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danceBeing Christian impacts my job as an educator.  I believe education is a calling and I am teaching because it is God’s plan for my life.  While I read the Bible and use this as a guide for my life, I respect that others do not share my beliefs.  I do, however, think that there are commonalities among beliefs.  Recently I have been watching a Bible study and the pastor asked, “Do you see people with souls?”  Interesting question.

In “Keep the Fire Burning: Avoiding Teacher Burnout” I wrote the chapter, “The Faces of Education.”  This chapter is my story of teaching individuals.  I teach individuals,  but it can become overwhelming to keep this focus as the end of the school year approaches and we enter the state testing zone. It is easy to look past each individual soul.  It is easy to get lost.  It is easy to focus on the standards and what has not been covered because the students were interested in the Midwestern states research project and they needed more time to master multiplication strategies and the week of snow days we had in December which all put the schedule behind.  It is easy to think about what is missing, not covered, not “done”.  It is easy to forget that each student is an individual.  Each student has a soul.

It is a challenge and a blessing to see each of my students as a person with their own soul.  I look at where they come from and the strengths and weaknesses they bring to our classroom community.  I differentiate to meet those needs both academically and behaviorally.  We build a classroom community where each individual is respected and valued.  I believe each student is part of the path we are on together and it is my job to move them forward.  I went into education to teach children, not test taking.

The end-of-the-year assessments bring stress for students and teachers.  Thinking about stress in my life helps me reflect on helping my students during this crazy assessment time.  There are some things YOU can do to step away from “THE TEST” and focus students providing them with meaningful experiences that will have a positive impact not only on their scores but on the person they are each becoming.

  1. Souls need a break.  Everyone needs and deserves a break sometimes so take the time to teach stress management.  Teach your kids deep breathing, simple yoga moves, and ways to relax.  Raising and lowering your shoulders, taking slow deep breaths, and neck stretches can all be done at a desk or computer station while testing without disrupting others.  This gives students some control of their testing environment and will help if they are feeling frustrated.
  2. Souls have positive power.  Use this positive energy from within to teach students to help themselves and others with positive talk.  Have students focus on their strengths and the strengths of others.  Encourage writing and sharing compliments with others as well as paying it forward. Write positive, encouraging comments to students on their desks the day of testing.  Have students or parents write positive encouraging messages on slips of paper and hand them out before testing.  A kind word can have a very positive and powerful impact on the soul.
  3. Souls deserve rewards.  I am not a huge believer in extrinsic motivation, but everyone deserves a job well done now and then.  After each testing session spend an hour the next day or next week celebrating.  Watch movies from the books you have read throughout the school year to celebrate hard work on reading testing.  Play math games, board games, or do some coding to celebrate hard work on math testing. Set up science stations to explore to celebrate science testing.  Think about modeling the application of a year’s work into fun and celebrate how far each of your individual students has come.

Christianity guides my decisions and has put me on a path as an educator.  “Each face in our classrooms is an individual with a story and a purpose and joy and sadness.  They are not numbers, never numbers.  These faces are our future doctors, lawyers, citizens, lawyers, workers, scientists, business people, idea creators and leaders.  These faces will provide the solutions to our world’s challenges and move the world in ways we do not even know possible right now.  When you hear the newest statistics in education, know they are not numbers.  Reflect on your students.  Remember those you have had successes with and learn from those you have not.  They are the driving force in your learning, your lessons, and your classroom.”*

*Rice, Lori H. “The Faces of Education.” Keep the Fire Burning: Avoiding Teacher Burnout. Tips & Strategies from Real Teachers. San Bernardino, CA: Educator’s Room, 2013. 52-57. Print.

Lori Rice is a fourth-grade teacher at West Elementary in Wamego, Kansas, who has taught K-2 reading...

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