Tag: foundation

Death Valley

As a child, I loved our Christmas holidays. Every year we would burrow into our VW Rabbit and head down to California for a two-week skiing holiday. We would share a house with our extended family and spend the two weeks skiing, hiking, travelling to natural hot springs, and visiting with family. On the way home (if we were visiting our family in greater Los Angeles), we would sometimes swing through Death Valley .

Death Valley is the lowest point (over 30 metres BELOW sea level) in North America and a desert.

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The surrounding mountains would be cloaked with snow and there was the odd winter that featured snow on the desert floor.

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Driving through, we could see the tracks of the borax wagon trains and see where seasonal rivers (flash floods) had carved paths.

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Most years we drove through, we saw no flourishing plant life. There may have been the odd Joshua tree or other cacti, flowers withered on their stems, or the frequent bleached logs.

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One year we decided to visit our extended family in Los Angeles in the summer. My dad rarely had time off in the summer, but one year we did. My dad wanted to see Death Valley in the summer, so we drove through and saw the same valleys covered in wildflowers. As the winter snow melted (in the valley and from the surrounding mountains) the flowers had been provided with sufficient moisture to germinate and flower (ever so briefly). The appearance changed so dramatically, it was hard to believe that we drove through the same valley. It was amazing to see what a bit of water could do.

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All of this is a lead-in to the verses I just recently re-read in Isaiah. Isaiah 43:1b-3a, 19 says, “Fear not, for I have redeemed youI have called you by your  name; You are MineWhen you pass through the waters, will be with youAnd through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. For am the Lord your GodThe Holy One of Israel, your Savior; 19 Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

We have such amazing promises in these few verses. First, God has redeemed us. He found us where we were but did not leave us there. He is making something wonderful in and through us. Second, He shows us how precious we are to Him by announcing that we are His. (Everyone else, hands off!) Third, God promises that He will be with us when we pass through the waters and walk through the flames (trials and tribulations). Finally, we have His promise that He will make roads in the wilderness and call forth rivers in the desert.

Sometimes we feel like we are in the desert: nothing seems to be flourishing and the little life that is there seems to be all prickles. And yet….

When the waters come, there is life in abundance.

And God promises to provide that water.

I can’t wait to see what God will do this year. He will provide water and we will flourish. I don’t know how or where the water will come from, but that is not important. What is important is that we wait upon God and His timing for the waters (of blessing) to come. Let us do our part in being faithful to His Word and then He will do His part (in His timing) and bring the blessing that only He can give. That way all glory belongs to Him and we will have the privilege of praising His name.

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The Politics of Distraction

This is the first of two articles by John Hattie that I would like to share with you. [I will comment on what I quote within square brackets.]

Hattie’s fundamental argument is that the ‘minimum goal of education, when rightly expressed, should be for all students to make at least one year’s progress for one year’s input, no matter where they start.’ [This is a good basic assumption. Where we go from here is to look at the various suggestions that Hattie makes to ensure that this happens.] Hattie then argues that ministries of education have good intentions, but often the good intentions do not lead to where we need to go. Hattie explains that political leaders and department officials often struggle with the ‘variability in the effectiveness of what happens at the classroom level and instead focus on policies which are politically attractive but which have been shown to have little effect on improving student learning…. The typically expensive proposals…distract us from implementing policies that can make a significant difference, defined here as interventions with an effect size of at least 0.4, the average expected effect size for one year of progress in school.’ [As an administrator, I am all about student learning. How can we, as an administrative team, help our students make one year’s worth of progress with one year’s worth of teaching. Some of Hattie’s suggestions will work at the school level; other suggestions need to be made at the provincial level and so we don’t really have a large say on that issue. Let’s start to consider Hattie’s various suggestions.]

‘Fix the Infrastructure

We need more sophisticated diagnostic tools to help teachers ascertain each student’s recent successes and work out the best way for them to progress to the next level.’ [This is true for us here at SCS. There are a variety of assessments we need to complete by virtue of being an associate school. However, there are other assessments that we will start to implement next year that have not been used at SCS in the past. The two main areas across all grades is literacy and numeracy. There is a simple literacy test that we can implement for grades K-6. We will then look for some assessment tools for literacy from grades 7-12. I also have a numeracy assessment tool that we can use for K-8; we then need to find a good tool for grades 9-12. Once we have these tools, we can start tracking students and seeing where we need to make adjustments and which adjustments we need to make. That will help us move forward with each student.]

‘The art of teaching is to balance the need for surface knowledge with deep processing of this knowledge. Deeper thinking skills need content on which to work. You cannot use deeper-thinking skills unless you have something to think about.’ [This has been something I have argued for years. Students need a lot of background knowledge before they can be asked to think critically about it. So let’s give them the background knowledge and then challenge them to evaluate that information critically. This would not require a big change at SCS; it is more that the teachers just need to be more intentional about doing this. In other words, we do this; we just need to know that we are deliberately choosing to do this.]

‘Fix the Teachers

Teachers attain additional expertise (such as studying to become a learning-difficulties coach, assessment coach or literacy coach) and take responsibility for improving the skills of their fellow teachers within a school.’ [This is something that we at SCS already do in some of the elementary grades. We have a data team that is getting further training in assessment and instructional strategies and bringing that information back to SCS and then sharing it with the other teachers in the elementary. It does not work quite the same way in the secondary grades, but several of our staff are also very involved in acquiring greater expertise in the secondary subject areas and then bringing that information back to the secondary departments. We have seen how beneficial this is at SCS. The only real change that needs to happen here is that the efforts should be documented so that we can be even more intentional in making this happen. (Much of what has been done has not been documented and so is not well known.) As we become aware of other areas that are less developed, we will start to send staff to get further training in those areas so that we can help improve the entire teaching staff. This form of professional development has been shown to be the most effective style of professional development.]

Bibliography

Hattie, J. (June 2015). What Doesn’t Work in Education: The politics of distraction. Pearson.

PCAP 2016

SCS just received the results for the latest PCAP (Pan-Canadian Assessment Program) results; this assessment is for grade 8 students. The focus for this year was reading. There are two ways of looking at the data. The first way is to look at how many grade 8 students were able to read well enough to ‘participate effectively in school and in everyday life’ (PCAP 2016 Highlights, http://www.cmec.ca). In this way of looking at the data, Saskatchewan students performed well: 90% of students were able to read at that level.

A second way of looking at the data is to compare Saskatchewan to the rest of Canada. In that way, students in Saskatchewan did not do as well as the Canadian average. The mean score for Canada was 507 while the mean score for Saskatchewan was 491 (a difference in mean score of 16). This, in my mind, is somewhat concerning but something that we, at SCS, can and will address next year.

One other piece of interesting data, based on the work I did for my dissertation, has to do with the differing results between boys and girls. I will quote the pertaining paragraphs from the document: ‘Girls performed significantly better than boys…on the overall reading assessment, as well as in each of the four subdomains…. [G]irls outperformed boys by 27 points in Canada as a whole….Boys were more likely to perform at Level 1 – that is, below expected levels of reading proficiency – and were less likely than girls to achieve Level 3 for Canada as a whole’ (PCAP 2016 Highlights, http://www.cmec.ca).

For May 25 and June 1, I will share some thoughts from John Hattie (a researcher from Australia) on changes we can make to improve the academic standing of our students here at SCS.

 

The Boy Crisis

I just finished reading The Boy Crisis by Warren Farrell and John Gray. It is a thick book, which, in this case, means that Farrell and Gray have been very thorough in their documentation. For this week’s blog, I’d like to copy the opening few paragraphs from his concluding chapter and make some comments about them [my comments will be in these square brackets].

“It was December 7, 1941. For years, we had been in denial of the crisis that was Hitler and the Axis powers. With Pearl Harbor, our denial ended.

Transforming denial into a response meant sixteen million of our sons being willing to sacrifice their lives. Yet our sons stepped up. And our daughters and parents joined them.

The new enemy is not Hitler. It is dad deprivation. [Dad deprivation has been linked to all sorts of issues, including ADHD and school shootings. According to Farrell and Gray, all of the school shooters in the US since Columbine have suffered from dad deprivation.] It is not the Axis powers. It is a ‘purpose void.’ It is not a need for your son to sacrifice his life but to find a purpose for his life. [This lack of purpose is a significant issue for boys in terms of education, vocation, and marriage. We should have a better track record because we are a part of the church, but it has not worked out like that. According to the Shorter Westminster Catechism, ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever’. The Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry defined our purpose in this fashion: ‘According to the Bible, our purpose, the reason we are here, is for God’s glory.  In other words, our purpose is to praise God, worship him, to proclaim his greatness, and to accomplish his will.  This is what glorifies him.  Therefore, in this we find that God has given us a reason for our existence, a meaning for our existence.  We were created by him, according to his desire, and our lives are to be lived for him so that we might accomplish what he has for us to do.  When we trust the one who has made us, who works all things after the counsel of his will (Ephesians 1:11), then we are able to live a life of purpose.  How the particulars of that purpose are expressed is up to the individual’. It seems to me that we have lost sight of this purpose: we are not effectively communicating this to the next generation (I don’t think we have communicated this well to our generation).]

How do we get our sons to step up to a crisis for which there is no Pearl Harbor? A crisis that is more internal than external?

Whether our sons step up depends on how they are brought up. In the past, boys learned ‘I exist, therefore I serve.’ Today, many boys learn ‘I exist, therefore I deserve.’ [These two statements accurately describe the shift in culture; this is not merely generational but symptomatic of society in general.]

Being needed to serve creates a sense of purpose. Being served creates a sense of entitlement. Most parents know this intellectually, but our own need to be needed seduces us into serving our sons rather than teaching him to serve. [This is true. Leonard Sax, in his book The Collapse of Parenting, explains this phenomenon by reporting that parents desire to be buddies with their children rather than authority figures. Because parents have abdicated their role, their children, sons in particular, take the easiest road which, in this case, means being served. They see this example in the media (music videos and the like). As a result, the sense of entitlement grows and creates a greater downward pressure to be served.] Which contributes to our sons’ purpose void.Once our sons value serving over being served, they are more likely to step up when we both alert them to a crisis – such as the crisis of dad deprivation and the mission to be a great dad, and therefore an inspiration to others to be the same. [This is actually our responsibility to our sons, biblically speaking.]

Boys who become a failure to launch are most frequently devoid of the two Ps: purpose and postponed gratification. Boys devoid of the two Ps are often also devoid of the equal checks and balances of the other two Ps: two parents. When your son is dad enriched, he not only avoids the crisis of being dad deprived but is inspired with the mission to become a great dad.

Becoming a great dad is not a mission for every son. [Matthew 19:12 For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.”] Your mission is to guide your son to discover his mission. [Not quite true. As parents, it is our mission to guide our sons to find their mission, but that includes helping him understand the role of the Holy Spirit in this process (according to Eph. 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them).] No piece of cake, because there’s no precedent. Our fathers did not learn to discover their mission; they learned to fulfill a mission someone else discovered. The ‘discoverer’ was the need to survive. His mission was provider-protector. [In one sense, fathers did not ‘discover’ their mission; they were given their mission by God. We are called to provide for our families (1 Timothy 5:8 But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. This provision also includes the idea of protection. Robert Lewis, Raising a Modern-Day Knight, Michael Gurian, The Purpose of Boys, The Wonder of Boys, Leonard Sax, Boys Adrift, The Collapse of Parenting, Steve Farrar, King Me, Point Man, Standing Tall, Eric Ludy, God’s Gift to Women, and David Murrow, Why Men Hate Going to Church, The Map all deal with the topic of the purpose of men. There are many other books and authors on this topic, and we ought to look into this more in schools, in our homes, and in our churches.]

Your dad had two options: be the provider-protector or be a loser. Which didn’t allow for questions like, ‘What creates the glint in my eye?’ He learned to be a human doing first, and a human being second. Or not at all. Which often led him to withdraw from loving himself, and ultimately from the family he loved [This process has been around for a long time, but accelerated after WW II. This also speaks to our identity in Christ and our understanding of what God has actually called us to. Somehow we need to bridge the idea of being a provider-protector AND being able to do that which ‘creates a glint in my eye.’ With the messages that society is sending to our youth, most of our youth seem frozen in terms of what their purpose is and what they want to achieve/accomplish as they move into adulthood. Dads are sometimes required to provide in ways that take them out of the home for longer than they want. One issue around this, as Farrell and Gray explain, has to do with expectations. There is a much higher expectation of a fathers involvement with his family today at the same time that there are increased obligations on a father to fulfill his work obligations. Most jobs now require a father to be on-call almost 24/7 and to bring work home.] To him feeling that his life insurance policy is more valuable than his life [This reminds me of It’s a Wonderful Life].

Your mission to help your son discover his mission begins with helping him discover himself as a human being first, and then helping him find a way of being a human doing – of making a living – that supports him as a human being” (pp. 388-389).

Bibliography

Farrell, W. and Gray, J. (2018). The Boy Crisis: Why our boys are struggling and what we can do about it. Dallas, TX: Benbella Books.

New Curriculum

We are going to be introducing new textbook resources in two subjects: K-6 Math and K-12 CE. The goal is to have these materials ready to go for September. This will mean a learning curve, both for the students and for the teachers, as they get used to the new material.

For Math, we are currently considering two different sets of textbooks: Jump Math and Purposeful Design Math. (Both of these are resources that other schools have used to develop strong math students). Jump Math is a curricula that many public schools use. Purposeful Design is a curricula designed and published by ACSI. As such, it is a Christian program and builds a strong foundation in math. One caution is that both resources require some supplementation; but, then again, no math program is strong enough to require NO supplementation. The Purposeful Design resource, because it is published in the US, does require both currency and measurement units to be supplemented with Canadian samples.

For CE, we will be building two programs: one for K-8 and a second one for 9-12. For the K-8 program, we will most likely be using material published by Positive Action for Christ. By using a specific program, we ensure that we work through ‘the whole counsel of God’ (Acts 20:27) so that the students have an understanding of the various parts of the Bible and how they fit together. For CE 9-12, we will be working through a topical approach to cover specific topics we want our grads to hear. This will include topics such as missions, apologetics, and worldview training. We are currently evaluating material for this program. Depending on which material we use, there may be a chance that students will receive credit towards Bible school by completing the various modules. We will have more information on that in the next month or two.

 

 

Secondary Electives

One of the changes I am introducing to SCS is an overhaul of the electives offered at the grade 10-12 level. We have had certain electives offered for many years. I wanted to give the students an opportunity to complete a survey on electives they would be interested in taking. There are more electives at the grade 11 and 12 level, so I will list the students’ top 5 selections for grade 10 and the top 10 selections for grade 11 and 12.

Grade 10 (top 5 in order of interest)

  • Food Studies
  • Photography
  • Accounting
  • Communication Media
  • Career/Work Experience

Grade 11 (top 10 in order of interest)

  • Photography
  • PE
  • Economics
  • Spanish
  • Life Transitions
  • Wildlife Management
  • Accounting
  • Social Studies
  • Communication Studies
  • Career/Work Experience

Grade 12 (top 10 in order)

  • Chemistry
  • Psychology
  • Pre-Calculus
  • Spanish
  • Biology
  • Foundations of Math
  • Calculus
  • Physics
  • Law
  • Life Transitions

From this selection, it looks like students are interested in seven new course options that we have never taught at SCS. Other than Spanish, all other courses are ones we can teach with the staff we have on hand. I also know that parents have expressed interest in having SCS offer a second language; Spanish was the preferred second language chosen by parents as well. We can’t promise to offer Spanish next year, but that will be a subject area we seriously consider as we move forward.

 

 

 

What If Jesus Meant What He Said? Part 4

Part 6

Suffering and Persecution Renders the Platform for His Glory

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name (1 Peter 4:12-16).

Do we try to avoid the very situations that offer opportunities to show off the power and beauty of Christ?

Peter starts off by telling us not to be surprised or even find it remotely strange when tough times come. In much of the church today, there is a strange paradox…. The very things Jesus promised would happen if we follow Him are often the things that cause us to doubt His presence and love. What if the supposed detours in our life and the most direct route to true blessing? What if the most undesirable situations are platforms for God’s glory?

Part 7

Suffering and Persecution Reproves our Enemies

Only let your manner of life be worthy[a] of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God (Philippians 1:27-28).

In West Africa, I have had many neighbors that the world might label ‘radical Islamists.’ Late one afternoon, shortly after moving into a new neighborhood, I set out to buy tomato paste at a little shack owned by a friend. I found what I was looking for. As I was about to head home, I mentioned that we would be hosting a Christmas party. I invited my friend to come join us in celebrating Jesus’ coming to earth.

Another young man in his mid-twenties overheard our conversation and asked, ‘Am I invited too?’ Quickly, I told him, ‘Of course!’ He quipped, ‘Are you sure you want the Al-Qaeda at your party?’ I told him that he was our neighbor and we wanted him there. Feeling more comfortable, he went on, ‘Do you believe the prophets?’ I quickly told him that I did, since the prophets pointed to Jesus. Knowing this game, he asked again, ‘Do you believe all the prophets?’ Understanding that he was asking if I believed in Mohammed, Islam’s final prophet, I replied, ‘My friend, I came into this shop to buy tomato paste. I found it. Now, will I continue searching for more tomato paste or will I go home and cook?’ ‘You’ll go home and cook,’ he replied. ‘Exactly,’ I continued. ‘In life, I was searching for peace, joy, hope, love, and eternal life. I found all these things and more in Jesus Christ. Mohammed came hundreds of years later and therefore is irrelevant to my faith. My search ended with Jesus. Why would I look elsewhere for what I’ve already found?’

Part 8

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5:10-12.

At times we pray against the very things that would bring us God’s blessing and reward. Jesus doesn’t merely suggest that those who are persecuted for His name will be blessed – He promises it. And as thought that were not enough, He tells us that this reward is ‘great.’ Let us not pray for persecution to stop, but for grace to endure – that Christ might be glorified.

In some parts of China, before new followers of Christ are baptized, they are asked to repeat this statement:

I am ready at any time or place to suffer, to be imprisoned, to escape imprisonment, and even to die for my Lord.

If you imprison me, you are giving me a captive audience to share the gospel with others.

If you put me in solitary, I can pray and meditate.

If you take my house and my goods, I can travel and share the gospel anywhere.

If you beat me, I’ll glorify God and it gives Him an opportunity to heal me.

If you kill me, you will send me to glory – my ultimate goal.

With that, they are baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Bibliography

Bramsen, N. (2017). What If Jesus Meant What He Said? Dubuque, IA: Emmaus International.