Faith & Learning Blog
Connecting Faith and Learning Blog
I’ve been asked to write for Calvin this time,
And figured I’d do it with rhythm and rhyme.
I’ve been a teacher for quite a few years;
Shared many a joy and quite a few tears.
Started way back in two thousand and three;
A newby and young at twenty and three.
Frozen and nervous was I in Kalamazoo;
Never did question; this was my calling to do.
Soon I was married, balancing work and a wife;
To Escondido we traveled to start our new life.
Junior high science I was hired to teach,
And English class too with its figures of speech.
Here I’ve been working for years like a dozen,
Yet still I’m excited and keeping a buzzin’
About hearing the familiar “I’ve got this now!”
From the students that struggle with a furrowed up brow.
Our students are here of all different ages;
Nurtured by Christians at each of the stages.
Here we partake in various sports,
While our brains get work of a different sorts.
Now is the time to finish this blog,
So I can go out and enjoy a good jog.
Thanks be to school for being so great,
And allowing my words to carry such weight.
“I lift up my eyes to the hills - where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2)
King David looked up to the hills from his palace and knew that he could not find comfort and guidance from the high places and idols of the day. He knew he needed to look above to the Lord, his Maker. My faith story is one of looking above. It is a story of a legacy of generational faith, and of daily spiritual regeneration.
Growing up in Eastern Washington State, I looked to the west and could see the majestic Cascade peaks of Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier. I was reminded daily of my Creator’s majesty.
My parents and grandparents looked above to the same creator. My Grandfather, Grandmother, mother, and her siblings came across the ocean from the Netherlands in 1951. What a decision and commitment my grandfather made.
But that was the kind of man my grandfather was. He looked above to the wisdom of his God. He was a man of strong Christian conviction, biblical knowledge, and moral lifestyle.
I was instructed biblically in my home from parents who were reared in that kind of faith. My father is a man of example; a quiet man, but strong in his belief in Jesus Christ. He and my mother sacrificed much to send me to Sunnyside Christian School. They looked above to the Lord when times were tough on the farm or financially.
When I left home, I was almost immediately confronted with the big decisions in life. Attending a large state university, I was daily met with the challenges of differing worldviews. I had a choice to make each time; and each time I chose a biblical view.
This experience really helped me become a stronger Christian and spurred my decision to become a Christian school teacher. The choice to marry my life-long partner Jessica and having children, were choices in which I had to look above in faith. These choices have daily effects in my life. “What kind of husband, what kind of father, and even, what kind of teacher will I be today?”
Each day, my faith in my Lord Jesus Christ calls me to make myself available to his calling. One of my favorite quotes is by David Ring, “God does not ask for our abilities, all he asks for is our availability.”
I am a sinner. But God, in his undeserved grace, has given me life through his son Jesus Christ. I praise God for giving me his Holy Spirit. This Spirit works in me daily to bring me closer to God. Even though my sinful nature works hard to rebel, I have the assurance of my Father’s choosing me to be his child.
After 24 years as a Christian school teacher, I still get excited to go to work each day. I love bringing my passion for art and for God to my students.
I value the Christian education I received. I was taught to look above in faith at an early age.
I look above with the same eyes of faith as my parents and grandparents - not to geographical hills or to a historical temple - long-since turned to rubble. I look to the same God that David did.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Ron Van Der Pol
Nudge kids to be their best selves with character-rich media and quality choices and by role-modeling positive online behavior.
Every parent wants to raise a kid with a conscience -- someone who'll do the right thing even when no one is watching. But when the road to online integrity is riddled with cyberbullying, cell phone cheating, sexting, and other risks, trusting your kid to be conscientious feels like a leap of faith. Here's the good news: Studies show that kids actually have a strong grasp of right and wrong as early as the toddler years, and parents have a huge influence on what kids learn about how to behave. The parenting you've been doing -- role-modeling, keeping the lines of communication open, and finding ways to instill the kinds of character traits you value -- is an excellent foundation for raising a kid with a conscience, both online and off. You can make even more of an impact using the media and technology that your kid loves, such as YouTube, Netflix, Snapchat, and Instagram, to model positive behavior and good judgment.
It's safe to say that there's nowhere more challenging for our kids to make good choices than in their online lives. The thing is, many kids get their first phones and other devices at a point in their lives when common adolescent stressors such as peer approval and separation from parents play a huge role in their decision-making process. Their ability to feel empathy, have integrity, and use their best judgment -- especially in anonymous digital environments that feel consequence-free -- is still a little wobbly. That's actually OK. To have a conscience, kids need to experience -- and learn from -- the natural dips and valleys that happen along the way to becoming the person they (and you) ultimately want them to be. Yes, online mishaps are real and can be risky, but showing forgiveness, helping kids bounce back, and working through ways to do better next time is the best way to ensure your voice will be in their heads to guide them even when you're not there.
Once kids enter the tween and teen years, outside influences including their peers and their media begin to shape their sense of right and wrong. Movies, TV shows, and social media can all be super effective in guiding kids toward making more choices that are positive and productive than ones that reflect poorly on them, make them feel not-great about themselves, or actually get them into trouble. Tweens and teens enjoy wrestling with complex ideas and discussing ethical behavior. Here are some ideas to help them develop these abilities:
Share uplifting, inspirational viral videos, memes, and quotes. Yucky stuff tends to crowd out the good stuff in our social media. But there are a lot of soul-nourishing images and ideas out there if you look for them and reflect on them as a family. Follow feeds from Upworthy, Mental Floss, and even the kid-authored Scholastic Kids Press Corps to see stories that are hopeful and age-appropriate and that restore faith in the world. When kids see positivity in action, they're more likely to pay it forward.
Ask about their online experiences. Tweens and teens see the good, bad, and ugly when they text, use social media, or visit comment-rich sites such as YouTube, Instagram, and Reddit. Ask your kids about the online behavior they witness, how they feel about it, and whether negative comments influence them to behave a certain way -- good or bad. Talk about choices they make in both their "real" lives and online. Ask questions such as, "What would you do if a friend were being cyberbullied?," "If you felt someone dissed you online, would you respond?," and "What was the nicest text you ever got?" to get kids to think about the responsibility we have to others in digital environments.
Emphasize good sportsmanship. Many kids really look up to athletes and want to act like them. If your family enjoys watching sports, the Olympics, or other athletic competitions, call it out when players, opponents, and teams treat each other with respect on -- and off -- the field. Though games feature plenty of aggressive behavior, there are always those sports stars whose fellowship shines through. Ask your kids about players they admire for their sportsmanship and why.
Seek out positive media role models. While you might be familiar with popular stars such as Taylor Swift and Chris Pratt, kids avidly follow "internet famous" folks on YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, and Musical.ly. Web celebs are hugely influential, so ask your kids whom they follow (and on which social media platforms), and talk about the stuff they post. Set up Google Alerts or follow some of their favorites so you can pepper your conversations with questions or observations from their world. Steer your kids toward positive role models on YouTube and compare feeds from various stars. Ask, "Have you ever seen anything inappropriate from an Instagrammer?," "What do you think is OK to post and what should remain private?," and "Who has the best Snapchat feed, and why?"
Read more from authors like Caroline Knorr at www.commonsensemedia.org
In light of trending topics about social media use among teens, we are sharing a portion of a great blog post from from Hands Free Mama. We encourage you to take a few moments and read and then talk to your pre-teen or teen. You can read the full blog post HERE.
Dear one, it is natural to go through difficult periods where you don’t feel like yourself … when you question your worth … when your purpose is not clear. During those times, I want to use this information to give yourself an unfiltered view of your beautiful worth and your extraordinary potential.
First, you need to know what is happening to your brain while on your device. Social media is known for creating algorithms to capture and manipulate our consumption. The goal is to achieve the highest amount of engagement possible. (source) There is even a term for this in Silicon Valley: Brain Hacking. It is having a negative impact on our mental health – especially susceptible are teenagers. Here’s why:
The teen brain isn’t done forming and the part of the brain that manages impulse control, empathy, judgment, and the ability to plan ahead are not fully developed. This means you’re more likely to see disturbing online content or have troubling encounters; it means you’re more likely to become distracted from the important tasks at hand; it means you’re more likely to become addicted to your device than adults. When you are addicted, you will experience distraction, fatigue, or irritability when you’re not on your phone. Teens who excessively use their phone are more prone to disrupted sleep, restlessness, stress and fatigue.(source)
So let’s think about this in terms of your life:
Each time the phone notifies you, you stop what you are doing—whether it’s homework or a job you have to do. What might take you one hour to do, will take you several, and it won’t be completed as well. The inability to focus will reflect in your grades and impact the job opportunities you have as you grow. Spending quality time with friends and family will be impacted by the need to check the phone, making you believe what is most important is on your phone when it is really the person in front of you.
Each time you scroll, you are being influenced by what you see on the screen. Your thoughts and beliefs about what your body should look like or what your life should look like are being shaped. The hidden influence of the internet can create a poor self-image, unrealistic comparisons, and harmful judgements – and you won’t even know it is happening.
But here’s how you take back control:
Awareness … you see, awareness changes everything. Awareness is your weapon against the hidden influences and damaging behaviors. While you are online, your mind, your thoughts, your core values are drifting to wherever tech companies want you to go. The remedy is to limit the time you spend drifting in the online world and tether yourself to real life.
To real people, real conversations, and real scenery.
To furry animals, interesting books, good music, the great outdoors.
To spatulas, hammers, cameras, paintbrushes, and yoga mats.
When your worth is in question … when you feel lost and alone … when you feel sad and can’t explain why, tether yourself to real life. Tether yourself to real people. Tether yourself to real love. And I will help you set limits because I know teens feel pressure to be available 24/7. But you need and deserve time to be alone with your thoughts, doing things you enjoy, without constant pressure and interruptions from the outside world.
As you practice these self-regulation skills that will benefit you for life, I vow to do the same. I am here to set an example of a well-rounded life and to help you navigate this challenging territory. You can always hold on to me.