When a candidate for a position on our leadership team recently asked, “How do we know that we’re not going back to the old way?”, referring to a difficult time in our school’s past, my colleagues were surprised when I answered, “We’re going to Oregon!”
Recently I have been intrigued with the Lewis and Clark expedition to Oregon. I’ve learned that it took 18 months to navigate the more than 2,000 miles from St. Louis to Portland. It was a long, difficult journey, but what was learned during that time was incredibly valuable.
When I look at the journey our school is on, Oregon, to me, is “arriving” at our mission statement’s destination of “Glorifying God, partnering with parents, and equipping students to transform the world for Jesus Christ.” Stretching the metaphor a bit, our individual CSI schools are at different places on their journeys to arrive at their mission statement “destinations.” But at my school, we are at St. Louis.
Being at St. Louis
For Lewis and Clark, being at St. Louis was an exciting time. They had developed a clear vision of where they were going and had spent months in preparation for their departure. For my school, that has meant first reexamining and redeveloping a clear mission statement. In preparation for actually embarking on our mission, just like Lewis and Clark, it meant identifying appropriate means of conveyance and suitable routes. So being at St. Louis was necessary, exciting, and challenging all at the same time!
In our case, identifying our “means of conveyance and suitable routes” involved developing standards of excellence for teaching. Teachers, administrators, and parents need to have clear (and high) expectations for their journey together. Next, on the way to “equipping students to transform the world for Jesus Christ,” we developed a framework of skills our students will need to accomplish this 21st century transformation. We identified the actual tools they may need and developed a set of Throughlines to fully integrate our teaching and curriculum with a biblical worldview. We have not yet actually left St. Louis, but already it has been an exciting journey!
Traveling a Half Day First
I have read that when Lewis and Clark departed St. Louis, they journeyed a half day, then set up camp for an entire week. They wanted to make sure they had fully prepared for their 18-month odyssey and had not left anything behind that they may have needed for a successful mission. At my school, that is how it feels for me. We have developed standards of excellence for teachers, identified biblical worldview Throughlines, instituted a one-to-one technology program, and chose to concentrate on the 21st century workplace skills of creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication.
Make the Journey
As we get set to actually leave for Oregon, there is a school improvement team working on our “partnering with parents” efforts. We have infused our students’ days with a God-glorifying liturgical framework. What will the journey be like? Our goal is to articulate performance objectives for every unit of instruction of every course or class taught at every grade level; identifying within each unit appropriate biblical worldview integrations; technology integrations; and opportunities for students to grow in collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking. Of course, articulating a course of action is not the same as putting it into practice. We will have arrived in Oregon only when we are actually putting our articulated objectives, integrations, and growth opportunities into practice.
According to MapQuest, today’s driving time from St. Louis to Portland is about 28 hours, and the gas will cost you about $133. It will take my school much longer to arrive in Oregon, likely even longer than the 18 months it took Lewis and Clark! It is a long way to Oregon when you are beginning in St. Louis. There may be options for the route chosen or in the method of travel, but let there be no doubt as to the destination. So where is your school on its journey?
– Bart Den Boer, worldview specialist