Now that I have confused you with some titular word play, I thought I would share some thoughts on my recent transition from working as a public school English teacher to serving as the same in a private Christian school. My purpose is not to commend one over the other, but simply to let you in on the education I have received over the course of this past year.
Last year I moved on from Walnut High School and signed on to help start an independent Christian school in Torrance: Ambassador High School. Leading up to the change, I had been challenged to consider a Christian school because of my training at Talbot and my desire to be a bit more overt with my faith in the classroom.
As God would have it, I did make a change–a change that has benefitted my family and has been a blessing to me. However, before you think I have boiled all this down to the overly simplistic, “Christian school is better,” I wanted to share some insights I have gathered over this past semester.
First, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge some of the obvious differences. For one, prayer takes on different dimensions. Whereas prayer in the classroom was confined to silent prayers offered as students enter, at Ambassador we pray corporately, specifically, and intentionally. In addition, Pilgrim’s Progress was not on most reading lists I came across in public education, and studying The Odyssey’s view of hospitality compared to the biblical view was certainly a new lesson plan to me. Finally, being part of a staff of committed believers pursuing Christ has been such an encouragement to me.
But, lest you think my musings are confined to stating the obvious, here are some truths I did not think moving to a Christian school would so readily reveal:
- Education can be an idol. For students and staff alike, there is a constant battle to keep first things first, to submit academic excellence to serving God, to see opportunities to disciple amidst obligations to instruct and assess.
- Sin’s effects are devastatingly far reaching. The Christian school is not a safe haven–a safer haven perhaps, but not a safe haven. Kids are still suffering, families are still torn apart, the world still wedges in.
Which leads me to the biggest revelation:
- We need the Gospel. Again, call it my naivete, but I anticipated some battles would be easier to fight, if they even needed to be fought at all. Maybe it is due to the overt expression of our beliefs or more to the integration of our worldview with a pursuit of excellence in academics and discipleship, but there is a daily reminder that the gospel of God’s grace and hope is all we can rely upon.
I could develop each of these more, but that must be for another time. Perhaps an analogy can be drawn between my experience and the one who takes a job in a church office. There is the joy of being among brothers and sisters in Christ, yet the challenge of beings sinners in need of a Savior. I guess the real takeaway is that I am called to love our students and teach them well, to steward gifts responsibly, and to pursue excellence for the cause of Christ regardless of the setting: public, private, or home.
Jeff Silva is husband to Gwen and father to Jaren (10) and Allison (8). He serves as a deacon at Lighthouse and as Academic Dean at Ambassador High School in Torrance. His interests include watching people bake foods he’ll never prepare but would gladly consume, karaoke (where he can maintain his standing as a tried and true Grobanite and Fanilow), Bay Area sports, and ethical dilemmas.
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