This is My Story –
Late last spring when the teachers selected this as the theme for this school year – we had no idea of the full potential and depth of this theme. Our original ideas was to have speakers during our chapels come who would be willing to share their story of how God was first revealed to them or how they have seen God at work in their lives. People young and old connect to a story – and we wanted our students to be able to connect to a story.
Then, as teachers we started seeing how this theme can become alive in our classrooms. Health class, reading class, drama class, Bible class all had opportunities to expand upon this theme. Just one example is the grade 6 – 8 class who are working on writing a biography of a resident of a local nursing home. After a series of interviews they are using the answers and conversations shared to write the resident’s story. In the process of planning and preparing for a project of that scope you realize the immense responsibility it is to be the storyteller of another person's story.
But as we go through this school year we don’t just want students to hear other people’s stories. We want them to be able to understand their own story, and to develop an understanding and have an appreciation for the stories of others in their classroom.
One of the goals and now initiatives we have had for our school this year is to bring what is known as Responsive classroom practices into our classes. Our school day now opens and closes with classroom meetings, a place for each child to be welcomed, to share and ultimately to be valued. As Jesus finds value in each child, we are striving to help students find value in each other as well.
Last week when the staff were away at professional development the theme that resonated with me throughout the three days in different seminars I attended was the importance of being known – and the difference between being known and noticed.
In our school I believe our students are not just noticed but known. We know their strengths and weaknesses. We know their interests and after school activities. We know what will make them smile and what will make them sad.
Not only are the students known to the teachers, but the teachers are known by the students. What a wonderful privilege we have in a Christian school to as teachers share our life story with our students. We can share moments in our lives, where God has been at work, we can share with our students when God has been present in our time of need or in our weaknesses. We can share where we see God at work, or our favourite and most meaningful Bible verses – and what God means to us.
Back to our theme - This is My Story – Now what is the story of Sonrise’s 31 years.
I think of the following words.
Faith – Sacrifice – Commitment – Loyalty - Passion
And when I think of the story of Sonrise – I see the faces of Sonrise.
I see the volunteers who out of their commitment to the school and their passion for God who have donated hundreds, thousands of hours to this ministry. Through the years volunteers who have been board members, committee members, volunteers who have taken care of lawn maintenance, snow removal, and overall school maintenance, classroom volunteers, parent drivers, hot lunch helpers, volunteers in our office, volunteers producing newsletters, working on technology, or spending hundreds of hours working at the school clothing sale, craft sales, E-waste days, or catering events. The list goes on and on.
I see the faces of many people who have been generous donators and have been willing to donate to the school financially. People, like many of you who freely and joyfully give.
I see the parents over the years who have made sacrifices to allow their child(ren) to have a Christian education. Parents, who have committed and invested far more than just their tuition dollars into the school.
The faces of Sonrise – I also see the staff – both teaching and support staff. Many who have sacrificed prep time, greater pay, and pension opportunities to be able to teach in a Christ-centred environment. I see these individuals who have a passion for teaching, a passion for learning and a passion for the Lord, come to work each day to serve Him. Many teachers have walked the halls of our school through the years, but they all have been invested in the work of Christian education.
Finally, I see the faces of all of the children who have attended the school, either for one day or for 10 years. Everyone's commitment comes out of a desire to see children learn in a positive Christ centred, God honouring learning environment.
These are the faces - the story of Sonrise – This is our story – but more importantly this has been God’s story. I have seen God at work in the lives of students, families and teachers. I have seen spiritual growth not just in students but in teachers and board members. I have seen God provide over and over and over again. I have many times called upon God in time of need in the school and seen Him work through and in the lives of his people.
Sonrise – this is our story. But, the story is not finished yet; there are many more empty pages yet to be written and many more pages to be filled as we look forward to what God has planned for the school.
One of my favourite magazines to read is Christian Early Education published through the Association of Christian Schools International. I love how it is designed -colourful and fun, but more importantly I love the articles and the value and importance they give to children. In September 2008 they published an edition about the relevance of the Great Commandment and the Great Commission to early education programs. Article after article they stressed their belief that children and young people need to be given high priority in receiving the message of the gospel. In their article, “It Takes a Team to Mold Disciples: Notes from a Playbook” authors Stephen Reel and Sara Jo Dillard write:
Interestingly, much of the focus on evangelism and discipleship in modern-day Christianity is toward reaching teenagers and young adults. Certainly there is a vast need in those age groups; however, the biblical foundations in teens are often weak or even absent, and the world’s influence already has a deep hold on their lives.
Christian schools have the awesome opportunity to disciple children and develop roots of faith at an early age. As a culture we know how early children respond to marketing and advertising – we need to reach them at the same age with the good news of the Gospel! After all it was Jesus who said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children” (Luke 18:16 NLT).
Sonrise partners with churches and families to provide children with a Christ-centred education on a daily basis and from an early age. I would like to encourage you to extend an invitation to any young families with kindergarten age children in your church, family and friends circles to attend our annual Kindergarten Open House. It is a great way to see our school, meet our teachers, and discover education with a difference. Our Kindergarten Day takes place on Wednesday, April 6th from 9:00 – 11:30. Food, crafts, learning and fun – the more the merrier!
Patience is a word that is often heard in my house these days. “Patience,” I hear my husband say to my 20 month old daughter as she impatiently waits for her snack to be prepared or as she tries to climb into the bath water before we can get her clothes off, “patience,” through a diaper change that in her world seems like an eternity and, “patience” waiting until Mommy or Daddy is home and ready to play with her again. Now, we recognize that toddlers have no sense of time and even less understanding of the concept of waiting. Asking her for patience is like trying to keep a colony of ants out of the honey jar. This can be an exasperating process and one that this is potentially futile in nature, but that doesn’t stop us from giving up.
Patience is a virtue that you often hear people praying for in their own lives. I am left to wonder if this is getting worse in our current fast paced lives. We are definitely a generation of individuals who do not like to wait. Recently, I was in a fast food restaurant that had installed kiosks to speed up the order process so that now you can submit your order without the apparent slowdown that comes from interacting with a human person behind a counter. This to me is ironically sad, that we can no longer wait the extra few minutes to interact with another human being. Our self-absorbed, consumer society has obliterated our need for waiting at all. We now have instant access to news, entertainment, and even public opinion without even having to stop while we stuff that now super-fast food burger down our throats. It is no wonder that in our so called advanced society we no longer seem to have any empathy for others or any understanding of the concept of making time for others, waiting for others or stopping long enough to really care about anyone other than ourselves.
When I think about this concept of patience, I am also reminded of what it must be like for God who has to constantly wait for us to find time for Him in our lives. We need to learn to lean more on God for strength and to be patient with God and his timing in our life. I think so often we pray and then become discouraged if we do not see an instant answer that gives us exactly what we want. The following quote is one I have come to appreciate, “Patience is trusting God to keep his promises in his perfect timing.” I am not sure on the origin of this quote, but for me it is an easy reminder of how my faith needs to be.
After becoming a first time mom after 20 years of marriage I think I know a little bit about patience in waiting upon God. I am confident that what carried my husband and I through those years of waiting was our faith and trust in God. There were days of sadness, days of doubt, yet overall those days were few as we moved forward trusting in God’s perfect plan and timing. Through those years of waiting I can now see God’s work in my heart and life. I am reminded of the verse in James which reads, “Consider it pure joy my brethren whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance and perseverance must finish it work so that you may be mature and complete not lacking anything.”
My husband and I are now blessed every day and reminded on a daily basis of our God’s faithfulness. We may never understand God’s timing and why our wait was so long, but we are in awe and incredibly amazed how God blessed our patience with immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine.
This September will be the start of my 21st year in Christian education. I have to admit that before I starting teaching in a Christian school I did not have a very positive perception of Christian education. All I knew is that when I was in high school the “Christian school kids” went on the same bus as I did. Then they had to transfer to another bus for a further 20 minute drive to school. It did not make sense to me that children would have to travel such a far distance to school, and then on top of that to a school in which their parents would have to pay extra for. Even though I was a Christian I had no understanding of the mission, vision or purpose of a Christian education.
My naïve and somewhat negative impression of Christian schools was compounded when a close friend of mine switched to a Christian high school in grade 10. Her marks and average went up 10 to 15% and I assumed that it meant that the school had poor academic standards. I never took into equation the possibility that smaller class sizes, committed and caring teachers, a positive Christian environment, a Christ-centred curriculum and time spent in prayer could have possibly contributed to her growth not only academically but I am sure spiritually as well.
I remember clearly my brother asking me when I was in teacher’s college if I wanted to teach in a Christian school or in the public system. I remember telling him very confidently that I felt my place was in the public system of education. Well, just a year later God had a different plan. When I graduated from teacher’s college ironically God provided me a job teaching grade 6 at a Christian school in Brantford, Ontario. Looking back, I accepted that teaching position without a true understanding of Christian education.
My principal at the time shared with me what changed her heart towards Christian schooling. She explained how she had spent one summer tutoring a high school girl in mathematics. Unfortunately, at the end of that summer, the girl took her own life, she had committed suicide. The principal came to the realization that she had put so much time and effort into helping this girl, simply learn her math, and had taken no time or energy building a relationship or even more importantly had taken no time to prepare her for eternity.
This was a turning point for my principal, and after this event she dedicated herself to the development of Christian education which she continues to do today in a leadership role. This story was also an eye opener for myself as well.
As an educator I want to fill my students with knowledge, but what good is that knowledge, if the students do not know that there is a Heavenly Father who created them and loves them, that He has a son who died on the cross for them, and that there is a gift of eternal life waiting for them.
Recently I have been reading the book Praying with Paul by D.A. Carson. In it he discusses the fact that a common question that parent receives is, “How are your children doing?” I am sure many of you as parents have been asked and answered that question many times over. Oh, there doing fine, thanks for asking, School is going well, close to straight A’s, or busy, busy, busy, they are involved in so many activities. If your children are older perhaps you have answered in a similar fashion to the answers the author suggests in the book, and I quote,
“ Johnny’s doing very well now. His career as a research physicist has really taken off. He is the youngest person in his company to have been appointed to the board. And Evelyn is doing very well too, she’s into computer programming and is already the head of her section.”
You see it is not often a parent answers the question, how are your children doing - in the context of their child’s spiritual journey. In the book Carson wonders if this lack of a spiritual response is a reflection of respecting privacy or as he phrases it a “warped perspective on priorities.” As parents and as a society are we most invested in our children’s academic and athletic successes and their social standing over their spiritual life or commitment to Christ? Are we most joyous over their success in work and material prosperity over their relationship with God?
As we celebrate and value these successes in our children, we need to be cautious not to do so at the risk of undervaluing the essentialness of their faith. If these are our values? We need to ask ourselves how will these values play out in our children’s lives years from now and into eternity. We need to truly think about what we are valuing and investing in today and prayerfully self-assess ourselves and our priorities. Are we truly seeking the Kingdom of God above all else?
Some may say or have the fear that Christian Schools spend too much time on Bible based activity, and not enough time on other academic subjects. But one is not at the expense of another. The goal of a Christian education is the development of a Christian perspective, or a Christian worldview, it is teaching all of our subjects but doing so from the perspective of God’s story. Then it is about inviting your students to be part of the story.
Author James K. A. Smith challenges I believe all of us with the following quote.
What if education ... is not primarily about the absorption of ideas and information, but about the formation of hearts and desires? What if we began by appreciating how education not only gets into our head but also (and more fundamentally) grabs us by the gut? What if education was primarily concerned with shaping our hopes and passions - our visions of 'the good life' - and not merely about the dissemination of data and information as inputs to our thinking? What if the primary work of education was the transforming of our imagination rather than the saturation of our intellect? ... What if education wasn't first and foremost about what we know, but about what we love?”
I think that this quote is especially timely in today’s culture. We currently live in a time where information is available at our fingertips instantly through the internet, therefore there we are in a transition phase in education, and at a place where we are no longer just providing students with information but really challenging them with how to discern this information and with what to do with it, how to process it, and to think about how it impacts them and their lives and the lives of those around them.
I believe this connects back to the last line of Sonrise’s mission statement, which reads equipping students with the knowledge, skills and integrity of heart needed to make a difference in the world for the kingdom of God. Therefore, we do provide an education that focusses on the mind, but we also provide an education that focuses on the hands and most importantly the heart as well.
As a Christian educator, I love the following quote used by Teaching for Transformation schools, “Every unit is a divine opportunity to invite your students into a deeper relationship with God.”
That is what I love about Christian education. Every day really is a divine opportunity to invite students into a deeper relationship with God, and I think that is pretty amazing!.
Have you ever noticed the phenomena that when you learn a new word all of sudden that word seems to appear everywhere. This happens to me all the time. It always amazes me and gets me thinking about how much in this life I am missing because of my limited vocabulary. Recently, it is not a word, but a phrase that seems to be everywhere for me. It started in April when I was attending a ladies’ retreat and I heard the question, “Is God enough in your life?” Since that day I have heard that phrase or similar ones to that effect several times over. I was reading a book, which asked the same question, then I was reading an article where the author was sharing that she had just recently spoke at a conference by that title, and even the other morning I was listening to music when those words were repeated over and over again in the chorus. Is this a coincidence, phenomena or perhaps a break in the space-time continuum? Well, when I stop and seriously think about it, I realize that the more likely conclusion is that this is God’s still small voice speaking to my heart’s priorities.
With the question, “Is God enough in your life?” in the forefront of my mind I would love to say that my answer to that question would be a resounding, “Yes!” After all, I have been going to church weekly all my life, I made a personal decision to live for Jesus when I was fourteen, I have been in Christian ministry and now leadership for the past 20 years, of course my answer is, “Yes.” Yet, humbly and vulnerably I have to question myself again, is it really, yes? There are many things in my life that fully engage me and make me truly happy and perhaps even define me. I am left to ask myself, would I be completely satisfied in Jesus at this moment if I didn’t have some of those things?
Christian artist Kari Jobe has a song entitled Always Enough on her album Majestic released in 2014. When I read the words of this song, I see them not as a proclamation of my own faith (yet) but as an ongoing desire and prayer.
I will find my life in You
You're always enough
Let the fullness of Your love
Be all I need
All I need
Consume me, come like a fire, oh God
Reign in me
For You alone will satisfy
There is no other
If I have You, I have everything
But without You, I have nothing
Maybe you’re searching in your own life, trying to find satisfaction for your soul. I would like to challenge you to stop holding on to the things of this world, and to be willing to let go and let God in. If you are up for the challenge then I encourage you to begin praying like I have been praying lately, “Lord, may you always be enough in my life, may the fullness of your love, be all I need.”
I recently read a blog post by a young mom (Missy Dollahon) entitled, "I Donít Want My Children to be Happy.Ē Well, of course the title is bound to get anyoneís attention. I found myself reading anxiously to discover why this blog posting mom did not want her children to be happy. Was she having a bad day dealing with screaming, obstinate and disobedient children? Was she suffering from a lack of sleep and in desperate need of coffee before she sat down at her keyboard? Were her children hounding her for things she couldnít possibly afford and she had finally had enough?
A quick read through her blog and it is soon apparent that she is not a sadistic or crazed mom and that she has a point, a logical one, and one that we can all learn from. This busy mom of five kids from the Austin Texas area describes happiness this way. "Happiness is fleeting. That means it doesn't last. It's a quick feeling that comes from a funny movie or a heart shaped lollipop or a really good birthday present. It's great. I love to be happy. But happiness is a reaction that is based on our surroundings. And our surroundings are so very rarely under our control. Even, when - especially when - we think they are.Ē In contrast to happiness the most important thing that she lists she wants for her children is contentment.
Whereas happiness comes from our environment and surroundings our moment to moment interactions - contentment on the other hand comes from within. Happiness is fleeting and can come and go at a momentís notice but true contentment stays with you. Contentment is learning to live being thankful for what you do have instead of dwelling on what you donít have.
In the commercialized and market saturated society that we currently live in children and adults are bombarded with messages for the newest and greatest toys, electronics, and clothing. All marketed by flawless, always happy and smiling faces that continually send out a message of instant gratification and perhaps even ultimate happiness. These constant messages make the road to contentment extremely difficult. That is why we need to be deliberate in our own lives and within our families to develop a genuine heart for contentment. The more we are truly thankful and think about the things that we have the less likely we are to be discontented with what we donít have.
Ann Voscamp, a busy homeschooling mother of six and the author of the New York Times bestselling book One Thousand Gifts also recognizes the value of contentment and gratitude for her children. She writes, "When we give thanks, we gain joy. All of us. Because what will the math really matter if they are bitter? If the house is immaculate ó but my attitude a mess? If they can count ó but they donít know how to count all things as joy? If we get the lists done, but have lost happiness in Him? How can any grammar skill outweigh the fact they donít know the language of grace and thanks?Ē
The apostle Paul in the book of 1 Thessalonians chapter 5 verses 16 Ė 18 wrote, "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is Godís will for you in Christ JesusĒ So whatís your thought about true happiness? Perhaps the time has come for realizing that those flawless, always happy and smiling faces in todayís media will never really be able to sell you lasting satisfaction. Perhaps itís time to accept the truth that lasting contentment lies in the heart and comes from a mindset of thankfulness and not from a shiny new box or an exhausted credit card.
iPads Above and Beyond: Meeting the Needs of all Students Part 3 of 3
Every child is uniquely different and each student has unique learning needs and a unique style of learning. The use of the iPad in the classroom provides the teacher an advantage in helping to meet the learning needs of all students in his/her classroom.
Without any added expense utilizing the accessibility options in the settings options of the device will help teachers meet the needs of students with special needs. The great advantage to this is that the child with vision or hearing impairments for example no longer needs to be centred out with special devices and tools to meet their needs. Read aloud options and voice recognition apps assist students with learning disabilities to still be able to learn and complete their tasks independently.
The iPads also allow students multiple ways to be creative and to share their work and knowledge with others. No longer is a project completed in a booklet form or on a backboard only for a teacher audience. Students are no longer limited to written words to express their ideas. There are now choices and creative options. For example after reading a book students can post a book review for family and classmates to read using an app like Kidblog, create a commercial or trailer using iMovie, they can use Prezi or Keynote to make a presentation to share, word clouds and mind maps can easily being used as a character study, or to examine themes. In our media rich and social media culture providing these students with these creative options is another avenue of equipping them with potential skills they will eventually need in the workforce.
Finally, the iPads really do allow for ease of differentiated instruction. Students can be using the same app for reading or math but be working at their own pace without anyone else knowing except for the teacher the level of learning they are at. If students need help with a particular concept they can spend more time working on it and can easily access online videos and tutorial that may help explain it in a new or different way that clicks for them. I used to have a fear that if I moved an advanced student up and give them more advanced work that I would run out of work pages or lessons for them. This fear is now long gone with multiple of options available. Competition and instant feedback are found on many apps both of which are significant factors in helping students to stay on task and motivated.
The use of iPads in the classroom helps all students to learn, grow, and explore based on their own strengths, interests, and abilities. Students no longer have to fit in a one size fits all mold to be successful in school and that I believe is one of the greatest advantages of the use of technology advancements such as iPads in our schools and classrooms.
Benefits Above and Beyond the Students: Part 2 of 3
As administrator I have to worry about budgets, schedules, management and logistics. I also recognize my responsibility to be a good steward of the resources and equipment that our school has been blessed with. From that perspective the implementation of the iPads has definitely been a win/win situation.
From a time management perspective and making effective use of precious classroom time the iPads have the definite advantage. Prior to their use students were lined up, walked down the hallway to the computer lab at the opposite end of the school and would sit down waiting for their machines to boot up. This old way of doing things easily lost 5- 10 minutes of time in a typical 40 minute period. Students were forced to use the same machine every time to ensure they had access to their previously saved file. The computers were not always reliable (often buggy) and students would sometimes have to go a different machine meaning that they would be starting a previously started assignment from scratch. Those students who required extra time to complete a project would have to use the computer lab at lunch under teacher supervision to complete their assignment.
With the iPads the devices can stay in the back of the classroom so they are readily available. Students simply have to open the cover and they are ready to go. This easily allows for students to be working at different activities and different paces all at the same time. This efficiency and flexibility is a definite advantage for differentiated instruction and a multi-grade classroom.
Financially, when compared to the costs of having desk top machines the iPads are an affordable option. Not only are the devices more cost effective to purchase there is also ongoing savings in hydro expenses, and the expense of the multiple software licences that needed to be purchased in the past. They are many apps that are free to use and even the ones that come at a cost are reasonable compared to licensing and purchasing of software previously required. This is especially a cost saving since as a private school we did not have access to Ontario wide public education site and licenses for programs. Through the use of iBooks no longer is it necessary to order a class set of novels or textbooks. Recently looking at new text books options there was the choice between the $35 hardcover or the $10 e-book edition, the cost savings continues.
The efficiency, flexibility and cost effectiveness of the iPads definitely make them viable option for administrators making the decision for the best technology options for their school.
Roots and Wings Going Above and Beyond: Part 1 of 3
A year ago we started meeting as a Technology Advancement committee to decide how we move forward in using technology to provide the best educational experience for our students. I have to admit that I was the skeptical one when we were considering moving to iPads. I read lots of reviews online and as with most things there were reviews and blogs both for and against. After further research the decision was made to purchase iPads and after a generous donation, the school penny drive, and our hot lunch program all expenses were covered.
Now, one year in to using our iPads in the classroom and I am totally convinced of their benefit. I know that we have not reached near the full potential of these devices but with the little that we have tapped into they are invaluable. A dictionary, atlas, encyclopedia, thesaurus, calculator, camera, video camera are all in this one small device and so much more. The devices are equally beneficial for creating as they are consuming.
With so much information instantly accessible there are a new set of learning skills for this new generation. As we move ahead education is no longer just about the 3 Rís or reading, writing and arithmetic, they now also include the 4 cís of collaboration, creativity, communication and critical thinking. As we develop these skills within our students we are helping them to not only develop basic lifelong skills we are equipping them to go above and beyond. As a Christian school we also have the responsible to ensure that as our students have wings that they also have well established roots in their faith and in their understanding of God and his world. Ultimately if we provide our students with roots and wings we are enabling them to go above and beyond, be agents of change and to truly meet their full God-given potential.
When I was a little girl I would wake up early in the morning and tip toe down the stairs from my upstairs bedroom until I got to the bottom step and I would sit and wait. From that bottom step I had a perfect view of my parentís bedroom door and I would wait for my dad to wake up and start the day. I would then get ready to go to the barn with him to start the morning milking. As he worked I would tag along and we would talk, time spent alone together. I loved mornings.
I still love the mornings. Contrary to public perception I donít love the mornings so I can get to work and start the busyness of my day. I love the morning because there is such a quiet peace and stillness in the air. The morning sun, the glistening dew, the chirping of birds, it is absolute beauty. Personally, when I experience the beauty and stillness of the morning all my heart can do is give praise back to God. It is in those moments that I am blessed by the beauty of His creation, I am overwhelmed with His love, and I am in awe of his power and greatness. There is nothing else I want to do in that moment but spend time alone with my Heavenly Father. It is in those moments that I truly feel his presence and my greatest desire is to pour out my heart in prayer. I want to share everything with Him, my needs, my hurts, my failings, and my heart of gratitude, praise and thanksgiving.
My thoughts and feelings resonate the with the words of Christian artist Nicole Mullen in her song entitled "RedeemerĒ
Who taught the sun
Where to stand in the morning
And who taught the ocean
You can only come this far
And who showed the moon
Where to hide till evening
Whose words alone can
Catch a falling star
Well I know my Redeemer lives
I know my Redeemer lives
All of creation testifies
This life within me cries
I know my Redeemer lives
The line of her song, "All creation testifies,Ē is related to the verse found in Romans 1:20. In the New Living Translation it reads, "For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualitiesóhis eternal power and divine nature. "Creation and nature around us does gives us a deeper picture of who God is and I believe one way He reveals himself to us.
I understand not everyone is a morning person. However in the busyness of life you need to find those moments and those places to breathe in and experience the beauty of Godís creation and to feel his presence. In our media rich, fast-paced, pressure driven world we are losing out on the opportunity to experience God through His Creation and we need to intentionally set time aside. As it reads in Psalm 46:10, "Be still and know that I am God.Ē For some it may be on a fishing boat, others a golf course, it may be taking in a sunset, or sitting on a beach, or simply time spent on your back deck, wherever it may be find your place. Yes, I loved those mornings as a little girl spent with my dad, but nothing can compare to the morning moments I now spend with my Father, my Creator, and my Redeemer. It is in those moments, that I can truly say, "I know my Redeemer lives.Ē
Principal Ė Sonrise Christian Academy
From the Kindergarten Classroom
Itís that time of year to reflect and this brings me to that well known song, "The Sound of MusicĒ where Julie Andrews gets up twirling around her bedroom with the children rhyming off their favourite things. Now, if you are anything like my husband, right now you are singing like a woman in an accent sounding like the Duchess of England, rolling your eyes because, The Sound of Music is not one of your favourite things. But thatís OK, we are all made differently and I happen to like it.
So to get the point, I am here to tell you my favourite things during our last term of Junior and Senior Kindergarten for 2014. Now, if you ask my students what their preferred subjects were this year, they would say "lunch, recess and playtimeĒ. And then all teachers say "Ahh! If they only knew how much work we put into the rest of their year!Ē But thatís OK too. That is how they are made.
So to begin, my first favourite thing would be our new Butterfly Unit. To back track a little bit, my students like to collect bugs all year long and admire Godís beauty within them. As you get older you wonder where the beauty in a spider is that is found crawling up your wall. But there is beauty even there, itís all in the eye of the beholder, and thank the Lord, God thinks we are beautiful despite ourselves.
So, this year we ordered 10 little caterpillars online who are, amazingly, making themselves (through the design of our Lord) into chrysalises. The children have been amazed to watch them transform, even in a day, from caterpillar to a little green cocoon. We are still awaiting their arrival, and when they do turn into lovely little butterflies, the children are eagerly waiting to name them. Now what did I learn from this example of Godís amazing power? For me this year, it is that God can transform even myself and my students, from sinful creatures always seeming to try to get to the land of somewhere, only to find themselves and others in the land of nowhere. Yet through His mercy, He can redeem us and make us soar on a daily basis, if I we are willing to try. He can reinstate us daily. He can make all of us fly anew in His grace.
My second favourite thing this year was Track and Field. Our little Kís were constantly outside this term getting ready for the big day! There were many times when tears would come, children would be discouraged that they came in last, or didnít beat the others in a running race, but we talked about how it just mattered that we did our personal best, and that everyone had different talents. We also discussed how at the other side of the winning line was Jesus, with arms open wide waiting for them to finish, even if they fell. This seemed to immediately change their attitude from some sadness to determination, and on the BIG DAY that is exactly what happened to each and every one of them. Not one child had a sad face if they didnít get a ribbon. Each one completed the race, even if they were behind the others, and still had a big smile to boot. Some children were even willing to share their ribbons with others, and one, even after falling and suffering a split lip, stayed to the end to finish all the events. How proud we should be of our children. Some had red ribbons, some blue, some white and some the royal purple participation ribbon that reiterated that Jesus was joyful that they (the students) had finished their race well, and that HE was WELL pleased. If there isnít a lesson in that, I will tell you part of it, run your race, ask Jesus to pick you up, and He is there at the finish line waiting for you with eyes gleaming, proud as can be!
My last favourite thing is something I meant to do all year long but forgot to do it till just recently. We have a bulletin board in our room with a tree on it, and each season it has changed from green to colourful leaves, to Christmas snowy branches and now to spring blossoms. Kieran came up to me a couple of weeks ago, and reminded me that in September it was supposed to be our prayer tree and that we havenít been using it. God bless him. He was right. So now we have been. Each time the children have had prayer requests, we have written it down on a leaf and put it on the tree. We then put a check mark on it if the prayer request had been answered. In one of our devotions, we learned that Godís answers to our prayers were one of three things, "yesĒ, "noĒ, or "waitĒ because each answer was for our good and because Jesus loves us. The students easily grasped this concept and still excitedly or compassionately put their hands up for prayer, but usually not for themselves. Prayers like my Grandmaís cat died, she needs comfort. Pastor Peter has had an operation, we want him back. My Dad is working on the water all the time now and I want him to be safe. A family member is sick and wishing them to be healed and to come home, or a pet has died and hoping that God would have it waiting for them in Heaven.
What is on your prayer tree today? We learned this year that God does listen, He does care, and He does answer. I think I learn more from the children sometimes than they do from me. It is my job and your job to tell them what we learned from them, for God has said, "to come to Him as little children.Ē They are such good teachers. We are all very blessed.
This summer, think of your favourite things for they are Godís blessings to you. Look for them, "for all good things come from HimĒ and they are there every day. From our class memory work this year we heard through Godís word that, "He thinks of us every moment, even when we wake He is still thinking of us.Ē Letís ask Him to find His eyes for us, His care for us this summer and to be grateful for such a loving Lord. And as He reminds me, this summer I am to look through my childrenís eyes to see HIM. Grab your blessing, it will be worth it. This summer is your gift. Let Him help you make the most of it. See this summer through the eyes of your children. They own the Kingdom. Let the Lord bless us all.
The Olympics, races, and competition have so many parallels to our daily Christian walk. During these past two weeks of Olympic competition we have been able to share different verses and illustrations with our students. We have helped them make connections between God's word, our personal faith, and what so many athletes endure to be in the Olympics.
During one chapel I shared the story of Derek Redmond. Derek Redmond competed in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. He was a British athlete, and a medal hopeful competing in the 400 metres. He already had faced disappointment during the 1988 Olympics after suffering an injury to his Achilles. Therefore in 1992 he was determined to finish, and do his best during those Olympic Games. He successfully finished his first round race with the fastest time, ran his quarter final race and was competing in the semi-finals when 250 metres from the finish his hamstring snapped. In intense pain he still managed to get up and hobbled along determined to finish the race. His determination amidst his extreme pain is inspiring on its own, but what happened next is what truly makes the moment memorable. His father makes his way through the stands and onto the track. He fends off security not letting anything get in the way from him getting to his son. He puts his arm around his sonís waist; they embrace, and together finish the race.
The footage of this race has been used in advertising campaigns by the International Olympic Committee, Visa and Nike. It is a story of courage. It is a story of perseverance and determination. It is a story that mirrors what true love between a father and his son can be.
I shared with the students that as a Christian, when I watch this video footage I see it as a beautiful illustration for each one of us. The Bible parallels our life on earth to an athlete running the race. Hebrews 12:1 says, "Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.Ē Perseverance, as I would describe it to my students is the ability to keep going in spite of difficulty. Derek Redmond modeled perseverance in his determination to finish the race. We need to live our lives with the same perseverance. When we go through life we are going to have our moments of struggle and pain. We may feel it is hopeless and that we cannot possibly go on. We may struggle on our feet trying to continue on, and it may seem that it is just too much. It is then that we need to remember that we are not running the race alone. God is there running beside us. The Bible promises us that God will never leave us nor forsake us. Just as Derekís father overcame all obstacles to be with his son, and support him to the finish, God is right beside us ready to see us to the finish as well.
There were tears in the eyes of some staff and students when I showed the video coverage of the race and told the story. I encourage you to watch if for yourself. A simple Google search will take you to several online choices. Watch it and think about your own spiritual race and journey.