Last month, a colleague detailed for me how a surprise edict had come down from administration to his department that outlined a new procedure his department was to follow. “Bart, no one saw this coming. It gives us much more work, without any increase in resources. We don’t even know what problem we are supposed to be solving. You know, it makes me feel like I must be an incompetent teacher who doesn’t know much about what I’m doing.” This colleague is a recognized leader in his field who has traveled the nation giving seminars on his subject area!
Do you see yourself anywhere in this scenario? Which part? I, unfortunately, have been on each side at one time or another. In this blog, I am going to Daniel Pink’s book Drive, and Richard Rohr’s The Divine Dance, to identify some underlying principles I believe are in play here that may provide us some guidance.
The holiday season is upon us, and soon we will be besieged with school events, commitments, family reunions, and the world’s take on Christmas. For me, this season starts with my favorite holiday of Thanksgiving and progresses to the most stressful holiday for me, Christmas. It became stressful when I lost sight of God’s view of Christmas and focused on the world’s view of Christmas. It seems I get focused on trying to find the perfect gift instead of focusing on the most perfect gift ever given. So this year, we’re going minimalist and focusing on important things instead of gifts, concentrating on enjoying each other’s presence instead of each other’s presents.
Whether intentional or not, your school is constantly making theological statements. If God comes alive during chapel and Bible, and is basically ignored in other subject matter, what theological message are we conveying? Are the theological statements that come from your school consistent and complementary, or are they working at cross-purposes?
The question is not whether a school makes statements about God and humanity; it is about the nature and accuracy of those statements. There is power in the combination of a well-articulated mission statement; a clear, common understanding of the biblical Big Story; and a framework for proactively integrating a biblical worldview throughout the entire curriculum and life of the school.
In my last blog, I wrote about the concept of hegemony: “the power revealed by norms, behaviors, beliefs, and practices” of an organization. The hegemony of a place can often be hidden and yet have more power in shaping a school culture than the official stances and statements the leadership uses to promote and define a place. I was heartened to read Joel Westa’s latest Voices blog wherein he talked about the power of culture: “culture eats strategy for lunch.” We’re talking about the same thing. One could say that the hidden hegemonies of a school, once exposed, are the real definers of a school’s culture.
I’d like to continue this theme of hegemony/culture for one more post, and I’d like to do that by taking a deeper dive into thinking about the power of language. The late educational theorist Thomas Greenfield once said, “Language has power. It can literally make reality appear or disappear.”
A quiz for leaders: multiple choice. Which one of these comparisons best captures your view of all children? A child is
- An empty bucket that needs to be filled with the water of knowledge.
- A cocoon wrapped in layers of blankets from which will emerge a butterfly.
- A diamond in the rough, flawed by sin and polished by grace and God’s hand to shine.
- A sheep that needs fences and shepherds to live well.
- A bulb that will become a beautiful flower if not stifled by “correction.”
“Some of the above” may be an option. However, almost all Christian schools, primarily through their leaders, develop programs (curricula) that emphasize one of these models more than others. In my experience (reading, watching, listening), most schools tend toward one of the following three notions about children.
You are likely familiar with the story of two bricklayers working on a large building. When each was asked what he was doing, one replied, “Just laying bricks.” The other said, “I am building a cathedral!” For leaders in Christian education, much of our work seems a lot like the first bricklayer’s. We may tend to focus on the means to the end, not the end itself.
It’s a matter of perspective, at least in part. Let me argue, however, that cathedral building is not simply a matter of how we perceive our work or its purpose. Often it is a matter of doing the proactive and intentional hard work of focusing on the end result, on our mission, on our reason for being.
There are many discussions going on in Christian education circles about development of a biblical worldview and the integration of that worldview into our pedagogy. Recently, the Center for the Advancement of Christian Education (CACE) became the distributor for Teaching for Transformation (TfT) in the US. CSI is excited to work in partnership with CACE in this effort to better serve our schools. CSI has no desire to duplicate an excellent program like TfT, but also recognizes TfT may not be the perfect fit for all of our schools. CSI is moving forward in the creation of resources to assist schools with the critical task of integrating a biblical worldview and is eager to hear your thoughts on how best to accomplish this task.
While a faithful philosophy of education is important, we also need to focus on a faithful pedagogy. The following article, written by my good friend Dr. Richard Edlin from Australia, gives some ideas on integrating pedagogy and philosophy and may be of use for professional development.
We need your input: CSI is here to help your entire school community to comprehensively learn and live out the biblical “big story” in self-conscious and authentic ways. But we need your help.
You can help by providing your input regarding developing a framework for biblical worldview integration that is:
- Self-conscious and proactive: intentionally planned curriculum embedded with Christian worldview.
- Comprehensive: consistent with and connected to your school’s entire curriculum.
- Authentic: flows directly from the essential objectives of each unit of instruction.
My apologies for taking another week’s break from my series on organizational alignment. I’ve been on the road every week so far this month, and I haven’t had the time to develop what I would consider to be a helpful piece on alignment.
My travels this week took me to a conference in Pine Mountain, Georgia, at the Impact 360 Institute, an organization that provides gap year alternative programs of study for high school graduates. Part of the program featured Trip Lee, who is an author, hip-hop artist, and pastor. If you know me at all, you would know I’m not a huge fan of the hip-hop music genre, so I wasn’t sure what was in store for us that evening. What transpired was a challenging discussion on this current generation and how we are ministering to them.
One of the schools leading the effort to make biblical worldview integration a flourishing practice among students and faculty is San Jose (California) Christian School. SJCS Throughlines “help students develop a clear picture of what it means to be an authentic Christian learner in all aspects of their lives. Arranged under three separate headings, they are qualities we desire students to develop, and….provide meaning and intentionality to the entire curriculum” (SJCS curriculum document).