Flourishing Schools (Part Three)

I have been writing lately about flourishing schools.  In my role as the Head of School, I try to use the research on flourishing schools to help me examine my role in addition to the school’s efficacy.  I have been using questions in the self-evaluation.  One such question a school should ask itself in determining its strength and value is, “Is there an extensive and adequate student activities program?” To answer this, we must first agree with the value of student activities and exactly what student activities encompasses.Student activities are anything that the student does in a school program outside of the classroom and the specific learning outcomes described in the curriculum maps.  This would include athletic and non-athletic activities such as, athletics, clubs, and other outlets for students to extend themselves beyond the classrooms lessons.The nagging question for any educational leader is, “Do they help the students achieve those important outcomes?”  Student activities have assumed an increasing and apparently permanent role in schools, yet they seem to escape the critical scrutiny of curricular review that is applied to academic areas. Great, but, do student activities contribute to the achievement of intended learning outcomes?Student activities have assumed an increasing and apparently permanent role in schools, yet they seem to escape the critical scrutiny of curricular review that is applied to academic areas. Great, but, do student activities contribute to the achievement of intended learning outcomes?Research only provides limited help. Because the nature, number, and quality of student activities varies greatly from school to school, the conclusions can only be made in regards to a particular school.   Conclusions and suggestions may be helpful for pro-grams in other schools, but do not necessarily apply.  However, even though they are not generalizable, they can give insight during a school’s self evaluation when answering the questions about a flourishing school. Thus, I use the research from other schools to glean as much insight that I can.Here are some pf the common applicable themes from the research:

  • student activities provide motivation and recognition for many students who do not find motivation or recognition in the classroom.
  • Student activities enhance the student/teacher school/home and many other relation-ships, all effecting the school climate.
  • Although some activities rated higher than others in the categories of thinking, communicating, and cooperating, there is a clear consensus that student activities do contribute to the achievement of the learning outcomes.
  • Cooperation is the most highly rated outcome in both athletic and nonathletic activities. Since cooperation is an important life skill and cooperative effort in academic disciplines is limited, student activities fill a critical void in this area.

Of course there are many more reasons the student activities (athletic and nonathletic) are important.  This is why Salem Christian School works at ensuring the student life component of our program is robust.  Almost every student at our school is engaged in some student activity. Subsequently, we have implemented a Director of Student Life.  He is responsible for student council, spelling bees, Math Olympics,  fine arts events, varied clubs,  and many other opportunities for students to become involved.   Of course, our Director of Athletics is responsible for Middle School and High School, Varsity and Junior Varsity, ACCAC and PIAA games.    I for one am looking forward to seeing what programs Mr. Ference will be bringing to the school in future years through his position as Student Life Director. Additionally, I am excited to here of the addition of a junior varsity boys basketball team.

We welcome people with the ability and passion to offer after-school clubs, student activities, and other ideas.  Beware, if you have a great idea, we may call on you to come alongside of the school to get it started!

Flourishing Schools (Part One)

Flourishing Schools (Part Two)

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Joy of Changing Lives

Have you ever experienced the joy of changing a life?  That is precisely why Salem Christian School exists.  We desire to change lives and make an eternal impact.  If I may, I would like to share with you why Salem Christian School is an eternal investment worth making.  This school, since its inception in 1979, has been dedicated to developing students who love God with all their mind, body, and soul through challenging academics and a vibrant student life.  Furthermore, we are seeking partners who understand our mission and share our passion for the next generation.
It is exciting to be part of a growing school.  Salem Christian School has been growing in many aspects beyond enrollment and programs.  Our school has grown in its hunger for excellence.  It has developed a strong college and career guidance program.  It has added numerous programs and academic courses for students.  We have seen God answering prayers, giving direction, and blessing us in ways that were unexpected. God willing, our future looks bright.

In addition to some positive growth, during our recent self-study we found some areas that we need to address within our strategic plan.  Currently, we are engaged in procuring 6 desperately needed classrooms in addition to refurbishing some current space in order to accommodate an expanding program and student body.  Additionally, we have begun addressing our gymnasium needs.  We have been blessed with a gymnasium that is heavily used for co-curricular and extra-curricular activities.  In fact, 96% of our students are involved in extra-curricular activities that use the gymnasium.  We are very grateful for what God has provided and continue to use what we have to His glory.  We are committed to no debt; therefore, we need to raise an additional $200,000 to meet these completion and gymnasium renovation needs.   But, we know that He has great things in store for this important ministry in the future and always supplies what His ministries need.
We humbly request that you invest into Salem Christian School so that we can address the needed programmatic, infra-structure, and physical plant upgrades.  If you desire any additional information, please let me know.  We want you to be as confident in your investment of financial resources as we are.

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Things I Remember

Submitted by Taylor Reinhard ’12

One of the best things Salem offers is that it is a place where both great memories along with lasting friendships are formed. Some of my favorite memories in life stem from things that happened at Salem, whether it was during class, sports, or trips, and I still have friends that I graduated high school with that I see on a regular basis, because our friendships went beyond the time we spent with each other from 8:30am to 3:00pm Monday through Friday. These however are not the only friendships I developed at Salem, and this leads to what I think is the most special part of Salem, the teachers. I would be lying if I said that I loved every single subject and class I took during my time at Salem, but I would not be lying if I said that I felt like every teacher I had, especially in high school, carried a genuine care not only for the education of their students, but for their overall well-being and walk with Christ.
I recently graduated from college with a Bachelor’s of Science in Music and Worship, and will be using my gifts in music at a church in North Jersey to help them in their effort to further God’s kingdom in their communities. I didn’t even realize I had a passion for music until my senior year of high school when I first began taking guitar lessons, so I can safely say that no one at Salem pushed me to study music. What they did push me towards was the idea that a life in which we follow God’s plan and will for our lives instead of our own is the fullest life that we can live, and that often that means putting other people ahead of ourselves. It’s not important by what means I reach people for Christ, only that I reach them. These are the values Salem instilled in me, and continues to instill in its students today.
I learned plenty at Salem academically, and even felt confident in my education throughout college compared to other students, but it’s the things I learned outside of my textbooks that changed me forever. I may never be able to remember everything I learned about World War 1, or how to find the area of a trapezoid, and my grammar would not be nearly as good as it is without modern technology, but whose would? What I know I’ll never forget is that my life should always be pointing back to Christ, and that there is nothing more important than loving other people the way that Christ loves them. These are the things that were not only taught, but shown to me during my thirteen years at Salem Christian School, and for that, I am forever grateful.

By Taylor Reinhard, ‘12

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Teenager near formulas on a chalkboard

Traditions Of Teaching & Learning!

As would be expected of anyone in the throws of finalizing their doctoral dissertation, I have been reading A LOT lately about teaching and learning. Through this study, I have read again the Lost Tools of Learning by Dorothy Sayer.  She asks some very probing questions.   I thought I would hopefully burden you with the same deep contemplation on the answers to the questions.  Are you ready to go there?

“Have you ever, in listening to a debate among adult and presumably responsible people, been fretted by the extraordinary inability of the average debater to speak to the question, or to meet and refute the arguments of speakers on the other side? Or have you ever pondered upon the extremely high incidence of irrelevant matter which crops up at committee-meetings, and upon the very great rarity of persons capable of acting as chairmen of committees? And when you think of this, and think that most of our public affairs are settled by debates and committees, have you ever felt a certain sinking of the heart?

Have you ever followed a discussion in the newspapers or elsewhere and noticed how frequently writers fail to define the terms they use? Or how often, if one man does define his terms, another will assume in his reply that he was using the terms in precisely the opposite sense to that in which he has already defined them?

Have you ever been faintly troubled by the amount of slipshod syntax going about? And if so, are you troubled because it is inelegant or because it may lead to dangerous misunderstanding?

Do you ever find that young people, when they have left school, not only forget most of what they have learnt (that is only to be expected) but forget also, or betray that they have never really known, how to tackle a new subject for themselves? Are you often bothered by coming across grown-up men and women who seem unable to distinguish between a book that is sound, scholarly and properly documented, and one that is to any trained eye, very conspicuously none of these things? Or who cannot handle a library catalogue? Or who, when faced with a book of reference, betray a curious inability to extract from it the passages relevant to the particular question which interests them?

Do you often come across people for whom, all their lives, a “subject” remains a “subject,” divided by water-tight bulkheads from all other “subjects,” so that they experience very great difficulty in making an immediate mental connection between, let us say, algebra and detective fiction, sewage disposal and the price of salmon, cellulose and the distribution of rainfall-or, more generally, between such spheres of knowledge as philosophy and economics, or chemistry and art?

Are you occasionally perturbed by the things written by adult men and women for adult men and women to read?” (Dorothy Sayer, Lost Tools of Learning, 1945).

She asks these questions in 1945.  Are we still asking the same nagging questions?  Hopefully, Salem Christian School is continuing in its tradition of constant improvement.  And, through this endeavor we ensure that our students are not the topic of these questions.  Rather, we work feverishly to ensure that the generation that we influence are a different breed.  We hope that they shed the secular thought and transform to the Christ-like worldview.  Through that worldview they see the imperative to work hard, think hard, and communicate excellently.  After all, the Gospel is at stake.

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