In the world of education today there is much dialogue around
the claimed necessity for an education revolution. For example, a
current figurehead for the discussion, Sir Ken Robinson, suggests
that many of our schools focus on “convergent thinking” – most
often proposing singular solutions to problems or questions.
This compresses creativity, reduces student engagement, and
ultimately delimits the degree to which a teacher can impact his/
During the Christian Schools Canada Conference this September,
Jamie Smith expanded on this theme. He encouraged our
educational leaders to consider the unique opportunity Christian
schools have to re-form, re-imagine, and re-story our practice of
educating.2 We are working to reconnect mind and body through
curriculum, pedagogy, and embodiment in God’s ongoing story.
This is no small task. However, during our visits to SCSBC schools
already this year, it did not take long to see evidence of faithful
staff working toward this call to action.
In our first few months serving as Directors of Learning with
SCSBC, Darren and I have been blessed through visiting many
of our schools throughout the province. We have walked the
hallways, met with learning leaders and classroom teachers,
heard rich stories illustrating diverse learning cultures, and
listened to a wonderful polyphony of articulated goals and
related initiatives. We listened and reflected on the messages
the wall spoke, the culture reflected, and the gut imbued. There
exists, we found, a unanimously held ideal for education in our
schools: biblically-founded, engaged learning for all students.
This shared ideal can be likened to Gary Fenstermacher’s North
Star. Fenstermacher suggests that the North Star – or an educational
ideal – serves an important role as a critical waypoint by
which we navigate and align the actions and choices of our journey
toward an achievable North Field, or an achievable goal as destination
point3. Keeping our North Star ideal in view, we check and
realign our progress from time to time, ensuring that we keep
traveling in the intended direction toward our North Field.
This seems simple enough. In the language of visioning, goal
setting, and strategic plans, this is not new. We lock our vision on
the ideal and set attainable goals congruent with the trajectory of that vision. Each school works through this process. Yet, despite a
shared ideal among our schools for providing biblically-founded,
engaged learning for all students, the journeys, steps and chosen
vehicles may look quite different. This reality sometimes seems
to defy logic and cultivates confusion. If our schools are aligning
with a common ideal, why would pursuits and expressed articulation
of held goals look so different?
Think about the last time you engaged in solving a Sudoku
puzzle. As you settle in to solve the puzzle, there are many
potential starting points. Do you first consider an entire row
or column, or do you concentrate on one of the three by three
squares? Do you work forward, or do you attempt a backwards
deconstruction method? Brute force trial and error, or finesse?
Whatever method you choose, each step affects the subsequent steps required and a variety of sequences can lead to successful
attainment of your goal. And, this sequence might look vastly
different from one player to the next. We understand that there
exist many valid routes toward completion, and that each route
could serve well in informing and assisting other routes.
Choosing methods as we work toward an educational ideal for
our school is like this. There are many starting points, histories,
subsequent paths, methods and zigzags that make each
When schools focus on particular initiatives, they sow fruit in
those areas. This fruit is good, and we can readily identify good
fruit resulting from each school’s initiatives. Our challenge is to
find and build a language that bridges the various methods and
recognizes the social nature of how our action initiatives might
inform and build upon one another in powerful ways. We are all
moving toward the vision of the ideal. Our journeys are enriched
through the voyages of others moving in the same direction,
even where those stories exist on an alternate path.
We need to create a space for language that contains an
inherent property of teasing out the congruencies between
various school initiatives. We have opportunity to consider
the strengths of current practices we engage in and also
how the strengths of alternate methodologies might further
support and enhance what we are doing. Where our ideals for
education center on understanding and supporting the needs
of every learner under our care, the re-storying, re-forming, and
re-imagining of our daily practice will be a natural consequence.
1 Robinson, K. (2006, February). Rethinking Education. (T. Conference, Interviewer) Retrieved 2012, from http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html
2 Smith, J. (2014). Imagining the Kingdom. Christian Schools Canada Conference. Victoria, BC.
3 Fenstermacher, G. (2000). What is the Difference between the North Star and Northfield? How Educational Goals and Ideals Become Confused. Summer Institute for Superintendents on Probing National Issues in Education. Mackinac Island, Michigan.
First printed in The Link, November 2014