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LL Hagberg
Philosophy of Christian Education
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My Philosophy of Education

I. Teaching in a Christian School

    Because I am a teacher.....

      I share in moments of discovery, of growth, of significance...

      I help introduce young people to areas of hope and imagination...

      I guide individuals toward truth-finding...

      I see the uniqueness of each creation as each student develops personal talents, interests, and skills...

      I offer a listening ear for silent tears, a soft shoulder for heavy hearts, an encouraging smile for unsure travelers...

    Because I am a Christian teacher...

      I do all of this with the assurance that my God is even more concerned about these young people than I am;

      He will multiply my efforts as He did the young boy's loaves and fish, so that each of us will grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, fulfilling 2 Peter 3:18.

    For this I give thanks!

II. Teaching From a Christian Worldview

    My specific objectives as a teacher of English reach beyond the fundamental content of the courses I teach. I focus on two primary goals:

      1. All of my students will explore what they believe and why they believe it, both spiritually and intellectually.
      2. All of my students will explore written expression as both a mirror and a window to their own worldviews and the worldviews of others.

    To accomplish these goals, I choose activities which will introduce students to issues and ideas in literary texts, foster critical thinking, facilitate the acquisition of life-long learning skills, prepare students to communicate effectively in society, and develop problem-solving strategies.

    Students need to experience literature as it was intended by the authors -- as a means of expressing ideas, issues, and questions -- then use that experience as a catalyst for considering their own beliefs, issues, and questions. I choose texts from the traditional canon, from more contempory offerings, and from Christian authors such as C.S. Lewis. I enjoy teaching texts that "must be talked about," such as Golding's Lord of the Flies, Lewis' The Great Divorce, or Gaines' A Lesson Before Dying. As a Christian teacher, I enjoy holding a secular text up to the magnifying glass of Scripture, so that students develop discernment as they read, not only of literary elements, but also of the views espoused by the author.

    My role as a teacher of literature and composition is to provide an environment which will engage the students spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally; to provide guidance in establishing students' individual purposes for reading and writing; to move students beyond their known interests and abilities toward discovering additional strengths and skills; and most importantly, to provide a model (albeit, imperfect) of a thinking Christian who is in the world, but not of it.

III. Characteristics Which Uniquely Define the Christian School Environment

    As I consider the unique attributes of the Christian school environment, my mind fills in a mental Venn Diagram. For me, what I've "written" in the intersection stands out more than the differences listed to the left and to the right -- there in the center section of my Venn diagram is the word "kids." I have taught in a Christian school for most of my career. I have taught for the past two years in an inner-city public school. In both places, I have found kids who were hurting, kids whose families were torn apart, kids who knew what they wanted to do with their lives, and kids who had no idea. In both places, I have spent time with kids who knew the Lord as Savior and with those who did not.

    I suppose it is the kids in both environments who reveal the key difference between the two environments. In the Christian school, no one sends me memos prohibiting me from praying with a student. In the Christian school, "See You At the Pole" includes the teachers. In the Christian school, keeping my open Bible on my desk is as natural as keeping my lesson plan book there, to refer to through the day.

    The uniqueness of the Christian school environment is that it allows a teacher to do all that a Christian can for the kids, by God's grace and the school's calling.

IV. Teaching Style

    I place students in groups of four to five members each, utilizing these groups for debates, peer writing groups, and literature analysis discussions. I generally do not assign groups written projects; I prefer that group members discuss issues, participate in oral presentations, and share diverse perspectives as we read and write texts. Further explanation of my group system is given in my article "Dynamics of Learning Groups" published on my web site (http://adhd.kids.tripod.com/groups.html).

    I seldom lecture and notice that when my classes are quiet for extended lengths of time, I fidget. I use a Socratic seminar approach to discussion, having trained with Jenee Gossard, a Socratic Seminar consultant with the UCLA Writing Project. I prefer a classroom which invites discussion -- I admit I forget to wait for raised hands and instead, acknowledge the first voices I hear because I'm focused on the ideas rather than the protocol of the discussion. The most rewarding moments are those when the students take over the discussion, and I am free to listen, noting the students' development in using a text to support their opinions.

    My students answer open-ended questions, debate in small groups, and write personal responses to texts in order to develop an awareness of cultural, ethical, personal, and family beliefs other than their own.

V. Classroom Management & Student Discipline

    I focus on understanding students' learning styles and believe that teachers must "learn their students" to the same degree that they expect the students to learn the course content. Students with learning differences can succeed, do succeed in my classroom, as a result of conveying to them that all students can learn. It is my responsibility to provide the tools, and also the motivation as far as it's possible to do so, for each student in my classroom.

    I have "seats of success" in my classroom -- seats near my desk where I place those students who need encouragement and the freedom to talk, without the problem of class disruption. I've found that students who may disrupt class in other parts of the room, succeed in the "seats of success" because they can talk to me whenever they wish, obtain my full attention, and benefit from being able to ask questions without fear of others noticing them. I rotate students throughout the room so that I have an opportunity to talk with all students at some point during the course.

    Further explanation than can be covered here is given in one of the articles that I have published on my web site titled, "Lessons I've Learned" (the URL is http://adhd.kids.tripod.com/adhd.html).

VI. Professional Strengths & Weaknesses

    As mentioned above, I have the honor of being a Fellow/Teacher-Consultant with the UCLA Writing Project. The Writing Project provides numerous opportunities to share and develop teaching strategies with educators throughout the Los Angeles area. I have developed a poetry workshop which engages students in creating Poetry Anthologies and most recently, a professional-development session offering a strategy for introducing high school students to literary analysis, in preparation for taking AP English. Again, my goal as a teacher is to provide students with a variety of experiences using their own texts and those of others.

    I devise assessment methods to evaluate students' understanding and improvement in both literature analysis and composition. When obligated to do so, because of time constraints, I use standardized evaluations. I prefer, however, to use written reflections, discussions and observation, and individual writing activities as assessment tools. I enjoy the positive feedback when I ask my students to reflect on the most important aspects of our course. I also solicit letters from my students as a means of informal "check-ups" -- these letters are not graded and therefore, provide students with another, less-threatening means of sharing with me what they do or do not understand, what they would like help with, and a general update on their personal needs in the classroom.

    An area of key concern for me is my own communication skills, in particular with parents. To improve the frequency of communication and accessibility, I have maintained class web sites for the past four years. The site provides parents and students with information related to class assignments, special projects, resources online and in print, and provides immediate contact with me via e-mail. I recognize that complex issues cannot adequately be addressed in written exchanges, but the ease with which a parent may request a conference or broach an issue via e-mail is a definite advantage of the class web site.

    Another benefit of the class web site, coincidentally related to an area in which I'd like to improve, is the aspect of "publishing" student work. The paper load for an English teacher can be overwhelming; the eagerness of students to see their writing online, however, compels me to promptly help students with revision and holds me accountable for completing the assessments in a timely manner.

    I realize that one teacher really cannot meet the individual needs of every student; yet the reason I teach is because my fourth grade teacher, Miss Findlater, once told me "I am only one, but I am someone; I can't do everything, but I can do something." Yes, she was quoting someone else, but for me, Miss Findlater's words were an invitation to follow in her footsteps...and I believe, to share her words with my students.

LLHagberg

Personal Testimony

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