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Secrets to a Successful Year: Part 1

by Dennis Demuth on 07/20/17

If you had an opportunity to focus on one goal for the year, what would it be? One might suggest, “If I could just make it through a school year without any major parent/student issues, it would be a great accomplishment.” For another, it might be to have a well-behaved class or a class with no major behavioral challenges. Others might want to be able to get all the way through the curriculum. For administrators, it might be full enrollment and to end the school year in the black.
 
Although these are important, I would like to suggest a goal that will guarantee a successful school year in every area, regardless of any position you might hold in your school - teacher, administrator, or support staff. Simple, “listen and obey the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is in each of us, speaking to us all the time. So, what do we need to do?

Tune in to the Voice of Your Inner Man

There are thoughts that come up inside of your mind concerning what to teach, how to teach, what to say or not say, where to go or not go, what you need to do or not do. Many times, we listen and act and other times we don’t. As Gloria Copeland put it, “You hear it and let it go. Then later it comes back and you hear it again. These are the promptings of your spirit by the Holy Spirit. As we become more aware of the Spirit of God in our everyday affairs, we will be quicker to hear and obey those promptings.”

These promptings are the attempt of the Holy Spirit to reveal the will of God to each of us in our spirits. Jesus says to us in John 16:13, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.”

As you obey these promptings, you will be led into the most successful year ever. The Holy Spirit will always lead you to excellence. The release of the Holy Spirit in our lives, our classrooms and our schools will result in cleansing us from tendencies to accept less than expected. Accepting less than expected, opens the door to moving down a path of excellence. Let me offer three actions that will lead to success.

Required Actions for Success

1. Pray in the Spirit
. As you pray in other tongues, the Holy Spirit will deliver God’s answer to the situation or challenge you are facing (1 Cor. 14). By praying in tongues, you will find the wisdom of God being delivered to your spirit (1 Cor. 2:6, 7).

Gloria Copeland shares this encouraging word, “When you start your day praying the will of God by the Holy Spirit, many times you will have prayed already concerning the problems that you will face during the day. You will perceive an interpretation, a prompting, an impression, a word, a sentence that will enlighten you and give you the answer to the situation.”

2. Listen to the Holy Spirit. Tuning in to the voice of the Holy Spirit requires a commitment to spending time in the Word of God, prayer and fellowship with the Lord. The more quality time you commit to this task, the stronger will be the prompting of the Holy Spirit and the clearer will be the directions you sense in your spirit. As you spend time listening to the Holy Spirit speaking to your spirit, you will find God’s plans unfolding.

3. Acknowledge the work of the Holy Spirit. It is the job description of the Holy Spirit to act as your Comforter, Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener and Standby (John 14:16, Amplified Bible).

Allowing Him to actively assume these roles for you, increases the possibility of success in all that you face. Proverbs 16:3, Amplified Bible, says, “Roll your works upon the Lord – commit and trust them wholly to Him; [He will cause your thoughts to become agreeable to His will, and] so shall your plans be established and succeed.”

For more insights into the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian school, see our Professional Development pages on this website.

Final Stretch

by Dennis Demuth on 04/17/17

The days following spring break are among the most important days of the school year for it is the time that re-enrollment is open for the up-coming school year. Given the financial environment, investing in another year of Christian education is one of the biggest decisions families will be making in the next few weeks.

The Big Question

Thank God it is not a $64,000 decision like many parents face when they send their children off to college. But for many families with two or more children, it becomes $12,000 to $15,000 decision. Over a four-year period, the money parents could save by not attending private schools could be enough to send their child to college. Consider this question parents raise, “Is placing my children at my Christian school really worth it? Is it worth going through financial sacrifice when there are so many demands pressing to capture every dollar we earn?“ For example, some parents pay $200 to $300 per month just to transport their children to a private school.

Looking for Reasons

Parents need to have a very good reason before they are willing to make the decision to re-enroll their children at your school. Even those parents with strong convictions on the importance of raising their children in a Christian school environment may struggle with the decision to return for another year. All the points of contention accumulated over the course of the year can become wedges that separate a family from re-enrolling.

Knowing that parents are going through these financial decisions and weighing the benefits of attending your Christian school, it is extremely important that we do everything possible to ensure that we are offering great customer service to our families. We need to work at being professional, cordial, hospitable, attentive, appreciative, and helpful in our communication and contact with them. 

Often it is so easy to get focused on the tasks of teaching and miss opportunities to build relationships with are clientele and enhance our image. One answer is to train ourselves and our staff to work at interacting with parents as they walk through the building.  Keep our heads up, make eye contact, and engage them with – “Hello, I am glad to see you. Can I help or assist you with something?” Do not forget to say, “Thank you for being here” or “We really appreciate your involvement, support, help, etc.” It takes effort to make these kinds of contacts on a regular basis. However, as we do it strengthens us as a school.

We need to make sure communications – letters, emails, are done professionally. When people are asking for help or expressing a challenge instead of simply saying, “That’s not my area. You need to see so and so.”  We should respond with something like, “I certainly can see that is an issue for you; let me see what I can find out and how we can best help you.”   We need to take responsibility and be proactive in helping people even if it is to help them through a difficult solution.

  1. At the start of every day, encourage your students to speak to their parents about enrolling.
  2. Do everything you are expected to do as a professional teacher – lesson planning, web-pages posted, returning graded papers, phone calls and emails.
  3. Be willing to work with students and parents to complete missed work or to improve their grade.
  4. Listen to students and parents and what they say. Ask questions to ensure you understand what they are saying.

Closing the Back Door

by Dennis Demuth on 02/14/17

As Christian schools begin planning for the next school term, one question that needs to be addresses is, “How can we close the back door?” When was the last time your school took a close look at retention rates across grades? I have not seen any national statistics; however, at Victory Christian School the retention rate ranges from 67 to 98 percent depending on the grade level.

A Major Concern

Retaining students in a Christian school is a continual concern. Unlike public schools, where students come from assigned attendance areas and are compelled to attend based on law, Christian schools must go out and recruit students. For some schools, survival depends upon aggressive recruiting. For others, it is a matter of retaining students already enrolled: closing the back door.

Parents withdraw their children from Christian schools for a number of reasons. The primary reason is lack of finances. Keeping the cost of operating a Christian school as low as possible is a must. But, lower cost without quality programs will not sustain the school. Adding to the quality of the school has the greatest influence on retaining students.

Is it Worth the Sacrifice?

We would estimate that 70 percent of those students attending a typical Christian School come from homes where every dollar spent on tuition is a sacrifice. What is it that would cause parents to continue to sacrifice to keep their students at a Christian school? Is it the wonderful facilities? Could it be the small class sizes? How about the strong athletic program? Maybe it is the Christian textbooks or all of the special classes and courses offered such as art, foreign language, computers, music, physical education, and band? Is it the twenty-four-hour code of conduct for high school students or the standardized dress code? Could it be the strong moral character training that is taking place?

Does the School Really Care?

All of these reasons and many others may contribute to a willingness on the part of parents to undergo extreme sacrifice to provide a quality Christian education for their family. But, the most important reason is teachers.  Parents are thinking, “Do teachers really care enough about my children to make it worth my sacrifice? Do my children's’ teachers really care enough to take the time to make a difference? Are they going the extra mile, taking extra time, treating them as important individuals, building up their self-esteem, pressing them towards excellence, working with them to achieve at their greatest potential?”

I heard one parent say, “If I’m going to pay this much money for this kind of teacher, I might as well send them to public school.” Teachers do make a difference in how effective the school is in retaining students. If we are going to close the back door, the school staff must take on the ministry of an encourager, doing whatever it takes to let students and parents know “WE CARE.”

What is it that would lead students to conclude that a teacher cares? When Victory students were asked this question, the answers were surprising. It was the small acts that counted the most, such as getting assignments back on time, listening to what students were saying rather than always telling students what to do; taking time to become involved in their lives; and, asking how things were going rather than just about academic subjects and homework.

Love is the Key

At the heart of caring is love. I John 4:11 says, “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (NIV) As Christian educators allow Christ to fill their lives, they will be able to love their students. It is the love of God flowing through the teacher that holds the most difficult student captive. Students respond positively to love. They will go wherever you want or do what you assign if they feel you love them.

As Christian educators we must never forget that we possess the power of exercising supernatural love. We can love the unlovely; the girls who are a constant source of irritation and the boys who not only look unpleasant, but smell that way also. These are all within the limits of our love. Prayer and determination are the keys to successful loving. When God said, “Beloved, let us love one another. . . “ (1 John 4:9, NIV) He gave a command to love. He also gives the means to do it, and we must do so if we are going to close the back door. There are still a few more months before school closes for the year; now is the time to begin to close the back door.

Christian Schools Need a Few Good Men

by Dennis Demuth on 01/25/17

Most people have heard the Marine's enlistment call, "A Few Good Men." The implication was that "a few" good men would be enough.  The same recruiting call was voiced by God to Gideon, when the call went out to 32,000 volunteers; from these only 300 were chosen by God to liberate Israel from the Midianites, who had carried away all the Israel's grain crops and had driven the people of Israel away from their villages and their farms.

Today, God is calling out for a group of men who would be willing to enter the Christian school battle. If you are a male Christian educator, serving in Christian school, I commend you for accepting the battle call.

God has placed you at your Christian school for reasons that goes beyond a job used to support your family (those that have families). Almost everyone could find employment in other schools and business for more money and some have left your Christian school for this reason.

The lack of male figures in the classroom is not just a Christian school issue, it is evident in public schools as well. Some point to the need to raise the “profession’s profile so that it’s more valued in the public eye” as presented by Lisa Kadane in Today’s Parent (May, 2016). Others feel that by adding males it will provide a better “gender balanced workforce” or “to offer different points of view.”  Furthermore, a male can “provide a positive role model of a father figure for students who come from single-parent families” (Harford Courant, 2014).

Why does God need you in Christian education? The reason goes beyond those mentioned above or to bring academic excellence or to be coaches: it is to effect change in the life of every single student that comes to your school and to train students to be champions for Christ. This can be more evident in a Christian school setting where the male teacher has an opportunity to fully exercise not only the professional authority given to him by the school board, but the spiritual authority God has given him.

The presence of a male in any setting commands attention. Males bring courage to the classroom. God has placed men in Christian schools to be the godly male image that students need to see.  Men need to exercise their leadership as godly men and to set the example in word and in deed.

Professional Authority

Classrooms where professional authority is evident are ones where teachers have turned good order into habit. Authority in the classroom means consistent routines where there are clear directions for acceptable behavior. Teachers exercise professional authority immediately to correct deviations from the expected, acceptable behavior. Being just, standing firm in one’s convictions, braving unpopularity with students and parents and exercising tact are salient characteristics of teachers who walk in professional authority.  Professional authority is enhanced when a teacher is good natured and has a likeable disposition. This authority is enhanced when the teacher is a godly man.

Spiritual Authority

As men, you need to be the priest not just of our families but of your classrooms and to bring spiritual authority to bear in the lives of your students. You have been given power to confront inappropriate attitudes, behavior or speech. It is God’s intent for teachers to rule and reign in the classroom, hallways, cafeteria, sports fields. As men, with this authority comes spiritual power to act.

Utilize all of these authorities to pull down strongholds in the lives of your students: fear, lying, anger, stealing, bad attitudes, impure thoughts, drugs, alcohol, abuse, disobedience, to name a few.  As a man, it is time for you to stand strong for righteousness and train your students to be champions for Christ.

New Year Resolution

by Dennis Demuth on 01/03/17

Most people, when they think of the new calendar year, think of New Year resolutions. Educators are blessed to have two starts each year – the start of the new school year in the fall and the start of a new calendar year; both provide opportunities to plan fresh and exciting things. Actually, January offers three opportunities for a new start – a new calendar year, a new quarter and a new semester.

Resolutions for Teachers

I recently saw a cartoon where the question was being asked, “What exactly is a New Year resolution?” The response was, “It’s a ‘To Do’ list for the first week in January!”

Consider the following resolutions offered by teachers on the Internet:

  1. I resolve to become organized enough to be able to find whatever I need whenever I need it.
  2. I resolve to get all papers graded within two days of when the assignment is turned in.
  3. I resolve to see each student not as they are, but as they can be.
  4. I resolve to remember that it’s not personal. It’s a job.
  5. I resolve to not judge someone until I’ve walked in their shoes.
  6. I resolve to stay positive.
  7. I resolve to never hold a grudge against a student. Each day is a new beginning.
  8. I resolve to spice up my classroom routine.
  9. I resolve to give individual time and attention to each student.
  10. I resolve to set goals and to avoid the autopilot mode.

How nice it would be if someone would create a list of 100 or so possible resolutions for teachers and then allow teachers to simply check the ones they want to make, along with recipes for the success of each? And of course, don’t forget a list for students and their parents.

Suggestions from Paul

In addressing the church at Colosse, Paul offers some resolutions (Col. 1:10, AMP). These four resolutions, as they are applied during the new calendar year, new semester and new quarter,will help you finish this academic year strong and to keep your spiritual focus:

  1. I resolve to walk (live and conduct yourselves) in a manner worthy of the Lord.
  2. I resolve to be fully pleasing to Him and desiring to please Him in all things.
  3. I resolve to bear fruit in every good work.
  4. I resolve to be steadily growing and increasing in and by the knowledge of God [with fuller, deeper, and clearer insight, acquaintance, and recognition.

The Power of the Holy Spirit

Making resolutions is the easy part; ensuring that they are followed is most difficult.  As Christian educators, not only do we have to guard against the stresses and pressures of life that would get us off course in fulfilling these resolutions, but the devil, himself, actively launches attacks against us. Through the power of the Holy Spirit working inside of us, we can overcome all of these.

 

Why He Came

by Dennis Demuth on 12/15/16

Why He Came!
Dr. Dennis Demuth

During this time of the year, everyone is thinking about Christmas. For teachers, it’s an opportunity to have a significant break in the day to day routine of teaching. It’s unfortunate that each year there is more secularization of Christmas to a point where culture in Western society and around the world tend to forget the real meaning of Christmas and why Jesus came. Some cities have renamed their Christmas Parade as the Holiday Parade. Thank God for schools who chose to stand up for the Christ in Christmas Parade. However, thousands of students in public schools all across America are having the Christ taken out of Christmas. “The world’s preparation for Christmas shuts Him out. Jesus, our Lord -- the long-awaited Messiah, simply doesn’t fit today's vision of pluralism. That's why signs and symbols of the celebration bearing His name have been censored from schools and public places from coast to coast.” 

John 3:16 provides the reason why God sent Jesus to this earth.  Without the Christ in Christmas the Christmas break becomes like any other break. 

His Assignment

Beyond the purpose of bringing salvation to mankind, the assignment of Jesus is outlined in Luke 4:18. Jesus said that He had come to 1) proclaim the Gospel to the poor, 2) heal the broken-hearted, 3) set the captive free, 4) proclaim deliverance, 5) recovery of sight to the blind, and 6) set at liberty those that are bruised. 

During this Christmas season, it is worthwhile to reflect on the question, “Why is it that God sent you to your school? Why did you come?

Signs and Wonders
 
“Jesus’s coming not only was a sign and a wonder, His works were signs and wonders. Healing and deliverance were part of these signs. Jesus said in John 10:37-38, “If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though you believe not me, believe the works; that you may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in Him.”

Have you ever asked yourself the question, “What works am I doing that would cause my students and their families to believe that God sent me to this school?”

You are a Channel

God has said in His Word and through prophetic words that Christians are to be for signs and wonders; as a Christian, you have been chosen by God to become the channel through which signs and wonders would be performed.”

He has sent students to your school who need to have the Gospel of the good news spoken to them. If you teach in a Christian school, in your Bible classes take time for students to express their thoughts on Christmas, then have all of them confess, as a class, Christ as Lord and Savior. There are those that need to have their broken hearts healed. Family turmoil, abuse, and depression are evident in many of our students.
 
You are God’s messenger to set captives free-students who have been taken captive by the spirit of this world. You are here to proclaim deliverance, the recovering of sight to blinded eyes; not just physically, but those who can not see the goodness of God or His plan for their lives. He wants to use you to set at liberty those that are bruised.

Students and parents will believe that God is real when they see the miracle working power in academics, behavior, sports, and every avenue of ministry. 
How is this going to be accomplished? It will not be done by man’s mind but by the power of God, the miracle working power of the Word of God, the Name of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit – through you. This is your reason for coming to your school.

Parent Teacher Conferences

by Dennis Demuth on 10/15/14

Parent-Teacher Conferences

By Dr. Dennis M. Demuth

Spiritual Dimensions

     Teacher conferences can be fearful and frustrating, or they can be fun and fulfilling. With careful planning, practice and prayer teacher conferences can be a rewarding event.

There are two key spiritual dimensions that will help facilitate successful conferences-servanthood and reconciliation. Phillippians 2:3-4 say, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourself. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."  It is not a question of parent vs. teacher. Rather, it is the parent and the teacher working together to provide the best possible education for the child. After all, if it were not for the student, there would be no need for a teacher. Thus, the focus is on what is best for the child. The question is not, “who is right”. The question is “what is the right thing to do for the child?”.

The second key concept is reconciliation. Second Corinthians 5:18-19 say "And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation."

During your conference, you may be faced with parents who are cynical and distrustful, those who are activists, stressed out, guilty, angry, troubled, demanding, critical, and just plain hard to get along with. Regardless of how they may be when they come to your conference, through the ministry of reconciliation they will be feeling better about their child, themselves, and you as the teacher. Believe God for a special anointing just for parent conferences.

Preplanning

 A parent-teacher conference can be organized into three components - pre-planning, conference, and post conference. The following activities should be incorporated in the pre-planning component.

1. Environment. Create a comfortable and private physical environment away from your desk. Make certain that your room is clean and neat. Include adult size furniture, and a place where parents can take notes. Provide an area large enough to spread the student’s work out so parents can examine it.

2. Worksheets. Prepare a conference work sheet that can be given to the parent. Include a summary of the items you intend to share with the parent.

3. Folders. Prepare a folder with samples of the student's work. This should contain work exhibits from the beginning of the grading period. Don't confuse the parent by trying to show every piece of work the student has done in the past months. What you don't show in the conference, the parents can look over at home. Come to each conference with your grade book.

4. Materials. If you plan to ask parents to work with their child on a particular skill or subject area, have appropriate materials available for them to take home.

5. Questions. Know exactly what you will say and what questions you will ask. Be prepared to cite specific examples when expressing concern about the student's work or behavior. Try to anticipate parental reaction so you can be prepared to respond calmly and appropriately.

The Conference

 1. Welcome. Greet each parent at the door and thank them for coming. Smile ? Start with Prayer.

2. Rapport. Establish rapport by sharing a positive thought about the student or by inquiring about an activity the student takes part in outside school, e.g., sports, church, pets, etc. 

3. Strengths. Mention the student's strengths first. Where possible, provide specific examples.

4. Progress. Briefly discuss the student's progress in each subject area and show exhibits of the student's work. Don't show the parents only the best or poorest work. Show the whole range. If possible, show how work has improved or changed overtime. Don’t focus just on grades; identify specific objectives and the standards of acceptable performance.

5. Behavior. Briefly discuss the student's behavior, work habits, social skills, fruit of the Spirit. Make comparisons with the standard, not other students.

6. Concerns. Ask if the parent has any concerns. Invite parents to share their thoughts and suggestions about the student. Be a good listener and be open to receive from the parents. Hear with your ears and listen with your heart. Stick to issues at hand and avoid getting sidetracked or off on some tangent. Be grateful for insights into the child’s behavior. Thank the parent for insights.

7. Goals. Establish two or three immediate goals for the student and work with the parents to create a plan for meeting those goals. Provide any materials parents might need to implement the plan.

8. Follow up. Arrange for a follow-up phone call or meeting and let the parents know how they can reach you if they have questions. Inform the parent of the homework hotline.

9. Summarize. Review the highlights of the conference and end on a positive note. Be optimistic, for example, "I'm so glad that you suggested helping Suzanne to make the multiplication cards for home. I'm sure they will help her with her arithmetic." As a signal that the conference is over, you might suggest another meeting time.

10. Thank You. Conclude in prayer. Walk the parents to the door and thank them for coming.

Post-conference

 The success of your conference is not necessarily measured by what happened during the conference, but by the level of communication that takes place following the conference. Keeping information flowing from school to home and back again makes for happy parents.

1. Notes. Take a few minutes to make personal notes about the conference.

2. Calendars. If a follow-up conference has been scheduled, enter it on your calendar.

3. Follow up. Make follow-up phone calls no later than one week after the conference to see if the parent needs any assistance or has any further questions. Follow through on any promises or commitments made during the conference.

Conference Success Strategies

 Your success can be enhanced by keeping in mind the following proven conference strategies. 

1. Complaints.  Do not complain to parents about problems in the class, shortcomings, lack, etc.

2. Confidentiality. Be sure to discuss just the student and not any other student. Deal with the situation individually and in confidence. Similarly, don't let comments about other children enter the conversation. Don't talk about other brothers and sisters you may have had in your class.

3. Understanding. Seek understanding, hear criticism fully, and get suggestions. Avoid arguments. When it is desirable to change a point of view, do it diplomatically.

4. Acceptance. If a parent tells you why he thinks his child is acting a certain way, accept it and lead the conversation onto other possible causes. The student may be acting that way for a number of reasons.

5. Commitment. If a parent suggests a plan of action, accept it if at all possible. Don’t commit to anything you cannot deliver on.

6. Attitude. Don't assume that parents will accept your help. If you give them the impression that you think they need help, your attitude may be taken for criticism or condemnation.

7. Suggestions. If you have no suggestions for improving a trait, don't bring it up. Don't suggest things that are really the responsibility of the school. Don't send the parent away loaded down with countless suggestions, concentrate on one or two things on which you can work together to help the child.

8. Body Language. Be on your guard for your own facial expressions. A wince or slight frown following a parent's comment may embarrass him. Especially avoid surprise or disapproval.

Expectation

 As I acknowledge the Lord in my conferences, He will direct my conversation (Proverbs 3:6).

School Passwords

by Dennis Demuth on 10/01/14

Each year more and more school student records systems are being hacked. One of the weakest links in the security chain is the selection of passwords. We recommend that you provide the following password checker to your school staff and require everyone to check any passwords being using to protect valuable school records and systems. This is also a great link for parents to check all personal passwords.

http://www.passwordmeter.com/

Accreditation: Is it worth the cost?

by Dennis Demuth on 09/25/14

I am often asked the question, "Is it worth the cost for a Christian school to go through the accreditation process?" Although a state may not require a private religious school to be accredited, the question about seeking state accreditation will come up at sometime. Accreditation is viewed as a process whereby an outside, impartial, independent agency conducts a realistic and comprehensive review of a school.

Meeting accreditation standards provides a witness to the community, state, and nation (and internationally) that an expected set of requirements (standards) have been met; this is something that parents and students expect.

Being recognized by an accrediting agency allows students to transfer credits to and from the school without penalty, or being required to pass competency tests when transferring to a public school. In many states accreditation also allows teachers to transfer teaching experience, should they decide to teach in a public school.

We have also found that many outside funding sources only allocate funds or grants to institutions that are accredited with a recognized agency.

 

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