Today is the first day for our students to be back in session. The day started pretty well as many students arrived early. So far things seem to be going pretty well as the first day quirks are getting worked out.

Since I worked all summer it has been interesting to go through the transitions of the last few weeks. Only 3 weeks ago every was very quiet and relaxed. Then the teachers came back and it became a little crazier. The extra bodies in the building created a different dynamic. It also marked the end of relaxation and the beginning of the hurry to get rooms and the school prepared for the beginning of a new year. Today marks that new beginning.

This morning I stood in the hallway and greeted old and new students alike. It is amazing to see the differences between 6th and 8th graders – in height, personality, and confidence. We have an excellent group of 6th graders and it should be a great year.

Welcome back students! May we have a great year!

A Minneapolis school used grant money to purchase exercise balls for the entire classroom to use. Used both as a desk chair and form of exercise they have become a critical part of the daily routine.

During my visit, several students told me that sitting on the balls while they work helps them concentrate. During the recent Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) exams, students begged Hartman to try to change the start time of the test so they could get their morning workout in. They felt it would help them do better on the test.

They are used for positive reinforcement, the kids will do almost anything to keep their balls. I must say this a pretty innovative idea for a classroom and it is great to see teachers really thinking outside the box to create safe and fun learning environments for our kids to learn in – and throw in some physical activity too!

There is a nice video that goes with the article but it isn’t embedable so you’ll just have to go look at the site for yourself!

From the Minnesota Press

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Ever heard of this day? I hadn’t either until working at Sanford.

NAAPID’s website says National African-American Parent Involvement Day (NAAPID) is a national call to action to get parents, particularly those of children of African American descent, more involved in their educational lives. It is expected that this national observation will open up dialogue among teachers, parents, and students, which will lead to a more conducive learning environment for African -American students from kindergarten through college.

Minneapolis Public School’s website also includes this information:

Monday, Feb. 11, is National African American Parent Involvement Day. This day is designated to emphasize the importance of African American parents and families being involved in their child’s education. It is also an effort to rebuild trust between students, families and schools.
While we will celebrate National African American Parent Involvement Day on Feb. 11, we invite parents and extended family members to visit their child’s school or any school-related activity on this day.
Parental involvement continues to be important at MPS. We know that when parents are more involved in their child’s education, our students benefit through higher academic achievement, increased attendance and an overall more enriching educational experience.

On a whim I decided to contact the Minneapolis Star-Tribune to see if anyone would be free to cover our program. In fact they sent a reporter, videographer, and photographer. I was quite pleased, as was everyone at school. They produced this great video. (There isn’t a way to embed the video, but it is excellent and well worth the effort to go watch.) Here is the article they wrote about the event, it appeared on the top half of the local page!

We had an excellent day with a few parents showing up and the kids really enjoyed the program! We are really trying to incorporate Somali culture into the entire school so that we can all learn from each other!

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This is a pretty biased statement since I am an alum of Taylor (2003), but it is supported by fact as well.

I recently received a letter seeking a donation, which is another topic.  Taylor has pretty good alumni giving rates and a pretty good advancement department.  But I digress.

The letter has some facts (also found in this news release) that prove that Taylor is

  • the best university, and
  • worth the $$$ of tuition (which is now probably over $100,000 for 4 years).

These stats won’t convince my wife to give Taylor any praise (she went to a local rival school) but I’m happy to spread the good word about my alma mater.

  • Taylor was ranked #1 by US News & World Report in the Midwest category of Baccalaureate Colleges. Highlighted areas include:
        • Ability to attract and retain some of the brightest students,
        • High graduation rate, and
        • High rates of Alumni loyalty (based on Alumni giving).
  • Taylor was ranked #2 for best value in the Midwest Baccalaureate Colleges.
  • Taylor was mentioned in the Top 24 of a national grouping based on strong study-abroad programs.  Other colleges included Georgetown, NYU, and Dartmouth (last year Taylor had almost 400 students in 31 countries).

My wife and I have been talking a lot lately about the cost of our education and the debt-burden that we now face.  Was it worth it for us to attend private schools? Was it worth the loans and “bondage” we are now in?? I would say, Yes and No.

Education is a priceless piece of your life and directly impacts your career and basically your whole future.  We are both frustrated at the many people (mostly women) who were able to go to these schools just to get their “Mrs. Degree.” Would tuition be more or less expensive without them? Who knows!

I don’t regret my decision and neither does she.  At a private Christian school you get so much more than book-learning.  You get the deep fellowship of living within a community of believers.  There is a bubble that gets created around any college, even more so at a small school in the middle of a corn field! But the bubble can be burst by being active in community activities.  I had lots of discussions with my family about the virtue of attending a private school versus a public school.

Ultimately, I wanted to have an education that was rooted in faith.  God provided the opportunity to attend Taylor and it was and is a sacrifice worth making!

Learn more about the great educational opportunities at Taylor.  This was not a paid advertisement!

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These seem obvious but in my ventures into the social networking realm of Myspace and Facebook, kids give out way too much information and may put themselves at risk.  I try to be cautious with what I put out into the open Internet realm.

1) Don’t give out personal information (one or two tidbits of information can lead to finding lots more)

2) Tell your parents immediately if you find information that make you uncomfortable

3) Never agree to meet someone in person without checking with your parents and having them present at the meeting

4) Never send anyone a picture or anything else without checking with your parents (this could exclude friends from school or church)

5) Do not respond to any messages that are mean or otherwise make you feel uncomfortable

6) Talk with your parents so that you can establish guidelines for being online

7) Do not give out your password to anyone other than your parents (even you BFF Jill)

8) Check with your parents before downloading or installing software or anything else on your computer (I would also add, be careful which widgets you add to your profiles, some computer code can provide back-door access to your profiles)

9) Be a good “citizen” in the online world and report anything that seems suspicious or could hurt someone else.

10) Kids, Help your parents understand how to have fun on the Internet and talk with them about what you are doing.  Parents, be learners and let your children talk to you about the technology (don’t be afraid of it, communicate your concerns with your child and realize that if you are too hard on them they may find alternate ways to setup an online account without your knowledge).

Adapted from: Kids’ Rules for Internet Safety 

Related Links

Federal Bureau of Investigation (Cyber Division) of the United States Department of Justice: A Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety

Child Safety on the Information Highway

Looking at Child Safety on the Internet  (ppt file on legislation and case study)

Internet Censorship and our First Amendment (ppt file on legislation and case study)



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Time Magazine’s Cover Story this week was entitled “Why We Should Teach the Bible in Public School

Its an interesting article to read and provides some decent reasons and proof that its ok to teach the Bible in public schools.

“Citing a series of Supreme Court decisions culminating in 1963’s Abington Township School District v. Schempp, which removed prayer and devotion from the classroom, the skeptics ask whether it is safe to bring back the source of all that sectarianism. But a new, post-Schempp coalition insists it is essential to do so. It argues that teaching the Bible in schools–as an object of study, not God’s received word–is eminently constitutional. The Bible so pervades Western culture, it says, that it’s hard to call anyone educated who hasn’t at least given thought to its key passages. Finally, it claims that the current civic climate makes it a “now more than ever” proposition. Says Stephen Prothero, chair of the Boston University religion department, whose new book, Religious Literacy (Harper SanFrancisco), presents a compelling argument for Bible-literacy courses: “In the late ’70s, [students] knew nothing about religion, and it didn’t matter. But then religion rushed into the public square. What purpose could it possibly serve for citizens to be ignorant of all that?” The “new consensus” for secular Bible study argues that knowledge of it is essential to being a full-fledged, well-rounded citizen.”

The Final Paragraph:

“Prothero may be overly sanguine about the workings of the U.S. court system. But even if he’s wrong, this shouldn’t stop schools from making some effort to teach the Bible. The study doesn’t have to be mandatory. In a national school system overscheduled with basic skills, other topics such as history and literature deserve core status more than Scripture–provided that these classes address it themselves, where appropriate. But if an elective is offered, it should be twinned mandatorily with a world religions course, even if that would mean just a semester of each. Within that period students could be expected to read and discuss Genesis, the Gospel of Matthew, a few Moses-on-the-mountain passages and two of Paul’s letters. No one should take the course but juniors and seniors. The Bible’s harmful as well as helpful uses must be addressed, which could be done by acknowledging that religious conservatives see the problems as stemming from the abuse of the holy text, while others think the text itself may be the culprit. The course should have a strong accompanying textbook on the model of The Bible and Its Influence but one that is willing to deal a bit more bluntly with the historical warts. And some teacher training is a must: at a bare minimum, about their constitutional obligations.”

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