“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy.” It’s in the pool or at the lake. It’s sleeping in and slowing down. For principals, teachers, and board members, it’s reflecting back and planning forward: not so easy, but slower-paced than during the school year. It’s soooo good to put balance sheets, lesson plans, and school schedules on the shelf for a few weeks. Family time is a bigger chunk of the summertime than during the “schooling” seasons.
For school leaders and boards, summer is a good time to step back to notice changes in schooling over the past decade, most of which occur in both government and religious schools. Gone is the day (except for small schools in isolated areas) of all students sitting at desks going through the same curriculum with all parents satisfied because “The school knows best.”
Now the changes in even what constitutes a school are affecting schools, including Christian ones, with increasing speed.
I’ve watched closely a few CSI schools over the last decade. All of the following changes occurred in one of these schools in that time:
- More than 10 percent of the students getting special help in a learning center for a defined learning problem while also attending “regular” classes most of the time.
- More individual educational plans (IEPs) rather than the same plan for all students in the class.
- Schooling for students as young as three, with some preschoolers getting most of their education either in nature (including the wintertime) or in an intergenerational program at an assisted-living home.
- Hybrid programs: schooled at home for part of the education and part in school.
- Online education, sometimes in school and sometimes at home.
- At the high school level, dual enrollment and dual credit education in conjunction with colleges.
- Foreign language immersion education starting in preschool, in which students receive all Christian education in a non-native language: in this case, Spanish.
- A new program, starting at Grade 9, in which a cohort group of 15–20 students will have one teacher who will guide each student to learn what they need to know in order to accomplish a series of projects, internships in jobs, and communication skills for their entire four years of high school.
- A growing international student program, mostly from Asian countries, with attendant problems in communicating and blessings for all students in seeing the world up close in person, not just by maps and textbook histories.
- All secondary students with laptops for research, writing, and creative displays of what they have learned.
What do these changes and others mean for you as an administrator or board member?
If most of these haven’t knocked on your door yet, some will. If you let some in to make a pitch for inclusion in the school, you have to consider always more than one or two factors, i.e., finances, admissions, mission, learning goals, diluting or enhancing current programs, spaces, teacher loading, support of the school community, and, most importantly, biblical/Christian reasons for changing.
For example, on the financial decisions connected with adding a program to provide help for those students with learning difficulties, would you increase tuition for families with a child who needs that more expensive help? Does 1 Corinthians 12: 12–26 (the image of the church as one body with its parts “having equal concern for each other”) influence you in making that decision? Or, in considering preschools outside the “regular” school, will having little kids learn in an assisted-living home fit your mission, or not?
Summertime for leaders and boards is a quiet time to consider what in the school’s practices and programs must stay, what ought to be amended, and what ought to be added. Most Christian school boards set aside a few hours near the beginning of a new school to plan for the future, knowing well that all plans are subject to deo volente (DV, as the Lord wills) (James 4: 13–17).
Wallace Stevens says, “The summer night is like a perfection of thought.” Well, maybe not “perfection,” but wisps of ideas that may change your Christian school for good.
– Dan Vander Ark