Saturday, December 16, 2017

Practiced Peace and our Christian School

The exciting news of “peace on earth” heralded by the angels often feels like it didn’t take. Internationally, domestically, provincially, and even on the school playground, one doesn’t have to look for very long to find evidence that we don’t live in perfect peace.

Harmony and friction. We certainly experience both of them in the pulse of daily life here at our school, although  we are very grateful that moments of harmony, joy, and contentment far outnumber times of conflict. Conflict does not bring us joy, yet our Christian school knows that some of the most formative and direction-setting moments can often come from handling conflict well and the manner in which we work through conflict speaks much about  what matters most to those who participate in our school.

On a giant billboard I once read “Peace is not the absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.”

So what characterizes conflict managed well, by peaceful means? Here are some ideas:

1.  There is always a best and worst time to deal with conflict. Generally, a period of pause and reflection before  sweating out the resolution of conflict together is best.
2.  Avoiding conflict comes at its own cost.
3.  The ultimate goal of conflict resolution is unity, not victory.
4.  The pathway towards resolution usually begins with small groups, not big ones.
5.  Resolving conflict may require vulnerability and humility, but should not require embarrassment or eroding the value of another person.
6.  True conflict resolution ends not with tolerance, but forgiveness.
7.  While God delights in unity which brings Him glory, his opponent delights in anything that can frustrate and hinder the process.

May God bless our efforts to respond to conflict with wisdom and faithfulness.

SJ

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Advent At Our Christian School & Students As “Brokers of Hope”

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

The church sanctuary was deliberately darkened. Two nervous 12 year old children strained to reach the microphone and read the words of Isaiah and remind the congregation of what is coming. Light and hope to chase away darkness, or so said the prepared script on cardboard cutouts in sweaty palms. One of them struck a match against a box and attempted to light the stubborn candle, seemingly determined not to start. The nearly full matchbox was held too long too close to the match trying to light the candle. Suddenly a flame burst forth with a white flash as the entire box of matches started on fire, finally lighting the candle of hope. Everyone’s heart skipped a beat, and all gasped. I think I will always connect this story with the start of advent.

Christ’s birth was at time of intense darkness, and God’s seemingly silent treatment of the world and people he had made. His arrival, in a way, is properly represented by the flash of light in the above story. It got the full attention of people as it pierced the darkness, and then settled to a lone candle with its warm, hopeful glow. I can recall silence after things settled as the congregation all watched the single flame. Perhaps they were all too stunned to know what to do next!

The advent wreath of Christmas Day, with its five candles brilliantly glowing on a triumphant morning, begins with a single candle piercing the darkness. Students, teachers, and parents all crave hope. We cling to the notion that our heart’s desires will be realized. We console ourselves with the hope that some situations will not last forever. We cope with some situations simply because others have given us hope even though we don’t see or feel hope yet ourselves. These are the kind of people we wish our students to be as they go forth into their God-given place in this world desperate for hope. “Brokers of Hope” is how I’ve heard Christian Education condensed to a phrase.

We frame our understanding of the world and our place in it with the hope that comes from a long- expected Jesus. What a joy it is to know our students are being led in such deliberate, hope-filled paths on the road of faith. Praise the Lord for Christian education!

SJ

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Learning as Serving: The Love of God School Part II

“École L’Amour de Dieu” – or the Love of God School is our student service project this year. This morning we were blessed to have Bernice Huinink-Buiter from that school community come and be a part of our chapel. She brought greetings from the staff and students and shared details about a day in the life of the school of more than 300 students.

Here are some of the things we learned this week:

  • There are eight teachers and one principal at the school supporting all of these students. (One of our students raised a hand and offered the advice – “You need to hire more help!”)
  • Parents send their children to this school hoping to create the best possible future for them.
  • Students stand in the courtyard every day for 25 minutes of morning devotions.
  • There is running water at the school, but electricity only in the principal’s office.
  • Students must bring their own bowl with them for a daily hot lunch and many of the students take part of that meal home to share with others.
  • The bathrooms they have are not really well matched to the number of people there every day.
  • Classrooms have very simple furniture and no walls. Our students were rather surprised to find that there were no bulletin boards or student art work up anywhere.
  • Haitians love to sing, and as result singing is big part of their community life.
  • There are no art, music, French, or PE classes, and no school busses or class trips.
  • Their largest class has 55 students in a room.
  •  It is a Pre-K to grade six school currently. There are passionate dreamers and planners who strongly desire to expand to grade nine and beyond, and build a new facility that serves them well.
  • One of the goals of the school is to be a blessing to the local community and economy. Many in the area are getting closer to or already earning a living wage as result.
  • All LCES students had an opportunity to create a Christmas card for a student at this school in Haiti, which will eventually be paired with a “Blessing Bag” full of life essentials and a few treats that will be purchased in the local economy.
Video shown in chapel linked here

We do a service project every year so students are reminded not everyone in the world lives as they do.
It is our wish to train their hearts and minds to be quick to love and especially serve others.

SJ

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Taking stock: Report Cards at Our Christian School


“Wouldn’t be easier if the leaves just stayed on all year?” Students ask the most interesting questions of us while they learn. The genuine  interest and deep curiosity that awakens in them often makes me smile.

Seven large containers of leaves at the curb in front of my house reminded me this morning as I left that fall has nearly come and gone. Things have changed since the first day of school back in September. This is true for the trees around London, but this is also true for the students at our school. Most of them have been in school for more than 45 days. It’s soon time to take stock of what has been happening in the academic, social, physical, and spiritual lives of our students!

It’s true! Teachers are working through drafts of the first set of report cards that will go home at the end of this week. While your children were home last Friday, staff were tabulating results and crafting words to celebrate areas of growth and achievement as well as outline areas for focus and attention in the next term. Please join me in praying for our teachers to be able to accurately and productively acknowledge the learning journey of our students. Looking at a term as whole, it is exciting for us to marvel at their growth as they become more aware of themselves as learners and continue to gain knowledge and wisdom in the study of God’s world. (Including why leaves have to fall each year).

These sessions are invaluable for parents and teachers as they connect and strengthen the partnership
between home and school and ensure that both are well informed. I continue to see evidence in my
professional reading that confirms parent involvement in education and effective communication
between home and school are strong factors linked to student success.

I can hardly wait for these great community events that these two days represent: parents choosing quality, Christian education for their children and delighting in the goodness of a community that shares in that commitment.

SJ

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Lesson From A Student "Ear Insides" Diagram

“I had no idea ear insides were that complicated!”

Students choosing to involve me in their learning is one of my most favorite parts of the job. Early this morning a student shared with me what she had been learning about the human ear in her class. She drew a diagram to represent the outside and inside of the human ear which enables us to hear the sounds of God’s world. Surprising to her was the fact that all of these parts first of all are “in there”, and “when they are all put together, it actually works.”

Her observation made me smile. Having worked on vehicles, home renovations, and computer
systems in my life, I can appreciate her surprise that something of this complexity works, and continue s to work for years on end. Her comment fits well with what we are doing daily in our Christian school. I think of several reasons why:

  • We want our students to know and act on the truth that they themselves are fearfully and wonderfully made as a special part of God’s creation, each a masterpiece in their own uniquely created way.
  • When our students study any part of God’s creation, including their body, that they encounter moments of awe-struck wonder and joy in deep appreciation of God’s creativity and power. This shapes a worldview that is quick to see God at work in their world, and we hope leads them to help others to see things for what they really are.
  • As our school theme “We Belong” highlights, just as human body is made of many complex parts dependent on each other, we want our students to understand that amazing things can happen when they choose to see themselves as part of a community -- of believers and learners -- able and ready to serve and to be served.

We pray that God delights in the exploration of his amazing creation each day here at LCES.

SJ

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Innocence and Remembrance: Valuing peace and sacrifice in our Christian school

Sometimes an unexpected moment gives you a visual that will last you a lifetime.

More than ten years ago while leading a grade eight class through the Ottawa area, a scene captured my full attention. In his youthful exuberance and innocent lack of awareness of its significance, a kindergarten aged child was taking great delight in jumping and climbing all over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in its prominent spot near parliament hill. My first response was one of shock at the seemingly brazen disrespect of the sanctity of the place. But how could he possibly understand where he was and what as beneath him? I could not see a parent in sight as I watched this young child trace the edges of the bronze helmet and sword atop the thick slab of cold granite. His eyes wandered up to the group of war-weary soldiers watching from high above on the monument. His boisterous activity immediately stopped as he stared intently at the figures. It was plainly clear that he was trying to figure out what this was all about.

The act of remembrance, deliberately choosing to tell the stories of sacrifice and the often hard won gift of peace, is so very important. We do so to recognize, honour, and thank those who have given of themselves in the past. We do so in order to remind ourselves of what we personally don’t experience daily. We do so because the next generation, like the young boy at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, won’t “just know” on their own what this is all about and why it matters.  

With help from their teachers, our students will be offered the chance this week to step out of regular routines and the familiarity of their predictable, safe lives. When we pause during Remembrance Day for a moment of silence we meet the devastating extent of sin, the world’s need of a Saviour, and the hope of renewed creation where all wars will cease. I’m thankful our students were given this opportunity to say “I choose to remember.”

SJ

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

From Noticed to Known: Telling Our School's Story

I picked up a take-out pizza once while wearing my jacket with the LCES name and logo on prominent display. A disappointed and hungry customer in front of me heard that his pizza would be four more minutes, after which he immediately swung his attention to me and said “I have four minutes, tell me about that school” One never knows when these opportunities will be presented.

I attended a workshop last week that was entitled “Moving From Noticed To Known.” The presenter shared a journey of growing and maintaining a public presence in one’s internal and external communities – those who know some of your story, and those who are brand new to it.

We have an exciting story to tell here at LCES, one with deep roots and strong convictions, but also with new evidence of God’s continued blessing and provision. We hope you enjoy hearing the good things happening here every day in the stories, pictures, and postings that we share by various methods. I encourage you to share them often - in print, electronically, or better yet through conversations. 

I encourage you to reflect on LCES and consider how you might partner with us to spread the news about our school. Parents who share their thoughts joyfully about what they have experienced at our school are a huge asset to our future. A great resource to use to prepare you for conversations with potential families is our school’s website and facebook page. Another source to guide consideration of Christian education can be found at www.whychristianschools.ca.  It’s a tool not connected to one specific school, but rather frames the blessing and investment that Christian schooling entails.

I also invite you to pray for the Lord’s leading as we look to represent ourselves faithfully. Consider what your part might be in passing the message along. What’s the story you can share?


SJ