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.

Back to School Tips

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With the new school year beginning, here are some tips to help parents and their children in the months ahead. . . .

1. Inform your children of their freedom of religious expression at school.

Your children can express their faith in their homework and share about their faith with classmates. For a list of their religious liberties, click here.

2. Teach your children discernment.

Help your children learn to think critically about what they are learning instead of merely absorbing it. Predict what they may learn and pre-teach your perspective on the topic. You can do this by reading their textbooks and talking to them about any questions you may have about the author's bias. This will help them become active listeners and discerning thinkers. Over dinner, ask them if they detected any bias in how the topic was taught that day.

3. Pray regularly for your children's teachers.

Praying for your children's teachers may sound like a standard piece of advice, but I recommend that you be very intentional in your prayers. Make a list of your children's teachers, school principals, and other adults in their lives. Put this list in a place where you will be reminded daily to pray for them. Here's the key: Ask God how He wants to use you to be a godly influence in their lives this school year. Then, watch for the doors He opens!

4. Bless the teacher with an encouraging note.

Even within the first few days or weeks of the school year you can find something the teachers are doing that you appreciate. It may be something your children enjoyed learning, it may be the way the teachers decorated their rooms, it may be a classroom activity that you think is a great idea. Let them know by writing a brief note of appreciation and encouragement.

5. Encourage your children to pray each morning at school.

In 34 states, schools can, and in about half are required to, start the day with a moment of silence. Even if your state doesn't have a moment of silence law, you can download a beautiful prayer and give it to your children to pray each day. Click here for a list of all the states with laws regarding moments of silence.

6. Be an encouragement to Christian teachers at school.

If you know a teacher at your children's school who is a Christian, get a map of the campus from the school office, and meet with that teacher. On the map, ask the teacher to circle the names of other Christian teachers he or she knows. During the school year look for opportunities to connect with those teachers and give them encouraging information about how they can address religious holidays, their students' religious liberties, and helpful articles from the Gateways to Better Education website.

May you and your children be used by God to bless others this year at school.

How to Minister to Public School Families in your Church

Integrating Faith and the Public Schools

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.)

What to Do About a Problem Teacher

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At some point in your child's education you may have an insurmountable personality conflict with a teacher. What can you do then? 

Meeting with the Teacher

Meet with the teacher and express your concerns in a gracious and tactful way. Use "I" statements rather than "you" statements as you talk about the problem. Instead of saying, "You are causing Sally to hate school," say, "I sense that Sally doesn't like coming to school any more." Solicit suggestions from the teacher on what may be causing Sally's problem and discuss various solutions. This conveys that you are not attacking the teacher but are seeking her advice on how to solve the problem. It is also important that you help the teacher understand why your child is upset by something that is going on in the class. If the teacher suggests that your child needs to change in some way and it seems reasonable, acknowledge it. Then tactfully ask how the teacher will change in order to create a win-win situation. Guide the conversation and suggestions to a satisfactory conclusion. If you can't seem to resolve the problem with the teacher, it will be necessary to meet with the principal. 

Meeting with the Principal

Visit the principal to discuss your concerns. However, realize that the principal will not outwardly agree with your criticism of the teacher. It is important that the principal maintain a positive and supportive relationship with all the teachers in the school. He will not undermine that relationship by siding against one of his staff, at least not in front of a parent. Does this mean the administrator is indifferent to your concern? No, not at all. However, he is not going to appear to undermine the teacher's classroom authority. It would be unprofessional of him to criticize a member of his staff in a conversation with a parent. 

When talking with the principal, be gracious and positive about finding a solution. List your concerns on a note pad to refresh your memory as you talk. Your concerns need to focus on the problems that are causing a disruption of your child's education. Also, list a few suggestions for how you think the problem can be resolved. The principal will discuss your concerns with the teacher and seek a resolution. However, there are occasions when the best course of action is to transfer your child to another class. 

Asking for a Transfer

The principal can transfer your child if he thinks it is best. When talking to the principal, emphasize that you are not attacking the teacher's competency – you are concerned that your child isn't doing as well as he could because of the problems between the teacher and the student. Reassignment may not be easy for an administrator to do. He may be concerned about setting a precedent; he may have no room in other classes; he may be concerned that such a move would undermine staff morale. 

It is important that you use your best "people skills" to persuade the administrator that moving your child is the right thing to do. The principal most likely will not transfer a student simply because the parent doesn't like the teacher or the teacher is unpopular with students. The principal will need to see legitimate academic or social concerns that warrant such an action. 

He may also want to wait a little while for space to open up in another classroom. In most schools there is a constant stream of students moving in and out of classes due to families moving in and out of the community. The principal will most likely wait for this to create an opening for your child. 

Sometimes the problem is not the teacher, but a specific book the class is reading or a subject they are studying. In this case, you don't need to transfer your child to another class, but you may want to temporarily remove him from the classroom. 

Removing your Child from a Lesson

If the problem is over a particular book or curriculum being used by the teacher, you may wonder whether you should remove your child from the classroom. I suggest to parents that they should seek to remove their child from a program when they can no longer influence their child's learning. That means that either they cannot influence their partner – the teacher – to choose another educational strategy, or they cannot sufficiently undo what the child is learning in class. 

You don't need to remove your child from an activity if you can influence the teacher to choose a better alternative. The mother of an eighth-grader told me how she was able to influence her child's teacher to alter the lesson plan. This not only saved her from having to remove her child from the activity, but it improved the lesson plan for the other children, too. 

The teacher announced she would be showing an R-rated movie (Blade Runner) as part of a science fiction unit. "I called her, expressed appreciation for her hard work, and told her I felt R-rated movies were not appropriate for the classroom. I suggested some positive alternatives. She considered my suggestions and changed the movie." 

© Eric Buehrer

When to Remove Your Child from an Activity

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A very upset mother once called me concerning what her daughter was being told to read in class. The book was on Indian spiritualism. The mother had already gone to the superintendent of the school district and told him to have the book removed or she'd see to his dismissal.

To get a better handle on the situation, I asked her three questions. First, in what course was the book used? Second, how old was her daughter? Third, had the mother read the book? To my astonishment, she answered that the book was used in an elective course on mythology; her daughter was a senior in high school; and, no, the mother had never read the book, but she felt the cover looked spooky. Obviously, she was overreacting. I explained how, since the daughter was certainly old enough, she could use the book as a teaching tool to discuss their family's religious faith with her in comparison to Indian spiritism. I pointed out that this could actually be an opportunity from God to strengthen the girl's faith, not an invitation from Satan to abandon it.

Knowing when to remove your child from a classroom activity is subjective. Only you will be able to gauge when your child should not participate in something. In many situations you may be able to reach a compromise with the teacher, such as an alternative reading assignment. However, at times, you may have to decide to temporarily remove your child from the class. 

You need to consider the five factors listed below when deciding whether to remove your child from a classroom activity. Try to be as objective as possible when considering these factors. Trust your sense of what is right for your child while at the same time considering whether you may be overreacting. It is best not to rush into a decision to remove your child because it can cause a disruption in his education in other subjects as well as in his social community at school. Here are the factors to consider in prayer as you decide whether or not to remove your child from an activity. 

1. How truly bad is the activity? 

Establishing an activity's suitability requires discernment and objectivity. A case could be made for claiming that almost every subject is being taught improperly. The teacher could slant the subject too much to one political viewpoint, or emphasize student self-reliance too much, causing you to fear that it borders on promoting rebellion. He may encourage world interdependence just a shade more than you feel is patriotic. You have to weigh how truly wrong the teacher is and how important the perceived error is.  

On the other hand, teachers or counselors can handle some subjects, such as sexuality, so poorly that it is not good to have any exposure to their ideas at a young and impressionable age. This is a subjective and difficult decision for you to make. My advice is to not make it without complete information. If your child is young, be sure to verify what he tells you happened in class by talking directly with the teacher. If you confront the teacher based on what you think happened in the class, you might be embarrassed to find out that you reacted to false information. 

2. How emphatically is it taught? 

You need to measure how strongly the teacher pushes a particular value or philosophy. The book in the above illustration was not taught as true but as one culture's mythology. A good education will include the views of others. However, sometimes the teacher's opinion is taught as the proper way to think when, in fact, it is seriously in conflict with your family's beliefs. This is when action might need to be taken. 

3. How long will the lesson last? 

Sometimes a subject that you object to is covered very briefly and its long-term effects are small or nonexistent. It is hard to believe that a two-week drug abuse course that uses nondirective decision-making techniques (a poor approach for young people) will wipe out the years of moral character development you have built in your child. However, if a value-neutral approach to decision-making is emphasized week after week for several months, you may need to take action. 

4. What demonstrated effects is it having on your child? 

Do you see your child exhibiting behavior that concerns you because of the program in question? Does your child seem upset when he comes home from school? Is he withdrawn? Does he act out with defiance? Is he more aggressive? Is he lethargic toward homework? Has he changed his thinking about a subject that you feel is a core value of your family? Try to list actual behaviors or actions you think might be linked to a particular program. This will help you see if a negative impact is being made. 

Again, are there specifics you can point to, or are you being too sensitive to what you fear may happen due to the program? This may depend on the age of the child. Young children may be affected more by a program than older, more independent children. A teenager should be able to separate himself from the teacher's lesson and realize that the teacher is not always right. 

5. Can you teach your child to be discerning about what is taught? 

Webster's dictionary defines the word discern as meaning to perceive something hidden or obscure. Ask yourself if the activity in question could be used as an opportunity for you to teach your child discernment. In college, I took an astronomy course that met in a planetarium. The instructor would display the stars on the ceiling and point out various constellations. Only by knowing what to look for could we see a pattern of stars emerge from the night sky filled with dots of light. Once I knew what to look for, spotting constellations became easier.

With your help, your child may actually demonstrate greater character and conviction of thought because his beliefs are being tested in the classroom and you are helping him think it through. Only you can judge whether he is ready for this. 

In order to answer these five questions accurately, I suggest you obtain a copy of the material in question. Be sure you have examined all the information related to the lesson, and then you can make the best decision. 

If you want to talk to the teacher about your concerns, I suggest you read my online article, "Talking to Educators about a Concern."

© Eric Buehrer