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The Five Steps for Being a Godly Influence On Those Around Your Child

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Allow Gateways to partner with you in helping others at your school have the confidence to teach students about Judeo-Christian history and values.

For many years, our public schools have been seen as battlefields. However, nothing much grows on a battlefield. Instead, we can look at our schools as gardens to cultivate. Schools are enriched when Christians appropriately express their faith in word and deed. At Gateways we recommend you use five steps to bring a positive influence to people around your children at school. We call them the five steps of F.A.I.T.H.

F – Focus on those around you.

As the Good Samaritan attended to the man in his path, so you should focus on those God has put in your path at school this year. Begin to see the people in your path as divinely appointed opportunities. Create a list of teachers, parents, administrators, and school staff that you have contact with regularly. Put the list in a place where you will see it often, such as on your refrigerator, in your Bible, or in your daily planner.

A – Ask God to open doors.

In the book of Acts, God used the Apostles to influence 3,000 people in one day! In Acts 1:14 we find that the Apostles were people of prayer. Pray regularly for the people God has placed in your path. Ask the Lord for opportunities to cultivate relationships and plant seeds of love and truth.

I – Invest in Preparation. 

Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 reveals that he was prepared. He quoted heavily from the Old Testament. He had done his homework! To be an effective Christian influence you must be prepared with answers. The Gateways website is designed to help you. At the end of this article is a link where you can sign up to automatically receive an e-mail newsletter with updates, practical tips, and encouraging stories of what others are doing.

T – Take a step of faith with God.

You’ve been praying for those on your list, you’ve been preparing, as God opens a door, take a step of faith with Him. God is at work in your school. In fact, He placed you right where you are for a reason! Are you watching for opportunities? In all likelihood, there is at least one Christian involved in every classroom in your school (the teacher or a parent). Imagine the positive impact of dozens of Christians on your campus participating in God’s activity!

H – Help someone move from fear to freedom.

The biggest challenge we face is misinformation and fear. You can help others gain the confidence they need to include teaching about the influence of the Bible and Christianity in their classroom. You can be God’s instrument to restore Christmas to the school. You can be the person God wants to use to protect and promote religious freedom for all the students at the school.

Opportunities can be as simple as sending a “get well” card to the principal who is sick, or passing along information on religious liberty at school, or encouraging a teacher to teach about the birth of Jesus.

Don’t miss out on how God wants to use you this year. We have the tools to help you.

SPECIAL RESOURCE FOR PARENTS & TEACHERS

Expressing God's Love at School: 52 Successful Ways to Bring a Godly Influence to Your Child's School and Classroom

Written for both parents and teachers, this 30-page handbook gives you a wealth of proven ideas you can easily implement in a child’s classroom and school. It includes a monthly planning calendar and suggests different ideas for each month. 

CLICK HERE to order the booklet.

CLICK HERE to receive Gateways e-newsletter.

Talking to Educators About a Concern

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How to Talk to a Teacher or Administrator When You are Concerned About a Classroom Activity or Assignment
 

Technique #1: "Help Me Understand"  

When you first hear of a classroom assignment or activity that concerns you, verify your information with the teacher. Don’t jump to conclusions. However, before meeting with the teacher you can think through why—if what you heard was accurate—you would like the teacher to change the activity or assignment. Then, use the following four-step approach to discuss the issue with the teacher.

  1. Start the conversation by using the phrase “Help me understand...” For example, if you are concerned about a particular reading assignment, you might start by saying, “Help me understand why you chose this book for the students to read.” At this point in the conversation you want clarification. You may assume the teacher has one motive, but after discussing it you may discover your assumption was wrong. Your question should be a sincere desire to understand the point of the assignment

  2. Affirm what the teacher is trying to do in general. There is bound to be something on which you can agree. For example, you might appreciate that the teacher wants the students to learn about the environment, but you are concerned about the particular bias of the book she is using. At this point in the conversation, don’t jump to explaining your concerns. Finding “common ground” is an important part of the discussion.

  3. Transition to your concern by using the phrase, “But have you considered....” Don’t assume the teacher will oppose you. In fact, it is better to assume the teacher will agree with you once you explain your concern. Having that assumption will help you avoid expressing an adversarial tone.

  4. If the teacher agrees with you, ask her advice about what might be a good alternative book, assignment, or activity for the class.

If the teacher doesn’t agree to change what the class will be learning, you may want to ask for an alternative assignment for your own child.

Technique #2: "Your Class, My Child"  

There may be times when you want to ask your child to be excused from an assignment or activity. Here are four steps you can take in an attempt to bring about a mutually satisfactory result.

  1. When you meet with the teacher, begin with a compliment rather than a complaint. Find something you appreciate about her teaching.

  2. As you transition to your concern, be sure to acknowledge—with genuine respect—her authority to teach her subject as she sees fit. This will circumvent the natural defensiveness any teacher is bound to feel when confronted by a disapproving parent.

  3. Follow this with a friendly reminder that though the classroom is hers, you are ultimately responsible for your child’s development. Long after he has graduated from this class you will still be responsible for his academic and moral growth.

  4. Conclude by asking—without challenging the teacher’s right to teach—for her to provide an alternative educational activity for your child. It is best not to have the teacher simply put your child in the hall. Instead, ask that he be allowed to work quietly at his desk on another assignment or go to the library. If you discuss this in a friendly manner, most teachers will honor your request.

Sometimes talking to the teacher doesn’t solve the problem. You should always start with the teacher, but if you are not satisfied with the teacher’s response, you may want to visit the school principal. 

Technique #3: "I Thought I Should Alert You to a Potentially Embarrassing Situation" (How to talk to a principal or administrator) 

Principals are used to hearing the complaints of parents. Avoid sounding like a complainer. Instead, you can approach the principal as a friend and supporter of the school. Assume the principal will welcome your input because it may save her from an embarrassing situation or an unnecessary problem. School administrators don’t want problems. Your input may help her avoid a problem later.

  1. One way to begin the conversation is with the sentence, “I thought I should alert you to a potentially embarrassing problem.” You are not there to cause a problem, but to help the school avoid a problem. It is quite possible the principal is unaware of what is happening in the classroom. For example, what if other parents discovered their children were listening to a guest speaker whose remarks were inappropriate? You will have the principal’s attention if you begin your conversation with the sentence, “I thought I should alert you to a potentially embarrassing problem.”

  2. Explain what you discovered when you talked to the teacher and share your concerns with the principal.

  3. Ask the principal’s advice for how to resolve the problem. If she offers to help by talking to the teacher about the situation, ask when it will be done. Let her know you will call to find out the result of the conversation between the principal and the teacher.

You may also want to bring a friend or your spouse along. You will feel less intimidated, and if you get flustered, your partner can help you express your concern. If you cannot resolve the issue through the principal and you feel strongly about it, you may need to seek counsel from the superintendent. Keep asking, “Who else can help us with this issue?” 

(This article is excerpted from Gateways's ten-topic parenting Bible study, Keeping the Faith in Public Schools: How to help your children graduate with their faith and values intact. It is available in Handbook form as well as with a DVD for small group study.)

The Bible in State Academic Standards

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There is a common misconception that teaching about the Bible and Christianity is not allowed in public school classrooms because of concerns over the establishment of religion. As The Bible in State Academic Standards shows, quite to the contrary, state academic standards across the nation provide ample opportunity for educators to teach about the Bible, Christian beliefs, and Christians who were influential in history. For example, California sixth graders are expected to:

“Note the origins of Christianity in the Jewish Messianic prophecies, the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as described in the New Testament, and the contribution of St. Paul the Apostle to the definition and spread of Christian beliefs (e.g., belief in the Trinity, resurrection, salvation).” (Standard 6.7.6, adopted in 1998 and reaffirmed in 2005)

In this 230-page report we provide:

  • State academic standards related to the Bible and Christianity. Every state (and the District of Columbia) is included
  • The preambles to state constitutions that reference God because most states have an expectation that students will learn about their constitutions
  • State laws regarding freedom of religious expression

To download a 12-page Introduction to The Bible in State Academic Standards, please fill out the form below...

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It's A Book, Isn't It?

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Fourth-grader Brooke Marshall couldn't understand why the Bible was not an option in her school's reading program. So she, a classmate and their teacher set out to investigate. Their efforts led to over 40 Bibles being placed on their school's library shelves, and you can see the same thing happen in your child's school.


By Suzanne T. Eller

Brooke Marshall approached her parents with this question: "Why doesn't the Bible count for points in the Accelerated Reading Program? It's a book, isn't it?"

For several years, Brooke had been participating in the Accelerated Reading Program (ARP), a voluntary program where students select literature based on their interests and reading level, at Ft. Gibson Intermediate Elementary in Ft. Gibson, Oklahoma. But she had recently discovered that the Bible was not among the choices in the program, and she wanted to know why. Though Brooke's parents were Christians and educators, they didn't have an answer.

What is the ARP?

In order to understand Brooke's request, you need to understand what the ARP is. It works something like this.

If a school is involved in the program, a student can select a book from over 25,000 of the ARP's pre-screened titles. The only guideline is that the student's choice must be independent of her basic reading instruction.

Once the student finishes her book, she takes a multiple-choice comprehension test, from a computer program provided by the ARP. The program then awards "points" based on the book's length, reading level, and the number of correct test answers. The higher the book's reading level, the more points it is worth. For example, Cat in the Hat has a 3.0 reading level with a 5-point value, while a more challenging book like The Secret Garden has a 7.5 level and is worth 14 points. The program then keeps a running record of the student's total points earned.

According to ARP literature, the program has four goals: 1) Help kids get excited about books by allowing them to read what interests them; 2) provide teachers with reliable, objective reading level information; 3) make classroom management easier; and 4) help keep each student challenged.

Ft. Gibson Intermediate, like many schools, created a reward system for the ARP program, including an "ARP store" where individual students could "spend" their points on prizes ranging from suckers to boom boxes, and pizza parties for classes who read the most books.

Brooke eventually accumulated more points than she could even spend. But she kept reading. For Brooke, the mission of the program had been fulfilled -- she had developed a love for reading.

But even 25,000 titles can have their limits. After exhausting all of the books at her own grade level, Brooke began reading books at higher grade levels. And that's when the trouble began.

Why Not the Bible?

Leslie, Brooke's mom, remembers the first time she saw a problem. Brooke had brought home a ninth-grade level book. But, very uncharacteristically, Brooke returned the book to the library unfinished and refused to take the comprehension test. When Leslie questioned Brooke about the incident, Brooke replied, "There were things in there I didn't want to read," and left it at that.

Leslie began to check the books her daughter brought home. She found that many were wholesome, but others contained very inappropriate material. "Some had sexual scenes or cursing. One series, Goosebumps, contained whole story lines about voodoo or psychics," Leslie says. "That's when we began to think about her question."

At the next parent-teacher conference, Brooke's parents asked about the possibility of including the Bible in the ARP. They learned that although the ARP's list did not include the Bible, the school did have ARP software that was designed to accept additional books. However, the Bible had 66 separate books -- each of which would need multiple tests. It was just too big a task.

Not Taking "No"

A year passed and Brooke continued to excel in the ARP, but the field of appropriate literature was continuing to narrow. In order to continue to earn points, she would have to read books she had previously rejected because of inappropriate content, or settle for reading lower-level books that earned as little as .05 points.

One day at lunch, Brooke discussed the problem with her friend, Emily Cook, who had been facing similar circumstances. The discussion turned into an informal survey among their peers and the results were surprising: Many students said they, too, would like to read the Bible for points.

The two girls decided to try again. They approached Ft. Gibson fifth-grade teacher, Teresa Minor, who was the sponsor of the school's Christian club, Kidz-4-Christ (www.kidz4christ.com), and an avid supporter of the ARP. The girls' compelling presentation intrigued Teresa.

"I was so excited!" Teresa said. "The idea had never crossed my mind. I told the girls I would do whatever was possible to help them achieve their goal."

Teresa's first stop was the principal. Was adding the Bible even an option? The principal, in turn, called the school attorney. The attorney assured them that adding the Bible to the program was perfectly legal because the ARP was voluntary, teachers did not teach from ARP books, and the Bible was a choice among many books in the library.

With the legal hurdles cleared, the next order of business was to create the comprehension tests and buy the books for the library.

Teresa asked several teachers and two local writers to create tests at no cost, and they quickly agreed. The writers based the tests on comprehension and were careful to avoid questions based on theory or theology. For example, a test question from the book of Matthew might read: The baby was born in the manger because there was no room in the: 1) hay stack; 2) inn; 3) temple. The writers created five different sets of questions for short books such as Ephesians, and ten sets for longer books such as John.

Within a short time, the tests for the New Testament were completed, put on disk and adopted into the reading program, with plans to add the Old Testament the next school year.

Now, for the Bibles. The library needed at least 10 NIV New Adventure Study Bibles for Kids to start the program. Teresa turned to her Sunday school class at First Assembly in Muskogee. She explained the dilemma -- and walked out that morning with funds for all 10 Bibles.

The ball continued to roll when Larry Norman received the news from his son, Quade, that students were now allowed to read the Bible in the ARP program at school. Larry was skeptical at first, but Quade assured him that it was true and requested his dad buy him his own personal NIV Adventure Bible.

Larry approached Teresa at a baseball game and asked her what he could do to help. Her answer was "Sure -- more Bibles." So Larry went to the men at his church, Ft. Gibson Free Will Baptist, and presented the need. The men quickly gave him all the necessary funds -- over $300. The news spread, and Larry's in-laws and some friends also bought Bibles for the program.

"I'm a highway patrolman," Larry says. "I see the extremes. I'm excited because I feel like this gives the children a choice that we allowed to be taken away."

Thanks to Larry's efforts, the library now had a whopping 48 Bibles in its collection.

Flying Off the Shelves

The Bible was an immediate hit with the children. In fact, four dozen were not enough and children began to buy their own. Jolene Kirkes, the librarian at Ft. Gibson, has seen the popularity of the program firsthand. "All 48 books are usually checked out. If a Bible comes in, it doesn't even make it to the shelf because there are children who want to check it out immediately."

Teresa is amazed to see the desire students have to read the Bible. "It's not unusual to see Bibles at recess or in the cafeteria," she says. "Also, because children bring the Bible home, they discuss it with their parents. This involves parents in a very positive way."

With the rash of lawsuits challenging everything from graduation prayer to Bible clubs, it might be natural to assume that the Bible's entrance into the ARP caused waves. But Teresa reports that the only concerns raised had to do with how many points were awarded to certain books. The librarian simply re-reviewed the books in question and adjusted their point level. 

For more information about ARP, visit http://www.renlearn.com/default.aspx.


Suzanne Eller is a freelance writer and has been featured in magazines such as GuidepostsWoman's WorldParenting Today's Teen and numerous others. She is a monthly columnist with Novel AdviceReady Writer and the Muskogee Phoenixnewspaper. This article first appeared in Teachers In Focus (Dec/January 2000).