Monthly Archives: October 2010


One more poem

From a student that I am quite proud of:

Pleasant Sounds

The chatter of over fifty people,

Squirrels running over dead leaves in the fall.

Birds chirping in the trees

And oven buttons clicking on Saturday morning.

The car starting when my family goes on trips,

And the sound of people screaming at a football game.

Leaves falling to the ground

And the sound of people battling with swords.

When people jump into a pool and the squishy sound of people stepping in mud.

The sound of my little brother and cousin crying.

A dragonfly buzzing right past you

And the sound of a zipper zipping on a cold winter morning.

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My Poets

Sharing poetry with my students is a goal that I have for the year.  I have the poems which I have collected from numerous sources printed on overhead transparencies.  Three times a week I display the poems on the board for all to see.  I usually read the poem once and then call on a male voice and female voice to read during the week.  Each day we try to unfold some new aspect of the poem discussing the vocabulary, syllable form, style and flavor of each poem and poet.

We recently read John Clare’s Pleasant Sounds and I asked my students to brainstorm some of their favorite sounds.  The lights were off and some of my students’ pencils couldn’t stop scrawling across their page.  The next day I handed my students the task of composing a poem of their own favorite or pleasant sounds.  I was most pleased with their work and would like to share a poem or two with you.

Pleasant Sound

The chirping of birds in the distance,

Trickling of water down the stream,

Laughter of children on the playground,

Shouts of joy for my team.

Rain hitting on my window,

Creatures scampering about,

Horses hooves in the fields,

The honk of a mailman on his route.

Dad cheering for the Aggies,

Knives hitting the plate,

Ladies sipping their tea,

The speeches in debate.

composed by Annaleigh

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Missionary to the Savages

Who:  Kara Bertke, 6th grade teacher

When:  Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Where:  Regents Academy, Nacogdoches, Texas

Why:  Attempt to tame the savages (a.k.a. 6th grade students)

How:  After reading Sandra Boswell’s Prototcol Matters and finding that I have more gray hair than I care to own up to, I have realized that it doesn’t take a lot to raise children with high self-esteem.  It does, however, take much of the right thing!  The most important concept that our children must understand to have confidence in themselves is that Christ did it all for them on the cross.  Their sins were forgiven and they can’t work hard enough to make our Father pleased with them.  Their value, worth and salvation is found in Christ alone.  Christ has fought the fight for them and their sins are washed clean by His precious blood.

The next skill that children need in order to grow strong and grounded is manners.  A child who knows and has applied manners in a variety of situations and with people of mixed  age and gender has such an advantage in life.  When a young man knows that he shouldn’t sit before all the ladies at the table have been seated first, he is at a great advantage in life.  A young lady who knows how to graciously accept a door being held open for her is light years ahead of what our generation today breeds.  It is because of these convictions that I remind my students daily of Christ’s love for each one of them, and it is because of these convictions that I arrange to have an etiquette meal brought in to 6th grade once a quarter.

Using Protocol Matters as a diving board, I try to plunge as deeply as possible into all the do’s and don’ts that make up our world of manners.  It is tricky to present these rules as being something that will benefit my students in the coming years without it sounding like Mrs. Bertke is just trying to add more no-no’s to our life!  After a brief and joyful discussion about the importance of manners, we get down to the nitty-gritty!  I teach my students the details of how to approach a table, when to be seated, which hand is used to place their napkin in their lap as well as appropriate table talk.  I always tell my students that they will receive a grade for their attention to their own manners, and we proceed to partake of a delicious meal that a parent brings in.

The happiness and warmth that is shared during our etiquette meals is indescribable.  The students are actively thinking of their neighbor and how to include all those around them in the table’s discussion.  The gentlemen are actually acting like gentlemen!  The ladies are considerate of the food that is being placed in their mouth.  It is a time for their teacher to sit back (not literally) and enjoy watching my active, rambunctious, and occasionally gross students interact in a civilized and courteous way that is reflective of the wedding feast that we will partake of in glory.

Praise God for our school.  Praise God for our country.  Praise God for our headmaster that allows me to slightly disturb the regular rhythm of our school day so that we might send out straight and strong arrows into the world of darkness which, upon hitting their mark, may do so with graceful manners!

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The Dreaded “H” Word

Among the most dreaded words in the English language, right up there with plague, traffic, and insurance seminar, is the word homework. Who wants to do homework when the great outdoors is beckoning? Who wants to do homework after a long day buckled to a desk? But then life is filled with things we have to do when we would rather be doing something else.

One day a mother brought her son to Robert E. Lee asking for a blessing. Lee said simply, “Teach him he must deny himself.” That lesson applies throughout life, and homework is good training for it.

But homework has real practical value also. Through homework students gain extra practice on needed skills, especially in math and foreign languages. Sometimes students need to complete work they did not finish at school. At times work outside of class is necessary, especially when students are studying for tests, memorizing, reviewing notes, reading literature, or working on projects. Also, homework affords an opportunity for parents to work directly with their children.

I dislike homework but see it as a necessary expedient. There simply is not enough time in the day to get as much done as we need to. I want evenings to be time for families to be together, for children to play, and for students to pursue other interests. But there has to be some amount of homework for most students, and the need increases as students progress through the curriculum year by year.

The Regents Board has set guidelines for the expected amount of homework most students should take home. The administration and teachers are eager to comply, but consider how difficult the process of assigning homework really is. Teachers have to take into account a host of variables. Teachers must know their students and understand how they differ in terms of ability and pace of work. Teachers must take into account the assignments themselves and how demanding they are. Then teachers have to factor in (very worthwhile) extracurricular activities and the competing demands of other classes. Some students dawdle while other students work efficiently. Some students are content with average grades, while other students will work however long it takes to excel. On top of all that, teachers love their subjects and have very high goals for their students’ education; teachers dream of every student excelling. Good teachers see rigor as good, clean fun.

These are not excuses for teachers assigning piles of homework, but hopefully they illustrate how challenging the process of planning homework is. We have students for at least 7 hours per day. We should be able to get most of what we want to accomplish done during that time. But sometimes it takes more. And sometimes we get it wrong and err toward too much homework.

If the homework load becomes too heavy, I want to know about it. If a child is doing hour after hour of homework, something is probably out of balance. Perhaps the teacher is demanding too much, and their expectations should be adjusted. Or maybe the student is dallying. Possibly the child needs to change the setting for his homework so that he can get his work done more efficiently. And then the stubborn fact remains that some students just might have to work harder to get the assignment done.

Whatever the case, I want to honor two promises to you: first, to deliver an excellent classical and Christian education that demands much while bestowing much, and second, to do so within the bounds of a reasonable and relatively predictable homework load that accords with a child’s frame. It is my goal to keep these two promises from conflicting.

But if they are, let me repeat: I want to know about it. In our effort, as a school, to correct the woefully low standards of contemporary education, we need to beware of overcorrecting, being overly zealous, at our children’s expense.

But for now I will bring this article to an end. The great outdoors is beckoning.

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