things up?

Seriously, it's not a slap to God to have the philosophy, "Come for an education, leave with so much more!" But you can't just say it, you have to do it. What is an excellent academic school?

  • One that can show improvement in student achievement.
  • One that can hold its own when compared to the top private schools in your state.
  • One that assesses using the same tools as top private schools in your state. 
  • One that has excellent character and behavior standards.
  • One that does not cave to parental pressure without due process.
  • One that has a school board and not a church board. 
  • One that has a qualified leader with vision and a plan.
  • One that has ONE grade per classroom. 
  • One that has licensed teachers. 
  • One that has high standards for its teachers and holds them to a standard.

In the past I've made it clear that I am a great proponent of high standards in Lutheran education. I don't like mediocrity in education as a whole and I see Lutheran schools settle for it all too often. An excellent school is not a school that has a lot of money. It's a school that has high academic and behavior standards whether it's faith based or not and it brings in students! The question is... how do you know if that's you? And are you willing to find out?  Are you or is your school

  • afraid to change?
  • unable to see yourself clearly?
  • too stuck in the past to move into the future? 
  • afraid to compare your academics to those of other private schools?
  • so comfortable in who you are that you don't want to do the work to get there?
  • too comfortable with the idea of being a "struggling Lutheran school?"
  • somehow believing that church schools should struggle? 
  • somehow believing that excellence in education and outreach are mutually exclusive?
Be a great school, bring students in and share with them the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They will