Head of School Blog

Thoughts on Charlottesville

Like me, you were no doubt shocked and sickened by the events in Charlottesville this past weekend. We know that we live in a world filled with sin and hate, but in the last few days this fact has been placed vividly in front of us. For the majority of the individuals who read this note, we live a lifestyle that insulates us from the worst aspects of this evil reality. However, times like these shock us to attention and provide an important reminder that we can not sit idle while, as 1 Peter 5:8 states, “your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

Earlier today, I read a post from Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, the Catholic Archbishop of Philadelphia. While many have shared condemnation over the events in Charlottesville, Archbishop Chaput’s words resonate. After sharing that “Racism is a poison of the soul” and calling for prayers for those injured in the violence from the weekend, Chaput shares:

But we need more than pious public statements. If our anger today is just another mental virus displaced tomorrow by the next distraction or outrage we find in the media, nothing will change. Charlottesville matters. It’s a snapshot of our public unraveling into real hatreds brutally exposed; a collapse of restraint and mutual respect now taking place across the country. We need to keep the images of Charlottesville alive in our memories. If we want a different kind of country in the future, we need to start today with a conversation in our own hearts, and an insistence on the same in others. That may sound simple. But the history of our nation and its tortured attitudes toward race proves exactly the opposite.

As a school community dedicated to Christ and with a mission to train up young people “to impact their world for Christ”, we have a profound opportunity and responsibility to change this narrative moving forward on behalf of our children, and their children. As a community, we must be willing to look introspectively at our practices to make sure that we celebrate the unity found in and through Christ, to have the “conversation in our own hearts” referenced by Chaput. Are we modeling a better way for our children? We, the adults in the community, must be willing to have uncomfortable conversations. We must also stand up for those who are suffering and oppressed. If we want our culture at large to change, we need to make sure that we are equipping our children with the ability to empathize, understand, and reflect the love of Christ to everyone.

In closing, I want to share a passage from Eric Metaxas’s book 7 Men and the Secret of their Greatness. I highly recommend this book, a collection of biographies of seven Christian men who impacted the world for Christ. In a paragraph about German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Metaxas writes:

Bonhoeffer was perhaps the first of his countrymen to see that Christians were obliged to speak out for those who could not, to “be a voice for the voiceless.” In the case of Nazi Germany, that meant the Jews. At one point Bonhoeffer made the incendiary statement that “only he who stands up for the Jews may sing Gregorian chants.” What he meant was that if we were not heroically and courageously doing what God wanted us to do, God was not interested in our public displays of worship. To sing to God when we were not doing what God called us to do was to be a hypocrite. Many were offended at Bonhoeffer’s outspokenness on these issues. But he insisted that Jesus was the “man for others,” and to follow Jesus meant to stand up for the dignity of those who were different than us.

Blessings to you and yours,

Eric Bradley

GRACE Christian School is a loving community that spiritually and academically equips, challenges, and inspires students to impact their world for Christ.

 

 

Building Community

Dear GRACE Community,

As we begin the 2017-2018 school year, our 35th year of Christian education, GRACE continues to value our loving and caring community. It is, without a doubt, our greatest asset in nurturing the next generation, a point that was brought up frequently in parent coffees, family interviews, and the end-of-year parent survey.  Within the context of our loving community, GRACE’s mission is to not only equip your children spiritually and academically, but also with skills that will enable them to be successful in life, at every age, in and out of the classroom. To this end, you will be seeing the phrase “Equipping Students for Life” throughout our communications this year. We continue to partner with you to prepare your children for college, but also for overcoming challenges, facing failure, working collaboratively, and a host of other skills that will enable them to thrive in our ever-changing world. It is our strong belief that this will help our students to develop their God-given gifts and talents in a way that enables them to impact their world for Christ.  

The loving community that surrounds our student body is foundational to our school identity.  A few years ago, I read the book The Boys in the Boat, an excellent account of the 1936 US Olympic rowing team. Each member of the team brought unique talents to the group and each individual played a vital role in the team’s success. The book provides an incredible illustration of the power of team and community. As with the rowing team, every member of the GRACE community has an important role to play. Some have been blessed with the gift of time and we value it greatly as our on-campus volunteers are an essential part of GRACE running smoothly. Some have been blessed with gifts and talents that can be utilized during special events during the year. Some have been blessed with financial resources that enable us to enhance our students’ opportunities. Our GRACE Community represents  a local body of Christ, and as such, each contribution is valuable. As Paul shares in his first letter to the Corinthians, “God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” (1 Corinthians 12: 18-21) Each individual part of our GRACE body brings value to the whole.

We want to grow together this year as a community and we want to encourage each family to be in relationship with the faculty, staff, and other families at GRACE. To that end, we plan to be intentional in providing opportunities for growth and fellowship among our community, including the following:

  • Head of School Coffees and Luncheons – In my inaugural year at GRACE, I hosted several coffee events. These served as a great way for me to get to know the community. My plan is to continue to host these informal fellowship sessions, or something similar, during the school year. Dates will be announced via email or #WhatsUpAtGRACE.
  • Men of GRACE: Donuts for Dads – GRACE fathers have a tradition of gathering each month for a special time of devotion, fellowship, and consumption of donuts. This is a great opportunity for men throughout the GRACE community to build relationships, learn from one another, and grow through the special messages provided by a guest speaker. Contact Greg Robinson for more information.
  • Women of GRACE: Prayer Teams – Every week, groups of GRACE moms gather to share a time of prayer for our community. Contact Lucille Sossaman or Lori Ritterskamp for more information.
  • Principal Coffees  – During the first quarter, Mrs. Gill and Mrs. Thompson provide opportunities for parents in each grade level to discuss issues specific to that age group. Dates for 2017-2018 can be found on the GRACE Academic Calendar (search for Principal Coffee).
  • Parent Teacher Fellowship – PTF committees provide parents with opportunities to become involved in the school in the areas of their respective interests and expertise. See the PTF Page on the GRACE Website for more information.
  • Book Clubs – We are working with the PTF leadership team to develop a series of book studies for parents during the upcoming year. Details about the books and meeting times will be available at a later date.
  • Friday Night Tailgating – This fall, the Eagles Club will be partnering with the Athletic Department to create tailgating events at our home football games.  

As we focus more intentionally on connecting members of the GRACE community in meaningful ways, we will also be changing the manner in which we request financial contributions in the hopes of maximizing the benefit of your generosity. We are completing plans to transition the majority of field trips and monetary classroom “asks” into a grade level activity fee that would be assessed at the beginning of the year, but could be paid over the course of the entire school year, like tuition. We are also working to reduce the number of asks in support of myriad causes throughout the year. For instance, we are not conducting a Boosterthon event this year. From a development standpoint, we will be placing a renewed emphasis on investing in our annual fund by asking you to prayerfully consider to support GRACE financially by participating in one of the following giving opportunities:

  1. October: 10 Day Annual Fund Giving Campaign
  2. December: End of Year Giving
  3. March: Celebrate GRACE Annual Fundraising Dinner

Our annual fund allows us to go above and beyond our operational budget to enhance the GRACE experience in ways that directly benefit your students as well as accelerate the process of improving our campuses. In recent years, the annual fund giving has been used for the following upgrades:

  • Classroom renovations on both campuses;
  • Security cameras on both campuses;
  • Upper Campus renovations of the Chapel, Activity Building, and second floor classrooms;
  • Lower Campus remodeling of the fifth-grade and sixth-grade hallway and locker areas;
  • Sound equipment for the fine arts program;
  • Purchase of a fourteen passenger bus;
  • Athletic equipment;
  • New computers benefitting both campuses;
  • Installation and implementation of the Raptor security system on both campuses;
  • A complete overhaul of the bathrooms on the lower campus; and
  • New HVAC systems for the lower campus.

Thank you for the opportunity to partner with your family. We look forward to a great year and to seeing what God has in store for us in the coming months.

My GRACE Experience Part 2

This post was written by Head of School, Eric Bradley

Last week, I referenced Joshua’s leadership on the journey out of the wilderness and the dedication of the twelve stones to symbolize God’s blessings on the community. I also noted that this was part of Joshua’s standard operating procedure: seek God’s direction, follow God’s guidance, pause to give thanks, and then move forward. This week’s post focuses on the idea of moving forward.

Celebrate GRACE in many ways is our version of Joshua’s memorial stones on the banks of the Jordan River. It was a time to honor God for the blessings he has poured out over our community as we paused from our crazy schedules, gathered together, and told stories of God’s goodness. From that place of remembrance and thanksgiving, we look forward. As we look forward, my vision is that our future GRACE experience will include the following:

  • We will be a school where each student is known as an individual and knows that he or she is loved first and foremost by God, but also by the adults who surround them.
  • We will be leaders in the use of technology, something that we can already celebrate as a strength, but an area that requires near constant investment and a vigilant eye on the horizon.
  • Our teachers  will have the best opportunities for professional development, and a system within our school that supports and rewards those teachers who dare to innovate and inspire our kids.
  • We will be seen as leaders in growing students academically, spiritually, and emotionally.
  • We will cultivate students who are thinkers and dreamers, filled with hope of what they can do with God’s help and the gifts He has given them.
  • We will help to instill in our students a joy that can only come through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

In the Old Testament, Joshua used the stones to symbolize God’s love for His people. In the New Testament, Peter uses the imagery of stones somewhat differently. In First Peter chapter 2, Peter describes Jesus Christ as the living stone who is the foundation of our faith. He also calls us to be living stones, building a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood. One commentary on this verse states, “What God does in us together is important. He is building something out of us together.” Teachers, coaches, fellow parents, and classmates are some of the living stones in our children’s lives. It is our prayer that when they look back on their years at GRACE, they will remember those that invested in building their spiritual house, but, as living stones, they will always look forward to opportunities to serve God. May these living stones be a testimony to all that God has done to bless our community.

My GRACE Experience – Part 1

This post was written by Head of School, Eric Bradley

In March, I participated in a mission trip to Costa Rica with eight high school students, and two other members of the GRACE staff. It was an incredible experience. I was amazed by what our students were able to accomplish, and proud to be part of their community. During our time in Costa Rica, we studied the story of Joshua during their transition from the time in the wilderness to their arrival in the Promised Land. Joshua chapter 4 shares the account of the Israelites crossing the Jordan River. After they crossed Joshua gathered 12 stones, representing the 12 tribes of Israel, and stacked them up together as a remembrance of what God had done. The stones were there to make sure they never forgot the experience.  Then they moved forward into the Promised Land. Throughout the book of Joshua, this pattern is repeated: pausing before or after big events, taking time to remember and honor God’s covenant, then pushing forward.

Each member of our community has a GRACE experience. Every student, teacher, parent, grandparent, and staff member have a story to tell about how this community has impacted their life. Each story is different. Each story is personal. My GRACE experience began a little over a year ago with a telephone conversation with JB Baker, the board member in charge of the Head of School selection committee.

  • My GRACE experience includes families who reached out to my wife, Amy, and I as we moved to this area making us feel welcome.  
  • It includes the experience of my middle school daughter, Amelia, and volleyball tryouts when all she could talk about was how kind and encouraging the players and coaches were.
  • It includes watching middle and high school English teachers abandon Plan B and scramble on the first day of school when we received our certificate of occupancy for their new classrooms fifteen minutes before the first bell rang.
  • My GRACE experience includes moms who send notes to let me know they are praying for me and dads who meet the first Friday of every month to eat donuts, share a devotion, and swap stories about their glory days.
  • My GRACE experience includes spending time with our youngest students at  lunch, having staring contests, showing off my goofy socks, and wrecking the ten minutes of quiet that their teachers are trying to establish.
  • It includes getting doused by middle and high school students with colored powder during the color run, and the memorable moments on the 1101 campus when the students occasionally have been kind enough to say hi to the awkward new guy in the hallway.
  • My GRACE experience includes being allowed to participate in the high school retreat, celebrating state titles in cross country and swimming, joining the record crowd of over 1000 people at Homecoming as our football team beat our cross-town rivals, cheering our basketball team with big wins over our cross-town rivals again, and watching our kids perform in Annie and in The Miracle Worker.
  • It includes attending a funeral and hearing incredible testimonies of lives impacted by GRACE teaching assistant Sherry Lunsford during her tenure at this school.
  • It includes praying with staff members dealing with the different challenges that take place during the life of a school, life in a community.
  • It includes participating in the artSpark walk downtown.
  • My experience includes more than a dozen coffees with parents to learn about their GRACE experiences.
  • Perhaps most importantly to me, My GRACE experience includes hearing my children talk about how much their teachers love them, and watching a community welcome them into the fold.

What is your GRACE experience? Have you stopped to thank God for what he has provided through GRACE? Before you click, take a moment to think about your GRACE experience and the impact this community has made on you and your family. I have been blessed over the course of the past nine months to hear countless stories of God’s blessings over members of the GRACE community. Next week, following Joshua’s lead, I will share some more about my GRACE experience, as well as take some time to share thoughts about the future of GRACE.

Fighting Fake and Biased News

This blog post is written by Daniel O’Brien, our 7th-12th grade Media Specialist and originally appeared in the 21st Century GRACE blog on February 4, 2017.

I am currently working with our Senior Seminar classes during a 3-day mini-unit in which we investigate news. As it turns out, many students have a difficult time interpreting the news — but truthfully, who doesn’t have difficulty interpreting news when we are constantly bombarded by sensationalized headlines from all points on the political spectrum every time we check a social media account?

During this mini-unit, we take time to look at how fake news is created. We study the example of Eric Tucker’s tweet that falsely claimed to have found “paid protester” buses at a Trump rally, how it was picked up by message boards, reposted, shared on Facebook, and then re-tweeted by the President himself; and how, despite reaching 16.7 million people, the story was completely false, debunked and admitted to later on. We also examine the article on “Fake News Sausage Factories,” as well as Cameron Harris, examining why websites publish sensationalized, fictitious, and inflammatory stories, and exactly how easy it is for them to publish these stories. (Hint: They want the ad revenue from when you click on the link — it is all monetarily driven). We also talk about tips for evaluating if a story is true, or sensationalized and re-shared opinions.

We then shift gears and investigate bias within news. After talking about what elements of the news contain and portray bias, we take a look at a neutral tragic event, like the San Bernardino or Sandy Hook shootings. We choose one of these events because it is a starting point; everyone can agree that these events are tragedies. Each student is given an article published by a news source, ranging from fairly unbiased to one of the many conspiracy-laden “news” sources on the internet.

After evaluating the article, they try and place the source on the following spectrum:

  • liberal conspiracy theories/garbage
  • left bias
  • left-center bias
  • least biased
  • right-center bias
  • right bias
  • conservative conspiracy theories/garbage.

Students need to back up their placement with reasoning. Next, they take a look at a heavily political article of their choice from the same source and repeat the process. They’re given the opportunity to re-examine and change their minds in light of a heavily politicized and opinionated issue.

After this second round, I introduce them to Media Bias Fact Check. Media Bias Fact Check is a resource that is invaluable when assessing the onslaught of news posts and publications we see each day. Not only do they create and explain a methodology for evaluating the bias of any particular news source and list sources that fall under different biases, they also take into account and inform you of conspiracy websites, “questionable sources” (aka fake news), what sources are least biased, and even provide a Google Chrome Extension that activates and provides this information when you visit a news source.

We then finish by discussing the importance of following more than one viewpoint in the  news, and talk about how to cross-cut your news feed with unbiased sources as well as sources from across the political spectrum — thereby breaking yourself free of the echo chamber that so easily occurs in our normal news consumption and social media curation.

As time goes on it will only become more difficult to determine legitimacy and bias within news, and that it is incredibly important to teach our students that you can’t believe everything you read, and that it is possible to be intentional and smart about the choices they make as they grow up in an age of information overload.

MLK Day and Education

“Intelligence plus character, that is the true goal of education.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  

As educators, we invest in our students to develop their intelligence; however, our prayer for all students at GRACE Christian School is that they will develop a faith in Christ that will equip them with the character necessary to successfully navigate and persevere through life’s challenges.

In the nearly half century since his passing, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has taken his place alongside great figures of American History including George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. As often happens with historical figures, it is easy to forget that Dr. King was a living, breathing person who felt fear, pain, and joy. It is important to remember that he was not always a larger-than-life figure. In one of his sermons, Dr. King speaks of sitting alone in his kitchen late one night, terrified of what the days ahead held for him and his family. His description is not of the iconic quotable figure speaking to the masses on the National Mall, but rather of a new father and young pastor of a church in Montgomery, Alabama. As he sat at his kitchen table, shaken by death threats and considering his future, he prayed. According to Dr. King, he was comforted by a sense that God would never leave him. Three days later, a bomb destroyed his front porch. In the coming years, death threats came daily. Dr. King was beaten and arrested on multiple occasions, but continued his mission of peaceful protest, emboldened by the knowledge that his Lord would not forsake him. In multiple sermons, Dr. King cited the prayer in his kitchen as a defining moment that prepared him for the trials ahead.

As followers of Christ, it is important for us to remember that salvation does not come with a promise of an easy life. Rather, the decision to follow Christ brings a promise of great difficulties. However, our foundation in Christ enables us to persevere, a theme found in Dr. King’s life and throughout the New Testament. We do well to remember the words Paul shared with the believers suffering in Rome:

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:1-5

 

Diversity & Educational Technology

As we begin the second semester, I thought you might be interested in reading about one of the many ways our team seeks to use technology as a tool to teach our students. Quite often, the most important lessons taught in the classroom relate to those life skills that go beyond the lesson at hand: collaboration, respect for others, analytical skills, etc. Please continue reading to see how GRACE’s use of educational technology can help students better appreciate the value of diversity.

This post is written by Laura Warmke, our 7th-12th grade Technology Coach and originally appeared in the 21st Century GRACE blog.

Ok, that title is bit misleading because this is not a blog post about the usual educational technology (edtech) diversity topic: how we need more girls and minorities in computer science (although of course we do). This is a post about how diversity–in race, in gender, in socioeconomic class–is valuable and what edtech can do about it.

I just finished reading this fabulous article: How Diversity Makes Us Smarter. Katherine W. Phillips presents fascinating research showing not only correlation but causation between diverse groups and innovation. One study found that “being with similar others leads us to think we all hold the same information and share the same perspective. This perspective…is what hinders creativity and innovation.” Diversity shakes our assumptions that others think like us, which makes us work harder and more creatively to come up with solutions. That, in turn, leads to more innovation and better problem-solving.

At GRACE, we are moving towards doing more and more open learning (e.g. 20% time, design thinking, project-based learning) where student innovation is a major goal. So how does this research affect us?

There are many non-tech ways to answer that question, but considering that I’m the Technology Coach, I’m going to think about it from an edtech perspective:

  • Random groups: If students are left to themselves to choose their own groups, they most likely will choose people who are like them and minimize diversity. Perhaps teachers should consider doing more projects with truly random groups. It’s hard to be completely random, so using something like an online random group generator could help.
  • Brainstorming: Making groups diverse does no good if certain group members’ ideas are always shot down. This can be fixed by good brainstorming rules, but it can also be helped by edtech tools. Dotstorming allows anonymous group voting on ideas. This way students feel more comfortable voting on the best idea, not just the one presented by the most popular student.
  • Mentors, part I: Educational technology can be wonderful for getting mentors’ diverse perspectives into the classroom. Even if it’s just having sophomores mentored by seniors, that’s increasing diversity (age diversity) in a project and should lead to greater innovation. However, it’s hard to get a senior and a sophomore physically together, so that’s where technology comes in. Perhaps mentors build a Padlet or Google Doc to document their interactions.
  • Mentors, part II: This is a strong argument for collaborating with other classrooms outside GRACE.  The best place I’ve found for finding people who want to collaborate is the Google+ Connected Classrooms group. It’s an all grades, all subjects group where people seek out U.S. or worldwide connections. [Hint: If you join, you can turn off the notifications if you want so you aren’t overwhelmed by then.  It can be a bit much.] Then, of course, you’ll run your collaboration through edtech: emails, Skype/Google Hangouts, Google Drive, Kahoot, Popplet, Twitter, Stormboard, Voicethread.  The important things here is not the edtech tool you use; it’s exposing your students to people who are different than them.
  • Blogs: If you have access to a computer and the internet, you have access to an astonishing number of people who post their opinions online. For free. Sometimes those opinions are derogatory, hateful, or wrong, but other times they are just different or (I’m going there) diverse. One way to get students the benefits of diversity without having to set up a connection with another classroom is to have students read blogs and leave helpful comments on a post. Hopefully, this process of interacting with people who don’t think like them forces students to think more and results in more creativity.
  • Real-world exhibitions and launches: a major part of project-based learning is exhibiting your work, whether that work is a drawing, a presentation, or a digital artifact. If there is some way to do this where students anticipate a diverse audience reacting their product–say, if the artwork is going to be displayed in NC State’s art department–this should prompt students to consider more deeply their product’s design and execution. Bonus points for allowing viewers to leave feedback for students (perhaps via Twitter?) and then having students take those into account on the next iteration of their product.

A final note: actively seeking out diversity in the classroom probably won’t be easy, on you or your students. As Phillips notes, there are positives and negatives to diversity: “people work harder in diverse environments both cognitively and socially. They might not like it, but the hard work can lead to better outcomes.” Be prepared for some push back from students who find it easier to be with others who think like them. But also be prepared for diversity to push students to new ideas they never would have developed before.

2016 Christmas Message

Over the past several weeks, the word JOY has repeatedly entered into my life. I believe it began when my wife, Amy, brought home a five-foot tall white sign with JOY written in large red letters to use in our Christmas decorating. At GRACE, we have “JOY” written in large red letters in the main hallway of our TK-6th grade campus. Additionally, the word resounds through the stream of Christmas songs playing on our radios and the dialogue in every Hallmark channel movie. “JOY” is probably one of the most used words during the Christmas season, even though we may not hear it too often the other eleven months of the year.

The word “JOY” showed up as part of the devotion Assistant Principal Isaiah Whelpley shared at the December Donuts for Dads meeting. Isaiah read from John 15 and shared the importance of abiding in Christ. This is the passage where Jesus shares that He “is the vine and [His] Father is the vinedresser.” The illustration that follows in verses 2-10 discuss the importance of abiding in Christ. Abide has several meanings, including to remain with, to wait for, to accept without opposition, to act in accord with, and to remain faithful to. As part of the devotion, Isaiah did a fantastic job of sharing the need for all of us to abide in Christ at all times, and emphasized the need to do this amidst the busyness of our daily lives, and especially at Christmas. When we abide in Christ, it shows through our actions, especially to those who are closest to us. When we abide in Christ, people notice. When we abide in Christ, we become more like Christ in our thoughts.

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:9-11)

As Isaiah wrapped up his devotion that morning, I couldn’t help but get caught up in verse 11 — “These things I have spoken to you, that My JOY may remain in you, and that your JOY may be full.” So as you experience this hectic present-shopping, package-wrapping, parade-walking, carol-singing, midterm-grading, Hallmark movie-watching, college football-bowling, family-visiting, and sweet-eating time, remember that the key to finding JOY amidst all of this is to abide in Christ. Phillips Brooks, the author of O Little Town of Bethlehem, must have understood this when he wrote the line, “O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Emmanuel.”

“O holy Child of Bethlehem | Descend to us, we pray | Cast out our sin and enter in | Be born to us today | We hear the Christmas angels | The great glad tidings tell | O come to us, abide with us | Our Lord Emmanuel | O come to us, abide with us | Our Lord Emmanuel” (O Little Town of Bethlehem)

We are thankful for every GRACE family and hope your JOY is full this December as you abide in Him, and throughout the new year. Please enjoy this 2016 Christmas Video that was filmed and edited by our 6th grade Multimedia Elective class.

Our Trying Times

“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in the crisis, shrink from that service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.”  Thomas Paine, December, 1776

When Thomas Paine penned The Crisis two-hundred-and-forty years ago, the United States of America was little more than an audacious idea. Independence from Great Britain had not been won. The Constitution and Bill of Rights had not been written. Paine could not have envisioned a Civil War that would end slavery or the struggle for equality that would follow. He had no idea that the very loosely connected confederation of states would eventually become the greatest economic and military power the world would ever know. However, what he did see with uncanny clarity was that he was in the midst of an event of historic importance. He grasped the magnitude of the moment.  Specifically, he understood that if the colonists failed to respond to this moment with action — tangible, impassioned, purposeful action — the moment would be lost.

I feel we have reached another crisis point in American history that requires action, albeit a very different type. The 2016 election results revealed empirically what we already knew emotionally — our nation is deeply divided. We are challenged by passionately held economic and philosophical differences, as well as racial divisions dating back generations, that reach well beyond political party ideologies. Disappointingly, there is an inability or unwillingness among our population to acknowledge that reasonable, well-intentioned people can have differing viewpoints. It is important for us to think back to Paine’s words. We may be guilty of esteeming our freedom too lightly, forgetting that it was paid for dearly by those who did not shrink from serving their country, the very veterans we honored last week in the days following the election.  At Gettysburg, Lincoln poetically acknowledged the sacrifice of the men who “gave the last full measure of devotion” so that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” The sacrifices of those men, as well as the men and women who both preceded and followed them, must not be in vain. Those individuals sacrificed for our right to worship as we please, to protest peacefully when we feel the need to do so, and to elect our leaders through democratic means. Today, billions of men and women around the world dream of the freedoms that we too often take for granted. As Americans, we owe a debt that cannot be fully repaid. We honor the sacrifices made by demonstrating the proper respect for and practice of those freedoms that have been so dearly won.

Furthermore, as ambassadors for Christ on foreign soil (2 Corinthians 5:20), we have an even greater responsibility in service to our eternal King. As was the case in 1776, this moment requires action. There are people throughout our nation who are wounded, angry, and frightened. We have the great responsibility and awesome opportunity to demonstrate to these individuals the love of Christ, whether we find common ground over political ideologies or not. In his book Serious Times, Dr. James Emery White writes, “The heart of Jesus’ strategy for transforming the world was unleashing a force of transformed lives…This is how the world will be changed: individuals who have had their lives touched by Christ turning around and touching the lives of others.” In the midst of this volatile season of American history, I encourage you to be counter-cultural by demonstrating a love and respect for your neighbor that sets you apart from others. Allow the joy of Christ to shine through you in such a manner that others cannot help but be drawn to it. Seek to be the difference-maker in your community through acts of servant-leadership. Speak truth, but do so in love. Demonstrate compassion under challenging circumstances. In so doing, we will play our part in healing the wounds of our nation, but, more importantly, we will live out our calling from Romans 12 to “offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.”

Contributing Author:

  • Eric Bradley, Head of School

Open Learning

As GRACE grows and takes fuller advantage of our technology resources, you may hear the term Open Learning. Open Learning does not mean GRACE is getting rid of curriculum, standards or teachers. Open Learning means that teachers provide students with real life problems or questions and students work on possible solutions. In the process of grappling with these questions, students learn the curriculum while sharpening their collaboration, divergent thinking, and inquiry skills. Teachers may use pedagogical techniques like design thinking, project-based learning, gamification or flipped learning to facilitate this process.  At the end of the unit, the students will produce a result that demonstrates understanding of the information as well as creativity and innovation in the solution.

Open Learning is built upon the foundations of technology and the 21st Century learning skills of collaboration, creativity, communication, and critical thinking. GRACE wants our students to be “lifelong learners who know how to research, analyze, and synthesize new information and present it professionally.”  Open Learning helps us achieve and advance this goal with an emphasis on student choice, inquiry, and creation for real world audiences.  All of this will help students gain skills they need for college and the workforce as well as prepare them to impact their world for Christ.

In the process of working on bigger picture projects, teachers impart the skills needed for students to succeed at all levels. There will always be times when the best way for students to learn is a teacher sharing their knowledge. Additionally, teachers are actively involved with students designing questions and guiding projects, mentoring, monitoring, and coming alongside students to enable them to get the most out of the experience.

GRACE teachers are focusing on building collaboration across subjects.  For example, students may be working on a project that achieves curricular goals in history, English, and Bible simultaneously. This approach ensures that students are not overloaded with projects in multiple classes within a span of time. This cross-curricular collaboration also helps students see the relevance of their studies in multiple areas and the real-life relationships between subjects. Our students are poised to be leaders in their generation. GRACE is preparing them for this role into the future.

Contributing Authors:

  • Mandy Gill, Principal, Grades 7-12
  • Laura Warmke, Technology Coach, Grades 7-12
  • Daniel O’Brien, Media Specialist, Grades 7-12