**Doing the right thing…knowing the right thing to do. This is a question that we ask ourselves everyday as school leaders. Richard Elmore, professor of Educational Leadership at Harvard University, published a paper with this title through the NGA Center for Best Practices (can be found here). He offers suggestions and practical advice on how schools can get better. After reading Elmore’s article graduate students in the Dordt College School Leadership program blogged similar advice, written specifically for Christian school leaders. Our fourth guest blogger is Michael Raap, Principal at John Calvin School in Yarrow, BC.**
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, all who follow his precepts have good understanding.” (Psalm 111:10)
All schools desire excellence; excellence in teaching, excellence in learning, excellent relationships among the community, but is excellence realistic? It is certainly expected that each school desires to do the best that it can for the sake of all students. Educators, as well as parents desire to see all students find success. Yet, how do we define success?
A successful school, is one in which is founded on the idea that all students have been born unique, unlike their peers. Each student possesses unique gifts, talents and abilities, and we must acknowledge where these gifts, talents and abilities come from, of course, our Heavenly Father. Schools must be built on prayer. For example, the Heidelberg Catechism states in Q.A. 116, “That prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness which God requires of us.” Also, Q.A. 117 states we are commanded to ask God for all the things we need for body and soul, as included in the Lord’s Prayer. We need to thank the Lord for our schools, we need to ask the Lord for strength to continue to do our tasks, we need to commend our students to the Lord’s care – in short we need to pray, and pray A LOT!
As schools we need to continue to build relationships with our students as well as with the parents who entrust their children into our care. Relationships will help build open and honest communication, communication which will help enable both parents and educators work with one another to help find the best ways to reach each child. We need to build relationships with our broader community, helping students to be active citizens of this earth. As educators, we need to be vulnerable, we need to let ourselves open up and listen to parents, this can, and certainly will be frustrating at times but we need to show humility. We need to listen more and talk less!
Schools need to continue to put a greater emphasis on accountability systems, we need administrators that have time to sit in classrooms, providing appropriate feedback to teachers. Administrators need to have time to vision, to read, to reflect, to have engaging conversations about education. Administrators need to challenge teachers to take risks, making mistakes along the way should be perceived as normal. This will only work if administrators are willing to have engaging conversations about both teaching and learning in the school.
As a teaching profession, we need to and must act as professionals! We need to admit when we are wrong; we need to ask for help, we need to engage in professional development willingly. We need to do this with the focus on our Heavenly Father, as well as the students that have been entrusted to our care. We need to be diligent in our task, as scripture states in Proverbs 21:5, “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.” Of course we are not talking about earthly riches but heavenly ones! What a rich and blessed task we have as educators.
Let us continue to do our task to the best of our God-given ability, continuing to acknowledge our dependence on our Lord. We need His help when we strive for excellence in our schools, we need to be open, honest, diligent and humble, developing our relationship with our Lord and all of our community members. Let us strive for success in our schools, using the Word of our Lord as our foundation, being active in prayer and intentional in our communication and relationships with our school communities.