|Category||Christian School Education|
|Title||Hope and a Future|
|Preview||When establishing student outcomes, it is not enough simply to write them as a target; we must birth them in prayer, bind them to our hearts, and speak them through our lips.|
It was an early August weekend morning when I found out three of my former students had become international heroes. At first, I thought it must be some kind of practical joke, but as the day went on it became clear that the Paris train heroes had once been middle school students in my classroom. This was how God broadened my vision and reshaped my calling.
Had you asked me about these young men in middle school, I would have told you they were good, rambunctious, sometimes studious, and very funny- typical middle school boys. I could never have predicted that they would be known around the world for their heroism; my imagination about them was too limited. God made it clear to me that we teachers must handle every child as someone created in the image of God and endowed with a divine destiny: someone who may impact the world. Can you imagine what one who was created in the image of God can do? He does not let us in on His divine destiny for the lives of our students, but too often, I have been guilty of projecting my thoughts about a student as if they were divinely inspired: This student will be an amazing adult and do great things, or This poor child is going to have a rough life.
But we see through a glass darkly. God has a plan for every student we teach. Any thought contrary to this is erroneous at best. Even more importantly, we must recognize that our expectations of our students may have a profound impact on their lives; Proverbs 18:21 says we hold the power of life and death in our tongues. When establishing student outcomes, it is not enough simply to write them as a target; we must birth them in prayer, bind them to our hearts, and speak them through our lips.
Closing the Graduate Gap
Our school strives to foster bold, thoughtful Christian leaders. However, as we evaluated how actual graduates compared to our expected schoolwide results, we continually saw teenagers who received a topnotch education, yet were apathetic toward their academics and, more importantly, the Word of God.
As we investigated the gap between our goals and our results, we quickly realized our students' apathy was rooted in a sense of entitlement and lack of gratitude. Our students needed an enlarged perspective of the tremendous blessing of God in their lives. They needed to be engaged in a mission bigger than themselves. Finally, they needed vision for how God could and would use them in their world to be His hands and feet.
According to the 2014 "My Voice National Student Report," the three greatest unmet needs for students are belonging, heroes, and a sense of accomplishment. No longer are our students satisfied sitting in a school classroom simply listening to a teacher. They are not satisfied handing in a homework assignment with little connection to the real world.
It should excite us that our students long for something more. Our world is in crisis, and the students in our classrooms will be the ones who minister to it in the years to come. If our students are to be salt and light in the world and have an impact for Christ, it is our responsibility as their leaders to provide them with opportunities to do just that. And according to even the secular research, it's what our students want.
As a result of our exploration, we made some significant changes at our school. We required every student on our campus, K-12, to be engaged in a mission established through the school. High school students travel annually on a mission. However, it was not enough to simply go on a mission trip; it was our hope that our students' education would flow into the trip, making it effective project-based learning. There is nothing more meaningful than turning in a science project that you know may save a life. The effort and ingenuity a student will invest to that life-giving project is awe-inspiring.
Here are some examples of our educational missions program:
The examples are exciting, and we have barely scratched the surface of the program's potential.
One of the unexpected outcomes of our educational missions approach was the bonding that took place throughout our community. Whole families engaged in missions together. Our classrooms were no longer teacher-centric; our students became necessary partners in creating effective solutions for those whom they served. We became united in purpose as a community. Students bonded across grades, cliques, and social class. They became one because of a common mission and purpose. This is what happens when we engage in a mission greater than ourselves.
As for student outcomes, these are by far the most exciting I have observed in my 23 years of education. We have a strong, active, and selfless school culture. We are seeing students and families who have encountered the power of the living God. Our students graduate with an enlarged perspective of the world around them and the tremendous blessing of God in their lives. Finally, we see students with the courage and intellect to take their place and impact the world for Christ.
"My Voice National Student Report." 2014, 15. Quaglia Institute for Student Aspirations. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Foundation.
Angie Taylor has been in education for 23 years. She has served as the principal of Life Christian School in Aloha, Oregon, for five years. Prior to this, she worked with Freedom Christian School in Fair Oaks, California.
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