In my preceding blog post I wrote a review of Eric Reender’s compelling book, Rooftop Perspectives. In this post, Eric responds to several questions related to the book.
- What prompted you to write the book?
Moving to China and teaching in a Christian school there was a big change. I was an experienced teacher but my experience was all in public schools. I had received my teaching credential from a very well known Christian university but the teacher ed. program really focused on preparing Christians to work in public schools… only one teacher in my cohort of twenty three went on to teach in a Christian school. We were taught to be salt and light and how to integrate our faith seamlessly into our teaching… not just our lessons but in how we taught. Upon moving to China I suddenly found myself in a place where everyone was talking about “biblical integration,” whatever that was, and there were constant discussions on how to make it measurable. There is a lot more about my struggles and quest to make it all work together in Rooftop so I’m not going to say too much about it here. Thankfully God led me through it all and ultimately gave me a work to do I’d never expected… to create a focused program for teaching a Christian worldview.
I didn’t actually write the book until our fourth year living in China but I had developed the program during our first year there. In the following years I had been doing a lot of presentations and helping schools implement the program but there’s only so much I could do in person. I felt God telling me it was meant for a larger audience and that really meant it had to be on paper… and by on paper I mean longer that the half dozen or so pages I’d hand out when explaining the program in person. I really wanted to be able to get a lot of the big picture thoughts and questions I had struggled with in developing the program out to people so they could really understand the “why” and not just the “what.” When it comes right down to it, I actually fought against writing the book for a long time. I really didn’t want to write something I wouldn’t want to read and frankly I really don’t enjoy reading a lot of teacher training manuals. Thankfully God worked that out.
- How did you decide to use the method of a “story within a story?”
As a language arts teacher I really wish I could say it was totally planned from the start. I’d love to say that it was all thought out and outlined before I started… you know, all those things I’ve taught students you have to do before you start writing. In reality, it grew out of my disobedience to the calling to write. I really didn’t want to write a textbook or a training manual. The idea of using fiction was born on a walk through my neighborhood in China with a friend. We were talking about our frustration with the various projects we had stewardship over and he really encouraged me to just start writing the story of how I developed the program and let God take it from there. The idea of being the steward of a story really hit me and I instantly realized there was no reason it had to be nonfiction. In fact, the more I thought about it I knew it could possibly be much more powerful as a work of fiction. With fiction I could weave in a lot of the things I wanted my readers to really think about first in order to understand the power of this method of teaching worldview without sounding preachy. So, I pretty much just sat down and started writing. However, even at that point I didn’t know it was going to be a story in a story. It wasn’t until Liu Ping started speaking that I knew where it was going.
- What changes are you hoping to see in Christian schools as a result of your work?
The easy answer to this is: I want to see changed lives but I’m guessing you’re hoping for just a bit more than that for an answer.
In the book one of my main characters, Liu Ping, talks about the great power of shared focus. Really, that’s what I’d most like to see… a network of Christian schools across the world all intentionally focused on guiding students toward a solid God-centered worldview which they can articulate and defend. A worldview they truly own, not simply puppet back. I would love to see schools that take learning deeper and teachers that take their students beyond being simply hoarders of knowledge to being lovers of wisdom.
- If you wrote a follow-up book to this one, what would it be about?
I am currently working on a sequel that will pick up the story where I left off and add a big piece that I didn’t have space for in Rooftop. Rooftop really focuses on the why, some of the what and the curriculum part of the how… using questions. The sequel will focus on teaching methods… on those things we do every day which show our own worldview… our true worldview which actually affects what we do not just what we say. In a nutshell, it is about teaching with grace.
- What are you currently working on/what’s next?
In between flying around the country attending conferences searching for teachers and schools that want to take their students deeper, leading teacher workshops and trying to find time to sit down and write the sequel and my blog, I’m working on taking the material from my in-person trainings and building an online course which I’m really excited about and plan to launch this fall. I’m also thrilled to be working with ACSI as part of an exciting back-to-school virtual summit they are creating.
- How can people get in touch with you if they want to know more?
- Where can we buy your book?
It’s available on Amazon in both Kindle or paperback or, if you’d like multiple copies or an autographed copy, email me.
Deeper Learning Update – Part 2
Save the Date!!
The Christian Deeper Learning Planning Team is pleased to announce that our next Christian Deeper Learning conference will be held on March 7 & 8 in Dallas, Texas at Legacy Christian Academy in Frisco! Initial information is on our website and we will be adding more information as we solidify presenters and schedule.
For those of you who attended and enjoyed our January Florida Christian Deeper Learning conference (a summary here in case you missed it!)
In the meantime, here are a number of events related to the deeper learning approach for you to consider attending (a special thanks to Kristyn Kamps for compiling this information):
Summer PD Offerings
- PBL World (June 19-21): BIE’s premier conference for Project Based Learning. Each year, we bring together dedicated K-12 teachers, instructional coaches, and school and district leaders who want to connect with each other and learn more about PBL. Click here for additional information and registration.
- Deeper Learning in Boston (June 25-29): Steven and Joanna Levy are hosting their fourth annual week-long institute in North Andover, MA (just outside of Boston). This year’s theme is Finding our role in the adventure of God’s story: deeper in and further out. Details about the conference can be found here.
- Restorative Practices in Christian Schools (July 16-20): Diane Stronks of Edudeo Ministries will be teaching a 2-credit graduate class at Calvin College on using restorative practices as a tool of reconciliation. Registration for summer courses opened in February. Read more about Diane’s work here.
- PBL Residency (August 20-24): At the 4th annual PBL Residency in Abbotsford, British Columbia, we work hard to provide teachers with the opportunity to experience Deeper Learning through the framework of Project-Based Learning. We have found that teachers who want to change need to experience what that change looks like as a student. This helps them make connections to the experiences their students will be having. Things like revision and reflection, and collaboration are hard things for teachers to wrap their head around until they have experienced it. It’s not always something experienced by many educators. More information and a link to register can be found here.
- The Christian Teachers Academy (August 20-24): For participants, The Academy held in Hamilton, Ontario is an intensive, challenging, and rewarding professional development experience. The Academy is a one-week summer session for educators and school leaders who desire to further their understanding of Project Based Learning. Come and discover more about Project Based Learning by experiencing Project Based Learning, from entry event to presentation! Participants design and develop projects that allow students to engage in real work and answer real questions. The Academy offers experiences for the new PBL educator and the experienced PBL educator; this year there are six different Odysseys. For more details please visit Christian Teachers Academy.
- Odyssey 101 – PBL Essentials– A comprehensive exploration of the essentials of Project Based Learning. Participants will leave with a project that is ready to use with their students.
- Odyssey 102 (New this year) – PBL and MakerSpaces– A comprehensive exploration of the essentials of Project Based Learning through a MakerSpace lens.
- Odyssey 201 – Digging Deeper– A time to provide experienced PBL educators an opportunity to further develop and refine projects with a Design Thinking focus.
- Odyssey 202 – Study Hall (2 days) – The atmosphere, the resources, and the people for the experienced PBL educator to work on and improve their projects.
- Odyssey 203 (New this year) – Cross Curricular PBL Design – Design, create, and develop learning blocks that cross multiple subjects, disciplines, and grades. Consider attending with a partner.
- Odyssey 302(New this year) – PBL Coaching (4 Days) – Discover, use, and develop tools and resources to support teachers and colleagues on their PBL journey.
Dan Beerens is an educational consultant, author, international speaker, and educational leader. Before starting Dan Beerens Consulting in May 2010, he served as Vice President of Learning Services and Director of Instructional Improvement at Christian Schools International. Prior to that, he was the Director of Curriculum and Instruction for Holland Christian Schools. Dan has also worked as teacher and principal in urban and suburban public and Christian schools in Wisconsin and Illinois. He serves as a Senior Fellow at CACE (Center for the Advancement of Christian Education), represents Curriculum Trak sales and professional development and serves as co-chair of the annual Christian Deeper Learning conference. He blogs regularly for CACE and is the author of Evaluating Teachers for Professional Growth: Creating a Culture of Motivation and Learning (Corwin Press) and co-editor of the recent book MindShift: Catalyzing Change in Christian Education (ACSI).