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Dispositions of an Educator – Gentleness

Fruits of the Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control (Galatians 5: 22-23).

Character Focus: Gentleness

According to the Bible, gentleness is kindness with humility and respect.  When engaging with others we should show respect and be absent of arrogance to display the Godly character of gentleness.  Furthermore, 1 Peter 3:15 states that we should always be prepared to share the good news but to do it with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).  When sharing our faith we should not disrespect others.  Characterizing gentleness takes practice.  One way we can accomplish this is through a daily routine like getting dressed.  Colossians 3:12 says that we should “clothe ourselves with gentleness” (Colossians 3:12).  As teachers, when we get up in the morning we should put on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, and the jeans of gentleness.

You have most-likely heard of the phrase, “The gentle giant.”  With recent movies such as BFG and Jack in the Bean Stock, giants are a part of our culture.  At times these films display gentle characteristics and other times a more aggressive depiction of powerful individuals.  We all have giants in our lives.  Giants need not be only physical.  One may also be a giant in their personal, professional, and academic life.  In any environment, there is something peaceful about an extremely powerful individual that chooses to display a calm peaceful demeanor rather than a threatening one.  Have you come into contact with someone that has aggressively displayed their “giant?”  Have you ever done that yourself?  Similarly, individual scan have a giant personality.  To most of our students we are “giants.”  Whether that be physically, mentally, professionally, academically, and/or spiritually.  It takes a humble person to put on a gentle persona rather than a threatening one.  Teachers that choose gentleness will find more success with impacting the lives of young people in a meaningful way.

What can you do as an educator to ensure that you choose to be a Gentle Giant with kindness, respect, and humility?  Even at our worst, students should experience our best.

Dr. Nathan Herzog

Dispositions of an Educator – Goodness

Fruits of the Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control (Galatians 5: 22-23).

There are more than 300 million people in the United States.  Nearly one third are in K-12 Education.  Teachers are influencing the future education, culture, and character of young people.  Currently students do not believe character is important.  According to Educational Leadership (Weissbourd, May 2011), “…more than one third of juniors surveyed identified ‘getting into a good college’ as more important than ‘being a good person.’”  It is true that education and prestige are helpful in attaining a desirable job; however, most people that have worked for a significant amount of time will tell you that character is what allows a person to keep their job.  Ralph Waldo Emerson agrees by stating, “Character is higher than intellect.  A great soul will be strong to live as well as think.”  Character should have a higher priority than education itself.

Character Focus: Goodness

When I think of goodness, I think of great worship songs.  I remember singing one song in particular, “Father of Lights.”  Everything good comes from God.

Father of lights, You delight in Your children
Father of lights, You delight in Your children
Every good and perfect gift comes from You
Every good and perfect gift comes from You
Every good and perfect gift comes from You
Father of lights
Father of lights, You never change
You have no turning
Father of lights, You never change
You have no turning

(John Barnett)

According to the Apostle Peter, goodness is foundational to developing Godliness.  Peter states that add goodness to your faith; add knowledge to goodness; add self-control to knowledge; add perseverance to self-control; and Godliness will result (2 Peter 1: 4-6, NIV).  To illustrate this, I am reminded of a story of a pastor.  A senior pastor told a youth pastor, “Did you know there were four kids smoking outside the youth room last Wednesday evening?  What is your plan to discipline that behavior?”  The youth pastor (modeling the characteristic of Goodness) replied, “You mean I was able to get smokers to come to church?”  Goodness is a choice.  People can choose to see the goodness in situations or not.  When you choose to see goodness you also choose to see God at work.

As a teacher goodness is essential to appropriate character development.  Typically, we associate “good” with behavior in education.  In addition to behavior, teachers can choose to see the goodness in situations.  I teach teachers.  One of the most challenging parts of our program is during their student teaching internship.  This challenge brings many emotional, physical, and spiritual difficulties where some view the goodness and others do not.  Goodness is more powerful than many of us can fathom.  I recently attended a “Courage to Be You” event where two women shared their testimony of being rescued from sex-trafficking.  At this event both women shared how the incredible goodness of God resulted from their dark and evil experiences.  One person shared that when you are in the midst of the darkness it is difficult to see the goodness.  For example, looking at a Picasso painting up close may appear unorganized and messy.  However, when you step back and look at the painting the goodness can be viewed.  At this event I realized an entirely different level of goodness.  I think as educators we can make a choice to step back and view the goodness of situations in education.

Dr. Nathan Herzog

 

Bibliography

Weissbourd, R. (May 01, 2011). The Overpressured Student. Educational Leadership, 68, 8, 22-27.

Dispositions of an Educator – Kindness

Fruits of the Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control (Galatians 5: 22-23).

Are you always comfortable?  If you are, then you need to force yourself into difficult situations to develop character.  People often complain because they are uncomfortable.  What if you took the uncomfortable situation as an opportunity to demonstrate a particular fruit of the spirit?  For example, in the midst of an unloving person you may have the opportunity to show love.  During a depressing situation you may have the opportunity to display the joy of the Lord.  During a time of conflict you may have the opportunity to portray peace.  During a time sensitive moment you may have the opportunity to represent patience.  While in a negative situation you can provide a kind heart.  In a situation that may seem meaningless you may have the opportunity to find goodness in it.  When everyone else is giving up you may have the opportunity to remain faithful.  When rough and aggressive situations arise you may have the opportunity to give a gentle response.  When many are falling to temptation you may have the opportunity to display self-control.  Let us pray, “Lord please provide an opportunity for me to be uncomfortable so that I may further develop all or some of the fruits of the spirit.”

Character Focus: Kindness

God has shown immense kindness to us and we are instructed to continue in that kindness with others.  “For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off (Romans 11: 21-22).”  Some of the ways that one can show kindness are:

Help others without thought of reward;

Overlook mistakes;

Have patience with faultiness;

Forgive easily;

Put the needs of others before your own;

Share the good things in your life;

Be genuinely interested in others;

Give of your own time;

Be well-mannered and courteous;

Share another’s affliction;

Listen attentively;

Resist the urge to talk about others unkindly.

Kindness is more than an act.  More important than the act of kindness is the intentionality behind the act.  To illustrate, a person that provides a compliment to another person to persuade them to do a favor is not the sort of kindness that would emulate the character of Christ.  On the other hand, an adult that anonymously pays for another family’s meal with a note that reads “Jesus Loves You,” is something that spreads Christ’s kindness to others.

Kindness should glorify God not yourself.  In October of 2000 a movie was released titled, “Pay it Forward.”  In the movie a young boy, inspired by his teacher, performed random acts of kindness to people that eventually made a large impact in society.  When was the last time you did something kind for someone without any strings attached, or better yet anonymously?  The American culture is to bring attention to oneself.  The culture of Christ is to bring attention to God.

There are some educational character initiatives as a result of violence in the schools.  On April 20th, 1999, two students entered Columbine High School and massacred eleven students and one teacher.  One of whom was Rachel Scott who was especially kind and compassionate toward others.  In response to this act, Rachel’s Challenge was launched.  This program encourages others to display kindness and compassion in schools similar to how Rachel did.  Rachel’s challenge is a comprehensive elementary and secondary curriculum that provides one way to implement kindness and compassion into schools to build character (Hollingshead, B., Crump, C., Eddy, R., & Rowe, D., 2009).  Violence in schools may be avoided by encouraging kindness through purposeful character development programs like Rachel’s Challenge.

Choose to be kind today.

Dr. Nathan Herzog

 

Bibliography

Hollingshead, B., Crump, C., Eddy, R., & Rowe, D. (2009). Rachel’s Challenge: A Moral Compass for Character Education. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 45(3), 111-115. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Dispositions of an Educator – Patience

Fruits of the Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control (Galatians 5: 22-23).

To understand more about the Fruit of the Spirit I will explain how a literal fruit develops.  Fruit is the consumable part of a plant that develops from a flower.  Flowers make wonderful gifts.  Let us imagine for a moment that the Holy Spirit gives us a flower which has the potential to develop into one of the Fruits of the Spirit.  This gift, if cultivated properly, will develop into a fruit that can then be planted to develop more flowers.   Once the fruit has reached maturity the seeds can be used to develop more flowers.  Similarly, the Fruit of the Spirit are designed to be received as a gift (flower), further developed (from a seed), and given to others to enjoy (fruit).  This process may require patience.  On the other hand, the Fruit of the Spirit are not owned by individuals nor are they static strengths possessed by individuals.

Character Focus: Patience

James, the brother of Jesus, wrote a letter to his fellow Jews about authentic patience.  In this letter James states that authentic patience is achieved through experiencing trails, waiting with hope, refusing to grumble, restraint from swearing, praying for healing, and caring for fallen believers.  According to James, “Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains.  You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.”  The farmer knows that the crop will not be its best until it is fully ripened.  The farmer has no choice but to wait.  If the crop is picked early it will not reach its full potential.  Patience will allow us and others within our lives to reach the full potential as designed by God.  (Joseph’s patience)

In Education, patience may be the solution to many of the challenges we face.  According to D’Orio (2011), patience may be the solution to some of the largest educational issues such as; “closing the achievement gap, improving teacher training and recruitment, and reducing emphasis on standardized tests.”  In education there is no such thing as a quick fix.  It is possible that we have made improvements to solve many issues and now we must exhibit patience to allow them to work.  In addition, patience may be the solution to some classroom challenges.  A study was done in India to look at effective strategies for teachers in diverse situations.  It was found that when implementing strategies teachers must have patience for them to work properly (Adair & Bhaskaran; 2010).  Similar to “The Goose That Laid The Golden Egg” by Aesop desiring to have it all without patience may lead to the loss of everything.  Teachers need to be patient to allow the Fruit of the Spirit to be ripe for the picking.

(To clarify; Patience vs. waiting and doing nothing; don’t just stop and wait.)

Dr. Nathan Herzog

Bibliography

Adair, J., & Bhaskaran, L. (2010). Practices from an Urban Preschool in Bangalore, India. YC: Young Children, 65(6), 48-55. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

D’Orio, W. (2011). Our Big Challenge. Scholastic Administrator, 10(6), 4. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Dispositions of an Educator – Peace

Fruits of the Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control (Galatians 5: 22-23).

Are we teachers that are Christians?  Are we Christians that are teachers?  Or are we followers of Christ called to a profession to be a light unto the world?  Your answers to these questions will determine how you integrate your faith in life.  While many people try to figure out how this can be accomplished, there are those that establish the Fruits of the Spirit into their worldview to integrate life into their faith.

Character Focus: Peace

Peace has been defined as the absence of conflict (Burstermann, 1993).  This is not the a great way to define peace.  There is not a living organism that experiences life void of conflict.  However, some living organisms have the ability to exist with conflict without succumbing to unnecessary emotional or physical outbursts that may lead to behavior that is not peaceful.  In fact, there are always peaceful solutions to all forms of conflict.

Teachers can develop peaceful hearts by following the words of Isaiah and Paul.  Seven hundred years before the birth of Christ, not only did Isaiah prophesy of the coming Christ, he also provided specific instructions to attain peace (Isaiah 26).  Isaiah in a song expresses that the key to “perfect peace” is faith.  Similarly, Paul wrote a letter to the saints of Philippi while chained to a guard and under house arrest.  He wrote:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (NIV, Philippians 4: 4-9).

Both Isaiah and Paul provide specific directions for Christians to attain Peace.  The directions from Isaiah and Paul are useful if practiced prior to conflict.  We should heed the directions of a proven prophet and an eye witness to Jesus’ character.

It is important for teachers to instill an understanding of peace within students.  Pre-service teachers today identify peace with “…serenity, love, respect, friendship, tolerance, solidarity and equality” (Deveci, Yilmaz, & Karadag, 2008).  Today our youth experience both real and virtual forms of situations that are not peaceful.  Real conflicts exist in the forms of wars across the world, emotional conflict in the home, and physical conflict at school.  In addition, the various forms of virtual gaming systems may confuse our young people’s natural understanding of peace.  Because our young people are regularly exposed to non-peaceful situations it is more important than ever that we provide opportunities for students to experience peaceful situations.

Teachers can be effective in modeling peace education in K-12 classrooms.  Snodgrass (2009) recently completed research in South Africa where peace education was practiced and it was found that it “…provided opportunities for learners to grow beyond their current cultural identities and discover alternative ways of handling conflict constructively” (p. 166).  Each teacher should identify opportunities to teach peaceful behavior and provide alternative peaceful solutions to conflicts.

Nathan Herzog Ph.D.

 

Bibliography

Deveci, H., Yilmaz, F., & Karadag, R. (2008). Pre-Service Teachers’ Perceptions of Peace Education. Eurasian Journal of Educational Research (EJER), (30), 63-80. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Snodgrass, L. (2009). Peace Education in Multicultural Schools: An Action Research Approach. International Journal of Learning, 16(8), 157-168. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Dispositions of an Educator – Joy

Character Focus: Joy

Fruit of the Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control (Galatians 5: 22-23)

Where do beginning teachers learn about ethical obligations related to the profession?  It is through character development where one identifies what is right and wrong.  Is it ethical to waive an assignment for a student that misses a class due to a severe medical issue?  Should a teacher provide a passing grade for a student that tries their best but does not meet the minimum requirements?  Values, ethics, and career responsibilities should be a part of teacher education (Holmes, 1991).  In Galatians 5 the Bible states that people who display the fruits of spirit are free from the law.  In other words, character development provides teachers with the appropriate ethics, values, and career responsibilities that reduce or eliminate concern with the law.  Focusing on joy can help to establish an appropriate character trait within teachers and students that is appropriate for all classroom settings.

Joy and happiness are different.  Joy is a state of one’s character where happiness is a day-to-day state of emotions.  For example, the loss of a job may influence your happiness but it should not reduce the joy of the Lord in one’s spirit.  Similarly, for teachers, when a lesson goes wrong it may influence your immediate happiness, but it should not reduce the joy of teaching.  Joyful teachers are good at maintaining a joyous attitude in all circumstances.  Furthermore, teachers should encourage students to maintain a sense of joy within their heart even during difficult circumstances.  The Bible reminds us that it is important for Christians to have a joyful heart in all situations.  Romans 12: 12 states, “Be joyful in hope, patient, in affliction, and faithful in prayer” (NIV).  Job was a good example of Joy.  In the midst of suffering, Job maintained a joyful spirit through a closer connection with God.  Will you use times of unhappiness to further develop joy within yourself?  Individuals that are able to develop characteristics prior to entering the classroom may have an improved understanding of the ethics, values, and career responsibilities associated with teaching.  As a teacher you will be unhappy, but do not allow your unhappiness to influence the Joy of your spirit.

Dr. Nathan Herzog

Dispositions of an Educator – Love

Character Focus: Love

Fruit of the Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control (Galatians 5: 22-23)

In Philippians 3:13 Paul states, “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it…”  That is what comes to mind when I think about character development.  I am not a perfect person.  Nevertheless, we should always strive to improve our own character and the character of those that we interact with.

The scripture provides a detailed description of what love is and what it is not.  In 1 Corinthians, Paul says that love is patient, kind, rejoices with the truth, protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres.  On the other hand, Paul also explains that love is not envious, not boastful, not proud, not rude, not self-seeking, not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, never fails, and does not delight in evil.  Loving teachers demonstrate these characteristics.

Loving your students can be difficult.  With God, one can be better equipped to love students unconditionally.  However, there can be difficulty in loving a student that is continually disobedient, dangerous, and/or disruptive.  A student that is continually disruptive takes patient love.  A student that is dangerous takes protective love.  A student that is disruptive takes love that perseveres.  All the while, a loving teacher will not be rude, fail to protect, nor will they keep a record of wrong.  As Christian teachers, we are to love our students with our head, hands, and heart.  Paul closes I Corinthians chapter 13 by stating, “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love.  But the greatest of these is love.”  Love is the character trait that encompasses all the others.  One that practices love is also developing the character traits Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control.  Now go, and choose to be a loving teacher.

Dr. Nathan Herzog

Tenure and Reflection

Recently, I had the privilege of celebrating the achievement of tenure at William Jessup University.  What an honor it was to reflect on the accomplishments and transformation that has occurred within myself.  This milestone was the most meaningful in my life thus far.

I am a list person.  Is there anyone else out there that enjoys writing a list and checking things off?  Most days, I do not complete everything on my list.  Particularly those items that take more than one to two hours.  At the end of the day, my reflection begins with thinking of those things.  Which can be detrimental to ones psyche.

Our Provost and President described tenure as a look into the future.  The Provost said, “Tenure is a statement of trust from the institution to the faculty member, and it is a sign that we want to build a culture around you.”  I really appreciated that statement and thought regarding tenure.

However, going through the tenure application and review allowed me to consider the past and tell a story of my journey as a faculty member at William Jessup University.  I have published a paper and understand the influence that tenure has on retention and satisfaction of faculty members.  However, I did not anticipate the satisfaction of related to reflecting on the big picture accomplishments of personal, professional and educational tasks that I had on my list at some point.

From this blog post, I would like you to leave with the appreciation of reflection and how it can bring a realization of how much we all do.  We all work hard in our respective professions and roles.  Ask your self:

How did I grow personally over the last five years?

How did I grow as a professional over the last five years?

How did I grow in my education over the last five years?

Are you accomplishing the goals that you would have hoped to?

What would you like to accomplish over the next five years?

I found that going through the tenure process was a milestone that allowed me to recognize growth in my self that I would have not done otherwise.

If you are a supervisor, your employees will find value in milestones if they are able to reflect appropriately.  Providing the appropriate review and reflection procedure can help to promote a similar experience where accountability can be viewed as valuable reflection.

Thanks,

Dr. Nathan Herzog

 

Teaching and Influence

Teaching others places the teacher in an authoritative role where influence is highly probable.  This potential influence can seem insignificant, but it may have life-long implications.

Have you known a teacher to abuse his/her authority in the classroom?  Perhaps, by telling students what they should think about a particular concept or thought.

Have you known a teacher that did not include any of their own thoughts regarding the content?  The teacher may have some expert opinion that may help others in similar circumstances.

I have heard many people answer “yes” to both of these questions.  The intention of  a liberal arts education is to provide information so others can learn HOW to think, not WHAT to think.  With this assumption, many educators move across the fine line of coaching vs. giving answers.  This brings me to my anchor question:

How much of our own bias should be shared and expressed in a classroom?

Teaching is truth mediated by personality – Phyllis Brooks

Too much personality and the truth is reduced.  Truth alone may not help students identify how it looks in practice.

We all have biases.  Not all biases are bad.  Bias is a part of being a thinking person.  That being said, there are some biases that affect us in the classroom.  Intrapersonal awareness of these biases is important to staying within the grounds as a teacher.  While there are facts and appropriate suggestions for many situations, many circumstances have more than one “right” answer.  A matter of preference will have more than one answer that is appropriate.  Such as; what you like to eat, a favorite color, where you enjoy vacationing, and others.  Certainly, a reasonable person would realize that I can’t tell another individual what they should believe about these questions.  On a more extreme note, teachers that tell students what they should think about wars, abortion, euthanasia, and other controversial issues may be crossing the personality – truth line defined by Phyllis brooks.  Rather, presenting how students should wrestle with these concepts help develop the skills that allow others to make informed and rational decisions based on their circumstances.

The next time you are in a place to influence someone be aware that you are helping them HOW to think and not WHAT to think.

Dr. Nathan Herzog

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