Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Duplo Blocks and Budgets at Our Christian School

 “What are you making?” I asked a young learner with a delightfully coloured scattering of Duplo books in front of him, obviously awakening his desire to create something unique. 

‘“I’m not sure yet” came the quick reply. “I will know when the blocks are finished being put together.”

As we return back from March break, this is perhaps an accurate picture of what the board and leadership of the school are busy with these next weeks. We’re putting the pieces of the 2018-19 school year together without knowing, at least not entirely, what the end result will be. The Duplo blocks of the board are strategic plans, a budget, staffing, board succession plans, new enrolment, re-enrolment, and more.

I would suggest that starting with assertion we don’t know what the end product will look like is a good thing. This is God’s school. These are his children we love and educate. This is his world. He has plans for us that we are called to pray and work toward with fear and trembling, sweating out that which we believe to part of his plan for our school, and what is not. Following God’s plan, and desiring to be found faithful with the gifts God has given us is our goal.

When we look backwards over our shoulder in life, we are quick to speak of God’s faithfulness and provision. We are also wise to do the same when we start a new endeavor, moving forward boldly in full knowledge that God has “more than we can ask for or imagine” in store for us. (Ephesians 3:20)

Please uphold the work of the Board Executive, Full Board, Finance, and Administration in prayer. We wait expectantly for God’s blessings as they have been promised us. Have a great week!  SJ

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Our Christian School and the "Real World"

An inquiring parent asked me a question over the phone recently.

“How do your students do when they enter the real world?”

The assumption implied in the way in which that question was asked was that what we do at LCES isn’t linked in a direct way to what happens outside of the school day for our students. I firmly believe it does.

Christian education has as its goal not to isolate students from life, but to enable them to fully understand what they are actually seeing around them: God’s amazing world! We seek to have students be able to peel back the confusion and distortion of that good creation caused by sin in order to see creation as it was originally meant to be, and one day what it will become again. The “real world” without the story of the mighty acts of God isn’t real at all, since it tells an incomplete story of what life is really all about. As C.S. Lewis said through one of his characters, we seek to provide students ample opportunity to “…go further in and go further up” as they deepen and widen their understanding of all things. Mixed in between math facts and poetry, gym class and art, Christian education grounds students growing knowledge with the ability to figure what is real, true, valuable, honorable, and worthwhile.

It is always fascinating to see how students summarize what they have been learning when I talk with them about what they are doing in their classrooms. Walking down the back hallway on the way outside for recess, I heard a student sharing the contents of a lesson with a friend in a different grade.  “I wish the world was the way God made it – like in the Garden of Eden. It sounds like it was pretty good.” I hear a seed planted in God’s kingdom.


Monday, March 5, 2018

Why Study History in our Christian school?

Witnessing a history lesson in one of our classrooms, I heard a student remark to a neighbour with disgust about how one group of people treated another long ago. “Did they forget they were actual people too?” was the wondering thought, guided by added clarity of a few centuries of distance from the immediate situation.

The harsh reality was meeting our students that people struggle to move away from being cold and indifferent towards those they don’t immediately know or appreciate, to ignore the injustice done to those we think deserve it, and to only surround ourselves with like-minded people.

But Jesus asks for something different. We need to see our fellow image-bearers as unique, worthy,
and deliberately created human beings. Jesus wants us to show hospitality in the sense of seeing others as he sees them; people who are dearly loved and worth him dying for. Jesus recognizes that this task is too much for our heart of stone, which is why he is giving us a new “heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26)  in the same way the Israelites needed a new identity after being scattered because of their disobedience. We can love, because Jesus’ love frees us to do so.

Love everyone. Though the task looms large, He who promised is faithful! This counter-cultural way of looking at community reminds us of being “transformed by the renewing of your mind” that Paul describes in Romans 12. We pray that our daily work with our students, your children, will have lasting impact and be a significant force in shaping the adults they will be one day. We know they are “works in progress.” How exciting to think of who they are and will become for God’s kingdom!

May God bless our living and learning by faith in the next months of term three. SJ

Friday, February 16, 2018

Expectant Waiting at our Christian School

Waiting isn’t popular. I remember working in fast food at age 16 and being constantly pushed to reduce wait times, with a large ominous red timer staring down on us urging us to think and work faster to keep things moving. It didn’t really work.

 “Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord.”              Psalm 27:14

During this season of Lent (Feb 14 – March 19) we find ourselves waiting in a time of sober reflection as we anticipate the joy of the resurrection of Easter Sunday. We know it’s coming, and yet we believe the waiting has value. Waiting forces us to watch, listen, and meditate on God’s word. It creates anticipation. It challenges us to look forward and backward in our lives to see patterns of disobedience or faithfulness. Waiting makes us realize the extent to which we need a Saviour.

I’ve found myself waiting on many things lately. Here’s my short list
  • for answers to prayers for healing for many in our community whose health is poor and future uncertain
  • for growth in the life of faith for our students and staff
  • for progress in the ongoing discussion between Christian school organizations in Ontario creating a new center for Christian Education supported jointly (schools, teachers, admin) for a firm foundation
  • for a financial pathway for our school to follow that shows abiding trust and faith and wise stewardship
  • for wisdom and guidance provided as school administration responds to the needs of the school
 What does it mean to “wait expectantly“ in an organizational setting like LCES? I believe that expectant waiting is the type of waiting infused with hope; we know that the end result that will come, is of God’s choosing, and is for our good.  Waiting with hope allows us to lift our heads and work in the assurance that everything is in His hands. God’s provision for us will be a reflection of his original plan for us as he “makes all things new” (2 Corinthians 5:17)


Thursday, February 8, 2018

Our Christian School Graduates: Citizens of Today and Tomorrow

It was picture day for our soon-to be-graduates last week. While I was not present for the pictures, in my mind’s eye I can see them posing for the camera. Bright, eager students who have travelled for almost 9 or 10 years down the pathway of learning and the road of faith. Looking like adults in some respects, and yet still not quite done with childhood in every way. This photo day is often one of the first prompts that makes us realize that there is a transition coming at the end of the school year.

We’ve been busy for that decade as parents and a school working toward a future that we don’t fully know. At birth, did the parents of our current graduates have any idea of the nature of the world their children would call home in 2018? Did they know the joys and challenges that awaited them, the unique nature of their children, or the ways in which they would need the Lord’s help along the journey to graduation? Likely not, but I trust that the gift or Christian education in their lives for part of that journey has been a strong voice of patterning God’s truth into their lives.  I trust the same will be true for those entering JK/SK this fall!

Whether you and your family are nearly ending or just beginning your time at LCES, I invite you spend just a few minutes with our graduate profile (linked here).  These are some of the larger objectives we value and work toward in a multi-year way, believing that that every day counts in the lives of our students.

Cardus, a Canadian “think tank dedicated to renewal of North American social architecture” follows the impact of Christian Education with great interest. They just published a document on the religious lives of Young Adults in North America. This is the landscape of our graduates and the world they will find themselves in increasingly each year.  I encourage you to take a look here.


Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Knowing Our Students Well: Technology and Testing

Students in our grade 4/5
class taking the very first MAP test. 
“What do you do with the computers?”

I’m often asked by new families about the role of technology in education at LCES. We are blessed with a compliment of computers, projectors, Chromebooks, a few tablets, and the stability of well-managed collective IT system that is reliable. What we do have, we aim use well, and with purpose. We want our students to be well prepared, both with technical know-how, but also with a mind prepared for the discernment that technology frontiers seem to present in a unique way. Technology isn’t the answer for everything (scissors and glue will always be a part of education here), but where technology can offer us something that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to do, we especially take hold of the God-created potential in it. 

A living example of this is taking place this week at LCES. The Measure of Academic Progress is a very unique tool that the educators at LCES are very excited about.  I watched with great interest as an entire class was taking a test on math knowledge and skill application. Each student was answering unique questions prepared for them, and based on their answers being correct/incorrect, received the next question uniquely matched for where their learning is at. This means every student gets a unique test, very accurately tailored to where the student is working at in terms of ability. The focus is on what they do know, rather than what they don’t. The outcome after tests on math, reading, and language is that school staff will have an understanding of student learning in a measurable, specific way at both the class-wide and student-specific level.

This is something we couldn’t in the same way without technology. The test results will not fully define a learner, since there are many aspects of their God-given identity it doesn’t measure. Inter-personal, athletic, leadership, or creative skills are not covered. Growth in the life of faith, graciousness, and are not gauged. It will be one of many tools we use to know our student well, and make excellent learning happen for our students. We see great potential in its addition to our school.
Technology, in its proper place, is a vital part of what we do each day as we look to know our students well. May God bless us with the wisdom and courage to see its potential and its limits.


Thursday, January 25, 2018

Rejoicing Songs at Our Christian School

My hallway travels often take me past classrooms where students are busily working on a learning task. Hands busy with scissors or crayons are accompanied by voices singing out portions of a song they know, or a verse from a song learned in music class. JK/SK students right outside my office door, bundled up and waiting for the chance to go outside, softly (or loudly) sing some of their favorites. (See here for a 19 second video example) This kind of spontaneous musical moments make me smile. It is good for us to respond to God in song for the goodness and care he show us. 

I often thinking of the idea of God singing over us too.  “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”  Zephaniah 3:17

I heard an interview with a Christian song writer who had been working for thirty years to describe how great God’s love for his children is. He described his many years of getting words and music on paper as “just scratching the surface” of how incredibly immense God’s love for his people is. “It’s a concept just too big for a lifetime of singing” were his closing remarks.

God loves LCES immensely, that is for sure.  I see that when I observe the delight of parents describing how they and their children are blessed and encouraged in even the most seemingly trivial parts of their day. I marvel in it when in my travels as principal I hear stories of God’s provision of exactly what we need as a school at the time we need it most. I hear it in the happy sounds of children playing, learning and living together in community that know who it is that made them, and loves them. I know it in a new way when I hear the joy of enquiring families at discovering our school. I cherish it when I realize that God had plans to bless our organization in ways that were far outside what we ever could have expected or imagined.

When find ourselves wondering what we out to do, grow animated or flustered with the challenges that loom large, or worry ourselves into a position of feeling precarious,  a shoulder check to look for the big picture of God’s love is wise.  Our God, who own “the cattle on a thousand hills.” (Psalm 50:1) stands ready to “rejoice over us with singing.”