Okay, I admit it, I hate snow days. As a school administrator, they are always causing havoc to the systematic learning necessary for successful teaching. Each year, I carefully plan out the calendar trying to get all days off in groups so there won't be too many interruptions. We have Thanksgiving Break, Christmas Break and Easter Break. These alone are enough. After each break, teachers have to take the better part of a week to get students back into their procedures and focused on learning again. Think of it this way. You take your family on a week vacation to Florida. Once you return to work, you realize that you are further behind and it takes time just to get back in the swing of things. If it is that way for us as adults, think how hard it is for children. As teachers we must understand this and adjust the schedule to allow for reteaching and more review. That's during a regular school year without any unscheduled snow days.
Once snow days are added to the mix, it becomes doubly hard to cover all the mandatory things that need covered, let alone adding extras. Each time there is a day off for snow (and generally they come in twos or threes) we must back track and remind students where they were. It is sort of like learning to play an instrument. Unless you practice every day, it's going to take a long time for you to play it well.
To top it off, the state of West Virginia has now made it mandatory that we have 180 days of student learning each year. I am not sure where they got the magical number of 180. Why not 200 or 250? But that is for another time. With this law, every day that is missed has to be made up. That's fine, but there are only so many days in the calendar and if there are many snow days, you end up adding them in June.
What is wrong with that? We are required to have Terra Nova testing in April. April is the time when about three quarters of the school year is normally over and this testing shows what the students have learned. If you are adding days back after the testing date, test results are sure to be lower than usual because you haven't taught the material yet. If you have continual breaks in the schedule with snow days that means teachers are spending more time reviewing and less time explaining new material. There are only so many hours in a day. When new material isn't covered well enough, you have more students who aren't mastering it. It is a very frustrating thing for teachers, students and administrators as well.
As the administrator of this school, I want to do everything in my power to see each student live up to his/her potential. Over the years I have learned that sending home things for students to work on while having a snow day helps them to come back more focused and lessens the effects of missing a day. Therefore, I have instructed teachers to send home extra work to be done on snow days. This work should be no more than an hour in length for most students. It is not supposed to make up the entire day missed but to keep their minds active on what is being taught. Is it a cure all for snow days? Absolutely not! But neither is adding these days to the end of the calendar year. By that time, most of the students have lost their desire to study and are focusing on summer activities. I do believe, however, that this extra work will improve overall knowledge and help promote a more sustained level of learning. There is nothing we can do about snow days. As the saying goes, "Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it." We can't do away with snow days. All we can do is try to make them less detrimental to student learning.
As I reflect on this year's middle school boys' basketball season, I am so proud of the way our team did! No we didn't go undefeated. No we didn't beat any of the good teams. And overall, we may not have had a "winning" season. However, having said that, I know that God is very pleased with their performance.
Coach Mark Jenkins, as well as assistants, Chris Kelley, Steve Caldwell and Darren Stockett, have been working for three months to improve the abilities of each player. Countless hours have gone into teaching the techniques of the game. More importantly, however, is the amount of time spent showing these young men what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Chapels before each game, prayer interspersed throughout and Christian living carried out by the coaches have had a major influence on the lives of each player. This is something of eternal value.
I attended several of the games this year and I was pleased to hear from parents of our opponents after the game how well behaved and respectful our players were - something that is unusual in this day and age. I assumed that this was something that could be said about all Christian schools and their teams. I mean that is what being a Christian is all about, right? Shouldn't we treat others as Jesus would treat them?
This week we are attending the WVCAT tournament in Williamson, WV. Let me say first that this organization is great and doing a fantastic job organizing Christian school athletics. Having said that, I was appalled at some of the things I have experienced here. Some of the coaches have the mentality of the worldly coach - treat your players like dirt, yell at them, do whatever it takes to win. One coach started yelling loudly at one of his players on the court while the game was going on. There was no reason for him to yell as the crowd was almost totally silent and you could see the shame and degradation on the player's face.
I know that maybe I am idealistic, thinking that we as Christians should act different than the world in all areas of our lives, but I truly believe that God should be evident in all we do and I have talked to many non-Christians who have been wounded deeply by the actions of "Christians", so much so that they want nothing to do with Jesus.
We played a game against a school this week and they beat us by almost twenty points and rightly so as they were so much better than us. Our boys played hard, but we were outnumbered and out skilled. When the end of the game arrived and it was time to shake hands, the traditional phrase to say is "good game" or say nothing and all and just shake hands. Some of the other team's players felt the necessity to tell our players (who had put their best into the game) that they sucked.
I was proud of the team for the way they played and was very satisfied with the results. However, when the players told me this, I was outraged. It broke my heart that other Christian schools would allow their players to act this way. My first thought was to immediately go to the coach and explain what happened. However, I am sure if I did he would just think it was sour grapes. I decided to take time to pray about it and came back to the hotel and looked up the school's webpage. I was amazed at what I found in the Athletics section. This quote shocked me to the core.
“Winning” for the Christian school means much more than out-scoring the opponent. In Christian athletics, winning means doing everything (practice and warm-up as well as competition) in a way that honors the Lord (Col 3:17) and doing everything heartily, as unto the Lord (Col 3:23). Winning, then, is measured by a different standard, not just the scoreboard but in the heart of the coach and athletes.Winning and losing is based not on a “now-centered” perspective, exhibited in the win-loss record, but on an eternal perspective. This is evidenced by achieving victory in the spiritual realm through demonstrating a Christ honoring testimony, persevering through difficult situations, winning or losing the contest with dignity, and treating opponents with respect.
My conclusion- it is easier to talk the talk than walk the walk. You may say that the coach didn't know this happened and that he wouldn't approve and I hope to find out if that is true when I talk to him. However, most coaches tell the players what is expected of them at hand shaking time. We have never had a public school team ever do anything like this. And although the boys are tough and will be okay, they were shocked to see such actions out of their "Christian" competitors.
We will never win the world to Christ as long as we continue to operate in the ways of the world. The world is looking at us to see what Jesus is like. Let's live each day in a way that is worthy of his calling and remember that actions speak much louder than words.
It's that time of year again. The lazy, crazy days of summer are quickly fading into the sunset and the smell of Fall is in the air. Parents are breathing a sigh of relief as the final purchases in preparation for school have been made and now it's just a matter of time until they have a reprieve on childcare and turn their beloved children over to the teacher of choice, knowing that this teacher will help to mold and make their children over the upcoming nine months.
It's that time of year when teachers and principals are busy preparing, planning and hopefully praying for a successful year with the students once again. Teachers painstakingly layout their rooms. They decorate the boards in their classroom. They buy just the right decorations. They make sure that everything is just right for parent orientation and that first day of school. Principals are busy making the enrollment list and checking it twice, planning schedules, and taking care of all the start-of-the- year decisions that have to be made.
It's that time of year when the memory of school last year tends to fade into oblivion and the excitement of a new year at school starts to mount. Children wait impatiently to start that first day of school with a new teacher. Most are nervous, yet hopeful that this year will bring about even more success and learning than last year. They are looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones. They are very optimistic about what the future holds and, for at least a moment, the memories of the past are gone.
As we start this new year, I encourage you to become like your children, at least in this area. Let us forget what happened in the past and look forward to what God has for us this year. Let us get excited about seeing old friends and do all in our power to make new ones. Let each new day offer a chance to start again. As Paul said in Phillipians 4:13-14, "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." NIV Thank God for new beginnings!
Once again we are at the end of another school year. The last week is dwindling down and parents, children and teachers are truthfully all ready for a break, a change in surroundings, a chance to explore other avenues of life. We are tired. We are looking forward to summer adventures. We are ready for sleeping in and relaxing, letting our minds and our bodies rest.
One of the subjects being talked about more and more frequently in West Virginia is year-round schooling. There are many different versions, but the most common is going to school for eight to ten weeks and then having two weeks off. This would be done continually throughout the year so that the teacher and the student would never be away from school for more than a period of two weeks. Proponents say it would help reduce the amount of information students forget over break and help make it easier to deal with snow days. Others say it would make a more consistent learning pattern and allow for more concentrated learning.
I, on the other hand, strongly oppose year-round schooling. My years of experience in the school system has led me to believe that everyone involved needs a considerable time off to refresh and refocus. If students only went to school for ten weeks and then had two weeks off, there would still be a considerable loss of the information during the break. Currently, with two weeks or less for Christmas break, most students still need review to remember where they were.
Secondly, who is going to watch these kids for two weeks every two and one-half months. It is hard enough now getting someone to watch kids over the summer. If you only needed someone to watch your kids two weeks every three months, it would be almost impossible to find someone willing to do it. This would be especially difficult for childcare providers.
Thirdly, what would teachers do to make up for the loss of income they normally make during the summer months? That extra income would have to be made up with higher salaries.
Finally, year-round school would be like taking a long vacation trip with your kids. After about the first ten week period they would be saying, "Is it over yet?" In the summer months, it would be nearly impossible to keep young minds focused on schooling when there are so many other activities they would rather be doing. Even higher education institutions have enough sense to make college optional in the summer time.
Although year round school sounds like a good idea, I believe, after a closer look, it would just be a waste of time and time is something we can't afford to waste.
Who is this guy?
David Friend is an ordained elder in the Evangelical Methodist Church and has been the headmaster of Covenant Christian School for over fifteen years. He holds a bachelor degree in Business Administration from West Virginia University and a bachelor degree in Christian Education from Asbury University. He is married to Rachel, his wife of 27 years and they have four grown children, Brian, Joshua, Nathaniel and Hannah.