How should you respond to pop-culture in the classroom?

As a classroom teacher, I am sure you will encounter casual, and potential pointed, conversations among students surrounding popular culture. How should the teacher respond (or not), how should the react to the worldly influences directing our students thinking. What role does the teacher play? How much do we address and what is best left to the parents and the church? What about things you hear from students that is likely being done behind the parents backs? How much should the Christian school teacher be educated with regards to pop culture references and the worldviews that may go along with the culture? How can we get students to seriously thing about the negative effects of the secular culture surrounding them?

Start with why
When you hear students talking about pop culture, why do you want to address or respond to it? Is it to help them, or to move your agenda forward? Will you be responding out of offense or concern? There are many times that students will be using terms and phrases in their conversations with fellow students that indicated what they are feeding on.

  • 5k
  • 76ers
  • American Eagle
  • color run
  • expendables
  • Go shawty
  • GTA
  • Greenday
  • grams
  • streaks
  • si
  • red solo cups
  • twerk
  • wrecking ball
  • what does the fox say
  • minions

Goals
What is your goal in addressing the references you pick up on in the conversations? If you think that you are going to solve the fascination with the secular world in your students, you better sit back. Chances are you will not help them if you approach them with a ‘fix the problem’ stance. Paul Tripp uses the analogy of building a house. Each tradesman puts a screw here and there to make a tight sound house. We don’t approach the building site with one big nail and one big hammer and “whack” – done! We each need to do a part and expect change, but not overnight, and not with one encounter, one devotional, or one rant to the class.

3 Approaches
There are several ways we can approach pop culture. John Stonestreet explains three possible approaches.

  1. Being offended by the pop culture
  2. Being distracted by the pop culture
  3. Being distressed by the pop culture

When we are offended we tend to withdraw – attempting to be neither in the world of the world. When we are distracted we tend to become like the culture, we forget about morality or take it all in ‘Christianize’ it, we become in and of the world. When we are distressed by the culture we can be like the apostle Paul in Acts 17, he was distressed to see the city full of idols, he reasoned with the people. Paul knew the word of God and the World of God, he showed us a way to be in the world, but not of the world.

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

We need to approach these conversations in our classrooms with the right goal, the right mind, and the right framework. As you hear snippets of conversations in your classrooms and aren’t sure what is being talked about consider listening and doing some research. Start with some Google searching and consider these resources:

Consider Psalm 73

  1. v1-3 I envied the world
  2. v4-12 They are free from the troubles we face
  3. v13-15 My Bitter feelings
  4. v16-17 I found the answer in the Sanctuary
  5. v18-20 You will destroy them
  6. v21-28 You keep me near You, and that is what I need

And 6 quotes to end with:

“Any amount of theology can now be smuggled into people’s minds under the cover of fiction without their knowing it.” CS Lewis

“When our houses were of wood, our hearts were of gold; but when our houses became golden, our hearts became wooden.” – Hans de Ries

“Too many of us today have got it backwards: we worship our work, work at our play, and play at our worship.” – Unknown

“First art would imitate life, and then life would imitate art, and finally, that life would draw the very reason for its existence from art.” – Ravi Zacharis summarizing from Fyodor Dystoyesvky

“For the first time in recorded history there is no significant differences between the way the Christians and non-Christians live their lives and make decisions” – George Barna

“The most dangerous ideas in society are not the ones being argued, but the ones that are assumed.” – CS Lewis

Teachers Sabbath Rest

What does your schedule look like? A teacher that wants to be all that they can be for their students, they may need to consider what their rhythms of life are like. In Genesis, God presents a pattern for us to live by through working at creating 6 days and then resting on the 7th. The act of sabbath requires intentionality and determination. But I believe that by following this patter of sabbath we can be better equipped to serve students in the classroom.

To many people live live working and working, then taking a break – vacation, and sometimes they need to rest after their vacation! This is not the pattern I’m talking about, but rather a pattern of regular work and rest. When some people think about sabbath rests, they go to one extreme or another – legalism or licentiousness. Some where in the middle I think is where teachers can flourish.

You might look to the Amish or the Orthodox Jews for example of sabbath keeping. In Lancaster County PA, there are quite a few Amish and they tend to limit the work that they do on any given Sunday. When I was in middle and high school, I worked for an Amish dairy farmer. Saturdays where spent preparing for Sunday – their sabbath day rest. I would arrange carts of feed and bales of hay in place so that minimal movements needed to be taken to feed the cattle and horses. In NYC, B&H Photo is a mainstay photography supply that is closed for business on Saturday – the Jewish sabbath. The owners of B&H even turn off their ordering order part of their online website, for the sabbath.

Dan Cathy from Chick-fil-A speaks about his father’s choice to not have the restaurant open on Sundays, he describes this as a choice that has actually improved their business opportunities. They claim their food tastes better on Monday because they are closed on Sunday, their service is better because their employees have time to be with their families on Sunday.

In the book “Emotionally Healthy Leaders” Peter Scazzero has a chapter titled “Practicing Sabbath Delight” where he describes 4 parts to practicing the Sabbath. Stop – stopping from all work, paid and unpaid. Rest – following the patter of our Creator God and taking a rest after six days of working. Delight – taking time to recognize that our God cares for us and to celebrate in His care. Contemplate – focusing in God, who He is, who we are without and with Him, giving Glory to God.

Teachers put a lot of energy into their classes and students, they, as everyone does, need to fill their spiritual and emotional cups up. It is with a full cup that teachers will be able to pour into their work as teachers and fulfill the sacred trust that we have in our Christian schools.

Teachers Need To Taking Time for Self-Care

Teachers new and old need to take time to care for themselves. Some teachers think it’s a right of passage to be tired out all the time. This simply should not and ought not be the case.

Being busy is normal, but being normal is not healthy.

Don’t let yourself get physically rundown, it will affect your emotions – you’ll be less patient with you students, it will affect you physically – your immune system will weaken. And, I’ll venture to guess that if you let yourself get run down physically and emotionally, you have also let yourself get run down spiritually and potentially spiritually sick too.

Take a lesson from the warnings on the plane, they tell you “in case of an emergency…put your own mask on first before assisting others. you might be able to help one person first, but if you take care of yourself first you will be able to help more and longer by getting your own oxygen. The same idea applies to your teaching life. When you take care of yourself first, you will be able to help more-better-longer.

They must be scheduled, planned and looked forward to.

I’m not talking about a quick fix — taking an afternoon off to go shopping or a super-sized ice cream sundae. What you need to be thinking about is something that can be a regular part of your life. Jogging, spending 15 minutes reading for yourself, journaling, taking 20 minutes to sit back and listen to music, getting fresh air, going fishing, or even taking a 20 minute nap. Some of these things might be actions you take daily, weekly, monthly, or on a seasonal rotation. But, they must be scheduled, planned and looked forward to. To be able to schedule and accomplish these kinds of self-care activities, you might need to prioritize you schedule. Being able to analyze what is most useful and do those things.

Do fewer things better.

You may need to connect a self-care habit with your regular routine so that it become automatic – develop a morning ritual that can be automated. I enjoy coffee, so my morning ritual involves getting up about an hour before I ‘need’ to. Here is my morning ritual: first, I make may coffee (sometimes with one eye closed), second I get my coaster ready and afghan if it’s the fall or winter, third I sit and meditate for 2-5 minutes until the coffee finishes brewing, fourth I get my coffee and do some reading from a Bible reading plan, fifth I spend time in prayer (often using the PrayerMate App ], and sixth the remaining time is spend reading something I want to read. Then it’s off to the races-waking the children, getting ready for work and driving off to school.

Focus on the habit of the habit

When you need to break a bad habit and start a new habit, it is important to spend time designing the habit. If you want to start a new routine that includes routine self-care habits, take some time to write it out, maybe even figuring it out by the minute and then start to execute it and begin a new good habit. You will need to reinforce that new habit, and be careful not to revert back to the old ways (especially in the beginning). If you tell yourself “just this one time” I’ll do the old bad habit – cause it feels so good, you will strengthen that bad habit. Brushing your teeth is a habit, but it wasn’t always that way. When I worked in a retail store my manager told me that you need to work five times hard to regain a customer than to maintain that relationship. I think the same thing applies to habits, you will need to work hard to develop a new healthy habit.

Building Success In Your First Year of Teaching

There is not enough time to be a perfect teacher in your first year.

One of the issues that many first-year teachers will get caught in will be comparing themselves to long term teachers. The first year will be rough, so will the second and third years, but you should start developing rhythms in the first few years that will benefit your later years.

Everyone knows that a first-year teacher is not going to perform at the same level as a 30-year veteran.

Teaching is like an iceberg – there is only a small part that is seen by the student. It is up to the teacher to decide how to be intentional about which corners to cut so that your inexperience has the least impact on the students. How do you go about cutting corners?

Internalizing

To begin with, you should refuse to internalize pressure to be as good as a teacher that has been honing their craft for several years already. It is ok to realize that you won’t and can’t be an expert in all areas of curriculum, teaching methods, and classroom management. These are all complex things that can take years to master. Please don’t feel shame or guilt about not knowing it all. But do not go to the other end of the spectrum of apathy, not caring about improving yourself as a teacher. Teaching is a science as well as an art. It will take some time to learn the science before you can develop the art. Keep a growth mindset and keep learning the science of teaching and your abilities in the art of teaching will follow.

Cutting corners

If you need to cut corners, it will be important to focus on those corners that will have the least impact on the students. Being prepared for every class is important, but there might be times when our ”adult” responsibilities will demand some time ought to be spent without students. Having to go speak or be in a meeting may require a pacing that allows for a test while you are away, or you may need to develop a self-paced activity for the students while under a substitute teacher’s care.

Perfect lesson plans

You won’t be able to create the ideal lesson plans for your first year, especially from scratch. Pay attention to what resources are available to you from the textbook publisher. Ask other veteran teachers for help and if you can ”borrow” from them. There are plenty of places to ask for help, but you must be careful to not get stuck in the sand when looking for resources, especially those online.

Asking questions

As a new teacher, you need to reach out to others without shame or shyness. If you are in a new school, start asking simple questions to the experienced staff. This will help you build a foundation for asking harder questions later and you will feel more at ease asking them questions. It takes time to ask people for help when you can likely figure something out on your own, but asking early and often will pay it forward for when you need help.

If you didn’t start earlier then it’s harder to start when the going has gotten really tough.

Beta versions

As you begin developing materials for your classroom cut the cutesy and let go of perfectionism. It sounds harsh – but it’s a matter of getting the first edition out and then improving it later. It’s a technique that is used in the software/app world. Software developers are always pushing out updates all the time. You should think about your lessons and materials, in the same way, you can always improve it after an experience teaching it. You might be browsing polished materials on Teachers Pay Teachers and think all your materials will look that good, they will, but, not at first.

Reflect

The last first-year teacher tip I want you to consider is to take time to reflect. You need to think back to what was working and what didn’t work so that you can begin improving on those things. As you reflect and begin recognizing what is effective and what is not effective, you will begin to do better in your planning and you’ll start instinctively doing those types of things that work.