January 8, 2020 | #FliptheScript
A Principal’s Perspective: Tending the Garden
I have an uncle who grows all kinds of different fruit on his small hobby farm. I always enjoy visiting him, seeing the new plants, and helping to pick blueberries. After only an hour of picking and a conversation with my uncle, I am quickly reminded of the difficult realities of getting plants to grow and bear fruit. It is a never-ending job of enduring the changing weather, managing pests, pruning, grafting, weeding, planting, and picking. That delicious blueberry pie that I enjoy every summer only comes from faithful labor.
When I consider my role as a principal at a classical Christian school, I think of the job of a gardener. I want my students to grow into maturity and bear intellectual, moral, and spiritual fruit. This is a difficult process that takes time and requires a special partnership between home and school. I have been in schools before where long-term growth is traded for ease and momentary happiness. Students lead and teachers bribe, barter, and entertain to survive the day. There are also classrooms where as long as the test grades and classroom behavior is passable, the rest of who the student is does not matter. There are no connections to what happens at home. These environments do not lead to people of maturity and character.
At PCS, we “flip the script.” We consider educating children to be a high calling with eternal significance. Growth does not always include simple answers or quick fixes. It is how we handle the small moments like struggling to read a new word, writing a neat Latin vocab flash card, singing along with a class memory song, handling a disagreement with a friend, and submitting to a teacher’s correction that form and grow our students. It is a privilege for me to walk alongside students and their parents in this process. When hard situations or discipline issues arise, I always tell students that I am so thankful that these things are being brought to light when they are young. This is God’s grace to them. They will become different people through humbling themselves and learning through difficulty. It isn’t simply the quickest or the smartest student who flourishes. It is those who have learned to submit to pruning who are the best students. They grow in skill, wisdom, and virtue. For when they are humbled, they are in a posture to receive both academically and spiritually. These are the moments that truly educate them.
Ultimately, long-term fruitfulness and maturity is rooted in my students’ realization that their growth is not from themselves or for themselves. It is only through life in Christ that my students will weather their own seasons in the future. As Jeremiah 17:7-8 says, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
In my uncle’s garden, I never mind when my hands get dirty in the soil or when my pants are perpetually grass-stained; the sweet taste of blueberry pie is worth it. In the same way, I love tending the garden at PCS. I never tire of the process because the end result is worth it.