Just an observation. An observation from 15+ years in Christian Education, leadership in many Christian Schools, chairmanship of a trust for several Christian schools and both initial teacher training and postgraduate study through Christian Tertiary Colleges. My observation is that there are five 'types' of families who send their children to Christian schools.
Identifying the current make up of your school’s community within these five types is not an ego thing nor is it a ‘some are better than others’ sort of thing. It is important to know the make up of your school community in order to best meet the needs of your current community. Secondly, if your school does NOT attract any of these types of families it will be because of the perception your school holds in the wider community. Acknowledging that the perception may or may not be based on reality. Knowing which types do not attend will enable you to try and target the perceptions and move the school forward.
Like it or not, understand it or not, ignore it or not, worldview has a huge impact in our classrooms. It is more influential than curriculum, than the ability of the teacher, than the tools that are used within the school and more influential than the environment of the school. It is more influential than all the above as it is our worldview that determines our approach and adoption of each of the above factors.
In education we have two big questions which need to be at the forefront of our thinking.
1. What do my students need to learn? Now?
2. What is the best way to get each of them there?
The answers to each of these questions have several influences. The answer to the second question is primarily influenced by the teachers understanding of their individual students. The better the teacher knows each student’s learning preference, attention span, passion, cognitive ability, interests and curriculum strengths the better the teacher will be able to engage each student in the learning process. The teacher knowing what engages their student is key to answering the second question.
Resilience is a key word in education nowadays. Many people have lost their resilience. They live short sighted lives. They live for the now. They look for what works now. Much of society has lost an appreciation for what is good for our overall development, if it is infact not nice for me now.
When I grew up stories of the refiners fire, the miry clay and the potter's wheel were regular reminders that there are processes that we go through that are purposeful in making us a better person. Processes and times which challenge and stretch us. I did not know it then but these were processes that helped me grow resilience.
In 2004 Bron and I experienced a Category 5 Hurricane while teaching in the Cayman Islands. While at the time of the disaster and aftermath we spent much time reflecting on the things in our lives which were truly of value. However as I look back now, there is a lesson to be learnt from the trees.
Parenting can be difficult at the best of times. More and more schools are requiring all their students to bring a device. Seems like a cop-out on the surface. If technology was so important to learning why wouldn’t schools provide it, like they used to? And, how can we as parent manage the devices in a way that our families are not put under even more pressure than they currently are by the influence of media and technology? These are good questions so let’s explore them.
Times are changing and as we all know so is technology. Technology is simplifying and making our daily tasks more efficient in many ways. It makes sense that technology could add value to the learning process. Schools are seeing that technology can increase engagement, bring new learning opportunities and increase achievement. I say ‘can’ deliberately as it is not a given, but that is another story. From the perspective of a school leader who has seen technology being used to add much value to the classroom, it is important to recognise that asking parents to provide devices for their children can add pressure in different ways to our family. Firstly, obviously there is the financial perspective and secondly is the complexity of managing devices and the internet at home…as if parenting was not complex enough.
I have been reading a lot lately about the importance of community. We are surely blessed by those around us and the community that we all belong to called Elim. One paper that has particular been good is a paper by Bruce Hekman (2007) entitled Schools as Communities of Grace. In the paper he provides several definitions of grace.
Grace…is shorthand for everything that God is and does for is in our tired and sinful broken lives (Smedes, 1982)
We could define grace as being first of all that power os God, rooted in his abiding love, by which God forgives the sinful, accepts the unacceptable, revives the spiritually deal, and so enables a reunion between the Creator and his wayward creatures.
Beyond forgiveness, grace also aims to transform our way of life. Encountering God’s grace is a formative, creative moment as a result of which a person is not only graced by God’s love but also becomes gracious because of God’s love. (Hoezee, 1996)
I love that grace is not complete in mercy and forgiveness. A community of grace in no way means ‘accepting’ sins. Yes, we accept the people - Love thy neighbour’ but being graceful does not mean we should ignore the sin. Jesus clearly demonstrates this in his dealing with the woman caught in adultery (John 8). While the ‘righteous’ people brought the woman to Jesus, to test him. Would Jesus, teaching on love and full of grace denounce the law of Moses and not stone the woman? In the encounter Jesus confronted the sin, some commentators suggest he confronted the sin not only of the woman but also the men and eventually released the woman to go and sin no more.
St Augustine and later Mohandas Gandhi encourage us, those living in a community of grace, to love the sinner (let’s be honest, this includes us) but to hate the sin.
We live in a time where biblical ethics and morality are being challenged on many fronts. Let’s not confuse our responsibility as people of grace. Jesus dealt with people and sin it two very different ways.