A Word From the Head
October 17, 2014
Mr. Rod Gilbert, Head of School
On Learning in Today's World
Like a mighty waterfall, the value proposition of a private Christian school K-12 experience flows from a parent’s vision for their child. We desire for our children to learn the three r’s (reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmatic), surrounded by teachers who reflect our core convictions while living in today’s world.
Regents parents and teachers ever-so-slowly expose the realities of this world to our children with a deliberate and patient pace. We have no intention of deliberating over Ebola, Wall Street ticks, or ISIS with our young children. But, in our Logic Hall, our teachers will unpack these issues in accordance with the age development of our lovely, highly opinionated pubescent ones who may love and hate the world – fair – at the same time. If you have a middle schooler you know what I mean. Around Harkness Tables in Rhetoric Hall, teachers will ebb and flow from the past, to current events, to the future with the swiftness of Fred Astaire gliding as a dancer. This trivium method of partnered and ever-so-slow exposure by the teachers stands as a major part of the value proposition of Regents.
All of us parents have stories about the charming naiveté of our little ones. Here is one of ours. At age four, my son was at the height of the Iraqi invasion after 9/11. He was lying on the floor playing with Legos within earshot and corner eyesight of our TV as Tom Brokaw said, “Aircraft carriers are positioning off the coast of Kuwait. . . .” Without looking up from his toys, he casually said, “When did you and Dr. Puckett (his school’s Headmaster and my boss) send in the ships?” Angie looked across the couch at me. Without flinching, I just said “Oh, I guess about a week ago.” He just kept happily playing with his Legos, and then brushed his teeth and went to sleep with little 5-year old thoughts. And, you know what? That is all he needed to have on his mind.
Yesterday my heart jumped to an “old newsreel” from when we lived in Raleigh, because Mrs. Norton was cogently recounting the ebb and flow of the world since Regents opened in 1992. Many things have happened in Austin, the USA, and the world. For the next 20 years many, many more things will happen. And, yet, even as the world chugs along and absorbs war and peace, health and sickness, poverty and riches, shortages and excesses – we will still be focused on the three r’s.
Even when the next disease sweeps or the next battle ensues, our teachers will wake up, come to school, and guide the children with poems of grandeur. They will teach fraction reduction like a new adventure waiting to be discovered. Sitting in a rocking chair, our teachers will open Old Yeller to a group of little ones who have never heard the story, and who have no idea of the dramatic tragedy awaiting them – that we all know will bring tears to their eyes. They will painstakingly review a foreign language translation as if it is the most important thing in that hour. And do you know what? It is. Because these K-12 experiences are based on the fact that our Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead to redeem our souls and His created order. These things – fractions – poems – translations – pottery - sports tactics are all lovely expressions of His created order – His world.
The K-12 classical, Christian education flows from a liberal arts tradition that transcends the ebb and flow of civilizations. In 30 years, our current fourth graders will be leading institutions and people through their contemporary fights of what? I would venture some will be defining “What is a human?” in terms of the blending of artificial intelligence with biomedical ethics. During their K-12 experience - these highly formational and impressionable years - we are committed to scaffolding the right skills, the right critical tools, the right communication techniques and the right spiritual convictions so that our children are able to address the things that we know are coming even though we do not know what these things are.
Solomon said there is nothing new under the sun. Even so, our children need the flexibility of these core values to lead people with acumen and steadfastness during unpredictable times.
To pursue this even further, I encourage you to read C.S. Lewis’ sermon “Learning in Wartime” in 1939 during World War II. Click here for a copy that includes some of my marginalia.
Like a mighty waterfall, the value proposition of a private Christian school K-12 experience flows from a parent's vision for their child. We desire for our children to learn the three r's (reading, 'riting, and 'rithmatic), surrounded by teachers who reflect our core convictions while living in today's world.
Parents bear the gift and burden of being misunderstood by their children. We are not their friends, their buds, or their crew. We are parents. That means that, oftentimes, we make mentoring judgment calls that do not make perfect sense to them. And, as the top hierarchically positioned people in the parent-child relationship, we have to learn to be ok with being misunderstood.
I can still remember the sting of the air in my lungs one winter when I failed to stop a penalty kick in the championship game. Rod, the unfortunate soccer goalie, missed the crisp shot and we lost 1-0. Did I say that I was ten years old and it was the New Hanover County Optimist Club Youth Soccer League? My soul felt so low because I let down my teammates, and I loathed the next school day when the winning team would be waiting for us on the playground.
Parenthood and mentorship reside at the core of our classical, Christian model of education because our style of education animates our human existence in profound and lovely ways. This model of education intertwines the Word of Christ and the experience of this beautiful world that Christ created.
How would you evaluate yourself as a mentor of children? Do you have the self-awareness and sense of confidence in Christ to be honest and vulnerable about your ability to truly guide them? I am not just talking about parenting. How would you evaluate your skills at coaching a flag football team where you manage the children, their parents, and volunteer parents who are coaching alongside you?
To be vulnerable and honest takes courage.
If I were to pick just one question to be painted on our walls, etched into the windows, and slated on banners, it would be: What defines an excellent teacher at Regents?
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Last week I talked about the blending of Word and Life as a part of a teaching and mentorship model. Let's take it one step further. Here is a light-hearted story that happened at our Regents Cup on Monday.
The blending of WORD and LIFE is beautifully explained in the first two chapters of I Thessalonians by the Apostle Paul to his friends. In short, he gave him the Word of God and he also gave his life. He ends the passage by saying, "You (my disciples of Thessalonica) are my joy and my crown." Have you ever been a mentor's "crown"? Are there people in your life who you are mentoring who KNOW by your investment of Word and Life that they believe in their hearts that you see them as your CROWN and JOY?
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