Thursday, 29 March 2012

Building an Ethos for our School

I have had this one email in my inbox for a while.  Normally I would respond immediately and delete it, but I keep looking at it and wonder what to do about it.  It was a simple suggestion to copy another school's ethos, "christianize" it, and adopt it as our own.  In itself, the suggestion is a good one.  Anything that will help us develop a moral culture for a child can't be bad, right?!

Yet, there was something that didn't sit well.  It was a simple suggestion that made lots of sense, but it left me with a nagging feeling.  After processing the suggestion for two weeks, I think I finally know what it is that bothered me.

It's not "us."  Encouraging generic moral behaviour is good, but they don't match the Christian character themes that we have been working on and emphasizing.  Of course, I see moral qualities in our students, and it wouldn't be harmful to build and improve on them.  But for the sake of a cool Christian themed acronym, we would be going a different direction.

Our school has a number of qualities that make us who we are.  It is in line with all the Bible lessons, teaching, discipline and playground themes that we have built on.  It is obvious when others come to visit.  Parents comment on them regularly.  They are pointed out in all of our government evaluations.  We need to emphasize these particular community themes, not start a new culture.

I had to first determine what distinctives are already there.  These are the themes I'd like to build on.  We can find ways to make them even better.  Then we can use an acronym to make our community even more distinctive.

As we develop the idea, things will obviously change, but here are my thoughts about encouraging and building on the strengths that are already in our culture.

1)  We are firmly dedicated to discipleship.  Our goal is to have our students ultimately become disciples of Christ.  Not only can every teacher readily comment on how they are teaching it, they can give you recent examples of how it is evident in their students.  Hand in hand with this is the student's responsibility for stewardship.  It is a common word in our community vocabulary.

2)  We have a strong feeling of community in our school.  People comment on it when they tour the school,  When speakers come in or evaluators spend time here, they cannot help but notice it and mention it. 

3)  Technology is a way of life here.  We are always looking at ways to fulfil the great commission with our "teckie tools."  Students are digital natives; they live and breath ways to communicate in ways that an adult has to take time out of their day to learn.  Our online school grew to mammoth proportions because of this knowledge.

4)  We are adaptable.  Our fearless leader has a quote that he uses in times of inevitable change: "blessed are the flexible, for they will not be broken."  Though it is not an actual Biblical quote, it has become part of the culture here.  We find creative ways to educate.

Adaptability, Community, Technology, Stewardship.  "A.C.T.S."  Let's find a way to improve what we already have.  Let's build on these distinctives.  Let's trumpet it to the world.  This is "us."  This is who we are.  This is the culture we need to delve into, develop and grow.  This is the culture we need to celebrate. 

"After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly."  Acts 4:31

In retrospect, I recognize now that my simple checklist reports to the community overseers don't do justice in representing what we educators are doing in the school community.  I'm sure that because of my lack of vitality in a long meeting for describing the wonderful programs and themes going on in our school, they are not getting a balanced picture.  They are focusing on the behavioural issues, not the triumphs.  I have learned that I need to let them know about the things we are doing well.  They should hear about the chapel themes and messages we are instilling in the minds of our students.  They need to watch the "Catch them being a Disciple" program and rewards in action.  They need to hear the excited students reciting their memory verses for all the office to hear.  They should see reports about how our students are volunteering in the community.  They should be aware of the charitable acts our students embrace to reach out to other communities.  They need to hear how community is bringing out the strengths of our students.

Hopefully, I can change my reporting to encourage our committee members in what our school community is doing for our children.  Hopefully, they will no longer look longingly at another school's ethos, but celebrate ours.

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