At the intersection of writing and life with the author of the Cameron Ballack mysteries

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Christian Education: Things to Try (Part 1)

My hands are not on the steering wheel of least in the sense of a school administrator. But over seventeen years of teaching in Christian schools have given me a certain level of mojo to speak about ideas that could be worth trying.

Some of these are scheduling matters, some are academic ones, but I'm going to let things rip with a smile.

(1) Affirm differentiated courses: Begin with the firm realization that even if you're a college-prep Christian school, not everyone is college-prep in every subject. Maybe the possibility exists that students can take Algebra I in eighth grade, Geometry in 9th, and so on. That's robust and seems to be the way winds blow lately. But not everyone is going to learn math well by riding that train all the way to College Algebra. Some kids would flower with a Business Math/Consumer Math course. Not everyone is college prep in math. Some students are the same way in English. Expository writing on literature may be difficult, but technical writing and a course built around business communication might fit the bill.

(2) Get practical: We can teach kids a lot about presidential debates, but little about how to analyze arguments within them. But what if there was an actual debate/logic class to help in that regard? Students can do math but not have a clue about how to set budgets or do taxes. Couldn't we built those matters into our curricula? Oh, and what about some more do-it-yourself moxie that can save $$$ down the road as students become adults? Industrial arts classes like wood shop, metal shop, or electrical and duct work? Auto repair? Tailoring or culinary activity and home economics?

Yeah, I was serious about all of the above.

(3) About homework: I completely get that this is coming from someone who never gives homework except for tests, quizzes, and projects, but what goes into why a lot of teachers assign homework? I know that homework is important for reinforcing things from class, especially in cumulative disciplines like math and world languages. But a teacher should really do their own homework assignments at a serviceable pace; then multiply that time by six and you might have a sense of how long it'll take an average student.

(4) Break the routine: Our students go pillar to post every day in a cauldron of activity and noise. We have GOT to find ways to slow things down for them. Perhaps a 20-minute break during the day for students to snack, socialize, play a quick game of hoops, or so on? Once you're out of elementary school, recess goes out the window. Wouldn't it be great to work that in? Or--to show the value of solitude and quiet--students gather for a Quaker-like fifteen minutes of silence once a week, clearing minds and souls and listening for God?

I know this isn't an exhaustive list, but it's the start of what could be a conversation. Thoughts? Other ideas? I'd love to hear them.

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