Because life is a series of edits

Archive for the ‘Educators’ Category

The Way We “Wrestle” Is to Pray

In Calling, Church, Educators, Family, Friends, Health, Humanity, Marriage, Oklahoma City, Parents, Places & Spaces, The Academy, Young Ones on February 14, 2014 at 7:22 pm

Wrist Prayer

Jesus was never one to over-spiritualize, but he did talk frankly of the Devil and his demons being at work in the world.

Following Jesus’ lead, I don’t want to over-spiritualize, either; yet multiple conversations with many of you in recent weeks have combined with my own acute sense of need to compel me to remind friends that, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:2).

The way we “wrestle” is to pray.

Because God is at work in the world, Satan wants to be as well. Depression, doubt, insecurity, fear – these are all evils from the pit of Hell, and multiple families are experiencing these attacks in various manifestations in the midst of physical sickness and mental weariness of late. Recently, we’ve had students and staff members who have been in the hospital for a variety of (odd) reasons, moms and dads who are struggling through hard life decisions, and just about all of us (my own family included) who are dealing with situations that are unfamiliar and out of our control.

To top it all off, we just finished a 12-day streak of some of the worst winter weather Oklahoma City has seen in a while, which can play havoc with our emotions as much as anything else.

Of course, not all of these trials are in and of themselves evil, but the discouragement that can accompany them (along with the often self-inflicted feeling of faithlessness in our handling them) can easily be used against us. Trust – in God, in each other – can erode, and Satan would like nothing more than to wash away all we have worked so hard to achieve.

With all this on hearts and minds, most of us are aware of at least one person or scenario in need of help. Would you ask the Lord to act in accordance with his “good, pleasing, and perfect will” (Romans 12:2) in providing it? As Jesus does in his prayer in Matthew 6, let me also encourage you to ask the Father to “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Satan does not need more of a foothold in anyone’s life.

I’m not asking anyone to make lists or track answers; I’m just asking us – you and me – to take some time this weekend to pray, that God may meet us in our need, do what he wants through it, reassure us of his love in it, and be glorified as a result of it.

“Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who settest the solitary in families: We commend to thy continual care the homes in which thy people dwell. Put far from them, we beseech thee, every root of bitterness, the desire of vainglory, and the pride of life. Fill them with faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness. Knit together in constant affection those who, in holy wedlock, have been made one flesh. Turn the hearts of the parents to the children, and the hearts of the children to the parents; and so enkindle fervent charity among us all, that we may evermore be kindly affectioned one to another; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

From The (Online) Book of Common Prayer

(The pictured wrist above belongs to my friend, Jerome Loughridge, who wrote out the names of several of our school staff on his arm to remind himself to pray over the weekend. I was privileged to make the wrist…er, list.)

Out of the Bag for the Good of Oklahoma City

In Educators, Veritas, Web/Tech on April 10, 2013 at 2:08 pm

This week is a significant one for classical Christian education in Oklahoma City.

Four months ago, Providence Hall Head of School Nathan Carr and I (on behalf of our boards) launched via video and website what were then the public beginnings (at least to our respective schools) of The Academy of Classical Christian Studies.

This week – tonight, actually – we announce the new school to the Oklahoma City metro via a three-minute news story on Fox 25's "Tell Me Something Good" feature with news anchor Mike Brooks. Here's the link.

But before we do that, today we'd like to roll out the brand new crest for our new school. Many thanks to Todd Milligan at Dust Bowl Artistry for helping create what we hope our families will embrace as a wonderful and symbolic visual that represents who we are as The Academy. (Note: For an excellent interpretation of our crest, read Nathan’s explanation of each of the elements.)


Academy Crest (300 dpi, Color)

In addition to the new crest, we're also rolling out our new public Facebook page and Twitter feed for The Academy, so go like/follow us if you would. Finally, if you haven't already (or haven't in a while), be sure to visit the official website for The Academy, where we cast our vision and continue to detail the creation of our new school.

Overview of Classical Christian Education

In Educators on March 5, 2013 at 2:11 pm

It could use a better soundtrack and there’s a terrible typo that ought to cost someone his or her job, but here’s a good video on classical Christian education called “The New Old Way,” produced by Veritas Press and the Association of Classical Christian Schools.

Introducing: The Academy

In Colleges & Universities, Educators, Parents, Pedagogy, Students, Teachers, Veritas on January 11, 2013 at 3:51 pm




Excited for what's ahead in 2013…and, by God's grace, beyond. Watch, then go here.

Sacramental Science

In Educators, Pedagogy, Teachers, Veritas on October 18, 2012 at 9:06 pm


Bill Smiling


Bill Fix is a retired science teacher who taught 26 years at Norman High. But it wasn't until he attended our Constructing the Vision banquet this past March that he finally had the language to name his classical education tendencies.

"A Veritas staff member invited me to attend the banquet and I was so glad I did," he recalls. "I was blown away listening to Susan Wise Bauer describe classical education's grammar, logic, and rhetoric progression, as it was exactly the way I always tried to think about and teach science. I was inspired."


Janet and Bill

So inspired, in fact, that he agreed to sit in with me (Craig) in the spring as I interviewed applicants for our vacant Upper School science positions. We also got together periodically during the summer to discuss longer-term plans for more solidly developing our entire school science curriculum in conjunction with Academic Dean Todd Wedel and our curriculum mapping team.

A member at Wildwood Community Church in Norman, Bill gets what we're trying to do through classical Christian education, and he has the expertise and experience to help us do it across the sciences.


Bill Explaining

"The way to learn science is to do science," says Bill. "The experiment
is the focus at the beginning, not the tag-along at the end. If we're
going to get students talking about science, they have to have
content to talk about. The experiments are the database from which they
can draw."

This lines up well with our desire at Veritas to do what one of our board members has called "sacramental science" – a hands-on approach to the study of the general, physical, and earth sciences, as well as to our biology, chemistry, and physics courses.


To that end, just yesterday Bill stopped by to drop off nine boxes – nine boxes! – of
scientific instruments and glassware he had rounded up free of charge
for Veritas. He also sat in on two of our science classes before joining
our juniors and co-teaching Chemistry. I'm honestly not sure who had
more fun – our Veritas students or Bill.


Science Toys 1


Science Toys 2

In a conversation about deeper goals for our Pre-K through 12th grade curriculum, I asked Bill for his perspective as to what a student and teacher of the sciences should look like. As he is wont to do, he paused before answering, then offered this:

"I want to see students learn and demonstrate good
observational skills and ways of going about, sorting, and synthesizing
data and systems. The science teacher's job is not to be the source
of information, but the guide through the unknown."

Which is why I've asked Bill to serve as a mentor for us in the area of the sciences. I'm excited to see where he guides our students and teachers as they explore God's world.

Guest Post: Believing That We May Understand

In Educators, Teachers on October 16, 2012 at 9:39 am


Spears, Josh(Veritas Classical Academy Upper School teacher Josh Spears is a trained philosopher and logician, adjunct professor at the University of Central Oklahoma, husband to Kirsten, and father to three boys. His guest post is a great example of how he helps his boys think critically about the supposed dichotomy between knowledge and faith.)

"Man
shall not live by bread alone,
but
by every word that proceeds
from the mouth of God
."
Jesus, Matthew 4:3

"I've seen it done, but I'd like to have a little more
scientific backing before I risk my own feet."
Grant Imahara, Mythbuster

Veritas is
committed to helping students understand God’s world and His Word. This commitment to education involves
affording opportunities to students for growth in knowledge, understanding and
wisdom and faith, hope and love. 

This desire to
combine faith and knowledge makes Veritas unique in a culture that attempts to
drive a wedge between those two. Richard
Dawkins
, for example, carelessly defines faith as "believing what you know
ain’t so." In a slight improvement, faith
is sometimes taken to be what’s left over when knowledge goes as far as it
can. Still another definition of faith takes
it to be a blind leap in the dark.

In each of these
definitions, faith and knowledge are taken to be distinct. So distinct, in fact, that having both at the
same time is impossible. Thus, the
believer faces a choice: it’s either knowledge or faith. Unfortunately, many Christians have accepted
(and initiated) definitions of faith like those above. They have bought in to the false choice and
opted to pit faith against knowledge. Christians,
however, ought to reject this choice between faith and knowledge is a false one. We needn’t choose between having faith and
having knowledge. In fact, true knowledge
involves true faith, a point that came home on a recent foray into one of my family's
favorite shows. 

My family and I
often re-watch Mythbusters and we
found in the "Fire Walking" episode a powerful example of true faith’s relation
to true knowledge. If you’re unfamiliar with Mythbusters, it’s a Discovery
Channel
show that applies the scientific method to various myths in an attempt
to determine whether the myth is true or false (I’ll flee the temptation
to digress into a discussion of true nature of myth).

In this episode, three Mythbusters – Carie,
Grant, and Tori – explore whether it takes being in a trance to master walking
barefoot on hot coals heated to more than 1,000 degrees. To test the myth, the three travel to meet a fire walking guru who trains others to walk across glowing
coals and, having spent time with him, they then spend an entire evening
watching a dozen men and women make the walk unscathed. 

With the
evidence of an authoritative instructor, the evidence of the testimony of the
coal-walkers, and the evidence of senses, Grant has a fascinating reaction. Watch this two-minute summary to see what I mean:


Despite having that evidence, he won’t step
out onto the coals.What more could he
want? Grant says that he wants to see
the science. He won’t believe until he
sees. So, he and the others spend time
making life-like feet out of rubber, running experiments on the physics of heat
transfer, and covering all their scientific bases.

So, now Grant
has the evidence of science to go with the previous evidence gained at the fire
walking demonstration. But it’s here
that things truly get interesting. It’s
most interesting that even after he has the science, Grant still doesn’t have
knowledge. Grant is looking for a
certainty – a certainty that fire walking is safe. He looks for this certainty in science, or
better, he thinks he’s looking for
certainty in science.

The trouble is
that science cannot provide the certainty necessary to drive the wedge between
knowledge and faith. Having the date is not the same thing as actually
stepping out on the coals. It is not
knowledge until feet touch heat. Grant
must literally step out in faith. Science and senses, testimony and training can only go so far. In the end, it takes that first step and that
first step is nothing less than faith. So, science and knowledge require action and acting requires faith. Grant lives by faith as much as any believer
does.

What all this
gives us is a beautiful picture of biblical faith. Faith is another way of
knowing that which is built on solid evidence. God does not call us to follow him without knowledge; he doesn’t ask us
to fling ourselves off a cliff in a desperate hope that something is there on
the other side. Faith is essentially
trust – trust that God will continue to
keep his promises, trust that the
promise-keeping God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be my promise-keeping God. I
see and study his work in His world and Word and step out with him in trust on that basis. He’s given me all the reason I need to trust
him, but until I actually live that out, I have neither faith nor
knowledge. 

We must
continue to combine faith and knowledge at Veritas and remain committed to training students
to live out Augustine’s maxim, "I believe
that I may understand."
There need not be a dichotomy between knowledge and faith; God has provided each to lead to the other…and both to lead to Him.

Desiring the Kingdom (First Quarter Review)

In Books, Educators, Teachers, Veritas on October 10, 2012 at 9:19 am

A former teaching colleague (and current friend) of mine is using Desiring the Kingdom as a key text for his Christian educational ministries degree. He asked if he could send me a few questions detailing my experience with James K.A. Smith's book and its impact on our first quarter of school (to revisit my favorite quotations from each chapter of Desiring the Kingdom, visit one of these summer posts: Intro, 1.1, 1.2, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.). Here's what I wrote back:

Can
you briefly explain the format that you went about discussing Desiring the
Kingdom together?

We used Desiring the Kingdom as a framework to
work through discussions on classical education in theory and practice, as well
as across schools (i.e. Grammar and Upper). Through this lens, we processed
together thoughts and perspectives from the ACCS conference in Dallas, updated and
continued work on our Curriculum Mapping initiative, interacted over and
continued working out our trans-denominational perspective, reviewed and
renewed our commitment to each other through the relational covenant,
implemented new and creative ways to blend our classical Christian model of
education, engaged in planning first day habits and liturgies, learned about
and practiced teaching to different learning styles, discussed important
educational mechanics like workload evaluation, grading standards, lesson
planning, and school systems, and helped prepare staff for their part of our
WISE (Walking in Step Educationally) Parent Training Conferences in August.

After
discussing DTK, what did you sense was the overall response of the faculty to
what James K. A. Smith is proposing? What
aspects of Smith’s argument were most popular with the faculty? What
were the critiques and did you have any significant pushback?

Smith’s perspective on ritual and liturgy
were huge for our staff, particularly for those who had not considered either
as being more everyday than every week (i.e. Sunday at church). This emphasis
and language was important for our school as it gave the teachers both
rationale and words for why we try to do what we do, whether it be Grammar
school students walking in lines or Upper school students sitting meditatively
in RISE (our morning assembly).

The most
significant pushback had more to do with staff (particularly in the Grammar
school) feeling it was a tough read. Some of these same staff felt Smith
negatively overreacted to the ideas of capitalism, patriotism, and our nation’s Christian
heritage.


Smith’s
writing is pretty philosophical, heady. How did you go about putting hands and
feet on his proposals?

One key to this was
the assembly of a study guide by our theology/philosophy teacher. Another was allotting
plenty of time during orientation (and in more informal conversations) during
which the book and its contents were the main topic of discussion. We spent a
good amount of time in the book’s introduction (which is really sufficient in
many ways as a summary of the book).

What
parts of the book did you think spoke directly to the VCA community?

Again, the ritual
and liturgy emphasis was important, as was the Smith’s succinct statement that
true Christian education should be about shaping what students love more than
what they know. Historically, this has been the desire of the board for the
school, but I wouldn’t say the language for this was as clear in the minds and
hearts of the staff as Smith’s brief statement; however, once unleashed, there
seemed to be quite an “a-ha” moment across all grades as to what we were after
(and what we weren’t).


Which
parts were particularly meaningful or important for you as the Head of School?

For me, Smith’s book was a powerful validation of much of
what I have always believed about Christian education (classical or otherwise),
summarized with great depth. The fact that our theology/philosophy teacher
recommended the book to me with the words, “I think you’ll like this because
it’s what I hear you saying” meant a lot and unintentionally loaned me some
borrowed credibility in the eyes of the staff. As a second-year Head of School,
this has been immeasurably helpful in at least giving me confidence that, while
I’m continuing to solidify my educational philosophies and perspective, I’m
perhaps not just making this stuff up out of thin air.


In
this first quarter of the school year, where have you seen evidence of your
discussion bearing fruit in the lives/work of your faculty, parents, and
students?

As we have a good amount of new staff (some brand new to
teaching), I feel our time in Desiring
the Kingdom
has been particularly helpful in getting them off on the right
foot. While the majority of our teachers (new or veteran) wrestle on a weekly
basis with what classical Christian education looks like in their classes, I
think we’re newly aware of what it doesn’t look like as a result of our reading
the book.

This brings clarity to our efforts and bolsters confidence in our
attempts to train parents and students in a more character-focused,
virtues-driven education as opposed to one more competency-focused and
values-driven. Reading the book through the summer, training through its
presuppositions during staff orientation, and then implementing and applying
these ideas face-to-face by utilizing our teachers as the main presenters at
our two-day parent orientations got all of us off to as good a start as I would
have hoped. Still, there’s plenty of opportunity to revisit and review Desiring the Kingdom, as old educational
habits for all involved tend to die hard.

The Power of Observation

In Educators on October 7, 2012 at 10:13 am

A few weeks ago, Megan and I played brunch hosts to a young woman
from our church who is finishing up her education
degree at a local university. She is six weeks into her student teaching at a
local public high school and her experience has been anything but positive, not
so much because of the students, but because she feels very, very alone. Her
"mentor" teacher is anything but, and her education professor has
basically stated that this loneliness is good training for what the "real
world" of teaching is.

To make things worse, the principal at her school
doesn't know her name, and she's not even sure he knows she's there. My heart broke for her. I really don't want this to be the case
for our teachers – new or returning – at Veritas.

With this in mind (and as we do every year),
Grammar School principals Ann Taylor, Todd Wedel and I have been investing the
past few weeks in our Veritas classrooms. We started by observing our new
teachers, and are now in the process of evaluating our returning teachers by
way of a formal evaluation, during which we sit in on an entire class period to
observe and take notes. We then write a 2-3 page narrative of each teacher's
class and how he or she proceeded with students through the lesson for that day
according to our vision, mission, and teacher job description

Following the observation (sometimes immediately after), we
write up our thoughts and email them to the teacher. We then get together with
the teacher at his or her earliest convenience to walk and talk through the
narrative, share a few observations and process questions together. Then, if all seems good and right, we'll both
sign the report, make the teacher a copy, and the original goes in the
teacher's personnel file for reference. I'm happy to report (and as many of our
parents keep telling me), we're blessed to have the teachers we do! 

We'll repeat a similar process more formally in the spring, with
all three principals observing each teacher. For now, though, we're on track to
finish our fall evaluations by Fall Break (which was our goal), and from here
will continue to interact and process with teachers in conversation and as
challenges and opportunities arise, as well as in our monthly staff meetings
(one of which we had yesterday). It's always an enjoyable and important
process. 

Note: Earlier this week and at my suggestion, the young woman I
mentioned at the beginning of the story arranged for me to come observe her
teaching a class at her public school. After writing her evaluation and
processing through it with her afterward, I've got my eye on her as a possible
future Veritas teacher!

What Are You Learning?

In Educators, Veritas on September 5, 2012 at 2:55 pm


WiseowlYesterday, instead of the usual opening dialogue of "What's going well?" and "What's going wrong?" I asked our Admin Team a different question to kick off our weekly meeting: "What are you learning?" We took a few seconds to contemplate personally, then after a few semi-serious lessons shared, we got down to brass tacks. I won't speak for the team as to their insights, but I'm glad to let you in on what I shared.

Put simply, after what so many in our Veritas community (faculty, staff, parent, even student) have mentioned as being a very smooth start to our school year, I'm learning that, personally, I can run the risk of being too comfortable and content improving where we are rather than pushing us forward to where we want to go.

For instance, I really don't mind setting up chairs and tables each day when I know that doing so is part of a larger routine/system that will enable others to be able to do their jobs faithfully. And it's a joy checking the WISE Facebook page and quickly answering a question or providing an important link to our website that solves everything for a semi-desperate parent. And there are few greater thrills than just being available for a conversation with faculty and staff members about something they're trying to figure out and, after listening and trying to understand, asking a question or making a suggestion that seems to help.

I could do all of this all day long, but I'm learning that the good can quickly become the enemy of the best if I'm not careful. For me to plateau in chair-setting or Facebooking is not all that Veritas needs if we are to continue to move forward in our vision and mission. I need to be more focused on fundraising, more aggressive in finding new locations for more campuses, on the phone more with leaders in OKC getting the word out about our school, and more committed to spending time in prayer for the whole of our work.

Don't get me wrong: I'm grateful that I don't mind the ritual/liturgical aspects of my role, but while I don't mind them, I don't have the luxury of being able to default to them. I've asked our Admin Team to help me if/when they see me doing what's easy rather than what's necessary, as well as to say something when I'm doing too much of what others can or will do instead of what only I can do for the sake of our vision and mission.

That's what I'm learning, and I wanted to share it with you if/as you pray for me.

What are you learning?

The WISE Parent Training Conferences

In Books, Educators, Parents, Pedagogy, Veritas on August 15, 2012 at 12:10 pm

VCA WISE Logo (Low Res)As a former conference director, I know firsthand the value of taking a day or two (or longer) to focus with likeminded others and attempt to learn, think, talk, feel, and do differently and (hopefully) better. The time can be challenging, but is almost always encouraging as well.

This past summer, through the generous contribution of our school community, 42 of our Veritas staff and parents experienced this challenge and camaraderie at the Association of Classical & Christian Schools conference in Dallas. Coming home, we all wanted our Veritas community to have the opportunity to participate in what we had experienced. Through a lot of hard work by so many, now they can.

I'm thrilled to have parents join us for our first ever WISE (Walking in Step Educationally) Parent Training Conference – a gathering we hope will become an annual event to help our families and our school continue to improve our unique blended model of classical Christian education. It’s important for us to be together for two reasons:

  1. We all need renewed clarity (and help) regarding our roles in this partnership. As a school, we are “in loco parentis” – in the place of parents, but not in place of parents. We would be wrong to assume more responsibility than appropriate in teaching these kids, but this has implications for parents in our blended model that they not abdicate their responsibility either. We all have much to continue to learn about the big picture and details of a blended model of classical Christian education.
  2. We all need the opportunity to renew our covenant with each other in our relationship. This is why we’ve asked our staff to join our parents in this time together to re-affirm (or affirm for the first time for all our new families and staff) our relational covenant with each other. To learn, think, talk, feel, or do any of this well, we need to be present together to do it – not just in the same location or in the same building, but in our hearts as well.

The WISE Conferences are our best shot at meeting both of these goals before school starts later this month. We hosted the first one at our North Campus last weekend, and this coming weekend is all about our Central Campus. My hope is that our steps both weekends will be only the first of many as we seek God along our classical Christian education journey.

Desiring the Kingdom by James K.A. Smith (6)

In Books, Educators, Pedagogy on August 3, 2012 at 10:16 pm

DTK cover

Quotes from chapter six, "A Christian University Is for Lovers":

"What is education for? And more specifically, what is a distinctly Christian education for? But since we first asked the question, I hope we've come to appreciate three things: First, we humans are liturgical animals, whose fundamental orientation to the world is governed not primarily by what we think but by what we love, what we desire…Second, some practices are 'thicker' than others – rituals of ultimate concern that are bent on shaping our most fundamental wants and desires, trying to make us the kind of people who desire a vision of the kingdom that is antithetical to the kingdom of God…Third, Christianity is not only (or even primarily) a set of cognitive, heady beliefs; Christianity not fundamentally a worldview; rather, Christian practices, and particularly the practices of Christian worship, are the matrix for what can be articulated as a 'Christian world.'" (p. 215-216)

"But what if that's not enough? Or worse, what if a Christian perspective turns out to be a way of domesticating the radicality of the gospel? What if the rather abstract formulas of a Christian worldview turn out to be a way to tame and blunt the radical call to be a disciple of the coming kingdom? Could it be the case that learning a Christian perspective doesn't actually touch my desire, and that while I might be able to think about the world from a Christian perspective, at the end of the day I love not the kingdom of God but rather the kingdom of the market?" (p. 218)

"In too many cases, a Christian perspective doesn't seem to challenge the very configuration of these careers and vocations. To be blunt, our Christian colleges and universities generate an army of alumni who look pretty much like all the rest of their suburban neighbors, except that our graduates drive SUVs, inhabit their executive homes, and pursue the frenetic life of the middle class and the corporate ladder 'from a Christian perspective'…Such an approach reduces Christianity to a denuded intellectual framework that has diminished bite because such an intellectualized rendition of the faith doesn't touch our core passions." (p. 219)

"The domestication of Christianity as a perspective does little to disturb or reorient our practices; rather, it too often becomes a way of affirming the configurations of culture that we find around us – we just do what everyone else does 'plus Jesus'…What's the alternative? If Christian education is not merely about acquiring a Christian perspective or a Christian worldview, what is its goal? Its goal, I'm suggesting, is the same as the goal of Christian worship: to form radical disciples of Jesus and citizens of the baptismal city who, communally, take up the creational task of being God's image bearers, unfolding the cultural possibilities latent in creation – but doing so as empowered by the Spirit, following the example of Jesus's cruciform cultural labor." (p. 220)

"If the Christian university's motto is, 'I believe in order to understand,' the ecclesial university's motto is, 'I worship in order to understand.'" (p. 223)

"One of the most crucial things to appreciate about Christian formation is that it happens over time…Christian education 'takes practice.'" (p. 226, 230)

Beating Busyness (Part 2)

In Educators, Parents, Students on July 31, 2012 at 7:11 am

Prosser Clock

“Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise,
making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”
Ephesians 5:15-17

All of us are called to be good stewards of the time God has given us, but when we get down to it, our struggle tends to be not as much a matter of time management as it is of priority management. This sounds simple enough, but our culture does us a disservice by pluralizing the word “priority,” confusing us as to what our “priorities” are. When we talk about our “priorities,” we’re talking about something that doesn’t make sense—the nature of priority is singular. We are only able to have one priority.

Below are some of my personal time-tested applications of this idea, my own "stop doing" list, and my suggested reading list to help you focus more on this idea of priority management. I've also recommend this helpful worksheet from my friend, Adam Holz, to serve as a simple "assignment" if you'd like to more closely evaluate how you think about to whom/what you're giving yourself.

Craig's Applications
These are different things I've tried over time – not all at once, but usually more than one or two at a time. Figure out what works for you and make your own list.

  1. Put together a time budget. Like money, do you even know where your time really goes?
  2. Schedule and plan a personal retreat. Even if it's for just half a day, get some time away and make a plan.
  3. Re-evaluate your commute and how you use it. Much time gets wasted in the car. Listen to audio books, review Scripture, pray, or try initiating actual meaningful conversation with your kids (you might be surprised what happens).
  4. Read (and don’t feel guilty). There's nothing like reading to make you slow down because you can't really multi-task in doing it.
  5. Make a “stop doing” list. Over time, tasks and responsibilities accumulate, and not always for the best reasons. What do you need to stop doing?
  6. Plan blocks of time for projects. The alternative here is to figure out how to make those 5-15 minute windows of time work.
  7. Delegate (but don’t abdicate) what you can. Maybe you need to ask/pay/beg someone for help. This is not a sign of weakness; nobody's omni-competent.
  8. Get to a point of being able to declare to yourself (and others) how much time you actually have. It's a thought experiment – try it.
  9. Be sure to match the reason to the season (and vice versa); that is, there is a time for everything (and this may not be it).
  10. Make the word “priorities” singular again (“priority”) in your mind and vernacular. It can make a big difference in your thinking.

Craig's "Stop Doing" List
While this list is philosophical, I periodically make practical "stop doing" lists each year to help me discern if something I've been doing needs me to be the one doing it.

  1. Stop whining about being so busy. No one wants to hear it, and it’s probably not that tremendously interesting to anyone but you.
  2. Stop believing that you can have it all. You can’t, so you’ll have to choose what you want to have instead.
  3. Stop ignoring the Fourth Commandment. True, the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath, but you’re not even close to violating that, so stop pretending.
  4. Stop feeling guilty about not being able to help everyone for every reason. Jesus is the Savior; you are not.
  5. Stop being so lazy. There’s very little on television or the Internet worth viewing, so why spend hours trying to find it?
  6. Stop refusing to delegate to others. They may want (or need) to help.
  7. Stop letting yourself get overburdened and overworked. Cars were made to be driven; you were not.
  8. Stop believing the lie that you are important because of all you do; rather, learn to believe you are important because of all Jesus did.
  9. Stop wearing a watch (at least not on your wrist). Make access to a timepiece just a little more complicated so you might stop reaching for it as much as you would otherwise.
  10. Stop letting busy people speak into your life. Why let them make you into who they are?

Suggested Reading List
I've read all or most of each of these books and found them most helpful in considering priority in life and how it does (or doesn't) direct everything else. Good stuff.

Desiring the Kingdom by James K.A. Smith (4)

In Books, Educators, Pedagogy on July 20, 2012 at 11:58 am

DTK cover

Quotes from chapter four, "From Worship to Worldview":

"It might be more helpful to talk about a Christian social imaginary than to focus on a Christian worldview, given that the latter seems tinged with a lingering cognitivism. By focusing on social imaginaries, the radar of cultural critique is calibrated to focus on exegeting practices, not just waiting for the blips of ideas to show up on the screen." (p. 133)

"What if we sought to discern not the essence of Christianity as a system of beliefs (or summarized in a worldview) but instead sought to discern the shape of Christian faith as a form of life?…This will require undoing some habits we've acquired in theology and philosoophy, as well as in discussions of Christian education and the formation of Christian worldview. In particular, it requires that we reconsider the relationship between practice and belief." (p. 134)

"Emphasizing the primary of worship practices to worldview formation both honors the fact that all humans are desiring animals while at the same time making sense of how Christian worship is developmentally significant for those who can participate in rituals but are unable to participate in theoretical reflection." (p. 138)

"Before Christians had systematic theologies and worldviews, they were singing hymns and psalms, saying prayers, celebrating the Eucharist, sharing their property, and becoming a people marked by a desire for God's coming kingdom – a desire that constituted them as a peculiar people in the present." (p. 139)

"If one temptation is to level the sacraments in the name of the sacramentality of the world, a second is the temptation to naturalize the liturgy as just an embodied practice like any other (another kind of leveling)…While worship is entirely embodied, it is not only material; and though worship is wholly natural, it is never only natural." (p. 149)

"Worship is not for me – it's not primarily meant to be an experience that 'meets my felt needs,' nor should we merely reduce it to a pedagogy of desire (which would be just a more sophisitcated pro me construal of worship); rather, worship is about and for God…We may have construed worship as a primarily didactic, cognitive affair and thus organized it around a message that fails to reach our embodied hearts, and thus fails to touch our desire." (p. 150)


Learning from Our Mistakes

In Educators, Parents, Pedagogy, Veritas on July 10, 2012 at 11:32 am

Facepalm_statue

Six month ago, I spoke with a very disheartened returning Veritas mom about her family's fall semester experience. She confessed that both she and her husband felt disorganized and lacked clear routines for their homedays, that their kids were unable to focus for any length of time alone, and that they wished they had taken more seriously the orientation help at the beginning of the year.

As we processed together, it was obvious they felt like failures. But it was also obvious we could do better helping them do better.

School starts in five-and-a-half weeks. Between now and then, all parents new to Veritas will take part in our new 2-day WISE Parent Conferences (North: August 10-11; Central, August 17-18) designed to orient them in the ways and nuances of Veritas.

But this orientation is not just for new families. Returning parents are required to join us for at least the second day of each conference, and will be welcomed (and encouraged) to join us for the whole time as well.

We've given great consideration to parent and staff suggestions, expanded the allotted time to interact with each other about intricacies of the blended model, and are confident that the conferences will be worth your time. (We wouldn't ask you to be a part if we weren't.)

If you're a new parent, you already know you're going. However, if you're a returning parent, we need you to RSVP and let us know how much of the conference you plan to attend (at minimum, the Saturday that goes with your respective campus…or more). We've made the process simple and quick.

Returning families, don't make the mistake in thinking you've "got" this. Every year is different, and the more we can prepare each other for this reality, the better off we're all sure to be. Learn more about the WISE Conferences. See you in August!

Encouragement by Association

In Educators, Veritas on June 22, 2012 at 10:35 pm

ACCS Crowd

I love association conferences. Back in the day, I cut my teeth on what were then the Christian Camping International (CCI) – now Christian Camp and Conference Association (3CA) – annual gatherings in cities like Seattle, Denver, St. Louis, San Diego. These past three days, I've been at the Association of Classical & Christian Schools conference in Dallas (I attended and wrote about last year's ACCS conference in Atlanta here), but this time I've brought 42 of our Veritas staff and parents to keep me company (34 of them are pictured below).

ACCS

Annual association conferences are helpful for a variety of reasons, but here are some specific thoughts with regard to my role and context:

1) Coming on the heels of my first year at Veritas, the timing and location of this year's conference being in Dallas has been especially helpful. A year ago would have been too early, as I didn't know what I didn't know; next year would have been too late as I might have missed some urgency of key foundational aspects of my tenure as Head of School.

2) At every association conference – regardless of context – I'm always reminded of how much relational dysfunction can still exist within Christian organizations. Thankfully, in my years in Christian camping/conferencing and now in Christian schooling, I've been privileged to be at both a camp/conference center and school that, while not having yet arrived in terms of all the nuts and bolts of our work, were much further down the road in terms of interpersonal practice and relational maturity. This didn't/doesn't mean we didn't/don't have issues, but we did/do have processes to work through them.

3) Being an affirmation junkie, I'm always looking for encouragement that I/we just might be thinking about the right things and moving in the right directions, at least as far as more experienced and established leaders/schools are concerned. I haven't spent all my time comparing and constrasting every move we have or haven't made, but there have been occasions – many this week – when I've heard a story or point of fact and felt affirmed that we're really doing okay in more areas than I often let myself believe.

4) That said, I've experienced more than one paradigm nudge/shift as a result of being here. Douglas Wilson challenged me to avoid the extremes of both ends of the Founding Fathers' Christianity debate (complete and total Christians/complete and total Deists); Tom Garfield raised some flags on my idealism that we as a school can somehow make up for parents' lack of desire/diligence in carrying out their God-given responsibility to educate their kids; and our Veritas staff and parents inspired and convicted me that I want to work harder to become more of what they need as a clear-thinking, passionate-loving shepherd for them.

5) I'm also newly aware of just how far I have to go to be more classical and Christian in how I live and lead as a Head of School; neither comes naturally (the former due to a lack of experience; the latter due to a lack of sanctification), and it can be intimidating listening to Wilson and others, for whom both seem much more hand-in-glove. I'm humbled by the way God has gifted and blessed these men academically and theologically, and long to see Him do similarly in me.

It's been a good several days – made better (and only a little more complicated) by having Megan and the girls with me. Megan has attended and enjoyed the conference very much, while the girls have had the run of the InterContinental Hotel while we've been in meetings. We've had lunches together in our room and eaten out dinners before swimming in the hotel pool in the evenings. They've read some books, watched some cartoons, and seemed to have fun (most of the time) hanging out as sisters.

As Douglas Wilson reminded us, "The goal of a leader is to have thick skin and a tender heart, not tender skin and a thick heart." This year's conference has helped me with both, and I'm grateful to our Veritas community for their generosity in providing the funds for us to come, as well as to ACCS for providing something good to come to.

Desiring the Kingdom by James K.A. Smith (1.1)

In Books, Educators, Pedagogy on June 15, 2012 at 8:30 am

DTK cover

Quotes from the first half of chapter 1, "Homo Liturgicus" :

"Behind every pedagogy is a philosophical anthropology; that is, implicit in every constellation of educational practices there is a set of assumptions about the nature of human persons." (p. 37)

"A dominant model, as old as Plato but rebirthed by Descartes and cultivated throughout modernity, sees the human person as fundamentally a thinking thing." (p. 39)

"Protestant Christianity (whether liberal or conservative) tends to operate with an overly cognitivist picture of the human person and thus tends to foster an overly intellectualist account of what it means to be or become a Christian…We could describe this as 'bobble head' Christianity, so fixated on the cognitive that it assumes a picture of human beings that look like bobble heads: mammoth heads that dwarf an almost nonexistent body." (pgs. 41-42)

"What defines us is not what we think – not the set of ideas we assent to – but rather what we believe, the commitments and trusts that orient our being-in-the-world. This moves the essence of the human person from the more abstract, disembodied world of ideas to a prerational level of commitments that are more ingrained in the human person. Before we are thinkers, we are believers." (p. 42)

"While it contests a narrow, naive focus on ideas, this model of the human person seems just to move the clash of ideas down a level to a clash of beliefs…The person-as-believer model still tends to operate with a very disembodied, individualistic picture of the human person…The believer feels like a chastened rationalist: beliefs still seem to be the sorts of things that are more commensurate with thinking." (p. 44-45)

"While the Reformed tradition of worldview-thinking generates a radical critique of rationalism and its attendant claims to objectivity and secularity, the critique still feels reductionistic insofar as it fails to accord a central role to embodiment and practice. Because of this blind spot, it continues to yield a quasi-rationalist pedagogy." (p. 45)

"The point is that the emphasis on belief does not go far enough…In contrast to both the person-as-thinker and the person-as-believer models, I want to articulate a more robustly Augustinian anthropology that sees humans as more fundamentally oriented and identified by love. Only such a robust anthropology – which accords a more central, formative place to embodiment – can yield a truly alternative understanding of pedagogy." (p. 46)

"If humans are conceived almost as beings without bodies, then they also are portrayed as creatures without histories, without any sense of unfolding and development over time…In contrast, we need a nonreductionistic understanding of human persons as embodied agents of desire or love." (pgs. 46-47)

"The point is to emphasize that the way we inhabit the world is not primarily as thinkers, or even believers, but as more affective, embodied creatures who make our way in the world more by feeling our way around it…The human person is the sort of creature who can never be captured in a snapshot; we need video in order to do justice to this dynamism." (p. 47)

"Our model of the person as lover begins from an affirmation of our intentional nature; further, with Heidegger, we would affirm that our most fundamental way of intending the world is not cognitive but noncognitive…Augustine would argue that the most fundamental way that we intend the world is love." (p. 50)

"This love or desire is a structural feature of being human. It is not just a characteristic of passionate people or romantic people or even specifically religious people. To be human is to be just such a lover – a creature whose orientation and form of life is most primordially shaped by what one loves as a ultimate, which constitutes an affective, gut-like orientation to the world that is prior to reflection and even eludes conceptual articulation. To say that humans are, at root, lovers is to emphasize that we are the sorts of animals for whom things matter in ways that we often don't (and can't) articulate." (p. 51)

"What distinguishes us (as individuals, but also as 'peoples') is not whether we love, but what we love…Our love can be aimed at different ends or pointed in different directions, and these differences are what define us as individuals and as communities." (p. 52)

"Augustine would say that the effect of sin on our love is not that we stop loving but that our love becomes disordered. It gets aimed at the wrong ends and finds 'enjoyment' in what it chould merely be 'using.'" (p. 52)

"To say that we are dynamic, intentional creatues entails a second characteristic: we are telelogical creatures. We are the sorts of animals whose love is aimed at different ends or goals…In other words, what we love is a specific vision of the good life, an implicit picture of what we think human flourishing looks like." (p. 52)

"Our ultimate love is oriented by and to a picture of what we think it looks like for us to live well, and that picture then governs, shapes, and motivates our decisions and actions…A vision of the good life captures our hearts and imaginations not by providing a set of rules or ideas, but by painting a picture of what it looks like for us to flourish and live well. This is why such pictures are communicated most powerfully in stories, legends, myths, plays, novels, and films rather than dissertations, messages, and monographs." (p. 53)

"Our ultimate love moves and motivates us because we are lured by this picture of human flourishing. Rather than being pushed by beliefs, we are pulled by a telos that we desire…When our imagination is hooked, we're hooked (and sometimes our imaginations can be hooked by very different visions than what we're feeding into our minds)…To be human is to desire 'the kingdom,' some version of the kingdom, which is the aim of our quest." (p. 54)

"Our habits constitute the fulcrum of our desire: they are the hinge that 'turns' our heart, our love, such that it is predisposed to be aimed in certain directions…Because for the most part we are desiring, imaginative, noncognitive animals, our desire for the kingdom is inscribed in our dispostions and habits and functions quite apart from our conscious reflection." (p. 56)

To Whom Shall Educators Go?

In Educators, Parents, Students, Veritas on April 26, 2012 at 9:55 am

Wednesday was a bad news day.

From the morning edition of The Oklahoman to that night's national and local newscasts, there was a lot I (Craig) found myself sighing over: a middle schooler in Enid gets beaten unconscious at school; a teacher aide (who actually worked with a friend of mine) at Southmoore high school is caught sexting photos of herself to sophomores.

To top it off, I got an email from a colleague at my former school telling me about a senior prank gone wrong. Apparently, the Head of School's email was hacked and the following message sent to the entire parent community:

"We would like to inform you of some small changes that will take place, this year, regarding Junior/Senior Banquet. As servants of God, we strive to protect our community. For this reason, we have arranged for condoms to be available at this event. Every male student attending will have the option of taking a complementary condom at the door. This is to encourage our students to practice safe sex. We hope that by doing this, we can set a positive example, so that other schools may recognize our efforts and take action against sexually transmitted diseases. Thank you, and have a blessed day."

Sometimes it's hard to see God at work, particularly in our schools and especially despite our human capability to really mess things up. And yet I read a quote on Wednesday from United Methodist Bishop Will Willimon that was particularly helpful in the midst of trying to do some good in the midst of that bad news day. Willimon wrote: "Scripture teaches that time and again, God refuses to be stumped by our inadequacies. Therein is our hope."

Indeed, therein is our hope. "Whom have I in heaven but you?," wrote the psalmist, "And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you" (Psalm 73:25). John records that, "Simon Peter answered him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69).

With four weeks to go, I take comfort that any hope we have cannot be in ourselves – which of us this time of year has anything left to hope in? In the face of what's ahead, let's confess to God, each other, and ourselves where our true and only hope is: in Christ, his love, and his grace. Pray this for yourself, your students, and our families.

This is what I'm praying for all of us these next four weeks.

Good News on the Oklahoma Admissions Front

In Colleges & Universities, Educators on April 20, 2012 at 8:59 am

Oklahoman

Back on Good Friday, The Oklahoman published this article on the University of Oklahoma's desire to revamp their admissions process and make it more holistic in its consideration of potential OU students.

This public announcement lines up with what OU Admissions Director Mark McMasters alluded to me (Craig) privately last fall – namely that OU was working on admission changes from which non-accredited schools like Veritas would benefit. Mark told me that OU measures success in terms of admitted students actually graduating, and colleges and universities can't deny the positive numbers when it comes to homeschool students who successfully start and finish their collegiate studies.

Seeing an opportunity to affirm what Mark and OU's Board of Regents are doing, I wrote a letter to The Oklahoman affirming OU's decision and urging the Oklahoma State Board of Regents to follow their lead. To my surprise, the paper published my Letter to the Editor in full earlier this week.

The Best Teachers are the Best Learners

In Educators on December 7, 2011 at 10:01 am

These are just some of the people I get to work with each day at Veritas. So blessed.

Show Me the Money

In Educators on December 2, 2011 at 9:57 pm

Over the past several months, I (Craig) have had multiple meetings with my Administrative Team and our Veritas Board concerning income, expenses, and next year's tuition rates. I've also had a few parents ask me when we're going to post our rates for next year.

I've only got one answer: when we're sure they're right.

Back in October, as we began budgeting for next school year, I happened to mention via email our process to my former Head of School, Jim Marsh, at Westminster Christian Academy, a college prep Christian school of 900 students in St. Louis. A long-time administrator, Jim is both a hero and a mentor in my role as Head of School (because of our shared titles, he calls me his "peer," which is more than humorous – I'm no Jim Marsh). He wrote:

"The tuition/true cost of education issue is difficult to get one's head around. There are those (Bruce Lockerbie and Paideia and organizations like Independent School Management) who would say to determine what it costs to provide excellence in fulfilling your mission and set the tuition at that cost. Then, raise money to provide tuition relief for those who cannot afford the tuition.

However, the value proposition is of critical importance in an age when parents are asking the question: 'Is it worth it? Is it worth the financial sacrifice?' The brutal fact is that it costs money to provide an excellent Christian education, but establishing a tuition level at that per student cost might be more than the market will bear. So, we look around and assess the financial condition of our families and determine what the price point should be."

Jim's balanced perspective describes exactly where we are at Veritas Classical Academy. Over the past month-and-a-half, my Administrative Team (all of whom are Veritas parents) have tried to get a better handle on what it costs "to provide an exceptional classical Christian education to the Oklahoma City metro." It's been hard work, but I'm proud of the way our team has drilled down to depths of detail we've not operationally been at before.

At the same time (and with counsel from our Board, all of whom are also Veritas parents), we've wrestled with the realities of these costs and asked ourselves what seems reasonable to expect tuition to cover and what should we plan to cover through more intentional fundraising. In doing this, we're seeking God to lead us to the right numbers, and to provide for them as well.

We think we're almost there…but not yet. Rest assured, tuition rates are coming (and soon), but as Head of School, I want to make sure they're right (and not just out). We don't want to overcharge our families; at the same time, we don't want to be the best blended model school in Oklahoma to go out of business.