Protect!

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by Dr. Lindsey Scholl, Logic School Coordinator 

In a recent article on leadership in Christian schools, Andrew Kern, founder of the Circe Institute, admonishes school leaders to put the nourishment of the child’s soul first on their priority list. Kern asserts that “we mustn’t call ourselves Christian schools if the driving energy of our decisions is not the love of Christ for the children, the blood He shed, and the Spirit He sent to save their souls.”  That means we have to prioritize the spiritual nourishment of our children over and above budget concerns, test scores, college admissions, and so on.

I think we would all agree with what Kern says. At TCS, I believe that we are serious about putting the children’s spiritual growth before other, more worldly, considerations. In fact, it seems to me that one of the easiest parts of Christian education is to love the children who have been entrusted to us.

But sometimes adults can be harder to love.

If we consider the Christian body as a family (and by extension, the Christian school), then the imagery of divorce is both appropriate and convicting. In how many divorces do the parents claim to “fall out of love” with the child?  It is not the children whom the parents are struggling to love; it is each other.

We are reaching the end of our school year. We have had many triumphs, but also a few trials and, alas, some friction. After all, the co-teacher/teacher/administrator triangle is a valuable structure that takes work to maintain. Friction is inevitable with a group of imperfect adults, and some of it has been justified and fruitful. It has resulted in teachers making adjustments for co-teachers, co-teachers for teachers, admin for teachers, and so on.

During these processes, it has been my prayer (and my personal challenge) that we avoid what my mom calls “sniper-fire.” This activity is the close cousin of throwing somebody under the proverbial bus. Both actions are easy to do and we may not even know we are doing them. Sniper-fire consists of short, quick comments that mock another person at some level. It is not meant to elicit a response. Take the following conversation as an example. (Out of my writer’s instinct, I have chosen to use Russian names.)

Co-teacher A: Mrs. Akulov is late to Morning Assembly again.

Co-teacher B: Yep.

Throwing somebody under the bus tends to be more obvious. For example,

Student: Mrs. Akulov, I don’t have my quiz. My mom forgot to pack it.

Teacher: Well young Vladimir, whose responsibility is it to remember your quiz?

Student [head low]: Mine, I guess.

The adult version of this would be,

Teacher: Vladimir’s mom won’t respond to my emails. I guess she’s too busy dragging her kids to Boy Scouts, gymnastics, and baseball practice.

Administrator: I know what you mean. I don’t know why Mrs. Romanov insists on running those kids all over Houston.

It is easy to correct our students for throwing teachers and parents under the bus, but much more difficult to avoid the activity ourselves. Yet the adults to whom and about whom we speak are just as much members of our Christian family as our children are. Though they might deserve to be thrown under a large yellow vehicle or taken down by sniper-fire, it is not our responsibility to subject them to those things. After all, Christ commanded the disciples to love one another, and the “one another” in question were faulty adults.

In the Christian fantasy series, The Wingfeather Saga, there is a character whose sole motivation in life is to protect the children under his charge. He has one mantra going through his head all the time: Protect! Protect! Protect! How pleasing would it be to God if we had that mantra going through our head regarding other adults? The above conversation between the teacher and administrator would now go something like this:

Teacher: Vladimir’s mom won’t respond to my emails. I guess she’s too busy dragging her kids to Boy Scouts, gymnastics, and baseball practice.

Administrator (in Protect! mode):  Mrs. Romanov has a lot going on. Perhaps your email was lost in the shuffle. Maybe you could send another one?

I hasten to add that TCS parents, teachers, and administrators tend more toward the Protect! mode than toward sniper-fire and under-the-bus-throwing. But we can always practice it more radically. In doing so, we will build up a community in which the adults love each other as well as love the children. I cannot think of anything more nourishing to a child’s soul than to witness such a phenomenon.

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