From a Biblical Worldview Blog
Leadership is one of the buzzwords in education as well as our culture. Our country is starving for genuine leaders. It would be the rare open house at an independent school in which the school administration did not speak to developing students into leaders. We all know that who leads matters, whether it is in government, education, churches, and even families. As goes the leader so goes the country, school, community, and children. Schools will offer leadership classes, trips, and seminars; however, we must ask what is truly effective in growing leaders?
Dr. Michael Lindsay, president of Gordon College in Massachusetts, recently completed the largest leadership study of its kind. Over the course of 10 years he interviewed more than 500 leaders while collecting data on their lives and careers. His list of interviewees including 250 CEOs (20% of them from Fortune 100 companies), former Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush, dozens of cabinet secretaries, members of Congress, heads of federal bureaus and agencies representing all White House administrations from President Johnson to Obama. Also profiled were more than 100 leaders from the world’s largest nonprofit organizations including the American Red Cross as well as Harvard and Stanford Universities. Dr. Lindsay’s research can be found in his compelling book, View from the Top.
As a parent and school leader, I was intrigued to learn the recipe for leadership. Certainly there was a list of things that I in my family or we at Charlotte Christian could do to assure that one of our students would be included in the next study. The reality is that no list or recipe exists, and of course we can never forget the role of God’s providence in determining our nation’s leaders. Romans 13:1 reminds us that, “… For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”
However, there are interesting data points from the research that are worth noting:
- 59% of the leaders came from a middle class home
- 41% of the leaders were varsity athletes in high school, and 23% played a sport in college
- 58% of the leaders participated in student government in either high school or college
- Many of the leaders were Eagle Scouts (an exact percentage was not given in the book)
- Nearly two-thirds of the leaders attended undergraduate institutions that are not considered elite institutions (97% did graduate from college)
What can we conclude from this research? I believe it is the concept of balance. It is important for students to participate in activities outside of their academic pursuits. Athletics teach valuable lessons about teamwork, authority, and discipline. Fine arts cultivate a student’s creativity and ability to work with others. Student government provides leadership training even when dealing with the mundane tasks of a homecoming dance.
At Charlotte Christian we want to create a culture that presents our students with balance. We desire that they are challenged by a rigorous academic program, but we also want students to have the opportunity and time to participate in and enjoy co-curricular opportunities at school and out of school, like scouting and church activities. We also want everyone in our community to recognize that the college admissions list is important, but it is not the most important way to measure a school. At Charlotte Christian we aim to teach the whole child and help them achieve balance in their lives.
Head of School
on Wednesday July 30
“We need to help students feel comfortable with failure.”
I recently had the opportunity, along with 35 Christian school leaders from around the country, to spend a day at the Harvard School of Business. After touring the beautiful campus we spent time in the relatively new Harvard Innovation Lab. This is a fascinating place where undergrads and graduate students come together to try new concepts and wrestle through business ideas. The technology and collaborative space was inspiring and thought-provoking, but the quote above is what had me thinking after we departed.
One of my colleagues asked the executive director of the Innovation Lab what was one of his biggest challenges and he responded with, “we need to help students feel comfortable with failure.” It makes sense if you ponder it long enough - students who make it to Harvard typically have not struggled a lot on their academic journey. Yet this leader of a program at one of our nation’s most prestigious institutions alluded that we do not teach failure well.
I loved P.E. in middle and high school, mainly because we mostly played a lot of dodge ball. Since then schools have banned the game from P.E. classes and recess. We no longer keep score when the youngest of athletes compete, and of course everyone receives a trophy at the end. Changes are also evident in the academic realm. When I brought a bad grade home, my parents asked what I could have done differently and encouraged me to try harder next time. Of course, this is only if I showed them the grade, otherwise they waited months for the next report card. Today, parents check grades daily and poor grades are disputed with the teacher, not by the student but by the parent.
Relationships with my peers were formed on the playground or in the neighborhood where survival of the fittest ruled and parents rarely intervened (usually only if blood was drawn). Today, we organize play-dates and everything is sterilized.
My childhood was not perfect, and certainly some of these experiences caused damage. My childhood however was not free of failure. In those instances when I did fail, I learned the valuable lesson of dusting myself off and getting back up and trying again. I believe this is what is missing in our children’s lives today. We are so concerned about protecting them and nurturing them, that we do not allow them to fail. If they do fail, we give them excuses - it is the teacher’s fault, the coach does not know what he is doing, or the director does not see your talent.
Paul Tough in his wonderful book, How Children Succeed, explains that often grit is the missing trait in our children. His research shows that the young people who have experienced failure and the wonderful and difficult journey of trying again (with parental assistance), are the leaders of the future.
Charlotte Christian needs to be a place that students develop grit. Failure is an option because often the best lessons are learned there. Life is filled with disappointment - sometimes we do not make the team or win the election or are chosen for the award. Sometimes we lose, but what matters is what happens internally after those disappointments. We need to allow our children to experience this valuable lesson and as parents we need to slow down in always smoothing the waters too early before lessons can be learned.
Peter, the rock on whom Jesus built the church, was a man of grit. He failed in a public way several times, but God used those failures for His purposes and plans. I want to be at a school that develops Peters, so God the Father can use our alumni to be the rocks of the church in the future.
Head of School
on Tuesday May 20
How can we measure the success of our school? When comparing schools many would look at some objective measures including college admission statistics, standardized test scores, or colleges attended by the faculty members. Others may measure a school’s success by state championships won by the athletic teams or recognitions garnered by the fine arts programs. Some may look at a school’s facilities or the amount of technology on a campus.
Our school’s mission statement is “Charlotte Christian School is a Christ-centered, college preparatory school, equipping and developing students to effectively integrate Biblical truth and learning into their daily lives and to impact the culture for Christ.” I believe the best measure for our school’s success would be to understand how well we are fulfilling our mission. How do we really know if students are integrating Biblical truth and learning into their lives? How do you measure the impact on the culture for Christ? To make matters even more difficult, we are talking about students and children whose minds are not fully formed while they are in our midst. Personally I am glad that no one was evaluating the success of Christianity in my life at the age of 17.
I believe the best measure of any Christian school is when its alumni are 30. After all, we are in the seed planting business. We throw the seeds of God’s love and His word to the fields of our students and we let God water those seeds. We need to remember that some will bloom right away and others will take years. Patience becomes vital for us as we measure the school’s mission. I am not surprised that our students do not always act biblically; rather I pray that the lessons taught while they are on our campus take root and lead to fruit at some point.
A few weeks ago while reading World magazine I was delighted to read about one of our alumni, Daniel Bard class of 2003. Daniel had tremendous success at Charlotte Christian as a baseball pitcher and continued his career at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and eventually climbed all the way to the major leagues pitching for the Boston Red Sox. For several years Bard had tremendous success with the Red Sox, but then due to injury and some other changes within the organization, his success turned to struggle. He was eventually released by the Red Sox and wondered if his career was over at the age of 25.
Bard told the reporter from World, “I needed to grow as a person, as a husband. It’s been a hard couple of years, but I thank God for them. If I had stayed in Boston, receiving cheers…It’s easy to let things go to your head…If it hadn’t been for these problems, I wouldn’t have met people who really help me.”
How do we measure the success of our school? We read about men like Daniel Bard and we see that he is a man walking with God, thanking God for failure as well as success. Daniel is not perfect, but he is a testimony of the value of family, church, and school all partnering together to develop a biblical worldview in young men and women.
Head of School
on Tuesday April 22
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