An earlier article identified the “4 Essential Areas of Leader Involvement in the Nuts & Bolts of School“… (the “Nuts & Bolts” referring to curriculum, instruction, and assessment). When it comes to the Christian School leader, however, there are unique considerations.
Before we look at those considerations, it must first be clear that what makes any educational element Christian is found in how those elements are delivered. This includes the environment the teacher develops in relationship to his or her students, the teacher’s preparation in understanding and reflecting on their worldview concerning the curriculum, and last and least, the actual content of the curriculum.
In many schools, what primarily makes the Christian curriculum Christian is integrating the Bible into the course material. Some Christian schools and universities promote and define the Bible’s integration into all academic disciplines as the measure of Christian education. This approach, however, can work against the mission of a decidedly Christian school.
Rather than building a curriculum to integrate biblical text and references into the subject content, leaders have a much greater impact when setting goals and agendas integrating Christian faith and worldview into the learning experiences. Through their direct involvement in curriculum, instruction, and assessment, leaders serve as models and living exemplars of this approach.
The primary factors with the greatest bearing on Christian curriculum construction are not related to course content. Removing the focus from the content is a challenge for some Christian educators to understand and embrace fully. Many fundamentally define curriculum in terms of course content. The curriculum really is more about the means and the materials related to how a course is taught. The actual content, so long as it meets the necessary learning outcomes, is far less consequential.
The essential means of authentic Christian curriculum, instruction, and assessment practices are found in these three categories:
- The preparation of the teacher
- The environment of the learning
- The relationship of the teachers with students and peers
Schools know the importance of teachers mastering the material they are teaching. The best teachers possess a treasure-trove of knowledge, experience, and resources to meet their students’ learning needs at any given time. The same should hold in the integration of their Christian faith. Christian school leaders must ensure the spiritual preparation of teachers. This preparation needs to be full and rich with the knowledge of the Scriptures, their experience in a dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ, and the resources of a deep and clearly understood monotheistic worldview molding and shaping every thought and every word.
Trusted leaders know how critical the learning environment is for supporting student growth. The same is true for Christian faith integration. For example, some may view displaying Bible verses throughout the classroom as supporting course objectives and outcomes. The practice may do so but is not an accurate indicator of faith-integration. A more meaningful way to identify authentic means and materials of faith integration is to ask the question, “Do students see and experience Christ through what they observe, what they hear, and what they feel?”
It has been said that “life is all about relationships,” and faith integration into curriculum, instruction, and assessment is no different. If schools want to reach students for Christ, their leaders, teachers, and staff must model Jesus. For many students, the only close and personal image of Jesus they will know is a Christian school leader, teacher, or staff member. This relationship and interpersonal connection have the greatest ability to mark the school as Christian.
©Toby A. Travis, Ed.D. All Rights Reserved