Often people come into our school and comment that there is something 'different' about it.
PRAISE THE LORD!
Of course there is something different and it is nice that they noticed! There are a lot of differences between us and the schools down the road, but I choose to first concentrate on our teachers.
Lately I have been wondering just how good it would be if staff at Christian schools were paid 10% less than their counterparts in the state sector. Now before you stop reading, I KNOW...I know this may be ridiculous and may not work for many reasons and I also know that our teachers should be worth much more than the public sector (reward in Heaven). However, I have been thinking...
What if we were paid less if we worked in a Christian School?
Tomorrow morning announce to your staff before devotions that the MoE is cutting salaries to all Christian School employees and watch. See who takes a copy of the Ed Gazette with them back to class.
The first thing I look for when I employ new staff is the 'Calling' factor, is this person called to teach in a Christian School. This stems from an interesting situation I found myself in a long time ago.
I had just graduated from Teacher's College and had applied for a teaching position at the best school I could have hoped to teach at. It was the dream job for a new graduate from the Christian Teacher's training centre I had attended for four years.
I got asked to come to an interview and all was going remarkably well until I was asked "How do you know you are 'CALLED' to teach at a Christian School and you are not 'CALLED' to be a Christian teacher in the state sector"? Did I want the job YES!...was I 'CALLED' to the job...I was not so sure.
A teacher or staff member who is 'called' to a Christian school is very different to someone who just wants to work at a Christian School! When it is all said and done, it comes down to accountability. Someone who feels accountable to their Maker tends to be a lot more teachable, committed and reliable that someone who is accountable to a contract with man. I am continually challenged by Matthew 18:5-6 where Jesus tells of the consequences of leading children astray, let's face it as a teacher there is great responsibility and accountability.
So when a new person comes into the school and comments that there is something different about our school, 'it just feels different', I take the time to explain to them the difference it makes in having teachers who are 'called' to teaching (could be as a Christian in the state sector...) and having teachers who come to school on Monday because it is where they work.
Integrated Schools have been targeted by the media recently.
The PPTA is going to their AGM with a recommendation that asks the Minister of Education to adopt their draft resolution to have the Private School Conditional Integration Act 1975 abolished, thus stopping any further Integrated Schools. Their primary reasons are theological. Simply, they are against the state funding ChristianSchools.
The second media item stems around the abuse of privilege. The Minister asserts that some Integrated Schools maybe misusing Policy One money and are demanding higher than necessary financial support, which puts a barrier to parents attending an IntegratedSchool.
Both areas are of genuine concern and require our urgent attention.
Firstly, the PPTA resolution is a direct attack on Christianity. It should be of no surprise to Christian organizations. Most are contested for the “prince of the power of the air” hates Jesus and hates any genuine Christ-centred organisation.
One only has to take a brief look at American politics over the last 40 years and you will see how the anti Christian lobbyists have slowly but surely eroded and denied Christian organisations their constitutional rights and their Christian privileges. This is happening in New Zealand. The Christians must unite and lobby with equally aggressive commitment. God does answers prayer and we should be interceding for our organisations. That is one side of the coin. The other side is that we must act with wisdom and with tenacity. Your school needs to be transparent and open to the public. Invite your MP and your local councilors, and those of influence into your school. Seek to win their favour. Hold regular events that brings the public into your school, so that when the time comes you can solicit their written endorsement and support.
The second issue is the use of public money:
Jesus said… “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s… and render to God that which is His.” Integrated Schools need to treat government money with the utmost transparency and with genuine Christian integrity. Policy One money is given to Proprietors to assist them maintain their schools to at least a State level. Legislation allows the Proprietors to use unspent money, ie., if the school is up to at least State standard at the end of any given year, excess Policy One money can be used for other projects within the School. The use of this money for non-school projects is illegal. Proprietors need to account for this grant.
Further, the Minister is concerned that there is no barrier to qualifying parents who want their children to attend an Integrated Schools from doing so. The barrier alludes to is the excessive amount of Attendance Dues and ‘donations” parents are expected to pay. There is no question that the Private Schools Integration Act gives Proprietors the ability to charge a compulsory Attendance Due ( which must be approved by the MOE if it is increased) and invite parents to consider a donation towards supporting you’re the delivery of your special character.
Regarding the Special Character contribution, it is over to you to motivate the School community to “buy in” to this voluntary gifting process. The wording in your prospectus is important. BethlehemCollege, for example has just changed theirs from a “Special Character levy” to a “Special Character contribution” to make it clearer that this is not a compulsory charge.
As I close this exhortation I encourage school leaders to re-read the following three documents.
Romans 12:8… We all have different gifts… “if it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently…”
Christian Education Trust’s Ambassador
As you will now be aware the MoE have changed the requirements around the delivery of Sexuality Education in schools. Now all schools are to deliver a Sexuality Education programme, where as in the past schools have been able opt out if that was the desire of the parents.
So, for some of us the question is how much do we have to deliver and how are other Christian schools tackling this issue?
Please comment as to your school's delivery or better still, click on the [Documents] link in the main menu and provide a copy ;)
As I continue to unpack the NZC I am struck again by the concept of Effective Pedagogy. Not because it is a new concept but rather lost in the guilt of the missed opportunities for students when we as educators get it wrong. At Timaru Christian School our motto is 'Honouring God in All We Do', a motto similar to many other Christian Schools. AND like other schools our motto is not intended just for the students, rather it is to be observed in all aspects of the whole school community. If I and my teachers are to Honour God in our day to day teaching surely we need to be able to develop a model of effective pedagogy which will ensure students get maximum learning opportunities in the classroom.
Our New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) identifies seven dimensions to what it considers constitute Effective Pedagogy;
On the most part, I agree with the above, some more than others, however this is obviously not the only model of effective pedagogy. There are many models around the world and I am sure your school will have a model of sorts, likely to be most clearly defined in the school's Performance Agreements for it's teachers. Whatever the model it does not hurt to ask questions about the source, the relevance and how the model is actually being practiced in each classroom, by each teacher.
The question of relevance is an important question in two ways. Firstly because we are in a time of remarkable changes in technology and secondly we need to be able to relate to our students in our teaching, such as Christ did.
Although the need for Biblical knowledge and knowledge of God will never end, the day of having to memorise menial academic facts, figures and equations is coming to an end. It was going to happen at some time, but already there are countries which are trialling the use of the internet in final exams at the secondary level (ie, Denmark, Australia). If I knew my students had access to the internet during assessments there would be obvious changes to my teaching model.
As Christian educators I am sure that we would all agree that during His time of ministry on Earth, Christ was the perfect teacher. In observing His teaching we see that He was obviously anointed for the job and one of the most powerful aspects of His teaching was relevance. He was able to take heavenly concepts beyond our understanding and explain them through parables which were relevant to the people He was teaching.
Unlike the NZC, a model of effective pedagogy has been developed in New South Wales which has only three dimensions;
The NSW model of pedagogy contains three dimensions: intellectual quality, a quality learning environment and significance. Each component has been proved to improve student learning outcomes.
Promoting high levels of intellectual quality has the potential to cater for a range of individuals that may have special needs or different backgrounds. High levels of intellectual quality have shown positive effects on student outcomes. To promote intellectual quality, teachers need to incorporate the elements of deep knowledge, deep understanding, problematic knowledge, higher-order thinking, metalanguage and substantive communication.
A quality learning environment is important in focusing students’ attention around their learning. By providing a positive and supportive learning environment, student outcomes improve. The elements that promote a quality learning environment are: explicit quality criteria, engagement, high expectations, social support, students’ self regulation and student direction.
Significance is vital in making learning meaningful and important to students. For the work of students to have an impact outside of school, teachers need to ensure that students’ learning matters. Each of the elements of background knowledge, cultural knowledge, knowledge integration, inclusivity, connectedness and narrative must be significant to students, so that they might apply their knowledge in the context of the wider society.
(Summary of the Quality Teaching Discussion Paper)
Department of Education and Training 2003, Quality Teaching in NSW public schools(Discussion Paper),
Department of Education and Training, Sydney
The obvious omission for us as Christian Educators from both the NZC and the NSW models is (understandably) the Spiritual dimension. I have often wondered what this 'Special Character' dimension of Christian Education was called, Spiritual Integration, Bible Knowledge... however in recent years I have come to define it best as Discipleship.
From observations of Christian schools in New Zealand and overseas the only constant is that this Discipleship dimension is defined and delivered in many different ways. I have heard of schools where the 'Discipleship' dimension is delivered purely because the school employs 'good, solid Christian teachers', and in another the Special Character is delivered because the Principal takes daily morning devotions and another where each unit and curriculum plan must 'supported' by scripture. I am not advocating that one school is better than another, rather that we as Christian Educatiors take a close look into the way our school delivers it's Discipleship dimension of the Curriculum and querry whether it could truely come under the banner of Effective Pedagogy.
If we were to combine the NSW three dimensions with our Discipleship dimension, we would have four dimensions which could easily be reviewed at staff meetings once a month. This could be achieved by a short discussion on one of the dimensions each week...OR...use a staff member who you have identified as exceptional in this area and have them present one aspect of what they do in this area...OR...in a larger school management units could be given to four teachers (or shared?) to research and present best practice in each dimension once a month and to carry out 'audits' in classes...(be sure to share this Best Practice on our website!!). The options are endless but there may be no greater task in the school than to ensure effective Christian pedagogy is at the forefront of discussions in staff meetings.