Devotionals

I Am Never Alone

I took the Enneagram test a few weeks ago. I know, I know- late to the game. For those of you who don’t know, Enneagram is like a (in my opinion) better version of the Myers-Briggs personality test. It tells you your tendencies, fears, areas of strength, etc. I’m a type 6 wing 5, which means that my main fear is being abandoned. And let me get pretty real here: that’s absolutely true for me.

I fear that I am worthless. And that I will therefore be abandoned. I think, in a way, that’s classic middle child syndrome. Middle children tend to feel overlooked or left out or unimportant. But regardless, I hold on tight to the people around me because I do not want to be left behind. Or forgotten.

My birthday is tomorrow. Let me confess something: I’m always disappointed by my birthday. You see, I want people to prove that I have worth. I measure that in the recognition and affirmations that I get from the people around me. Let me clue you in on a little secret: that’s a terrible idea. If my worth is based on the behavior and affirmations of others, I’m bound to be disappointed, as demonstrated by my frustration with my birthday year after year. No matter how much love and affirmation I receive, I’m bound to let their behavior prove that I am worthless in my own mind. And that feels terrible.

Today, I prayed about it. I did some thought work. I wrote my thoughts down on paper and then examined them. I decided to change them, starting with this one: “people don’t care about me.” Then I asked God what to replace this thought with.

He whispered “I am never alone.” That God’s thought for me to adopt into my brain patterns- a thought to truly think on purpose. And, friend, it rocked me. God always knows exactly what I need to hear and what words I need to think. It always brings tears to my eyes.

I am never alone. You know why? Because I am completely known and fully loved by God. He is with me always and therefore I am never alone. I can ignore Him, mentally walk away, tune Him out. But He is always there.

Part of my personality is to be extremely loyal to the people around me. My Enneagram type is even called “The Defender.” But you know who’s more loyal? God. He does not abandon me when times get tough or I’m ignoring Him. He does not ignore me when I’m frustrated, hurt, or confused. Because He’s loyal. More loyal than I could ever imagine.

He’s so loyal and committed to being with me that He sacrificed His own son to bring me into deeper relationship with Him. What?! Who does that?! God.

I might not deserve it. I might not understand it. But God is always with me. I am never alone.

And friend, neither are you.

“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.” -Psalm 137: 7-18

 

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The Case for Teaching Financial Literacy in Economics Class (Personal Finance Series Pt. 1)

Look, I get it. I totally get it. You only get one semester to teach your high schoolers about economics. That’s all you get to teach your students some of the most relevant, life-altering information they’ll likely learn in high school. And in that jam-packed curriculum map, there’s just no room for personal finance. And anyways, personal finance isn’t even in the economics field, strictly speaking. It’s finance!

And yet…it doesn’t really fit into any other subjects either. Sure, there’s math class, but that’s usually got a pretty set curriculum and students are in all different grade levels and might not even get to certain levels and so that doesn’t really work. It certainly doesn’t fit in with science or English or history. So it’s up to you, my friend. If it’s not offered anywhere else at your school, financial literacy most belongs in the economics classroom.

And really, what better way to teach students about the limited nature of resources than to have them make a budget for their future selves? That’ll illustrate scarcity and cost-benefit analyses real quick.

What we don’t want is a generation of students leaving high school having never learned anything about personal finance. If they can’t budget or understand how credit cards work, how will they know what traps to look out for or how to avoid a cycle of bad debt? The average American household with credit card debt has about $6,929 in consumer debt alone (NerdWallet). Many of these people believe they’ll never end the cycle of bad debt. But we can prepare and educate the next generation, even if we don’t know everything or have made mistakes in our past. In fact, I believe making mistakes can make you a better teacher of personal finance than someone who’s done everything perfectly. (More on this in a future blog post.)

So let’s take a little time and address the major objections to teaching personal finance in the secondary economics classroom.

What about parents? Shouldn’t they be the ones teaching their kids about finances? You know, I’ve taught personal finance through a semester-long project for about 4 years now (check it out here if you’re interested).  During that time, I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon. In my experience, only 2 or 3 kids in a class of 30 have ever had a real conversation with their parents about finances, budgeting, and/or managing money in general. It’s super strange, but most kids tell me they’re either too afraid to ask or their parents seem tight-lipped. So from my experience, I’m pretty convinced that a majority of parents don’t prepare their kids for budgeting or explicitly teach them about financial literacy. Like so many things in school, if parents aren’t teaching it, it’s probably a good idea for us teachers to get to work and fill in the gaps.

(Side note: As part of my Personal Finance Project, I have my students interview their parents about finances. For some reason, when it’s a school assignment, parents and students feel more comfortable having the conversation.)

What if I waste my time teaching these concepts and they’re ineffective in helping students? Yeah, I’ve heard this question many a time. In fact, I’ve read quite a few articles recently that personal finance is ineffective for high school students because it’s boring or doesn’t seem important to them so they forget the principles.

Can I be a critic here for a moment? When I hear things like this, I have to wonder how the financial literacy was being taught in the case study schools. Was it some bank representative droning on and on about interest rates? Was it some dry worksheet students filled out? Did it require any critical thinking on the part of the student?

Look, like most things in teaching, it all comes down to how you teach the material. The difference between interesting and uninteresting topics is a matter of opinion. Therefore, it’s all in the presentation. And the best way to get students excited about finances is to make it about them. That’s right, have them make every single decision. Have them, with your guidance, do the research and find their future housing and look for diverse health care plans. If it’s about them and it’s relevant, it’s going to be inherently interesting to students. Like everyone else, they love making things personalized.

Without fail, every year my seniors tell me that my class was the most relevant and helpful for their futures. They thank me for my Personal Finance Project. They feel less scared of money and more in control of their future finances. They know what they want their futures to look like and what their financial goals are. They see how quickly money disappears when you’ve got bills to pay on a starting salary. And they get it. They get what I’m trying to teach them and they remember it years later when they come back to visit me. It’s more than worth our time to teach.

What if I truly, honestly don’t have time to teach personal finance? Make it homework. Boom. Done. Look, I know homework can be a dirty word in education and it might seem overwhelming for seniors who are taking more APs than is probably healthy. And to be honest, I’m not usually a fan of homework either (I barely give any to my history classes). But here’s the thing: you can make it work. Break assignments up to be small, requiring little time to complete. Give them time to work on the assignments during small chunks of extra class time. Get them interested in the assignments and start them in class- and then have students finish at home. It’s okay. We don’t have to overwhelm them. We just need to educate them.

What if I don’t know enough about personal finance to teach it to high schoolers? Let me tell you a little secret. Lean in close- it’s one I didn’t know until I was well into adulthood. Here it is: nobody knows what they’re doing. Seriously. I had no idea what I was doing my first few years of teaching. No idea. Yet my students learned, I wasn’t fired, and I improved drastically from year to year. I made mistakes, misspoke, had to correct myself regularly, apologized when I messed up, and grew. And you know what else? If you’re a functioning adult, you probably know more about personal finance than you realize. Google “parts of a budget” and get your students started in researching each part. Because as Rachel Hollis always says, in an age of this much free information online, being ignorant is a choice. So maybe take the time to learn alongside your students so you can be better for next year’s students (not to mention get your own life on track). In part 2 and the last part of this 5-part series, I’ll go more in depth on how I address this issue, but for now just rest assured that it’ll be okay. It’s okay to need a moment to research the answer to a student’s question. It’s okay to not know. Because you’re a human.

Have any other questions I’ve not addressed yet? Let me know in the comments. And stay tuned for the “hows” of teaching personal finance every Wednesday in January.

With love,

Mrs. P

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2 Must-Read Supplemental Texts for the Economics Classroom

Sure, your textbook tries. It has little examples and profiles for key Economic concepts. It has glossy photos and interesting charts. And yet…even the best textbooks cannot replace supplemental texts that actually give your students a broader understanding of Economics and all of it’s incredible implications. After all, there are so many schools of thought and areas of study when it comes to being an economist. Why limit your students to traditional ways of teaching?

That’s why I bring key chapters of supplemental texts into my classroom. Sure, I use several other classic texts, like (super short) excerpts from Wealth of Nations (duh!) and the famous essay “I, Pencil.” (Side Note: both of these provide interesting explanations of why specialization is so important in case you’re looking for that, specifically). But what I’m really interested in providing for my students is a way for them to see economics applied to the real world. This automatically increases their understanding of the material and interest in the subject.

Enter: my two favorite must-read supplemental texts for the economics classroom.

The Economic Naturalist by Robert H. Frank

Why I like it: It’s easy to read and approachable to high school students yet will open their minds to a perspective they have not yet considered. I specifically use Chapter One which is all about product design. Frank uses economic concepts to explain everything from why soda cans are cylindrical to why women’s shirts button from a different direction from men’s shirts. The format is a puzzling question followed by an economically centered explanation.

How I use it: I ask my students to read the assigned chapter. I give them a reading quiz on the day the reading is due and then have them write an (incredibly short) essay where they explain a puzzling question using a similar format to the author. Students become the Economic Naturalist! This idea comes from the author himself and is explained here. It takes a little while for students to choose their topic, but they typically love brainstorming and trying to find anomalies in the world around them. Seeing students get excited about economic concepts is music to my ears.

The Undercover Economist by Tim Harford

Why I like it: Again, the writing is completely accessible for high school aged students. I specifically like to use Chapter 2: What Supermarkets Don’t Want You to Know because every student has likely been to the grocery store. The text takes conventional wisdom and challenges our assumptions. It also allows to students to shop more critically by questioning why supermarkets place items in specific places and get you to spend more money.

How I use it: Again, my students read the chapter and then take a reading quiz on the due date. However, they don’t write an essay for this one. Rather, I ask them to create questions about the text and how it applies to the real world. And then the students have a Socratic Seminar, which is one of my favorite days of the year. I’m always surprised to see students discuss topics we haven’t even covered yet like branding, marketing, personal finances, business structures, etc. It’s such a relevant and fruitful discussion. What’s better than watching my students basically become economists for a day?

PS I used to teach with Freakonomics because students absolutely love the way it’s written, but have discontinued for various reasons, including many of the theories presented being challenged or debunked.

So these are my main supplemental texts. What are yours? Let me know in the comments!

With love,

Mrs. P

Devotionals

Made for More

I am made for more. I am the daughter of the King of the Universe. I am clothed in the purest white. I am called worthy. I am loved beyond reason, beyond measure.

I was walking down the hall today at school, slouching slightly and caught up in my thoughts about the day. And then the thought crossed my mind: I am the daughter of the King. Not just any king- The King. God, who commands nature, designed the skies, knows my future, and redeems humanity, is my Father.

Does that ever just catch your breath, make you pause?

The thought crossed my mind today and it changed my entire outlook and demeanor. I threw my shoulders back just like my mama always begged me to do, and I walked with dignity. For I am the daughter of the King.

Just like every daughter born to every king, I have done absolutely nothing to deserve this title. It’s who I am. It doesn’t even make complete sense. After all, I am a sinner born to sinners who dwells in this truly sinful world. Yet God calls me His daughter. And I’m just going to soak in this knowledge today.

Will you soak in this knowledge with me? Write it down, say it out loud, sing it softly, proclaim it boldly. I am the daughter of the King of the Universe.

And if I’m the daughter of the king, I am a co-heir of the kingdom with Christ. He has done everything to deserve it. I have done nothing. Yet I am the daughter of the king. It’s who I am.

And just like every daughter born to a king, this means everything about my life, my purpose, and my mission is changed. This identity both makes me special and gives implications to how I’ll live my life. My life is tied to and dependent upon the king. And that’s the right place to be, for He made me for more. So much more than I could ever imagine.

And so I walk with dignity. I walk with dependence. I walk with assurance. I walk with the king.

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” -Romans 8: 14-16

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” -Galatians 4: 4-7

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Classroom Management: the Non-Scary Approach (Part 4- Follow Through)

Alright so we covered the “why,” the “how,” and the “what” so now it’s time to wrap up this series by talking about follow through. Not the sexiest topic, but it’s so, so important. Because really, none of this matters unless you not only introduce and implement the changes, but consistently keep up the rules and routines. Students, being their angelic little selves, will naturally start to test the new boundaries and when they do, it’s critical to calmly hold your ground and follow through on your word. Empty threats will get you absolutely nowhere with teenagers.

Now, none of us is perfect. There are days when I want to just not care and let students do what they want. I get tired of reminders, warnings, and quietly ushering that student back to his seat (for the 3rd time in like 10 minutes). Just let ’em run wild! And yet- those are the days when it counts most!

So how can we keep up the motivation to manage our classrooms well and consistently? Through trial and error, I’ve discovered a few nuggets of wisdom.

  1.  Remind yourself every morning why classroom management is important to you. Really visualize the classroom you want to create. Write notes and reminders to yourself on post-its. Send yourself encouraging reminders on your phone. When you start off your day with these reasons first and foremost in your brain, you will be more likely to follow through.
  2. Make a visual reminder of the classroom rules for your classroom. As in, make an actual physical copy that everyone in the room can see at any point in time. It’s really best if you can involve your students in the process of creating these rules in the first place because it builds buy-in. This way everyone can reference or glance at the expectations at any point and know exactly what is acceptable and what is not.
  3. Don’t get in the habit of getting mad. Rather, approach student disobedience or misbehavior with compassion, grace, and consistent responses. If students know you care about them and they care about you, too- that’ll eliminate a lot of your classroom management issues from the get-go. It’ll also allow you to enforce classroom management in the long run because it won’t be such a bummer to keep up. Nobody likes being mad when doing their job.
  4. Have an accountability partner. This might be a mentor, fellow teacher, friend, administrator. Let them know your goals and ask them to hold ya to it! An accountability partner will also be able to help you brainstorm strategies that work for you and for your students.

Well, that’s a wrap on my classroom management series! Let me know what was most useful to you or any strategies you use in your classroom in the comments below.

With love,

Mrs. P

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Classroom Management: the Non-Scary Approach (Part 3- What It Looks Like)

Real talk. I used to fear my students. Not like “ahhh-they’re scary!” No, my fear was far more insidious and subtle. I feared their opinions of me. I gave into their demands and desires all the time because I truly wanted to be liked. Their opinion of me defined how I viewed myself. But wait- that doesn’t make any sense! I’m not a teenager looking for affirmation from 15 year olds. I’m an adult, physically and emotionally. And looking for my own value in my students was never going to end well. Our identities should be in something big and unchanging- God. I am enough and worthy exactly as I am. So are you.

Yet as I was looking for my value in the inconsistent, raging opinions of teenagers, I began to realize that I had absolutely no control over my classroom. And that’s not conducive to learning or teaching. It was a vicious cycle where I didn’t want to fix the behavioral issues because I didn’t want to be disliked yet I hated the way I felt so out of control in my own classroom. Lose-lose.

So I started to implement these classroom management strategies. One at a time, slowly. But consistently. It won’t work if you’re not consistent and enforce the rules. And the rules have to have consequences if they are not upheld. Students won’t magically behave just because we created rules or are working on classroom management.

So here are my best tips and tricks for classroom management. You’ll notice that a lot of my strategies are subtle- maybe not even consciously noticed by students. In my book, that’s a win-win.

  1. Proximity is everything. Obviously don’t be inappropriate or creepy in any way, ever. I honestly shouldn’t even have to say that. But anyways, your proximity has power. For example, last week I had some students talking while I was giving directions. Without interrupting myself, I walked over to the students, waved my hand to gain their attention, and continued talking. I stood by them until I was finished giving directions. They stopped and I didn’t have to pause my whole class to get them to listen. My students are used to me moving around like this so they just turn their heads to wherever I’m standing to hear directions. If students are doing group work and are having an off topic conversation, I go stand by them. They typically stop. If not, I warn them without a trace of anger. Matter-of-factly.
  2. Believe the best of your students. If one of my students has their head down, I wait until my presence won’t draw additional attention, say the student’s name quietly until they look up, and ask if they’re okay. Then I ask if they need to walk around the hall really quick or grab a drink of water. I assume the student is tired or upset or needs privacy for a minute. I always assume my students are not trying to be disrespectful. You know why? Because they rarely are. I don’t yell at them or get angry. I ask them calm questions. I offer assistance if I can. I give them the opportunity to feel cared for, seen. It makes all the difference to them.
  3. Establish consistent, reliable routines. They might not know it, but students crave routine. Humans love routines and our brains crave them because they’re efficient. So the first 10 minutes of every class, my students know they will write. They have the same sheet of paper they take out every day and add a new written response to their warm up on it. They quietly write for 5 minutes. We then discuss for 5 minutes. Such a simple routine, yet as I turn the lights off…they do it. They have the chance to begin thinking about History or Econ and transition into my classroom. Then we get to the lesson of the day. And with sophomores, I always have them get back in their seats the last few minutes of the period, and I give reminders and instructions for any homework. These simple routines allow us to not waste time and students start to do them with little prompting. It creates a sense of order. Routines, routines, routines.
  4. Seating charts are life. I used to be TERRIFIED of giving students seating charts for fear they would hate me. But you know what’s a bad idea? Letting students sit wherever they want. Literally the worst. Teenagers don’t make good choices. Adults do. (Usually.) Creating seating charts allows students to work with a variety of people and it allows you to choose strategic groupings. It allows your classroom to be more orderly and for the side conversations to be kept to a minimum. It also turns free seating activities into a special privilege. When students know you’re not afraid to move them at will, they’ll take your warnings seriously and start behaving accordingly.
  5. Do not pair your highest skilled student with your lowest skilled student. This is not a good idea for many reasons- mostly because it’s not actually helpful for either student academically. Yet from a classroom management approach, it’s poison to student engagement. When they’re working together, the higher student will feel bored, frustrated, or do all the work. The lower skilled student will then not be helped at all. Both will likely begin acting out or zoning out from the lesson.
  6. Build rapport and take every opportunity to show students you care. This is probably the most important tip. Your students need to know you like them and care about them as individuals. Learn their interests, their life stories, ask how they’re doing in your warm ups and actually read their responses. Ask what support you can offer. Notice failing students and follow up with them. Offer office hours. Show them you care. It doesn’t have to take up all your time. It just has to be meaningful.
  7. Plan lessons that take up the whole period. We don’t want gaps of time where students aren’t doing anything productive or have too much wait time. Why? It’s prime time for misbehavior. This is why everything with my sophomores has a timer. If they’re doing a worksheet, they know how much time they have. If they’re doing a think-pair-share, they know how long they should be talking. Free time or wasted time is not conducive to learning and it’s beyond stressful because all the behavior issues show up.
  8. Constantly communicate your expectations with students. For every single task and assignment, I give my expectations for what I want students to learn/produce and and and what their behavior should look like. Should they be talking? Quiet? Listening to music? Should they find someone to work with? Should they stay seated? Tell them what you expect and why you expect it. For example, I’ll usually tell my students that they need to be quiet in the next activity because it’s individual and I want them to practice on their own before checking with a neighbor. Now it doesn’t seem like some mean mandate- they understand why they’re being quiet and how it will benefit them personally. Explaining your reasoning works wonders with teenagers who tend to think adults are constantly being unfair.

So this is a start to better managing your classroom. You’ll be amazed how much impact simple changes can have. And make sure you check out my first and second blogs in this series if you haven’t gotten a chance yet.

With love,

Mrs. P

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Classroom Management: the Non-Scary Approach (Part 2- How to Start)

Okay, okay. So the idea of classroom management makes sense to you. You get it. Maybe you even agreed with my first post in the series. But maybe the idea of getting started overwhelms or intimidates you. You’re not alone. When I first started, whenever I would say or do anything related to classroom management or discipline, my hands would start sweating, my face would get hot, and I’d feel short of breath (which coincidentally is just great when you’re trying to explain things in front of your entire class).

So let me come alongside you, friend, and give you a few practical ways to get started. Next week, I’ll post about practical classroom management techniques I use, but first it’s important to give you a little push to get started. So here we go:

  1. Work through the discomfort. If you’re not naturally the “strict” or “disciplinary” type, it’s important to work through the sense of discomfort you’ll feel in setting boundaries, establishing routines, and explaining rules to your students. But it’s so necessary. So take a deep breath, pray a little, feel confident that this is important and your students need it. And then go for it! Yes, your students might be a little miffed at you, but they’re teenagers. You’re the adult. There must be boundaries. They’ll get it, readjust, and go right on back to loving you once their irritation subsides. I promise 🙂
  2. Involve your students in the process of making the rules. Trust me, it’s not too late in the semester. Just take 30 minutes out of your class period and have students brainstorm classroom rules that they think will create a safe, respectful, fun, comfortable learning environment for the entire class. Have them share their rules with a partner and then pair down their list to 2-3 ideas. One partner goes to the board and writes down their ideas (because what student doesn’t love writing on the whiteboard?). Then you discuss each rule with the class. If the class agrees, write the rule down on butcher paper. Once you have a good list, tell students these are the new class rules and have them sign their names to the paper. I do this with sophomores the second day of school and then hang up the poster for all to see the rest of the year.
  3. Explain rules and the reasoning behind those rules. When you’re implementing new rules or re-iterating old rules with your class, always explain the “why.” You know what students hate? Being told “because I said so.” Do you like when someone implements rules randomly that don’t make sense to you and then won’t explain them to you? Of course not. So take the time to explain the positive effect your rules will have on the students and on the classroom as a whole.
  4. Actually enforce the rules. Yeah, I know. Seems obvious. But I truly believe that most teachers don’t follow through on what they say. I remember my first year teaching, I’d state a rule and then pray students would follow it. I wouldn’t actually have any consequences so students walked all over me. Nowadays when I see two students having an off-topic conversation, I walk over and kindly say “How’s it going?” It throws them off and also shows you’re not angry. Then I say very calmly “I’m very concerned that you two aren’t going to finish this assignment this class period. I want to see you succeed and not have homework. So this is your warning and next time you’re off topic, I’ll have to move you.” And 5 seconds later when they’re off-topic again, you know what I do? Move them. Matter-of-factly. Calmly. Without anger.
  5. Be chill. Not in the sense of letting everything go- remember, you have to follow through. But approach discipline and consequences in a calm manner. Don’t discipline while angry. If students can count on you to be even-tempered, they know that you don’t “hate” them or think they’re a bad person. It’s simply that they broke a rule, there was a consequence, you enforced that consequence, everyone moves on. Yelling at kids or showing your anger does not a managed classroom make. When students live in fear of you, they can’t learn from you. So again, take a deep breath, let go of the frustration, and then enforce the rules.

Friend, if you’re struggling with managing your classroom, I hope you can start today. I hope you feel the freedom and joy of doing the hard work to create a well-managed, stress-reduced classroom.

With love,

Mrs. P