Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Marriage: Love Wins

My wife and I celebrated our anniversary this past week. Eighteen years. Sometimes I look back and think, "We were just kids when we got married!" But it's been a good eighteen. And I'm so grateful that I have her in my life.

I love her, you see?

And she loves me.

And we're better together. But that doesn't mean we're perfect.

Love holds us together. And in those (very few) moments when we don't see eye-to-eye, when there is friction, when there is stress...we both know that we will get through it, that we'll be okay.

Because we love each other. And love wins.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

How Smart are SMARTBoards?

I occasionally get emails or phones calls from friends who are administrators or other school leaders in smaller, private schools. They may not be able to have a full-time tech coordinator (or even a part-time tech coordinator! Sometimes the principal is "the guy" for their school...) so they come to me in search of advice on their tech needs and concerns.

Since I've served as a tech coordinator in a larger (but not "large") Christian school, I understand at least some of the challenges they are facing, so I'm always willing to help out if I can. And...I have opinions...

I recently got this email from a principal friend:


Currently, we have SMART boards in about half of our classrooms. As we contemplate moving forward, I’m wondering if you can give some input to help us make a decision moving forward. We have 6 classrooms that do not have smart boards in them. I’m wondering about the future. Are SMART boards still the best tool to use in a classroom or is there something better out there? Are smart boards on their way out? 

Being a small school, I don’t have a technology director so am left to fend for myself when it comes to making decisions regarding the implementation of technology. Any input you can give would be much appreciated. 

This was a great question, I thought. I am honestly sort of wondering the same thing. Here is what I wrote back to him:

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Dissenting Opinions

This tweet showed up in my Twitterfeed today, retweeted by a friend:

I laughed. So truthy. (Like something @BluntEducator might have tweeted.)

A similar idea actually came up in a pedagogy workshop I was part of yesterday. A group of colleagues from across disciplines get together regularly throughout the summer to talk about our teaching practices--it's a great way to get to know faculty from other departments and to reflect together on how we are teaching.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Singing: Sometimes I Really Miss Middle School

This morning I led singing at our local Christian school, the one where I served on the faculty for eleven years before moving to my current position. I have many friends there, and the students--the older ones, at least--still know me by name. ("Hi Mr. Mulder! Are you here to sing with our class today??") I have to admit, that feels pretty good.

So as I met up with a class of middle schoolers, I picked out some of my favorites. Some newer songs, some oldies-but-goodies from when I began teaching almost 20 years ago. I included this one, which was always a hit with the middle school crowd:

"Spring up, O well, within my soul!" (Splish, splash!)
The kids sang with gusto. So did I.

When we wrapped up after 30 minutes, they were begging for a few more favorites. I took that to be a good sign. What a blessing to lead young people in worship--and for them to want more!

I love to sing, and music has always had an important role in my life. For those who say junior high boys just won't sing...I have much evidence to the contrary, both from my own experience as a middle schooler and from the years I spent teaching young adolescents. I'm convinced that your approach, and the songs you choose, and your willingness to build a relationship with the kids make all the difference. Evidence today: the kids sang.

It's been three school years now since I taught at that school, and it's still a little weird for me when I'm there. I thought it would be better by now. But I suppose that when you pour out your heart and soul for over a decade into a place that you care deeply about, it's bound to leave a mark.

I love what I do now, teaching future teachers. But sometimes, I really miss meeting up with middle schoolers on a day-to-day basis. I miss the chance to teach them, heart, soul, mind, and strength.

And today, with the singing...I'm missing middle school.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Freshman Expectations: "You Aren't In High School Anymore!"

Yesterday I posted a bit about good pedagogy, and technology, and navigating change in today's educational environment. My friend Ed replied and his point got me thinking some more about one part of the discussion fodder I shared in that post in particular: the idea that there is a real difference in expectations for learning in high school vs. learning in college. He was responding to a quote I shared in that piece that came from an article entitled "Message to My Freshman Students."

You see, I teach a lot of freshmen, first year college students. As in, they were just in high school in May, and then show up in my college class in August.

So I'm thinking now about how I can better help the freshmen I teach in Intro to Education understand the difference in expectations for their learning from high school to college. Because if I'm going to expect them to be dramatically different learners than they were in high school, they need to understand the difference.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Keeping a Level Head in a Changing Educational Environment

I think it's fair to say that the expectations for the school environment--at all levels, from Kindergarten through college--are shifting in this day and age. Technology has certainly had an impact. But pedagogy still has a role to play--and I would argue that strong pedagogy is perhaps even more important in a high technology environment.

In just a few days' time, I have had a variety of things come across my iPad that conflict and jumble together and have me thinking about the classrooms where we are teaching and learning today. It's an exciting/scary/strange/invigorating/frustrating/wonderful time to be an educator! Let me share three things that are stirring my thinking right now, and then I'll give a few beginning thoughts on how I am sorting them out.


First, this interesting piece, shared by a friend and fellow professor on Facebook: "Message to my Freshman Students." I hope you'll read the piece yourself, but I found it really interesting how the author expresses the different expectations for students and learning in high school and in college. One quote that I found fascinating:
"Up to now your instruction has been in the hands of teachers, and a teacher's job is to make sure that you learn...At university, learning is your job -- and yours alone. My job is to lead you to the fountain of knowledge. Whether you drink deeply or only gargle is entirely up to you."

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

God Loveth Adverbs

This morning I had the chance to sit in on a conversation with a hero-of-sorts for me: Dr. Nicholas Wolterstorff. I've been reading things written by Dr. Wolterstorff since I was an undergraduate student 20 years ago, and it was fascinating to hear his thoughts on Christian Higher Education in this rather informal session.

Dr. Wolterstorff (right) in conversation with President Hoekstra.