Dealing With Disruptive Students (and Kids)

The Tomorrow’s Professor blog from Standford University recently gave tips on how to deal with disruptive students. As we don’t have any of these at PRTS, of course, I thought I’d pass them on to other teachers; but also to parents, because so many of the points apply to parenting also.

The rather lengthy (@3000 word blog post) deals with many kinds of disruptive behavior and offers many helpful tips for various teaching (and parenting situations). It also outlines a ten-step approach for dealing with disruptive students (and children?) which I’ve summarized below:

1. Don’t take the disruption personally: Focus on the distraction rather than on the student.  By remaining objective and not taking the situation personally, you can respond in a calm manner.

2. Stay calm: You will be much more authoritative when you are perceived to be dealing with the distraction in a composed manner and when students believe that you like them.

3. Decide when you will deal with the situation: Quickly and briefly in class or privately and at length after class. Allow students to save face where possible.

4. Be polite: It is far better to say “I’d like to continue with the class” or “It is important that you concentrate for the next few minutes” than “Don’t talk when I’m talking.”

5. Listen to the student: Really listen to what a disruptive student is saying. Put yourself in their shoes and try to understand what is lying behind the disruption.

6. Check you understand: Ask questions until you have enough information to understand the situation.

7. Decide what you’re going to do: Think win-win but always prioritize the learning experience of the non-disruptive students.

8. Explain your decision to the student: Tell the students what you have decided, explain your rationale and check they understand.

9. Follow through: You must do what you said you would do!

10. Document your decisions: Where the disruption has resulted in significant action it is a good idea to document the nature of the disruption, your actions and the rationale for your decision.  This will help you to reflect and evaluate.

The article closes with this cheery reminder: “Finally, remember that most students (and children?) are polite and helpful and want to learn!”

Read the whole post here, or the book from which the article is extracted: Making Teaching Work: Teaching Smarter in Post-Compulsory Education.


Resisting Gossip: Free Video Curriculum

This week, Pastor Matt Mitchell, author of Resisting Gossip: Winning the War of the Wagging Tongue has released two new Resisting Gossip resources.  The first is a bible study curriculum that dives deeper into the content first introduced in the book Resisting Gossip.  The second is a series of videos to supplement the curriculum which are being offered for free on Matt’s website. These videos are also offered on DVD for those who prefer a physical format.

I encourage you to dive into these resources.  Gossip is a destructive, ugly sin that we can all fall into too easily. Matt’s curriculum shows us exactly what the Bible says about gossip and what we can do to flee from the temptation.


Top 10 Gospel Books for Children

As I’m often asked for book recommendations on various subjects, I decided to put together an online list of my top ten books in various categories. Basically, if I was only allowed 10 books in my library on that subject, these are the ten I would choose. Previous posts include:

Today I’m listing Top 10(ish) Gospel Books for Children.  I put this question out on my Facebook page last week after a friend asked me for recommendations for their eight-year-old who was showing interest in the gospel.  Here are my favorite responses – this time not in any order of preference. Please make further suggestions in the comments and I’ll add them under Reader Suggestions.

God’s Providence by Sally Michaels, part of the Children Desiring God series.  Thanks to Phillip and Ian for pointing us to this author.

Westminster Shorter Catechism for Kids (series of workbooks) by Caroline Weerstra.  Recommended on Facebook by Colin.

Pictorial Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan.  Recommended by Katherine and Angela.

The Lamb by John R. Cross.  Recommended by John.

Julie suggested books by Susan Hunt, saying, “My children really enjoy these and they are practical.”  One of Hunt’s newest for children is Cassie & Caleb Discover God’s Wonderful Design.

Who Is God? (And Can I Really Know Him?) by John Hay and David Webb.  This one is often used as a homeschooling textbook and the publishers also offer a journal and coloring book to go along with the text.  Recommended by Colin.

Big Book of Questions & Answers: A Family Devotional Guide to the Christian Faith by Sinclair Ferguson. Recommended by William.

Leading Little Ones to God: A Child’s Book of Bible Teachings by Marian M. Schoolland.  Recommended by Sarah who says, “An oldie but simple and complete! I like the questions at the end of each message along with the short memory verses.”

The Gospel for Children by John Leuzarder. Recommended by John and Charles

Jesus Teaches Us How to Be Wise by Sinclair Ferguson, part of a series of “Jesus Teaches Us How to…” books. Recommended by David

A Young Person’s Guide to Knowing God by Patricia St. John.  Recommended by Amian and Angela.  Amian said: “Patricia was a writer of the old school. My daughter (now 38) always says ‘No-one understood children and young people like Auntie Patricia’. The Gospel is very clearly set out in all of her children’s books.”  Angela remarked, “…Patricia St John’s books are brilliant, gentle but clear in their message and engaging for children.”

Dear J: Christian Letters to a Young Friend by Margaret R. Macleod. Recommended by James and Nancy.  This one is out of print, but you can buy used copies on Amazon.

Fair Sunshine: Character Studies of the Scottish Covenanters by Jock Purves.  Recommended by Isobel who enjoyed them as a child. She said, “When I was that age and seeking, I found the lives of missionaries fascinating and the stories of the covenanters challenging.”

Jungle Doctor and the Whirlwind (Jungle Doctor Series Book 1) by Paul White.  The whole Jungle Doctor series was recommended on my Facebook page.  Angela said, “[This series has] an excellent way of communicating the way of salvation and gospel truths to children of this age.” and Isobel remembered them from her childhood, “So glad you can still get the Jungle Doctor series, they were my favs over fifty years ago!”

How God Sent a Dog to Save a Family (Building on the Rock) by Joel R. Beeke and Diana Kleyn. The Building on the Rock series was recommended by Angela.

See also God’s Alphabet for Life Devotions for Young Children by Joel Beeke and Heidi Boorsma.

Wait Till You See The Butterfly by Doreen Tamminga, a collection of short stories that Angela “can’t recommend highly enough.”

The Doctrines of Grace by Shane Lems.  Michael recommends this for older children, “especially as an introduction to the Reformed faith.”

There are also many children’s books by R C Sproul including The Donkey Who Carried a King.

Reader Suggestions


Ordinary v Radical

Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World by Michael Horton.

Michael Horton says that despite the similarities in cover design, despite “radical” being in the subtitle, and despite numerous pops at “radical Christianity” in the book, “I’m not going after Radical.”

I don’t quite understand the defensiveness.

He also says that “Those who think I am going after the book admit that they haven’t read mine yet, but they suspect that Radical is the target. It’s not.”


Well, I’ve read the book, and if Radical is not at least a major part of the target, it’s the most accidental bullseye I’ve ever seen.

Again, not quite sure why that should be a worry, especially as at no point does Horton personalize the issues or take down people by name. It’s a careful, courteous, and humble book – Horton targets himself as well.

It does come across as a rather negative book overall, mainly because while there are so many areas to critique in “extraordinary” evangelicalism, there are really only a few “ordinary” alternatives which Horton keeps coming back to: preaching, prayer, sacraments, and the community of faith in the local church. 

There is much worthwhile fresh content in the book, but those familiar with Horton’s writing and broadcasting will recognize many of his favorite bogeymen: pietism, activism, revivalism, dramatic conversions, and so on.

This book needed to be written and no one better could have written it than modern evangelicalism’s “Jeremiah.” It serves as a helpful counter-balance to some of the “extraordinary” books and movements that have swept up many young Christians with unsustainable expectations, but who are now running out of steam. To them, this will be a breath of welcome and reinvigorating fresh air.

And for ordinary Christians who just regularly plod along to ordinary churches, to ordinary worship, to ordinary Christian friendships, to ordinary Christian service, and then out into our ordinary jobs, this book will greatly encourage you that it’s in these very ordinary settings that our extraordinary God does radical things.

Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World by Michael Horton.


The Most Powerful Video Illustration of the Gospel I’ve Ever Seen

I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a powerful illustration of the Gospel as this video. Want to understand your adoption by your heavenly father better? Watch what Detective Mook does and worship your heavenly father?

A challenging adoption: “We end tonight with a detective who took on one of the most challenging cases of his career.”

A head-and-heart adoption: “Solving it took teamwork between his head and his heart.”

A merciful adoption: “Most of the kids who come into this gym are street-kids, many of them have been born into poverty.”

A searching adoption: “When they stopped showing up at the gym one day, Jack went out and found the older boy.”

A compassionate adoption: “He looked terrible, bags under his eyes, 12 years old….What no one knew was just how bad these kids had it. They were in a foster home and had foster parents who were extremely abusive and neglectful.”

A sovereign adoption: “They had had it as worse as any other kid that has lived in the city of Pittsburgh…and I’d had enough of it.” “Jack Mook took matters into his own hands…and got the kids placed in a new home.”

A sacrificial adoption: ”…And got the kids placed in a new home…his.”

A beneficial adoption: One of the kids said, “I slept the best I ever did that night.”

An enjoyable adoption: Mook said “I’m loving this. It’s awesome. It’s the best thing I ever did in my life.”

A full adoption: “This week he went to court and did one better…adopted the boys and made them Mooks.”

A happy adoption: “You’re a Mook,right? You happy? Good!

And I just love the next line when Mook says “Good, now you’re going home to cut my grass,” and the journalist closes with, “Safe to say, the thought of chores has never been more welcome.” Isn’t that exactly how the adopted Christian feels about obeying and serving God? It’s no chore; it’s so welcome.

Youtube entitled the video “From man’s man to family man.” From the perspective of being adopted, we could call it, “From no man to God’s man” (or woman).


Simplify: Ten Practices To Unclutter Your Soul


Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul by Bill Hybels

My wife put me on to this one after hearing Hybels interviewed on Moody Radio one day and I’m glad she did. It’s an enjoyable read, with lots of anecdotes, outlining ten practical ways to unclutter your soul.

Most helpful chapters for me were chapter one on sustainable energy levels, chapter two on scheduling, and chapter seven on friendships, the latter being my favorite and the area I’d like to work on most.

If you read it all in one sitting (as I did) then you’ll probably feel a bit overwhelmed and your mind will be more cluttered than ever. Probably better to read a chapter, think about it, discuss it with your husband/wife/friend, and try to implement one or two action items per chapter. Then go on to the next one, maybe a couple of weeks later.

My Favorite Quotes

On God’s Call
Simplified living is about more than doing less. It’s being who God called us to be, with a wholehearted, single-minded focus. It’s walking away from innumerable lesser opportunities in favor of the few to which we’ve been called and for which we’ve been created.

On Energy Levels
If you choose to live with more energy reserves in your life, you will without a doubt disappoint some people. Trust me, you have to fight to keep your life replenished. No one else can keep your tank full. It’s up to you to protect your energy reserves and priorities.

Of all the leaders I’ve had the opportunity to meet—from CEOs to nonprofit execs to politicians to church leaders—guess which type is most likely to have a problem with being overwhelmed, overscheduled, and exhausted? Senior pastors!

If you look at what’s underneath the skyrocketing use of pornography these days, a lot of it is connected to depletion, isolation, and exhaustion.

Spending time with God each day is the antidote to one energy-killer in particular: image management

Exercise and proper rest patterns give about a 20 percent energy increase in an average day, average week, average month.

On Scheduling
My schedule is far less about what I want to get done and far more about who I want to become. Let me repeat: My schedule is far less about what I want to get done and far more about who I want to become.

How would you spend your time if God were in charge of it?”

I’m of the opinion that the thoughtful arrangement of your daily and weekly calendars is one of the holiest endeavors you can undertake.

On Friendship
By evaluating, pruning, expanding, bordering, and deepening your relationships, you can maximize the energy and joy they bring to your newly simplified life.

If I were to wrestle friendship in all its complexities down to just a few short words, I would define it like this: to know and be known.

Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul by Bill Hybels.