Monthly Archives: November 2010

Let’s articulate before it’s too late! (Faith and learning in curriculum, part 2)

They found some musty old books, dusted them off, read them, and saved a generation! In the story of Joash, we find the Spirit of the Lord leading him as a young person to read and re-institute the law of the Lord – see 2 Kings 23:2. We are told that the reading of the law led to a spiritual revival among the people and God’s blessing on the land. Even though oral tradition was foremost (writing was more the exception than the rule in those days), we see how God used the written word to preserve and instruct his people.

It is interesting that today in our age of every kind of communication, we still need to make sure that we get written down what it is we are doing in order to integrate teaching and learning. We have moved from oral to print in Christian schools in our attempts to articulate what we know about a Biblically infused curriculum. This has been an important part of our history as Christian schools – I clearly remember saving all those coins for Christian School’s International Foundation Day textbook drives in the 60’s. We now have reached the point where we must move increasingly from print to digital/electronic means for cost containment and for ease of sharing.

My concern is that we articulate in writing what it is we are doing – as I mentioned last month it takes veteran teachers who possess passion and astuteness in order to communicate in engaging ways with students about the unity of all truth through Christ.

  • I challenge you, veteran teacher, to share those ideas for integrating faith and learning that you have gained through reading, reflection, and practice and write them down to share with the next generation. Step up to the plate – it is part of your legacy!
  • I challenge you, young teacher, to observe, ask questions, press your veteran colleagues to not only orally share, but to record in the context of units of study, how they integrate faith and learning, how they bring biblical truth to bear on their subject matter, and what works most effectively with students. Do not be ashamed of what you don’t know, but have the humility to ask and learn.
  • I challenge you, administrator, to make sure your teachers not only write down what they are doing in integrating faith and learning, but to make sure that it is of good quality. Give your teachers time to work together to discuss how the mission and philosophy of your school actually turns into reality in the teaching and assessing of your students. Don’t let the vibrancy and distinctiveness of your school be watered down on your watch! Remember that Christian teaching and learning is the core business of your school, even though there are so many other daily distractions. Be a Joash for your school!

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Filed under Biblical worldview, curriculum, distinctively Christian, resources, student assessments

Leading and teaching from the inside

(Thanks to my friend, Bruce Hekman from Calvin College, for sharing this post.)

In the face of often daunting circumstances teachers and school leaders need to find a way to be strong persons, to be able to be the calm, non-anxious presence in our classrooms and school communities.

Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, in the first chapter of his book Leadership From Inside Out, writes, “Leaders (and I would add “teachers”) who can be trusted will be those who lead well-examined lives, who have recovered spiritual practices that liberate them from the power of compulsions and free their energy for outward service.”

Parker J. Palmer in Leading from Within, cautions, “A leader is a person who has an unusual degree of power to project on other people his or her shadow, his or her light….A leader is a person who must take responsibility for what’s going on inside him or her self, his or her consciousness, lest the act of leadership create more harm than good.”

Leaders and teachers, in other words, need to be self-aware, reflective, grounded in their faith, confident in the promises of God. We don’t this well on our own. As a rabbinic saying goes, “Do not live without a rabbi, or die without a disciple.” The journey inward requires the presence of another who can help us cut through the masks, the pretences, the rationalizations that interfere with our understanding of our selves, and our relationship with God.

“Spiritual practices” are spiritual disciplines, faith-forming exercises that keep us closely connected to Jesus, the source of the living water. As I Timothy 4:8 reminds us, “Train yourselves to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things…” If we want to be spiritually stronger, we need to engage in spiritual training.

Dallas Willard, Richard Foster and others have captured the wisdom of the centuries about the practice of spiritual disciplines. There are two other resources I recommend. One is a new website,, still in Beta testing, that provides an on-line assessment of your spiritual-growth patterns, and then connects you to resources to help you on the journey. There is a companion book by John Ortberg, The Me I Want to Be. The other resource is a book by Adele Calhoun Ahlberg (2005, IVP, Downers Grove), Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, a wonderful compendium of faith forming and faith enhancing practices.

Here are two suggestions from the Spiritual Disciplines Handbook from the chapter on mentoring:  “Take a mentor review. Think back over your life, writing down the names of those who believed in you and mentored you. What happened to you because of their presence in your life?”  “Pay it forward. Think about your job and the colleagues with whom you work. Who needs someone to believe in them and mentor them? Ask the Lord is he intends for you to mentor this person. Offer to be a mentor for the next year.”

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Filed under devotional, encouraging the heart, leadership, staff development

Dominant minds and major events: CSI history – part 2

We believe in a sovereign and good God who is faithful to his people. As we look back in this series on the development of Reformed Calvinist schooling in North America using the book 22 Landmark Years, Christian Schools International, 1943 – 1965 by John VanderArk, we see how God was present and leading.

  • One of the most influential and tireless servants of the Christian education movement was Mark Fakkema, general secretary of CSI’s forerunner, the National Union of Christian Schools (NUCS for short). VanderArk mentions that during the Depression and years following Fakkema was a tireless promoter of Christian education, giving 108 public lectures in one school year, half of them to audiences who were unfamiliar with Christian education.
  • NUCS began in Chicago in 1920 and until 1941 was housed in Fakkema’s house. In 1948, the decision was made to move to Grand Rapids because the editorial division was already there, the greater density of schools were located there, and it would be nearer to Calvin College.
  • The period following the end of World War II was a time of tremendous growth in Christian schooling with increased enrollment, new facilities, and a focus on educational quality.
  • The first Christian school in Canada began in 1945 at Holland Marsh, Ontario, 35 miles northwest of Toronto. Incidentally, the town was named in 1790 after Sir Thomas Holland, not the Dutch settlers of the 1920’s! The acknowledged “founder” of Canadian Christian education, Jacob Uitvlugt, was principal/teacher of 19 students across 8 grades and they first met in a 20 by 20 church consistory room, stove included. Lacombe Christian begins the same year, with schools in Edmonton, Alberta and Vancouver, British Columbia beginning in 1949.
  • VanderArk notes that Rev. Paul DeKoekkoek was a strong advocate of Christian schools in every pastorate, including Edmonton, where he began a monthly paper called the Canadian Calvinist. He goes on to state: “DeKoekkoek personified the militant leadership that held that the CRC (Christian Reformed Church) expected a positive response to article 41 of the church order: ‘The Consistories shall see to it that there are good Christian schools in which parents have their children instructed according to the demands of the covenant’.”
  • Increased student enrollment caused teacher shortages on both sides of the border. From 1951 to 1960 the average rate of increase was 35% in Canadian schools and in 1962 alone seven schools were added!
  • The issue of student selection criteria was a major topic in the 40’s and 50’s. Are Christian schools intended for the children of believers or anyone?  VanderArk wonders that since both Christianity and Christian education are good things to share – how can both occur without one diluting the other in the process? Community, interdenominational schools came into being during that era and a few schools were set up on a child evangelism model, such as Rehoboth and Zuni, New Mexico, and Crown Point, Indiana.
  • While there were only six high schools when NUCS/CSI began in 1920, there were 12 out of 94 total schools in 1943, 34 out of 277 in 1965, and 74 out of 353 by 1980.
  • VanderArk lists four types of services and examples provided by CSI: 1) clearinghouse – teacher vacancies, 2) advisory – promotional, financial, operational advice, 3) administrative – pension fund, and 4) self-evaluation materials, such as standards and policies (today’s accreditation).
  • The production of Christian instructional materials was one of the reasons for the founding of NUCS/CSI. Early attempts were made to collaborate with the Lutherans, Seventh Day Adventists, and Mennonites to no avail.
  • In a 1942 address, Principal J.C. Lobbes  listed five reasons why we must acknowledge God in a Christian classroom:

1. As Creator of the material universe,

2. Through the intelligence, order, design, and purpose in His creation,

3. In the course of human events,

4. In the moral consciousness of man,

5. And in man’s aesthetic nature, reflecting Him who is the source of all things beautiful.

  • And to close – a quote from Mark Fakkema in the 1943 Christian School Annual about the significance of curriculum: “Each school has two teachers – the teacher behind the teacher’s desk and the teacher on the pupil’s desk…$500,000 is spent annually for teachers, so that our covenant youth may receive something different from the public schools. This difference falls short if our basic texts are identical.” Although we have moved into a multiple resource era, the need for Biblically infused perspective in our teaching has never been greater!

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