Thursday, October 12, 2017

How do we measure up? Comparing choices in education.

My father used to work for a company that manufactured RV’s. Gleaming new units were sent off the factory floor on their way to a lifetime of use with customers all over North America. During his time there he watched with interest as the company refined their product by reviewing how decades later customers found the vehicle to be everthing from exceptional to disappointing in the areas of design, function, reliability, cost efficiency, and drivability. Year after year, things were affirmed as good choices or rejected as bad design.

There is a parallel for us in education. Part of my Thanksgiving break had me digging a little deeper into the results of the 2016 Cardus Education Survey data. (See their good work at https://www.cardus.ca/research/education)This initiative is the second (first in 2012) aimed to use credible public-sector research methods to compare how coast-to-coast graduates of independent religious schools differ from their peers when they reach the ages of 24-39. It’s a very lengthy document (here if interested); here are some highlights for you:

Graduates of Evangelical Protestant Education:

·         …show no difference with public school graduates in being fully employed, but a greater likelihood of being in managerial or professional roles. Educational attainment after high school indistinct from public school.
·         …are more likely to be married, but just as likely to be divorced or cohabitate; increased likelihood of eating, praying, and reading the Bible together as a family; less interested in creativity for their work; just as inclined to look for work that fulfils a religious calling as public school graduates; social ties just as diverse as those of public school graduates.
·         …are as trusting and confident in society and its institutions as public school graduates; they trust religion to a significantly greater degree yet are no less likely to see society as hostile to their values.
·         …are part of a school sector significantly more likely to form graduates who attend church, observe religious disciplines, and strengthen their relationship with God than public school graduates.
·         …are much more likely than public school graduates to donate money and to go on relief and mission trips.
·         ….are equally engaged in public life as their public school peers; more likely to volunteer in non-congregational organizations.
·         …have more exposure to STEM courses than public school graduates; less likely to believe technology and science will produce opportunities in the future.
·         ...have a significantly more positive view of their secondary education than public school graduates; believe that they were prepared for life after high school to a greater degree than the public school graduates.

This is an enormous study and isn’t specifically measuring LCES. It is, however, food for thought as we do the important work of nurturing God’s children every day. SJ

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Teachers as Students: Measuring Learning

“I thought they already knew everything!”

This was the response last week when I wished a student well on Thursday at the start of a long weekend. He was a little confused and disappointed that we were not having school on Friday, because he wanted to continue on with some of the activities his class had underway. I explained to him that the teachers were going to switch and become students for the day, learning how to do something they hadn’t done before. Obviously it was a surprise to him that teachers too have to continue to learn.

Last Friday all of our teachers were at school for the first PD day of the year. That day was invaluable as we move forward with the next step of a new venture at LCES. A long-standing pattern for decades has been that every other year students in grades three through eight at our school participated in the Canadian Test of Basic Skills in the areas of Math, Science, Language Arts, and Information management students. Some may recall this test by association with the white and green pages and filled in dots on an answer page that are sent away to be processed by a computer.

We are replacing that aging test with something we believe offers significant advantages to our school as a whole, as well as each teacher as they work with individual students. We are quite excited about beginning MAP (Measure of Academic Progress) and are preparing to administer this test twice this school year, once in January, and then again in May. Expect to receive more specific details early in January about how this will work with students in grades one through eight and how we see it shaping future instruction and learning at LCES. It is valuable to us to have an outside organization verify the good things that happen in our classrooms each day.

I can recall once having to pass an orientation test proving I could navigate successfully with a compass and find my way to a particular goal. Our new MAP testing tool will be very much like that compass; a valuable tool (one of many) that helps to guide our progress towards quality, Christian education at our school.


SJ

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Who Do We Teach?: Patterning For Peace

“Blessed are the peacemakers… for they will be called children of God.”  Matthew 5:9

Two easy answers to that question might be “students” or “children.” An answer that speaks to our greater purpose at LCES is “Kingdom builders.” Last week I observed a few moments of a classroom meeting where a guided classroom discussion was taking place in a circle format. Disagreements and tensions around how a recess game was being played were being taken on with a strong direction toward establishing a peaceful, communal, and joyful way to interact. It struck me in the moment that while the intricate details of the particular problem will long be forgotten in the future, the process they were going through was transformational in learning how to walk the hard road of not avoiding conflict. Patterns were being intentionally former here.

A former parent shared with me that his now adult child had attended our school decades ago, and was quick to share how influential the school’s program was in shaping his child’s further education and vocational decisions. That child is now working overseas to actively pursue peace through reconciliation in cultural settings where deep-rooted tensions cause conflicts to repeatedly simmer to the surface. Specifically, he attributed the Peacemaker program (still running here at LCES) with cultivating a significant awareness of the reality of a conflict and strategies to resolve conflict.

When peace and reconciliation overcome conflict, the Kingdom is built.
When grief and sadness are chased away by faith-nourished hope, the Kingdom is built.
When loneliness and desperation are washed away by communal joy, the Kingdom is built.
When apathy and disillusionment are replaced with passionate purpose, the Kingdom is built.

How do you build God’s Kingdom? One class, one child, one moment, one lesson, one conflict at a time.

SJ

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Learning as Serving: The Love of God School


What’s behind that name?
École L’Amour de Dieu” – or the Love of God School. What a beautiful expression of purpose!

This week in chapel Ms.Wassink shared details of a visit she made to Children of the Promise and Lagossette Christian School that has this expression as part of their name. (See childrenofthepromise.org).  This organization works to be a faithful, life-sustaining presence in the country of Haiti as it works with very sick or orphaned children. In a context where the average Haitian receives less than five years of school, the youth literacy rate is 38%, and undernourishment of the very young is a very real challenge, we are excited to partner with this organization as all LCES students and staff collectively build God’s kingdom in a tangible way. 

What does a student service project look like at LCES?
Each LCES classroom selects an activity, event, or means whereby they give of their time and effort to raise funds that are passed over to an organization at the close of that school year. In classrooms and chapels, our students learn about this part of the world and the organization we are partnering with.  Examples of these efforts include a fun fair organized entirely by students, running a a Poinsettia
sale, or selling refreshments at a school play or smoothies in the hot days of late May.

Why do we do this?
There are two main reasons that we take on a whole-school service project each year:
  • To challenge our students to carefully and continually consider that not everyone in the world lives an experience identical to their own here in the London, ON area. God’s very big world includes a diversity of culture, language, and expression of faith, and the distribution of resources, wealth and opportunity is often very different than what our children know here.
  • In a frequently “me-first” centered culture, we want to pattern our children’s hands and hearts to be quick to serve others and see themselves as being a blessing as they are blessed.
SJ

Thursday, September 14, 2017

On Mixing Colours and Making Sense

I observed a student in one of our classrooms this week so wrapped up in a task that they didn’t seem to notice anything else going on. There is such a joy watching a child deeply connected and focused on what their curiosity has led them to. A few pots of paint were at hand and globs of unusual colours were on various parts of large piece of paper. When I asked for help to understand what she was was doing, the response was priceless:

“There’s no green paint. I’m trying to figure out how you make green! I’ve heard you can make it, but I don’t know how to yet.”

What a wonderful answer! There are several things in it that reveal to me the beauty of a classroom committed to exploring God’s world.

Learning is making sense of an amazing creation. Exploration and inquiry are such a vital part of enabling our children to not simply passively observe, but also actively play, create, and do things with the “stuff” God has made.  Excellent learning has a component of facilitated discovery – encouraging a healthy desire to know how and why things work, and marvelling at the creator who put it all in place.   

Learning is often about process, not necessarily the final product. While the finished product of the page of this young painter may not have looked like much was accomplished, an understanding of how colours work together has grown significantly. Excellent learning builds on previous learning, always moving from where you are to where you can go. 

Learning takes time, and commitment to see it through. I loved the last word in the reply – “yet.” Countering an age of instant gratification, we do well to encourage students to see past the first failure and instead look forward to what next step they can take even if they were not first successful.

LCES is a place with learning opportunities around every corner!


SJ

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Stories of New Things

What a joy to hear of all sorts of new things at the start of this week! One student shared with me that they had a new tooth. Another talked excitedly about meeting a new teacher this year. Another was bursting with descriptions of a new cousin. Throughout the day I was told about a new pool enjoyed over the summer summer, shown new lunchboxes, and asked to join in on delight of a fresh, brand new set of pencil crayons or markers. The school felt like the first few pages of an intriguing story all week long. 

We all love to tell stories. In the last weekend of the summer my family went camping and, no surprise, stories around the crackling campfire were unpacked again like treasured collectibles even though we’ve all heard them before. Perhaps we like stories so much because they remind us that present problems will eventually be resolved and even the most incidental of things can find meaning when we are able to look over our shoulder and place them in a broader context. Lots of things make much more sense years after they happen.

These stories include hardship and challenge, but even more so tales of provision beyond what seemed possible, unexpected joy, and prayers that the made the seemingly impossible a reality. Well-told stories about the past often affirm for us what is most important, most trustworthy, most valuable. What are the stories we will tell about this year?

As we move in to this new year, we know that more stories will be created. We also boldly proclaim that God’s faithfulness will be known in them as another generation learns to walk faithfully before the Lord. The same faithful God who went with us before is still with us, indeed He “hems us in, behind and before.” (Ps. 139).  May we be open to the new things the Lord will do this year and be encouraged by the overwhelming stories of his grace and care in the past. 

SJ

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Faithfulness in a River of Change

I recall a grade ten English class in which we considered the following truism:

“Change is like a river; you’re always in it.”

No doubt true, but we don’t always stop to consider it. In many ways, this week is about deliberating noticing change. In chapel this morning, we recognized our grade eight students who will change from being elementary to high school students very soon. On Friday we will recognize a change in staffing as we will see Mr. VanHarten (Grade 4/5) depart from us to follow the next steps of his career.  We know that some families are very soon heading toward a change in the form of a move related to work, family, health and other situations. Report cards distributed to our students on Friday will suggest a grade change to a new opportunity of learning in September.

The pace of daily life with pressing tasks, the important but not necessarily remarkable, call for our attention, and even sometimes in our own short-sightedness we are not reflective about what is changing around us and what that change means.  Often change tends to frighten, worry, or even frustrate us because it reminds us that we are not able to fully control our world as we might like to do.  And yet, in change we also often meet some of the plans the Lord has for us that are perfectly timed and masterfully created for our good.

At our closing assembly on Friday we will be reminded of the ways 2016-17 has been a year of God’s faithfulness and blessings experienced as a community of learning.  Indeed, we easily and boldly say “…the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” (Psalm 100:5) Praise God for that!

Have a rejuvenating summer filled with many safe memories as you rest, travel, and work, and play.
After a rest, we can’t wait to see what the Lord has ready for us around the bend.


SJ