Education | News

The old wooden stool

Christian schools weather a full year of COVID-19.

I have been sitting too much these days. Other than grocery runs, I hardly get out of the house. I miss walking around schools during my regular visits. I miss playing in my annual volleyball league. Many of us in the world of education feel like we’ve been sitting for too long.

Like our public school counterparts, Christian schools have bounced back and forth between remote and in-school learning. Although our Christian schools as a whole have done remarkably well during this time, a full calendar year of COVID-19 hasn’t been without its challenges.

The pandemic seems to have amplified both the unity and some of the division within our Christian schools. The amazing gifts and resilience of educators has been incredibly apparent. But some school communities were engaged in strongly polarized arguments over mask-wearing. There has been increased generosity from donors assisting families hit hard by the economic impact of the pandemic. But in some schools, the voice of dissent with remote learning grew louder and led to an exodus of families to home schooling.

Heightened levels of stress and anxiety are understandable as we try to adjust to the disruption of our daily routines while the sightlines to the future are so unclear. Both staff and students typically rely on the consistency of schedules, lesson plans and relational learning. As much as we’ve tried to recreate this, it’s difficult to do outside of the physical structures of the school itself. Yet that was our task: create a new structure in education this year, outside of the classroom and into the home. And because of the covenantal promise of Christian education, we have been able to adapt.

Building on the promises

The Christian school movement has always seen school and family as fundamental partners in education. This arises out of the covenantal Promise of God and his people, thereby forming both the structural foundation but also the relational dynamics of the three-legged stool of Christian education: church, school and home. The steadfast strength of these essential structures has allowed us to weather the storm of the pandemic. Historically, most supporters of Christian education are accustomed to the school leg bearing the majority of the weight of the educational experience. The pandemic has forced us to shift the weight around, so the home leg has been bearing more educational weight than ever before.

COVID-19 has moved education from within the walls of the school into the living rooms of our homes. Families are now bearing a significant portion of the educational experience. This is not to minimize the work of the professional educator. With the constant flux of remote and in-class learning, they have had to be nimble, creative and flexible in providing a valuable and authentic learning experience. Yet much of the classroom management and in-class activities have fallen at the feet of the parents.

But the innate structural understanding of Christian education has helped Christian schools to experience success during a time when the public education system has struggled. As Christian school supporters, we expect some aspects of education to take place in our home – maybe not to the extent that has happened during the pandemic! Nonetheless, the school has always been welcomed in our homes. Therefore, when the home leg of the three-legged stool is asked to bear more weight for a time, it isn’t an affront to us as it may be to others with a different understanding of education. We’ve made promises to each other that we are willing to follow through on. Even though our covenantal promise has been strained, pushed and bent, the wood of the stool has held and supported our Christian schools throughout this pandemic journey.

And it’s old wood.

The wood of this stool has been carved and shaped throughout the years and its very grain is the wisdom of those who, like us now, put their faith in the Promise.

  • Jonathan is the Executive Director of Vocate (formerly Edifide). He lives in Copetown, Ontario, with his wife and four children.

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