Grace Christian School

Archives - November 2017

GCS Core Values - Part 2

November 29, 2017
By John Morrison

Last week, I shared the first of four core values established by our Board of Trustees that we believe make GCS distinct in its ministry and vision.  Indeed, that first value -- our emphasis upon the spiritual development of our students -- is by far the most important.  

Following on the heels of that first value is our emphasis upon academic quality, summarized as follows:

Academic

We cannot overstate our concern about the general decline of academic standards in our larger culture, nor can we over-emphasize our sense before God that the School must maintain a strong academic standard.  Furthermore, we emphasize that the benchmark for the School’s standard must be greater than simply maintaining a relatively higher level of student achievement than the sliding public standard.  In this context, we charge the administration with diligently working to ensure the following:

  1. Grace Christian School stands for a fundamentally sound academic standard (as evidenced by its standardized achievement and related scores).  We expect the School administration to maintain a healthy academic standard at all levels of the program.  In addition to thorough instruction in the fundamentals of our Christian faith, we emphasize the following:

a. Elementary students will be given a solid foundation in fundamental language arts and arithmetic skills, with science, social studies and technology becoming increasingly emphasized as the students progress through the grades.  We also appreciate the present emphasis being given to art, music, and physical education and expect that this emphasis will continue.

b. The middle school will serve as a strategic transition from elementary to high school, with a continued emphasis on core academic classes, along with the priority of students developing sound independent work and study skills necessary for high school courses.

c. High school must represent a strong academic curriculum that will prepare students for success in college and/or the workplace.  We support the diversity of courses being offered, but want to stress that those students best prepared for both college and the work place are those who are sound in the fundamental academic disciplines (language arts, mathematics, science, social studies).  This standard in core academics must be not only continued, but strengthened wherever administration discovers any “weak links” in the program.  Diversity of course offerings is desirable, but the higher goal is mastery of fundamental skills in core academic courses.

d. At all levels of instruction, we want to emphasize the teaching of critical thinking skills as an essential element in achieving our over-all mission.  An authentic Christian liberal arts education goes beyond teaching mere content, emphasizing the development of higher order thinking skills (see number eight under “Appendix B – Model of Expected Grace Christian School Student Outcomes”).  The administration will give high priority to training instructional staff in how to effectively teach these critical thinking skills in an age appropriate manner at all levels, as well as holding teachers accountable to incorporate such an emphasis in their on-going instruction.  

2. The administration will ensure that strong standards are maintained with the attitude that students who exert appropriate effort will be rewarded with appropriate grades and a sense of accomplishment, while those who do not (especially at the middle and high school levels) will have their lack of achievement reflected in lower grades.  While no parent wants to see his or her child fail, we must have the courage as a school community to teach our children the vital lessons of responsibility and hard work in achieving at a level commensurate to each one’s God-given ability.  

3. The Administration will ensure that the staff consistently and uniformly follow and apply all academic policies as stated in the School’s handbooks. Furthermore, all such policies should be periodically evaluated and revised based on the School’s on-going experience.

4. As one of their highest administrative priorities, the administration will systematically and carefully observe, on a professional basis, individual teachers and staff in their classroom and extra-curricular settings (including sports) in order to ensure the School’s distinctive educational standards are being effectively administered.  Other administrative duties must not preclude this all-important priority.

5. We are quick to recognize that some students enrolled in the School need special considerations in the context of their unique, individual learning needs.  The School has a long history of working with individual students in such cases and, as reasonably possible, we affirm our desire that the administration and staff continue to do all possible to help such students succeed in the context of the larger school program.  Our experience shows us that, as a general rule, students with special learning needs are most benefited by virtue of being in a classroom with a strong academic standard, even when their own academic requirements have been modified or they are given special accommodations.  As God provides the means, we will continue to carefully address the needs of such students.

Maintaining this core value is, sadly, increasingly a challenge as our larger culture’s standards continue to decline. We are encouraged, though, as we follow our graduates, that they continue to express to us their gratitude for being well prepared both for college and the workplace.  

If you would like to respond to my blog, please email me at grace@gcswarriors.org.

 

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Headmaster's Blog

Archives - November 2017

GCS Core Values

November 21, 2017
By John Morrison
Happy Thanksgiving!
“O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting!
Psalm 106:1

I trust all my readers will enjoy this very special Thanksgiving holiday!  Indeed,  we have much for which we can be thankful, no matter our circumstances,  because of the redeeming grace of God poured upon us through Christ!  May this be a special season for thankfully remembering His gracious blessings lavished upon us!

                                           ***********************

As part of our accreditation self-study, we carefully review our school documents, especially those dealing with our fundamental mission and vision.  No document spells out our sense of “core values” better than, well,  our “GCS Core Values” statement.  As recently updated by our Board of Trustees, these four basic values define what we trust are those ideals that make GCS distinct as a Christian school.  In this and the next three blogs, I would like to share with you each of these core values.  With God’s help, we seek to be the best school we can possibly be, and our being reminded of these fundamental values helps us avoid “mission drift” by staying  focused upon these essential goals.  

None of these four values is any more important than the very first, stated as  follows:

Spiritual

All elements of the ministry [of GCS] must continually be evaluated in the context of the simple question, “Does this aspect of the program and/or curriculum directly or indirectly encourage and instruct our students in their need for a personal relationship with Christ and to walk in obedience to His will?”  Administrative leadership must continually use this simple question in evaluating all aspects of the program.  As the Board, we emphasize this priority as the essential value for which Grace Christian School stands.

Furthermore, this value must be deliberately applied not only to Bible classes and chapels, but to all aspects of the School’s programs.  It is vital that administration continually train teachers and staff in how to integrate the Christian worldview into all educational curricula, as well as into all extra-curricular activities.  This must be done purposefully and thoughtfully as one of leadership’s continual, highest priorities.

My last two blogs featuring a kindergarten and a high school finance class are examples of how seriously we take this challenge of purposefully integrating the Christian worldview in all aspects and levels of our instructional program.  Can any educational priority be of greater importance than this first core value?  We think not, and we expend a great deal of time and energy to this end as demonstrated by our engagement with the outstanding Worldview Matters Biblical integration program.  Our students must understand not only the content of our faith as truth, but also the why and how that makes it relevant to all walks of life

In my next several blogs, I will focus on three additional core values that we believe make GCS a very special and unique Christian school.  

Happy Thanksgiving!

If you would like to respond to my blog, please email me at grace@gcswarriors.org.

 

An Outstanding Class!

November 15, 2017
By John Morrison
GCS Personal Finance Class (from left to right): Josh Lockwood, Cheyenne Hareford, Tyler Johnson, Karson Wright, Byron Forsyth, Clayton Duke and instructor, Chad Brown.


God has enabled us to provide our high school students with a well-rounded education via a healthy offering of high school courses.  One of my favorites (and best kept secrets!) is Mr. Chad Brown’s personal finance course.  In a day when many  students know little about practical finance,  Mr. Brown’s class teaches essential management and stewardship skills vital for maintaining a stable financial ship.  Enjoy this following excerpt from one of Mr. Brown’s emails to his students’ parents outlining a sample of the kinds of excellent lessons he is passing along to his students.

The last couple of weeks we've been looking at purchasing reliable and affordable transportation, and some important things to consider in that process. I had the students work in the computer lab where each picked three cars to present to their classmates.  Their job was to "sell" their choice to the class. The general restrictions included the following characteristics: economical, reliable, within 200 mile radius (to allow a test drive), no more than 12 years old, 156,000 max mileage (based on average of 13,000 miles per year), affordability payment wise, within their income.

There were some interesting picks, to say the least, including a 2003 Cadillac CTS roadster, a 2004 Infinity G35, a 2013 Dodge Ram 1500 truck, a 2005 VW Jetta, etc.

After their presentations, I had them work in two groups, where each would pick his or her top three vehicles, scrutinizing whether or not they fit the general guidelines.  Then, we narrowed it further to the top three picks for the class, relating each potential vehicle back to the general restrictions above. Their final choice was a 2003 Honda Accord (14 years old) with 133,000 miles (9,500 miles per year, which is less than average annual mileage) for $2,950, which was a great deal.  Although it was slightly outside the general age guidelines, it was, in my view, a very wise choice.

Also during  the process, I had Chris Jones, a great Christian friend who has been in the automotive industry for thirty years, and who is the current Commercial Sales Manager for Charlie Obaugh, come and give his perspective on how to purchase a used vehicle.  He has been helping me with this aspect of the course for six years.  Chris brings an excellent checklist for a prospective buyer to use when test driving a car.  I always pick up new  insights from his presentation, and in fact used this checklist when considering the last car I bought.  Graciously, he gives them his business card and cell phone number and invites them at any point to call him if they ever have a question.

After their final choice, we went back to the lab to check the NADA and Kelley Blue Book values for a couple of the cars, including their 2003 Honda.  Although they got a good deal on the Honda, we looked at a couple of other vehicles that were priced well above retail value for their car.  This let the students know how not to just arbitrarily pay someone their asking price without doing their homework.

All-in-all, I think this has been a very good process for them.  In the near future, we will be looking at maintenance on this car, purchasing insurance, and making monthly payments (with the goal of paying it off early).

Yes, Mr. Brown, most certainly this has been a very excellent experience for our students!  Thank you for all of your time and effort in equipping our young people with these most practical and important life skills!

If you would like to respond to my blog, please email me at grace@gcswarriors.org.

The Joy of Learning: Going Beyond Mere Rote

November 08, 2017
By John Morrison
Kindergarten teacher, Kristi Pananas and student, Max Banta


We are certainly all about teaching the fundamental content of our Christian faith and academic subjects to our students.  But a Christian education is simply deficient if it does not go beyond focusing on mere content in influencing the formation of the child’s basic assumptions about truth.  Thus, we talk a great deal at GCS about teaching biblical worldview integration and critical thinking skills that help each child examine his or her basic assumptions about reality.

Following, in the words of Kristi Pananas, one of our kindergarten teachers, is an example of how this can work in the classroom.  

Recently, during a kindergarten math lesson, I introduced patterns: red, yellow, red, yellow; smiley face, star, smiley face, star; ABAB, etc.  We practiced a few different examples. And then, the neat stuff happened.

A little girl raised her hand and asked “What does God think of patterns and does he like them?”. Wow!

I put my worksheet aside, sat down and knew that this discussion was more important               than the “math” lesson.  I asked the question back to the class…..

           And the following were some of the answers:

The first little boy said , “We know God likes order so he must like patterns because patterns are in order.”  We had previously talked about how God is a God of order, not chaos.   I thought, “They are getting it, they remember, this is important to them!!!”

Hands were flying and everyone wanted to be part of the discussion.

Another student added, “God ordered the days, he made all things….”  We had talked about creation, and how our calendar was in order and what God thought of that.

And another remembered, “God made animals with patterns.” Patterns were related to camouflage and a way of protecting animals and God did that.

We discussed how God made people with patterns: 2 eyes, 2 arms, boys/girls. How God doesn’t make mistakes when he creates anything. How we are all created perfectly and in a special way and are made in His image (patterned after God).

       Mrs. Pananas and student, Ella Parker

To answer the question about “does God like patterns?“ everyone agreed that he does!  He made rainbows, and they are patterns.  He likes pretty things.  He wants to enjoy patterns; they thought that God wanted us to like patterns, too. We talked about how God is creative and thinks of everything.

A 20-minute math lesson turned into a 45 minute worldview lesson initiated by a child with a heart wondering about God. We were late for lunch...and no one cared, and kindergarteners always care about snack and lunch (and recess)!

I was amazed and proud.  We had been in school less than a month and the kiddos were using the questioning that they hear at school…”what does God think/feel about...?” These kiddos are 5 and 6 years old!  I can only imagine what the rest of the year will be like. God is at work in the hearts and minds of these kindergarten students.

The above is an example of taking  learning from the level of rote (which is important) to the level of critical thinking with an emphasis on biblical worldview integration and experiencing learning as one of life’s greatest joys.  Indeed, this is our goal for our students at GCS: to stimulate their curiosity in investigating and discovering the beauty and wonder of God’s creation and how it all ties together in one unified whole.  And the stimulation of critical thinking is something, as demonstrated by these little ones, that can be cultivated from the earliest years all the way through high school!  This is (or should be) one of the core dynamics of a truly Christian education!

Thanks for sharing, Mrs. Pananas!  

And what she has shared is but one example of what is taking place daily throughout GCS!

If you would like to respond to this blog, please email me at grace@gcswarriors.org.

 

Two Exciting GCS Happenings!

November 01, 2017
By John Morrison

Last week was quite noteworthy in the life of Grace Christian School.  Our 4th, 5th and 6th grade students enjoyed a sweet time of fellowship with grandparents via our Grandparents’ Day event,  and our cross country teams won a state championship!

Grandparents’ Day.  In the early years of our school, we hosted a grandparents day for our elementary grade students in order to honor these very special folks as well as to build some special memories between these generations.  As our numbers grew, it was necessary to limit this spring event to our preschool through grade three students in order to fit everyone into our auditorium.

 This past Thursday, we instituted a fall grandparents event for grades four through six in order to honor grandparents and/or special guests.  Over 130 visitors joined us for this time of celebration.  The grandparents arrived early enough to tour classrooms, enjoy interviewing and being interviewed by their grandchild, as well as having their pictures taken with their grandchildren before proceeding to the middle school auditorium for our special program.  After being seated, and while waiting for the program to begin, guests were served refreshments by our sixth graders. Grandparents were reminded that they are the “secret weapons” in the lives of their grandchildren, encouraging them in their Christian faith.

The program featured presentations by our middle school chorus, as well as recitations, songs, and a short play by our fourth, fifth and sixth graders.  The program ended with some reflections from one of our grandparents, Mr. Alan Brown, who encouraged us all with a reminder as to how important it is for our children to receive a Christ-centered education.

Thanks to all who attended!  And thanks to all staff,  students, and volunteer parents who helped  make this such a successful event!  We trust that this will become an annual happening, along with our annual spring grandparents day for preschool through grade three families.

Cross Country.  Congratulations to our girls’ and  boys’ cross country teams.  This past Saturday the  girls won the state championship meet for the second year in a row!  The boys placed second!  Click here to read the News Leader account of this most remarkable achievement by both of our teams.  Way to go, Warriors!  We are proud of you!

Wow!  Let me say it again: this is a remarkable achievement for both teams!  WE ARE PROUD OF YOU!

If you would like to respond to this blog, please email me at grace@gcswarriors.org.

 

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