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Is it our desire in Christian schools to develop Revolutionaries? George Barna, in his latest book, Revolution, has coined this term to define a “new breed” of Christians who are responding to our age of revolutions (information, technological, sexual, global, etc.), to our materialistically focused society, and to our “whatever” postmodern mindset.
He defines Revolutionaries as:
“…devout followers of Jesus Christ who are serious about their faith, who are constantly worshipping and interacting with God, and whose lives are centered on their belief in Christ.” They demonstrate “complete dedication to being thoroughly Christian by viewing every moment of life through a spiritual lens and making every decision in light of Biblical principles. These are individuals who are determined to glorify God every day through every thought, word, and deed in their lives.”
At the same time he presents evidence that this group, 20 million strong and growing, does not particularly find the institutional church where they want to be. He wonders why the local church is not more transformational and why these Revolutionaries may not opt for involvement in the local church. He notes some troubling signs, according to his research, about churched Christians (a few selected highlights):
- 8 out of every 10 believers do not feel they have entered into the presence of God during the worship service.
- Only 9% of all born-again adults have a Biblical worldview.
- Fewer than 10% of churched Christians donate at least 10% of their incomes to churches and other non-profit organizations.
- The typical believer would rather give money to an organization than personally assist in alleviating the needs of the disadvantaged.
- A large majority of churched believers rely upon their church, rather than their family, to train their children to become spiritually mature.
- Most Christian parents do not believe they are doing a good job at facilitating the spiritual development of their children.
What is significant for us, as we consider how to strengthen ties between the school, home, and church, are his predictions about the future:
By the year 2025, only one-third of the population will rely upon a local congregation as the primary or exclusive means for experiencing and expressing their faith; one-third will do so through alternative forms of a faith-based community; and one-third will realize their faith through the media, the arts, and other cultural institutions.
Unfortunately, as far as we can determine, the family will remain a mere blip on the radar screen when it comes to serving as the conduit for faith experience and expression, remaining central to perhaps 5 percent of the population.
What do these predictions mean for us as we nurture faith with students and seek to partner with churches and homes?
Is there a conceptual model that we can use as a guiding vision for developing distinctively Christian education? In other words what should our areas of focus be as we work with teachers, develop curriculum, carry out instruction, and work with students and parents? I have developed a model that you may find helpful as you consider how to strengthen and develop your own work in these areas. Briefly I will list the 5 C’s below with accompanying questions and explanations. This conceptual model can be found under the Curriculum folder in the Member Community Center – see HCS Vision for Curriculum and Instruction.
Essential Question for all Christian schools:
How will we deliver a quality,
distinctively Christian education
that is continuously improving?
I think we need to consider these 5 C’s:
CHRISTIAN (How will we help students know and live for Christ?)
• Curriculum – Integration of faith and learning
• Classroom – Faith Enhancing Practices
CLARITY (What do we want students to know and be able to do?)
• Curriculum maps
• Essential understandings – Reformed Perspective integrated into essential questions
• Common assessments
CONSISTENCY (How do we deliver a consistent instructional program across K-12?)
• Common assessments
• Data collection
COLLABORATION (How do we improve what we do by working together?)
• Working together around data to improve student achievement
• Seeking to improve teaching practices and identify effective resources
CONSTITUENTS (How can we best meet the needs of our students and parents?)
• Meeting the needs of students – differentiation
• Providing engaging and meaningful work
• Flexible structure of school, schedule, instructional delivery options
• Providing value – competence, love of Jesus Christ
One of the ways we encourage and assist in developing faith in students is to share the inspiring stories and faith journeys of those who have gone before us. A great new resource to assist in this area is the book Witness by Norm Matheis and Syd Hielema. Ten Old Testament, ten New Testament, and ten contemporary historical figures are highlighted in paintings and text on two-page spreads. This book could be used with all ages of students and adults – it is in a picture book format. What struck me about the ten contemporary figures is that some are relatively well known while others are not. I hope that another book of contemporaries could be put together in the future – I recommend it to you as a great resource!
- a new post by Bruce Hekman on the financial sustainability of Christian schools
- a new post re: Dan VandePol’s master’s thesis work on non-tuition revenue sources for Christian schools.
Philosophy, Mission, Goals folder
- student outcome statements from Rehoboth, Christian Academy in Japan, and SCSBC (Society for Christian Schools in British Columbia)
- three articles by Ron Polinder – The Outrageous Idea of Sportsmanship, Let’s Play Ball, and Basketball Lessons
- policies from Calgary and Toronto District
Faith Integrated Learning folder
- Use Questions and 99 Questions by Michael Essenburg
Technology Integration folder
- Biblical Perspectives for Technology – Powerpoint by Robert Koole
We added a question in our this past week in our Member Community Center about reflecting a Christian perspective in the development of athletic policies and have posted several examples there that schools have graciously shared.
Ron Polinder shares some excellent reflections on “loving” vs. “playing” our opponents in “The Outrageous Idea of Sportsmanship.” At Holland Christian we have turned our school letters HCS into “Honoring Christ through Sportsmanship” and carry a banner to all our home games to remind our players and fans of what is important.
Would you take a minute to share how you have seen a distinctively Christian perspective most effectively integrated into athletics through people, policies, or programs?
Tell them that, according to a July 2006 Harris poll, they are working in a profession that adults consider to be one of the six most prestigious occupations. Since Harris began asking adults in 1977 to rate the prestige level of various occupations, teaching has been the only occupation that has shown an increase. What a great opportunity our teachers have in Christian schools to develop relationships with students over an extended period of time and to encourage and to nurture their faith!
There are several people that have been working with using Essential Questions to help students in understanding and applying a Biblical perspective. I would like to introduce them to you in succeeding posts on this blog and through the work they have contributed to the Member Community Center. Michael Essenburg is a curriculum leader and coach at the Christian Academy in Japan. He has developed many excellent resources to help administrators and teachers become more distinctively Christian in their schools and instructional practice with students. Here is a blog post he shares about the value of questions.
Why use questions (to help students understand and apply a Biblical perspective)?
Like you, we want our students to understand and use a Biblical perspective of course content. Using questions has helped us. Why?
Answer: Because it’s doable.
Teachers already know how to ask questions. Students already know how to answer questions. And teachers don’t have to have all the answers. Teachers can start with the answers they have.
Better answer: Because it works.
Students increase their understanding and use of a Biblical perspective when they consider questions like: “How can I be a wise steward?” “How can I bridge cultural differences?” “How can I use math to make sense of God’s world?”
What do our students and staff think?
* Student: “Questions challenge me to think in new ways and help me be a discerning thinker, to use a Biblical perspective.”
* Elementary teacher: “My students have learned to apply a Biblical perspective to course content. I ask them questions like, ‘How can I show that I obey God?’”
* Middle school teacher: “In my classes I ask questions like, ‘How do authors help us see truth?’ Using questions like this helps my students see God’s will in all that they do and understand that God’s Word applies to all subjects.”
* High school teacher: “Using questions has helped my students think through a Biblical perspective and apply it to course content and to their lives.”
What should we be focusing on instructionally when providing a distinctively Christian education? Given a finite amount of time with students, what should our curriculum be? How can we make powerful curriculum choices that will impact and nurture a student’s faith?
We find ourselves awash in information and knowledge, but not necessarily wisdom! A key distinctive of a Christian education is that we are nurturing faith through educating towards wisdom: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). But how do we practically start with God in every discipline and build toward student wisdom? How do you provide a Christian education that equips the mind and nurtures the heart toward God’s truth? We must begin with an acknowledgment that the Creator of the universe is the source of all wisdom. David Claerbaut states in his new book Faith and Learning on the Edge: “In short, to engage learning from any other than a God-centered direction is to begin and end in the wrong place.” He emphasizes that if we are really truth seekers “we must start with God in every discipline.”
We also need to consider that the word curriculum really means “a journey – a race to run.” What are we asking students to run toward? Truth. Whose truth? Our curriculum should lead students on a journey toward truth – as revealed by God through His creation and His Word and through what has been discovered by man in his search for truth. While we have articulated this objective historically in different ways, our attempts may fall short if we do not help the learner make these connections.
Through the work of Wiggins and McTighe, we have been encouraged to think about what is really essential for learners. Identifying Essential Understandings and Essential Questions assists both the teacher to focus on what is really important for the learner to know and do, and to incorporate Christian perspective into the unit plans. The beauty of Essential Questions is that they address the essence of what we want students to learn, require higher level thinking, are intriguing and thought-provoking, allow for a variety of acceptable answers, and connect and apply course/Biblical content to their lives.
Essential Questions are a powerful tool because they help to answer what to teach (i.e. standards + faith perspective), engage the learner, and assist in meeting the mission of Christian schools – that of equipping minds and nurturing hearts for service.