Can you pass the SOUL EXAM?

Everyone loves to pass tests. But what’s the secret?


My life verse is Roman 8:28: “In all things, God works for the good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.”

This verse is thrown around like a loose scarf and many seem to forget the last half.

My dear friend, Pastor Bobby Brewer, spoke on this topic on Sunday, July 29th , and I thought I would reflect on some of his comments.


Have you ever been tested? I mean really tested to where you really thought this was a big joke and maybe there was a hidden camera to see if you were going to fall on your face? I go through them daily. Now, it’s important to realize that temptations are not from God, but are enticements used by Satan to disobey God. Temptations come daily, too, but those are put in our way to get us off track.

Tests, on the other hand, are circumstances that God allows into our lives to see if we are capable of moving from one level of spirituality to the next….or to reveal our maturity! They also are designed to show our true character.

Hmmm…if that is true, I can think of daily interactions which put me to the test.


Have you ever been in a casual conversation and all of a sudden the person to whom you are speaking starts to gossip or say something which is hurtful about something or someone? What do I do? Well, that is the “test.”

What about when I get a bill in the mail which I did not expect? Do I curse the situation and freak out? Do I call and yell at the company? How do I handle to conflict?

What about if at work, I do not get any credit for all the hard work I do and my partner, who did not do much, gets all the accolades? Or I get blamed for something which is not my fault? Do I seek revenge? Or do I understand that God is in control and this could be a test of my character.


This is where the rubber meets the road.


The verse which I live by, has some definite “fine print.” Does that part ever get discussed? Yes, all things do work out and are for His good (and ultimately for mine), HOWEVER, not if I don’t LOVE God. Well, heck, one can say, I love God! But, are you obeying Him!? John 14: 15 says if you love God, you’ll KEEP His commandments. I know one of his commandments is to love thy neighbor as thyself. It’s not to loving to gossip or to talk negatively to or about someone. I’m not LOVING God then, am I?

I need to treat people the way Jesus would (Mat 25:40)


So, in order to pass the test which come our way and truly trust in this verse, there are four keys, which Bobby so eloquently discussed.

The way I see it is that the moment I open my eyes in the  morning, I am under this exam. So let’s say I get to school and a student is rude to me. First, I need to see it from God’s perspective. How would He handle this and how can I glorify Him through this test and with other kids who don’t act becomingly.


  1. I need to acknowledge that God has interest in me and how I can use this for His glory. The day He’s laid out for me is for my best interest and how I react to rough situations is the test!
  2. Next, when I can’t trust His head, I need to trust His heart. I am reminded of Paul returning to Jerusalem in Acts 20: 22. He had no idea what he was about to enter, but He knew God had His back. Do I trust this when I enter the mission field every day in this neighborhood? Do I throw caution to the wind and trust His best? I might not “get it” at the moment, but God does. Trust… in the test…..


  1. Asking for help is hard when we’ve been programmed to be so “STRONG!.” I remember how Paul was given a thorn in the flesh, not to bug him, but to rely on GOD!! Maybe these tests are put in our way so we’ll throw up our hands and say, “HELP!” John 14: 6 tells us that HE sent us ANOTHER counselor! I don’t need me to counsel me, or the “phone call,” but the THRONE! THE HOLY SPIRIT! The PARAKLEET.


  1. Finally, I cannot quit. Perseverance leads to character development. “Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what is promised.” (Hebrews 10:35-56). It ain’t easy! But it’s simple with Him with me. Shoot, it’s hard in the mine field daily! It’s hard to trust that all these tests are for His glory and for my spiritual maturity, but it’s true…like it or lump it!


What a glorious gift, these tribulations. Is that your attitude? All things do work together. That word is “WORK,” not hang around and play. Work means the work of my salvation is being pursued daily, by Him. If I have this heart and mind attitude, I can take anything. “Nothing can separate me from the love of Christ…NOTHING. “ (Romans 8: 35)



Thoughts on Psalm 1

                                    PSALM 1


  1. 1.     Blessed is the man

who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked

or stand in the way of sinners

or sit in the seat of mockers.

  1. 2.     But his delight is in the law of the Lord,

 and on his law he meditates day and night.

  1. 3.     He is like a tree planted by streams of water,

which yields fruit in season

and whose leaf does not wither.

Whatever he does prospers.


  1. 4.     Not so the wicked!

They are like chaff

that the wind blows away.

  1. 5.     Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement,

nor sinners in the assembly of the righteousness.


  1. 6.     For the Lord watches over the way of the righteousness,

but the way of the wicked will perish.



I.               Introduction


Psalm I is an introduction to the rest of the Psalms. It has a general and basic subject matter as two subjects are touched upon. “Certainly it stands here as a faithful doorkeeper, confronting those who would be in the congregation of the righteous.”[1] The righteous shall receive blessings while the wicked shall receive misery.

It is a wisdom psalm and reminds the reader of the Book of Proverbs. Historically, the psalm was probably not for formal usage. It is more of a reflective type of poem. “It must be viewed as a literary and poetic composition, expressing with remarkable clarity the polarity of persons and their destinies.”[2] It may have been combined with Psalm 2 at one time and the overall impression is that it represents a latter stage of Old Testament religion. In this regard, it must have been written after the exile.

The structure of the Psalm is of two parts. Part one, which is verses 1-3, discusses the enticement of the godly life, while verses 4-6 depict the worthlessness and ultimate despair of a godless person and his choices.


II.             Exegesis


Verse 1 Analysis

“Blessed is the man..”

First, as one looks at the word “blessed”, it is noted that it is plural in Hebrew and literally means “Oh, the blessedness.” The Hebrew word for blessing is a^shr. One can paraphrase to mean, “Oh how happy is the one..” The description of the happy man is not addressed to only males. “Woman and children are included because, in the Israelite views, part of man’s true happiness is his family-a good wife and many children-and so his blessings are shared by the whole family.”[3]

This has been known to be beatitude because it promises blessings to those who live with faith and a relationship with God. The man who is blessed must avoid certain things. The description of the happy man in verse 1 includes 3 phrases and progress to an acme: 1. Three degrees of conduct (walk, stand, sit), 2. Three degrees of involvement (counsel, path, seat), and 3. Three degrees of evilness (wicked, sinners, scoffers). “On the other hand, the three clauses form a synonymous parallelism, and therefore the corresponding terms merely repeat the same thought in different words without any intentional grading of the godless and their actions.”[4]

“who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked”

“Counsel” in Hebrew  is u@s>h which means, “purpose or way of thinking.” The mental attitude that one has determines decisions that one makes. “Wicked” in Hebrew is r`sh`u which means to be loose or unstable. One who is wicked is controlled by his own desires and emotions rather than by those of God’s Word. The psalter describes the wicked here as the foes of God and the enemies of his people.

“nor stand in the path of sinners”


“Stand” in Hebrew means to stop and be firm. It refers to the development of habits and patterns. Being in the path makes one think that one is on a journey or direction to somewhere. “Sinners” miss the mark and deviate from what is true. Standing with sinners means that one shares their way of life. We are all sinners. However, the psalter is referring to deliberate sinners who have chosen this particular way of life.

            “nor sit in the seat of mockers.”

“To sit in the seat of the scoffers amounts to making light of God’s law which ought to be one’s delight; it also means identifying oneself with the thinking and planning of the godless.”[5] Sitting among these folk provides negative association and the person in turn becomes like his associates. “Scoffers” are mockers and ridiculers. They put down the things of God and his word. Scoffers are the most scandalous of sinners thus the farthest from repentance. The happiness of a man is not automatic, however. It is a direct consequence of his activities. “The righteous person avoids all the dimensions of the way of the wicked; therein lies the source of blessedness or happiness.”[6] This section leads to what the righteous shall do which is covered in verse 2.

Verse 1 Summary

In order to experience blessedness, one must avoid the wickeds’ advice,

sinners’ habits, and association with mockers.

Verse 2 Analysis

“But his delight is in the law of the Lord…”

The 3 negatives of verse 1 clear the way for what is valuable. The emphasis is on the “law of the Lord.” The study of God’s Word is to be the key purpose of one’s life in which one receives delight and gives thoughtful attention. “In the law of the Lord,” referring to the Torah, means instruction of which God gives mankind as a life guide. This law stands directly opposed to the ‘counsel of the wicked’ which implies that whatever one studies or thinks about, will frame his life. “This ‘law’, far from being a burden or an unbearable yoke, is the ‘delight’ of the godly man. Perhaps we should render ‘his delight..’ as ‘his concern ( or ‘preoccupation’) is with the law of the Lord’; this might give a slight better parallel to the following line.”[7]

“and on his law he meditates day and night.”

This leads to why the author talks of meditating day and night. “Meditates” literally means “to moan, speak, plan..” In this sense it could mean to study and apply to one’s life. “So this ‘meditation’ not merely an intellectual exercise but, above all, it is a study of the will of God for the purpose of doing it.”[8] Day and night is an idiom which means constantly and regularly. To be blessed and righteous, one must constantly study the Torah.

Verse 2 Summary

The blessed man delights himself in constant regular meditation of God’s Word.

Verse 3 Analysis

“He is like a tree..”

A tree is a simile for man. A tree may fade or die depending on it’s locale and it’s irrigation. As one pictures a watered, healthy tree, one sees 3 things: 1. A tree has deep roots and is sturdy (stability), 2. Substantial growth takes time, and 3. A tree bears fruit and shade.

“planted by streams of water..”

“Planted” actually means “transplanted” which means taking plants out of their environment and planting in another aiding growth, production, and stability. “This may imply that the happiness of the godly man is entirely due to God’s action”[9] The righteous man will be transformed from a barren condition to producing fruit from a rich root. Another theological point must be made about the tree and the stream of water. A person will be like this tree if he is constantly in the word (verse 2). The Word of God is constantly flowing and is never ending. We, too, will endure if we get watered by this stream daily and continually. “The state of blessedness or happiness is not a reward; rather, it is the result of a particular type of life. Just as a tree with a constant water supply naturally flourishes, so too the person who avoids evil and delights in Torah naturally prospers.”[10] It is the believer’s responsibility to respond to God’s provision (Torah) and plant himself regularly in the seat where he can receive water (life).

which yields its fruit in season…”

First root, then the fruit. The fruit is the blessings. The order here is important because if one roots himself in the Word (like the watered tree), he will bear fruit. “The phrase its fruit in its season emphasizes both the distinctiveness and the quiet growth of the product.”[11] The fruit is proof of the root where one is dwelling in truth and not error. “In season” means at the proper time or when opportunity knocks and without fail.

and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. ”

A picture of vitality is seen from this verse. A plant by water endures.  “The point of the metaphor is to stress the fruitfulness and vitality of life of the godly man, as well as its stability, rather than to provide a symbol of immortality.”[12]. The idea of the prosperity of man is somewhat of a summary statement for the first half of the psalm.  The life of the righteous man will in effect produce prosperity. Not in the financial sense, but rather in the spiritual sense (i.e. godly character.) The man of blessedness prospers first because he first seeks to operate in God’s will (for his will is for man to prosper.)

Verse 3 Summary

The blessed man is like a watered tree. He will bear much fruit since he is constantly in the Word hence prosperity follows.

Verse 4 Analysis

“Not so the wicked!..”

A continuation of verse 3 is seen here. The wicked shall not prosper like the blessed righteous. This word “wicked” is repeated 4 times in this psalm hence the psalter must be trying to describe the unrighteous with this key word. One may assume that not only are the wicked apart from God but are guilty of restless activity. They are out of touch with God. It is a contrast to verse 2. To illustrate,

the righteous, 1. Cling to God and 2. Love his word. Therefore he is stable and prospers. The wicked, on the other hand, 1. Forsakes God, and 2. Ignores the Word. Therefore he is judged.

They are like chaff..”

The wicked are summarized briefly in the simile with chaff. Chaff is “fine, dry material, such as husks and other debris, that is separated from the seed in the process of threshing grain. In the Bible, chaff symbolizes worthless, evil, or wicked persons that are about to be destroyed.”[13] Chaff describes both man and his destiny. “They are thought of as having become worthless in themselves, and their life as empty and without permanence, as long as they continue their present way of life.”[14]

“that the wind blows away.”

Chaff will blow away just as the worthless man. He is rendered useless. The focus then moves to a future judgement.

Verse 4 Summary

The ungodly man shall not prosper, as he will be rendered useless and worthless.

Verse 5 Analysis

“Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement,”

This verse looks ahead to this future judgement. It elaborates on the wicked and therefore provides some answers. ‘The two lines of verse 5, in synonymous parallelism, reflect essentially the same thought, namely that the wicked hold no weight or influence in the important areas of human society.”[15] Judgement may be both the continual divine judgement and the end time judgement. The wicked hold no part in the resurrection because only the righteous will endure and remaining standing.



“nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.”

This is the parallel linked to the understanding of first part of verse 5. They both carry the same message.  The assembly is the worshipping community and later the new Messianic world.

Verse 5 Summary

As a result of God’s judgement, the unrighteous will be excluded from God’s eternal blessings which will be enjoyed by those who stand in relation to God.

Verse 6 Analysis

“For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,”

The word “watches” connotes the word “knows” which means more than informed. It’s in the protective sense-God’s care and love for man. It is the security of believers. The issue here is the basis of God’s judgement. The first half of this verse about the Lord watching over the Godly is antithetically parallel to the second half of the verse dealing with the way of the wicked perishing. “Way” makes one picture a path which is known by the Lord.

but the way of the wicked will perish.”

The way of the wicked is the “other path” which is fleshly and of man. “Perish” is used here as a road which comes to ruin. It is the road for the lost filled with hopelessness. “The doom of the wicked, as it is expressed in this psalm, is not primarily a punishment, any more than the happiness of the righteous is a reward. Each is presented as the natural outcome of a way of life which has been chosen.”[16]

Verse 6 Summary

The way of the wicked perishes but the Lord protects the righteous.


III.            Exegetical Outline

Exegetical Idea


Psalm 1 is about 2 ways of life- the righteous and the wicked. The key is the importance of God’s Word to life and the fruitfulness of the righteousness who delight in his Word. The way of the righteous produce everlasting life as opposed to the ways of the wicked which produce eternal doom.

Exegetical Outline

  1. The Godly man and his way of living (1:1-3)
    1. Negative things to avoid (1:1)

In order to experience blessedness, one must avoid wicked’s advice, sinners habits, and association with mockers


  1. Positive behavior- guide to blessedness (1:2)

The blessed man delights himself in constant, regular meditation of God’s Word


  1. Creation and motivation-consequences of blessings (1:3)

The blessed man is like watered tree. He will bear much fruit since he is constantly in the Word and will live a prosperous life as God wills.


  1. The Character and Destiny of the Wicked (1:4-6)


  1. What the wicked are like-instability (1:4)


The ungodly man shall not prosper as he will be rendered useless and worthless

  1. What the wicked cannot do-inability (1:5)


As a result of God’s judgement, the unrighteous will be excluded from God’s eternal blessings which will be enjoyed by those who stand with God.

  1. What the wicked will encounter- perishability (1:6)


The way of the wicked perishes but the Lord protects the righteous.


IV            .Homiletical Outline

Two Ways of Living-It’s A Choice


  1. First  choice- Live life in a godly way (1:1-3)


  1. Three things to avoid from the ungodly
    1. advice
    2. fellowship
    3. habits


  1. What is the key to a godly life as well as finding the meaning of life?
    1. finding enjoyment in God’s Word through

a. regular bible study

b. constant focus on God’s Laws and provisions


C.    The inevitable results of these positive behaviors
  1. fruitfulness
  2. endurance
  3. prosperity


  1. The Only Other Choice-The way of the wicked (1:4-6)


  1. What the unrighteous are like
    1. forsake God
    2. negative to God’s Word
    3. separate from the righteous
    4. worthless and useless


  1. What will happen to the wicked
    1. excluded from God’s eternal blessings (cast out)
    2. separated from the righteous in eternity


  1. God’s shield for the Godly and the lurking doom for the unrighteous
    1. The Lord will protect those who choose the first choice
    2. The damnation of the unrighteous is inevitable based on their choice










Anderson, A.A. The New Century Bible Commentary. Psalms 1-72, Marshall,

Morgan, and Scott, 1972.

Craigie, Peter. Word Biblical Commentary, Psalms 1-50, 1983.

Kidner, Derek. Psalms 1-72; An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale Press,


Youngblood, Ronald F. Nelson’s Bible Dictionary, 1995

[1] Kidner, p, 47

[2] Craigie, p. 58

[3] Anderson, p. 58

[4] Anderson, p. 59


[5] Anderson, p. 59

[6] Craigie, p. 60

[7] Anderson, p. 60

[8] Ibid, p. 60

[9] Anderson, p. 60

[10] Craigie, p. 61

[11] Kidner, p. 48

[12] Anderson, p. 61


[13] Nelson’s Bible Dictionary, p. 254

[14] Anderson, p. 61

[15] Craigie, p. 61


[16] Craigie, p. 61

It’s more than the score


It’s more than the score


Rodney E.* made me actually laugh out loud as I read his improvisational free writes.  He continually showed creativity in his writing, had a wit to shock a horse, and a heart of gold. Why was he coming up short in his reading scores?


Emily A.* would write for hours spinning various stories and dreams of her future. She obtained good grades, loved school, had no visible signs of reading problems, but her scores were always teetering on the edge.


Oscar G.* always wanted to please. He acted cool as a cucumber, but he had deep insecurities when it came to reading or writing. His teachers never noticed because he was such a “pleaser.”


Julio D.*, never cracking a smile or raising an eyebrow, would always sit quietly, seemingly understanding the assignments and the discussions. His unapproachability caused one to feel that he was in no need of anything.


Are these kids at the risk of failure? I would argue, yes. I have seen too many students slide through the cracks, and when they arrived at junior high, the window of intervention was extremely minute. The child was not blatantly a typical “failing student” but definitely inching toward the bottom as high school neared.

The year 2009 was the first year our school tried in-school reading tutoring to help kids who were underperforming. This strategy would take the place of the underperforming student’s elective. For almost 7 years, I had taught 7th grade Language Arts to inner city youths, but in 2009 I asked to be a “certified tutor” because I wanted the challenge of bringing these kids up from their years of underperforming status. In the past, many of these so-called underperforming students would sit in my classes, seeming to “get” what I was saying. They rarely asked questions nor seemed lost.  They had slipped by through their elementary years, but slowly they were falling short as the reading got more difficult.


Anderson Middle School* tests their students once a quarter with the same standardized test given five separate times. Students receive a baseline score and then take the same test each quarter to assess improvement. It’s a predictor of what the student will score on Arizona AIMS. There are four distinct categories based on the AIMS test: Falls Far Below, Approaches, Meets, and Exceeds.  One of the school’s goals was to move the “Approaches” kids out of that category and into “Meets.” These four students mentioned above always performed at around a 50% in 7th grade reading, which was on the cusp of a “Meets” score and considered “underperforming.”  In fact, their scores were consistently below this in their elementary years. They literally skidded by, never improving. In order to be considered “performing” or “Meets,” the score needed was at least a 56%.

Sadly, these four students were representative of the average student at Anderson Middle School*. At the beginning of the school year, roughly 50% of students operate in that gray area of below average (underperforming) or “Approaches.” For a school with 35-40 students in each class, these kids fall through the cracks and slowly disappear as they enter high school. Note that if a student was in the  “Falls Far Below” category, they had little opportunity to achieve “Meets” status, so little was done to help these students except after-school tutoring. Therefore, for the purpose of in-school tutoring, the “Approaches” students were chosen. Like in the business world, the school focused on the product which would give the most bang for the buck. Hence, choosing the “Approaches” students seemed to produce more “Meets “ results by the end of the year.

As I picked students for my classes, I decided to include Rodney, Emily, Oscar, and Julio since they were typical of the “skidding by” student in my 7th grade language arts class.  When I had them enter my 8th grade intervention class, their baseline again was 50%. My work was cut out for me. I believe challenging the status quo of standard classroom practices and creating a familial trusting environment altered the course of these students’ coming high school years


The forty-five minutes allotted had to be intense. I knew I had little time with these kids and since their elective was cut they were not amenable to coming in to see me. The key was to identify what was missing in their reading ability. The continued poor performance of these pupils called for me to re-examine my current classroom practices. I did realize that the need to achieve set goals and targets can drive the over reliance of prescribed materials and structure. Yes, I needed to establish the comfort of a routine and utilize research-based materials, but I realized it was more important in how I used them, not just in what I used. Daily, we did a “cold” read (which was a one-minute “first time” reading of short passage. Two warm reads followed the next two days.), a vocabulary lesson, a reading skill of the day, and then practice, practice, practice. The routine was set, but I needed to make the learning fun and interactive, constantly keeping students engaged in the learning.


At the start of each class, upon a bellwork activity, I decided to take a bit of a detour from the lessons I had prepared. I started with a good-old fashioned conversation. Why? I have noticed that this seems to be a lost art among the youth of today. Not only did I want to model this art, but I wanted to gain some knowledge from the informality. So I sat the students in a semi-circle, planted my stool in the center, and chatted with them by asking questions about themselves: What did they want out of life? What excited them? What frustrated them? Then I would get more specific about when they read: What made them get stuck? How did they handle this? We sat as a group and opened up. However, I usually modeled what I wanted from them. I shared that I used to fake read when I was younger. I became proficient at my faking because no one really checked on me. They laughed, but then admitted that they did the same. Authenticity, openness, and transparency on my part aided our conversation, as I needed them to feel understood and comfortable to share.

Valeria would always look forward to our class chats. As we would move into our read for the day, she often commented that “the ability to share helped us make better connections to the reading and the stories.”  We would stop often in a story and connect to something personal, which helped her comprehension.


Before one sets out to do anything, he/she has to have a reason. What’s the point? Why bother? Students need a rationale for achieving or growing. They came to realize that it was not going to get easier as the years went on, and if they didn’t improve now, life would become more difficult. Every day, I made sure they had a concrete reason for doing what they did. I ensured the  “so what” was answered in what I would teach. I put myself in their shoes because I knew when I was younger, I didn’t understand why the teacher would teach certain lessons. It was “just because” or it was “a rule.” Kids are naturally inquisitive and have to have reasons for actions. For example, I would model a read-aloud for them and get stuck on a word. I talked out what I would do and why I did it. I knew that it would inhibit the meaning of the piece for me if I didn’t try to figure it out. “If you were lost in your car, would you continue to drive down the wrong road only to be completely confused later?” They agreed it was best to figure things out as they went along and self-monitor. Continuing to answer “so what” enabled their abiliy to challenge themselves.


According to Thomas Newkirk, a University of New Hampshire professor, “There’s a big focus on fluency. Some people think because you can read quickly … that’s a judge of what a great reader they are. I think fluency is important, but I think we can err too much on that side.” (Ramer, 2010) When I was told I needed to check their fluency every day, I had a twinge of frustration. On one hand, reading with speed and accuracy is important, but I realized these kids felt so unsuccessful because they couldn’t read fast (Especially for an ELL student who is just grasping the language.) AMS uses the students’ fluency scores to place them in leveled reading groups. I stressed to the students to focus on what they read and comprehend as they read. However, I have always believed the goal shouldn’t be whipping through a certain number of sentences; the goal should be making sure they are obtaining some conceptual understanding. Therefore, I celebrated their speed, but I challenged their thinking by having them grasp the meaning as they read which is the whole point of reading.


Are you rooting for your students? Each day, I made sure they knew I was the president of their fan club. Students need to feel that their teachers want them to learn—not just so they can perform well on standardized tests, but for their overall growth and to ensure they will have bright futures. This is where tying in their conversations and life goals can entice them to learn. Every day, I would say, “OK, you are going to knock this one out of the park!” They felt cared about and enthused. Before their plethora of tests, I would make sure that they knew I was in their pocket cheering them on. My students knew I sincerely cared about their well-being, and they always completed the work. My hope is that they will eventually find the love of learning, and the taking of tests will just be a side activity to measure their improvement, not the final destination.


One Thursday I probed, “Where’s Kevin?” He comes religiously every day to my class. Ralph mentioned he had seen him earlier and mentioned perhaps he was ditching. The next day, Kevin came up to me and shared that he won in the intramurals yesterday on the field trip. He then said, “Why would I ditch my favorite class?” He truly felt we had established a family environment.

The power of accountability, interdependence, collaboration, and a bit of competition came to life in time. Since our environment was becoming a familial setting, they spurred each other on. The embarrassment waned as time went on because they knew it was a comfortable setting where mistakes were welcome. They wanted to be teachable and learn. It became such a routine they tried to outdo each other daily. After the one minute of testing each other, they’d yell out, “Ms. K, she beat her time from yesterday and got the words!” You often would hear the encouraging words since I was modeling it to them. They would be asked to write down their missed words so they could practice and do better the next day. Atheena would often put her note cards on Erika’s desk and say, “See if I know these words.” They had a reason to do better since they were reading with their friends and wanted to perform better.

As time went on, the students began to identify words they did not know in their reading. They would highlight and utilize context clues to figure out the words. They learned to summarize paragraphs as they read and talk them out to their partners. Also, they loved challenging each other by writing words on the board and working together to figure them out. The class gelled as the risk levels went down and the trust levels went up. Even before each test, the students would make a goal for themselves. They began to take charge of their own learning and would enjoy setting achievable standards to reach. As a class we would set goals as well. This inspired the kids to really want to meet these tasks head on. Taking ownership of their learning meant that they could not longer just skid by. No one was holding their hands anymore and it was time to make the transition to becoming self-empowered persons. Confidence began to rise and making mistakes was acceptable, but only if something was learned from them.



Many teachers would read this and say, “Well, sure! If I had six to eight students in my class, it would be easy to make this happen.” It is no secret that having a smaller class allows more one-on-one teaching to take place. However, what I learned in working with these small groups I will take to my bigger classes next year.

  • I will “get real” with the kids.
  • I will give a “so what?” for all that I teach them.
  • I will consistently spur them on and expect them to do this to each other.
  • I will set a family like-comfortable/conversational atmosphere as to allow openness and authenticity.

Dr. James Blasingame, a professor at ASU, even notes that the atmosphere is key for kids to learn. “Establishing a classroom climate in which students feel good about themselves and about what they are doing is very important for students in grade six to eight. It is very important with preadolescents who are struggling with physical, emotional, and cognitive changes.” (Blasingame, p. 19)

Below it shows that by the end of the year they did excel from their 50% baseline status.

Student Baseline % 4th Qtr %
Emily 50 68.75
Rodney 50 75
Oscar 50 59.38
Julio 50 75


All four eighth grade students’ scores rose and they achieved what was the original purpose. However, I think what they got was more than a score. They received the proper nurturing, modeling and ability to come out of hiding. What made these kids “break through” the underperforming score was not the what they learned but how they learned it. Intervention tutoring, being another superb idea, is only as good as its implementation. Educational trends continue to lend themselves to new and supposedly better programs every year. But without building the relationships and setting the proper atmosphere, the program will fall by the wayside.







*names have been changed



Blasingame, James (2004), Teaching Writing in Middle and Secondary Schools; Prentice Hall.

Ramer, Holly (2010). NH professor pushes for return to slow reading; Retrieved from

Be Nobody’s Darling


Be Nobody’s Darling

Be nobody’s darling

Be proud of who you are

The empty spaces in the heart

Vacuous and wide

Only filled by a love divine

Ignorant of need

I is fine

Self connected upward and high

Not side by side which fails everytime

Alone not lonely

In a world of lonely

People places crowds faces

Unwanted and needed

That one who gets us

Who understands the silence

the unspoken tongue

it’s a wonder one is alone

What who when why

It’s not to question or to belie

Be nobody’s darling

Unless it is true

Up above is the only one who can choose

Reflection on my 2010-2011 school year: New School

I love this quote by Theodore Roosevelt because it reminds me of my classroom. Parents have entrusted me with their children. May I always remember each one is SPECIAL.

If you poll the typical “teacher on the street,” this is what would he or she would say about why he/she entered education:

“I want to make a difference in children.”

“I want to ignite the spark of curiosity in children and help them discover their potential.”

“I want to share my passion for the love of learning.”

Obvious as these statements sound, most public school teachers would scoff at such statements after a year of “duty.” In fact, I used to be ridiculed for my idealist attitude when I entered the world of education eight years ago after many years in the corporate world. Sadly, I soon discovered that if I was going to make it in the system, I had to succumb to the checklist of standards which were to be tested biweekly to prepare for the Super Bowl of tests. School became a football season with the culminating AIMS event in April. Unfortunately the administration’s hands were tied because they answered to the state, and the government paid the bills.  Yes, it was the scores which kept the state happy; not whether children were learning, growing, or becoming responsible, kind, resourceful citizens. The system has sacrificed our artistic, unique, creative youths simultaneously zapping our passionate, innovative and learned teachers. We’ve morphed into a test-taking, dumbed-down culture, virtually ignoring the right brain of the child, and disregarding anything below the neck.

Enter Tesseract. I’ll never forget the first day I walked into this “fourth” dimension-Definitely a square (cubed) peg not WANTING to fit into the round hole of normal schooling. The posted mission statement was not just talk…it was the WALK!

1.     Fostering EACH student’s intellect, love of learning, and strength of character? What? I can form a RELATIONSHIP  with a child one at a time, finding something special about him/her, and foster it!? Unheard of in a class size of 40 students x 5 classes.

2.      An innovative and collaborative environment? What? I work closely with the educators during the day, and the  professional development is all about enhancing our connectedness in and out of the classroom? The WHOLE child is taught, and I am a COG in the wheel of learning vs a separate compartment. The students make connections with the curriculum so it makes SENSE to them.

3.     Prepare students to be REAL people; To lead a life of purpose and with character and to see the world as a whole? What? I can encourage, equip, and inspire children to TRULY make a difference in their world, as I make a difference in their lives? Who has time to invest this energy or time into the children in public school when the teachers are frantically trying to practice test and increase their scores? The pressure adds up, so this doesn’t happen in the public schools.

Proudly and with honor, now I can truly say, I’m walking the talk of what education should be about and my “idealism” is realized.

You can do it

As I neared the finish line, I wondered: Why is it so easy to gain speed near the end, yet my legs feel like steel mallets in the midst of the race?
I ran a 5K on Saturday with my buddy, Maria. She’s a precious 4th grader who I was paired with for Girls on the Run. This is a race sponsored by New Balance to encourage young girls to get moving.


It made me realize that in the middle of the journey, it gets hard. Life is a race, but much slower than a 5K, and at times, I can question why is it so hard? Yet, I fully understand that I must continue to run, even though my legs feel like steel mallets. Slowing down, or speeding is not the problem. The problem is stopping and staying put.


I thank God every day for the ability to run, and the where-with-all to continue even when I can’t. He can.

He approved!

Dr. Wiley approved of my revisions. He officially is signing off on my dissertation. Now, I think…Chapter closed. But is it? The thought of what is next frightens me a bit. However, I am remember whose approval matters: Christ’s. But the good news is that I have it.


It hasn’t hit home until recently. All of this work and strife, is it all worth it? It “feels” good to be accomplished because I know I have what it takes to be a disciplined person. But the vehicle I use to be disciplined has been my work and school (or my body). Has my spiritual life experienced this same muscle building? It’s a matter of asking for HIM everyday. I long for his answers but the questions still seem fuzzy. What is next?


There is a song by Mercy Me which I cannot get enough:


Here with me:


I long for your embrace

Every single day

To meet you in this place

And see you face to face


Will you show me?

Reveal yourself to me

Because of your mercy

I fall down on my knees


And I can feel your presence here with me

Suddenly I’m lost within your beauty

Caught up in the wonder of your touch

Here in this moment I surrender to your love


You’re everywhere I go

I am not alone

You call me as your own

To know you and be known


You are holy

And I fall down on my knees


I can feel your presence here with me

Suddenly I’m lost within your beauty

Caught up in the wonder of your touch

Here in this moment I surrender to your love


I surrender to your grace

I surrender to the one who took my place


I can feel your presence here with me

Suddenly I’m lost within your beauty

Caught up in the wonder of your touch

Here in this moment I surrender:


I can feel your presence here with me

Suddenly I’m lost within your beauty

Caught up in the wonder of your touch

Here in this moment I surrender to your love