Education, Forerunner, Prayer, Purpose, values

Letter of Concern about Fortnite from a Middle School/Jr. High Teacher

This is a letter I wrote to parents of students in my middle school and junior high Bible class. My goal was to have parents more closely examine the games their child is playing and whether or not these games are blessing or harming them.
Dear Parents,
I want to say first of all what an honor and a joy it is to partner with you in training up these amazing forerunner messengers who I believe will carry the message of Jesus Christ all over the world! Because I am convinced of this and because I love each of them so much, I’d like to share something with you that has been grieving my heart recently and ask you to join me in interceding and contending for breakthrough.
I have noticed significant changes in the behavior of several of my Bible students this year. Some of these behaviors include consistently failing to turn in homework, dishonesty, disobedience, showing disrespect to me and to their peers, speaking out in class, the use of foul language, rude hand gestures and in some cases, blatant hostility toward one another. I believe this is a direct attack from the Enemy against the families of FCA and this work of training and equipping forerunners.
I remember a time when my daughter was 12 and I noticed her behavior change drastically. After much prayer and fasting, the Holy Spirit showed me that the “root” that was causing this “fruit” was a Disney television show that encouraged dishonesty and disrespect, especially toward parents and those in authority. It caused much “tension” between us as we worked through a solution, but once she stopped watching this show, she returned to “herself” and we knew we had done the right thing.
I am asking you to please examine what your children are watching, listening to and what video games they are playing as sometimes these things can produce “bad fruit.” I recently counseled with a parent from FCA who has been in a spiritual battle for her son. He had become desperately addicted to the video game Fortnite and when it was taken away, he became extremely angry and depressed. When I was visiting with this mother, she said, “I just wished someone had warned me about the dangers of this game. It nearly destroyed my son.”
Fortnite is a free-to-play online game where up to a hundred players can play at once. Drawing inspiration from the 1999 Japanese novel Battle Royale and The Hunger Games, players must scavenge supplies, build structures and find weapons–the goal of the game is to ELIMINATE OR KILL EACH OTHER UNTIL ONLY ONE PERSON IS LEFT. Even more concerning is the fact that there is also an opportunity for children to connect with strangers in the game, and there is minimal monitoring of who is online and what is being said in the chat.
My 12 year old nephew in Oklahoma was a “straight A” student and leader on the academic team at school. His grades dropped and my kind, thoughtful nephew became irritable, disrespectful and dishonest at times, which is the exact opposite of the young man I know him to be. My sister told me, “It became WAY too important. He was obsessed with this game! ” She also said she wished she had been warned, so after much prayer, I decided to write and ask you to prayerfully research this game and consider whether or not it is causing any behavior changes and whether or not it is blessing or harming your child.
Here are some warning signs that Fortnite or any other video game might be a problem for your child:
1.  impaired control over gaming (e.g., onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context);
2.  increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities;
3.  continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.
Here is an online quiz for parents who may think their child has a gaming addiction:
There are many studies available, but here are two articles I found particularly interesting about the psychological aspect and what this game does to the brain.
I’d also like to recommend a book for those who want to educate yourself further–one of the teachers recommended  it– it is called “Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction is Hijacking Our Kids–And How to Break the Trance.” by Nicholas Kardaras, Ph.D (The Mid-Continent Library and Johnson County library systems have this book.)
Thank you so much for allowing me to share my heart and concerns with you. I recognize that each family has their own set of boundaries and opinions about what is appropriate for their children. I encourage you to educate yourself about this game and spend time in prayer before making any decision. I simply wanted to provide some resources and ask you to join me in prayer over our students.
While it is not mandatory, I am encouraging students in my Bible classes to participate by fasting or “taking a break from” media and entertainment such as YouTube or video games for a few days, maybe even a “fortnight”, which is 14 days or two weeks.
Again, it is an honor and privilege to join you in training up these world-changers and history-makers!
With love and much HOPE,
Vanessa VanCleave
Middle School and Junior High Bible Teacher

 

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Education, faith, goals, Purpose, Uncategorized, values

Write a Career Manifesto

 

Teacher manifesto image

Recently, I shared about how writing a personal manifesto for my life helped to clarify my values and vision for how I want to live in 2019. The word “manifesto” is described as “a written statement that describes the policies, goals, and opinions of a person or group.” While the previous manifesto focused on my personal life as a whole, this one reflects how I want to carry myself as a teacher. Feel free to modify your manifesto to your own career! Here is my “Teaching Manifesto”:

  1. Where there is no honor, there is no glory.
  2. Warm greetings and farewells
  3. Embrace silence
  4. Connect before you correct
  5. Under-react to problems. Over-react to solutions.
  6. Assume positive intention
  7. Raise the bar. Have Great Expectations.
  8. Iron sharpens iron
  9. Teach them to fish
  10. “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”—Maya Angelou

Where there is no honor, there is no glory

In Hebrew, the word translated as “honor” (kabed) derives from a root word meaning “weighty” (in terms of impressiveness or importance) and is often used to refer to the glory of God. We could also say that where there is no honor, there is no blessing. By promoting a culture of honor in my classroom, I open the door for the anointing, for God’s “weighty” presence to fill the room, bringing peace and joy.

Warm greetings and farewells

I meet my students at the door, and often they can see how excited I am to see them as I smile and wave from all the way down the hall. They have the option to hug, high-five or handshake as they are walking into the room. I realize that this would not work for many public schools, but I am at a private Christian school, and this positive interaction often sets the tone for the rest of the class. It shows the student that “I see you” and am looking forward to spending time with them. Often students who have moved on to a different grade level will show up randomly at my door to say, “I just really needed a hug today.”

Embrace silence

Several years ago, I was sharing Isaiah 30:15 “….in quietness and confidence is your strength…” with a group of junior high age students. One of them said, “I know what confidence means, but what is that other word?” I stared at him for a long moment. “Quietness?” I have never forgotten it because it highlighted a focus for prayer for this generation. So often consumed with their electronic devices and a desire to be continuously entertained, we have lost the ability to just sit in silence and be still. In my middle school Bible classes, I decided to introduce “centering prayer”–silent, contemplative prayer focused on a single word or thought. I was not sure my students would even be able to sit in silence for that long. I gave some instruction (“close your eyes or fix your gaze…when  you get distracted, go back to your breathing and your centering word…”) and set the timer for 5 minutes. Some fidgeted for minute or so (okay, three or four) at first, but at the end of the five minutes, they were calm and focused. “Can we do this every day?” someone asked and the others nodded enthusiastically. There are lots of great meditation and mindfulness apps, but my favorite is called “Centering Prayer”. Check it out!

Connect before you correct

Before giving a tardy slip or dress code violation, I try to connect with the student. “How was your volleyball game last night?” “How is the new puppy?” This shows students that I care about them and am not just looking for something they’ve done wrong.

Under-react to problems. Overreact to solutions.

I tend to be a little “tightly wound”, and do not like to deviate from the plan. So when the projector is not working or a lesson takes longer than I intended or someone forgets their part of a group project, my stress level rises and I start to lose my patience and my peace. I have to take a deep breath and remember one of my favorite quotes from Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well….” When a student poses a solution to a problem, however, I like to make a big fuss. “What a fantastic idea! We could change the order of the group presentations… I would love for you to invite the guest speaker who is an expert in the field…” etc.

Assume positive intention

Why is this so hard for us? I often assume that questions undermine my authority or cast doubt on my ability to lead, when they may simply be for the purpose of clarification. Once during our morning chapel service, I saw two male students get up and walk toward the back of the room. I am ashamed to say that my first thought was that they were going to the hall or to the restroom to goof off or avoid chapel. Instead, they walked over to our principal and asked if they could pray for her. Sigh. Lord, help me.

Raise the bar. Have great expectations.

My dad was a school administrator in public and Native American boarding schools, and a phrase I remember him saying often was “students will rise to the level of expectation you set for them.” In my classes, this looks like challenging them to memorize more than just one verse at a time or teaching middle schoolers to look up cross references and the original Hebrew and Greek words in their Bible reading. What would “raising the bar” look like in your classroom? I’d love to hear it!

Iron sharpens iron

Proverbs 27:17 says “As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend.” Similar to socratic circle seminars, we have “Iron Circle” discussions in my classes. The inner circle begins the discussion while the outer circle listens and takes notes. Then they switch places, giving the outer circle an opportunity to build or expand on points previously discussed. We also go on silent meditative prayer walks around the school building. We often have a theme or verse we are mulling over or praying from, but the point is to listen to what God might speak through the verse or even nature. Students share their personal revelations at the end of the walk, and I am always amazed at the depth of their epiphanies!

Teach them to fish

When I first started teaching at Forerunner Christian Academy in Kansas City, I sensed the Holy Spirit saying, “Teach them to fish.” I was reminded of the saying “Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” So rather than just teaching what a passage means (giving a fish), I teach simple Bible study methods and how to use reference tools so they can “fish” for themselves. I love hearing the stories of fifth and sixth graders reading through the Bible and doing their own in-depth studies!

How do I make them feel?

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”—Maya Angelou

This one needs no explanation. I want my students and those around me to feel loved, honored, seen and heard. Known.

Write your own manifesto

So, what about you? Are you a teacher or office manager? A waitress or nurse? A stay-at-home mom or barista? What would your career manifesto look like? I’d love to see it!

 

with love and much HOPE,

\m/,–Vanessa

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faith, goals, Prayer, Purpose, Uncategorized, values

Writing a Personal Manifesto

Writing a Manifesto

At the beginning of each year, I love to take some time to evaluate my progress in each area and set new goals for the coming year.

This year, I was inspired by Gretchen Rubin to write a personal “manifesto”. A manifesto is described as “a published declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of the issuer, be it an individual, group, political party or government.” It is a little more detailed than the personal mission statement and describes things that I want to be true of my life. We all have a “facebook fantasy self”, as Gretchen calls it. But the key here is to identify and live out what is true for you. Or at least what you WANT to be true of you. In Joel, God says “Let the weak say ‘I am strong.” (Joel 3:10) Words have power. So here is a list of things I want to be true of my life in 2019.

My Personal Manifesto:

  1. Be Vanessa
  2. One thing is needed
  3. There is only love
  4. Live with margin
  5. It is well
  6. Outer order, Inner calm
  7. Laughter is medicine.
  8. Remember the tapestry

Be Vanessa

My “fantasy self” loves to host family gatherings and dinner parties. The truth is that the mere thought of hosting or cooking for a group of people makes me nearly break out in hives. Hospitality is not my gift. What is true for someone else may not be true for me and that is okay. Be YOU.

One Thing is Needed

I love the story of Mary and Martha. Jesus commended Mary because she had chosen the “one thing” or the “better” thing–to sit at His feet and spend time with Him. He wasn’t scolding Martha for serving. Jesus Himself came to serve. The problem was Martha’s attitude and the fact that she was preoccupied with doing things He hadn’t asked her to do. What are you doing that God has not called you to do? A good way to measure this is to ask yourself, “what am I doing that I dread each day?” If He has called you to do it, it may not be easy but you will have joy and feel fulfilled.

There is Only Love

It is something I want to be true when someone hurts me or angers or irritates me. I don’t want to let offense or bitterness take root in my heart because “offense” is from the Greek word “skandalon”, meaning “bait or trap”. Don’t take the bait!Grudges are like poison to my body and spirit.

Live with Margin

If I am running from thing to thing, I cannot take time to be still and know that He is God. I love Centering (silent) Prayer. There’s a great app if you’re interested in trying it! The goal is to choose a word to focus on in silent contemplation. You breathe deeply and when you are distracted, keep coming back to the word. Sometimes you will have a vision or deeper revelation. Other times you will just feel more peaceful and well, centered. I was amazed recently when I led my middle school classes to try this at Forerunner Christian Academy. They loved it! Embrace the silence and “margin”. If you are a creative artist, you will find that often your most creative ideas come during times of idleness!

It is Well

The woman from Shunem’s son had just died (2 Kings 4), yet she kept saying in faith “It is well” until she got her breakthrough. The man who wrote “It is well with my soul” had just lost his business and his family yet carried the unshakeable faith that he would see them again.

Outer order, Inner Calm

I don’t like to admit it, but when my surroundings are in order (and my shoes are put away), I feel more calm. I love the “1 minute rule”—if it takes less than a minute to do (make the bed, put a cup in dishwasher, clear my bathroom vanity…) do it now. Your spouse or roommate will be so proud 🙂

Laughter is Medicine

Feeling down or sick? Look up the principal Gerry Brooks or John Crist on YouTube. Stream your favorite comedy or get your funny friends (or family:) together. A merry heart really is like medicine! (Proverbs 17:22)

Remember the Tapestry

If you look at the back of a tapestry where the artist is stitching, all the strings look like a big mess. But if you could see the other side, you’d see that the artist is making something beautiful. God is the Artist, and your life, a tapestry. It may look like a mess to you right now, because you are in the midst of it. But take time to be still (get the centering prayer app!) and trust Him. He makes all things beautiful in His time.(Ecc. 3:11)

Now it’s your turn! What will be your personal manifesto? You could also have a job manifesto or a family manifesto. I will share my teaching manifesto here soon. Please share some phrases or quotes from your manifesto! I’d love to hear them!

with love and much HOPE,

\m/,–Vanessa

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