Faith in Learning Blog
There are many moments throughout the day, in and out of the classroom, where there are lessons, conversations, and discussions that have real-world impact not only for students but also for teachers. Those moments show students that what happens in a classroom is much more significant than just a grade.
Over spring break I texted one of my colleagues and asked, specifically, why they felt called to teach middle school students, and not another grade level. We ended up having a great conversation about why we felt God had called each of us to teach middle schoolers. One theme that seemed to unify our thoughts was that middle school is a time of discovery, and we thoroughly enjoy being part of that process.
Spiritually speaking, in middle school students begin to develop their own belief systems. Up until this point in life, most children have identified with their parent’s faith assumptions, and that is the way that it should be (Deut. 6). By contrast, the middle years are a time when students begin to ask fundamental questions about what they have been taught to believe, what the world seems to say or indicate, and how those two realities may (or may not) line up in their minds. This is a healthy part of the process of becoming a young adult, and for those of us who are called to the middle school ministry, this constitutes a large part of why we love these students.
After lunch the other day a student approached me and asked for prayer about a situation they were going through. The student then explained how they had struggled with something difficult in the previous year, and had felt their faith, “start to go away,” and they were scared that would happen again. We had a great conversation, I prayed for the student, and the student walked away knowing that the struggle to “keep the faith” in the midst of life’s difficulties is a completely normal part of growing up.
In fact, as I pointed out to this student, it is living in this tension between the realities of how life is and of how we wish it would be, that develops the faith in us that we desire. Paul, in Romans 5, says that the testing of our faith develops perseverance, perseverance develops character, and character develops hope. So if we follow Paul’s line of thinking, the very thing that we are all looking for, hope, is initiated by a faith crisis. And yet, too often the thing we try to avoid more than anything in life is a crisis of any kind, let alone of our faith.
I walked away from that conversation with that student encouraged. Not because they were going through a difficult time. My heart broke for them, and I desperately wanted to be able to alleviate the pain and uncertainty. No, my encouragement was based in the truth that God will do what He says that He will do, and therefore I was encouraged that as long as this student continued to pursue Christ, they would find the one thing they were looking for: hope.
So why do I love middle school? There are a lot of reasons. But primary among those reasons is the reality that they are years when faith, perseverance, character, and hope begin to develop in an independently healthy way.Luke Boythe
Middle School Spiritual Life Director
The Bryte Little Efird Middle School/Upper School Media Center is my happy place. By “happy place,” I mean it’s the spot where I feel the most encouragement, the most challenge, the most opportunity, the most excitement over what we’re doing at Charlotte Christian School and how that work is impacting our students and our culture. To be sure, that’s a lofty statement, and one that requires some support.
At the opening of the media center Mr. Terry Efird offered some insight into what his mother, for whom the media center is named, might think of this space were she able to see it today. I remember him specifically speaking about her love for reading and writing but also about how she loved to see people gathered around a table in community with one another. That vision - the significance of words and our need for community really defines this space.
While media centers are certainly focused around words of all kinds - it’s only the engagement of its patrons that make a media center a vital part of the community. Which is why we’re thrilled to see that, at this point in the year, we’ve doubled our check-outs from the last school year - our students love to read. To watch them browse through books or exclaim excitedly over a new title feeds into the encouragement and joy we all feel in this space. We’ve launched a writing center to be housed in the media center - our students feel and express a desire to confidently and competently express their thoughts for a variety of assignments. And while such an endeavor is challenging, good writing skills ensure endless opportunities for this next generation.
But one of my favorite pieces of the media center would never even catch your eye unless you knew what to look for. It can look like a drab, gray wall but transforms each week into a place of conversation, thoughtfulness, and, sometimes, vulnerability.
In an effort to prompt and provide tools for collaboration, an entire wall in the media center functions as a white board. During exams, it’s often covered with algebraic equations, scientific terms, or historical timelines. But lately, we’ve been throwing out a question to students and watching as they populate the wall with answers that nearly always inspire, challenge, or excite us.
One week we asked, “What advice would you give to the grade below you?” Answers ranged from “Spend time with your family…make memories” to “Don’t stress over grades…God has a plan for all of us.” I watched our middle school students write notes of encouragement about peer pressure and our high school students encourage those younger than them to “try new things” and “work hard.” Our students listen; they’re hearing the words of wisdom from parents, teachers, coaches, pastors - and clearly, it’s making an impact. Another week we asked, “Who is your favorite character from a book/movie/TV show?” A thoughtful eighth grader, deep into a unit on To Kill a Mockingbird responded, “Atticus Finch - because he sees a problem from all angles.” This is the kind of thinking we want from our students.
“The Wall” has become a place to “listen” to each other, to think about the things that matter, to cultivate conversation - a “table” where we gather together and learn about one another’s favorite places, what we’re grateful for, and personal goals. Each time I walk by “The Wall,” I’m reminded of what our students are growing into, or, as this week’s question asks, what superpowers they most desire. As always, their answers may surprise you: “infinite ideas,” “to be able not to judge others,” “to love others equally,” or “to be able to cure all sadness and disease.” Pretty desirable superpowers, yes?With Hope,
MS/US Media Specialist
Post tenebras lux is a Latin phrase that is loosely translated as, "Light after darkness," or "After darkness, light." The phrase is thought to have originated during the time of the Protestant Reformation, and was used as a way of describing the Reformers belief that what had once been lost in darkness, namely a proper view of the Gospel, was now being brought to light through a proper understanding of God's word.
Similarly, at my church we sing a song that ends with the following lyrics:
The tomb where soldiers watched in vain
Was borrowed for three days
His body there would not remain
Our God has robbed the grave
As we are well into the season of Lent, and as we move towards our celebrations of Easter, I have been thinking a lot about darkness and light. As I live my life as a follower of Christ, husband, father, and teacher/coach, I have been paying attention to where these themes show up in my life, in my family, and in the lives of my students. This much seems to be certain: In life, there will be darkness. Whether it is the death of someone close to us, the tearing apart of a family, the sting of a loss or a bad grade, the fracturing of a relationship, or anything else that this world can throw at us, there will be significant darkness in our lives. David says as much in Psalm 23 (emphasis added by me):
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death...
Too often one of the most difficult things to do is to see any light in the midst of the darkness. When we are going through the season of pain and suffering, it can be difficult to wrap our minds around the fact that even the most severe darkness is no match for the light of Christ and His resurrection. In fact Paul points to the resurrection as the ultimate hope for all believers. In 1 Corinthians 15:14 that, "And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain." In that same passage, Paul confidently proclaims that Christ HAS been raised from the dead, and therefore there is hope, and that hope is found in the resurrection.
Why is there such hope in the resurrection? The hope found in the resurrection is this: If Christ has defeated death and therefore sin, that means that even the darkest moments of our lives are no match for the light of Christ and his resurrection. This is the best news for us and for our students. This means that no matter what is going on in their lives, there is hope. It doesn't always feel like it, and it doesn't always look like it, but God is always at work to bring light from the darkness.
As the disciples sat huddled and hidden on that Saturday, it didn't seem like God was at work. But as they raced into the open tomb that Sunday, everything had changed. Jesus had been resurrected from the grave, defeating sin, death, and Satan; and now He was about the process of bringing light into the dark places, of bringing the hope of the Gospel into our lives.
As we get closer to Easter, remember that there is hope. No matter how dark, or how bleak, life may be, the light of Christ found in the resurrection shines brightly in the midst of that darkness.
MS Spiritual Life Director & MS Bible Teacher
Each year my head spins with ideas about how to empower my students and help them to become successful writers. I know this similar ideal is true for my colleagues here at Charlotte Christian. I’m not a parent yet, but I imagine their brains brim with ideas of their child’s possibilities. We all are working together for the common goal of helping students reach their potential, helping them achieve success. The lower school has been discussing and learning about a mindset that leads to that end.
Recently, in our lower school professional development, Third Grade Teacher Lisa Smitherman gave a wonderful presentation on the growth mindset. In summary, there are two types of mindsets: growth and fixed. Carol Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, defines a growth mindset as, “People believing that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work - brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.” On the other hand a fixed mindset is characterized by believing your intelligence or abilities are static, unchangeable. Parents and teachers should encourage students to possess the growth mindset in all areas of their life. Modeling the growth mindset will also set an example for children to follow. We should all ask ourselves “What mindset do I usually possess? What do I model for my student?”
As I walked into my classroom the day after professional development, I reflected on each of my students and the mindset that they walk into my classroom with, as well as the mindset I model for them. Some of my learners persevere even when learning or trying something new is difficult, while others tend to believe they cannot succeed before they even see if they can. The way I react as their teacher, and the way their parents react can help them continue in the growth mindset or shift away from the fixed. Our praise should encourage effort and my lessons should foster a love for the process rather than a desired positive outcome. In thinking about what the Bible might say about the growth mindset, I am reminded of Colossians 3:23 that reminds us all to “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” Doing our best is Christ-honoring and is not based on achieving specific results.
Somewhere along the way, we, as teachers and parents, have at times confused wanting our children to be successful with helping them to feel successful. We lavish them with praises and rewards when they do a good job for we want them to feel success in small ways in hopes that they will continue to succeed in big ways. We do this because we love them, we see their potential, and we desire the best for them. The question we must all return to is, “Are we creating lifelong learners?”
Students with a growth mindset will understand that the way they become more intelligent or master a new skill is by developing it through hard work, practice, and time. Therefore, as educators we want to give process praise rather than person praise. (MindsetKit). For example, when a student(s) comes home with excellent work rather than hearing, “You are so smart! I knew you could do it!” they should hear, “You must have worked really hard on this! I’m proud of your effort.” Encouraging the process and development rather than the outcome and their ability will lay a foundation in the way that they think and the way they learn. Possessing a growth mindset will positively impact all areas of their life, as they understand that we are never done learning.
In our efforts to help our students find success, we must help them to see that hard work is a crucial component of learning. Whether they are practicing their soccer skills, solving math problems, or reading their Bible, this growth mindset can be applied. And our praise and the way we respond to their efforts can serve to develop this mindset within them. For we know as humans, as Christ-followers, we should continually grow and learn, putting time and effort in, especially in the face of obstacles, so that we all may find success.
Fifth Grade Teacher
Growth happens when we are uncomfortable and healthy things grow.
As a husband, father, teacher, and coach God has only just begun to show me the depth of the truth found in the statement above. Just the other morning my boys and I were driving to school listening to one of our favorite song writer/theologians, Andy Mineo, and this lyric came across my speakers:
God prepare me for the war
Comfort be the thing that'll make a king fall
Eyes on the Lord, gotta grip that blade of the sword
Tell me how you plan on gettin' swole if you don't ever get sore
Comfort is what our culture is selling, but it is being sold to us in an interesting way. Culture will sell us on the fact that if we buy/do/think/become this one certain thing, THEN we will have comfortably arrived. But then it will hit us with a bait and switch that tells us once we have attained that comfort, we just need this one more thing to remain there. So you see it is a constant shell game where a false sense of comfort is grown from the seeds of discontent.
God is constantly showing me that we are called to be people of the “And,” not the, “Or.” We are called to live in the tension that exists in the, “And.” As I was sitting in church last weekend, God spoke another tension into my heart and mind: growth and satisfaction.
In John 15 Jesus very clearly tells us that if we are healthy, we will be about the process of growing. We will grow in our love for each other, as we are connected to Him and the Father. We will grow in our love for the Father, as we are in line with who Jesus is. If we are healthy, we will grow. But if we are not careful, we will miss the truth that growth is never comfortable. In fact, the opposite is true: growth will always bring with it discomfort. In fact, according to Jesus, growth will bring with it pruning, cutting back, and digging out the dead things so that life may happen. Growth will not be comfortable.
And yet, in Philippians 4:10-13, Paul says that we are to be satisfied with who we are and where we are, in Christ. If you look at the life of Paul, it does not look like a life that should be marked with satisfaction. Beaten, shipwrecked, abandoned, and imprisoned, culture would tell Paul that he had either done something wrong or that he has no reason to be content. And yet, he is very clear in saying that he has, “Learned to be content in whatever he has” (Phil. 4:11). For Paul his situation did not dictate his contentment. Instead his comfort was rooted in knowing who he was in Christ (4:13).
The Christian life seems to exist in this tension: the constant pursuit of growth and satisfaction. We are called to be in constant pursuit of growth, in Christ. Always striving to be better, always striving to grow, even when it’s uncomfortable. At the same time we are called to be thankful for who we are and where we are in Christ. But all of that takes trust. It takes trusting the loving, caring hand of the Good Gardener to cut back what we don’t need so that what we do need grows. It takes trusting the love of our Good Father that no matter what is happening around us, we know that He is completing a work in us.
Let’s grow together this year. It will be uncomfortable, and it will take work, but if we will be fully satisfied in who Christ is, the beauty that we will see in our growth will far outweigh the pain it may take to get there.Never Stop Growing.
MS Spiritual Life Director & MS Bible Teacher
Right now, I’m sitting in my favorite spot in the new Bryte Little Efird MS/US Media Center - a bright yellow chair directly in front of a large window that overlooks the main campus entrance. The normal crowd at this time of day trickles in - a few seniors occupy their normal spot in what I affectionately term the “fishbowl” - a glass-walled conference room in the middle of the space. Two teachers head to the tucked-in spots where they spend their planning periods. Tutors work with students in the booths along the wall; they hunch over math and chemistry textbooks, actively dialoguing. A group of sixth grade boys rush through the front doors, sign in and speed-walk to the iMacs - as if I’m unaware of this ritual race. The space is full. A quiet buzz keeps it from utter silence.
When a few close friends found out about my job shift - from a ninth grade classroom to the media center - they said something along the lines of: “That will be so good for your introvert tendencies.” At the time, I readily agreed. Any introvert-teacher could tell you of the beautiful struggle of maintaining the energy needed to interact at a level of depth with young people all day.
But as it often happens, I’ve sensed God’s prodding - a barely audible suggestion that community is more important than we think it is and doesn’t always take the form we expect it to. More than that, the picture I’ve seen from the beginning of August has been how essential our community is to our story, our learning, and our days.
Some days there’s more than a quiet buzz here. For instance, we watch Knights Knews together at the beginning of second period on Fridays. Students hurriedly gather others from their nooks and books, and we sit and laugh together, reminisce, and share a few jokes. Sometimes a conversation emerges in a far corner and for 15 minutes we’re distracted from our work because we’re listening to each other. These may be my favorite moments - because it reveals that even when we’re quietly working alone, we’re still together. Everyone’s aware of the other - it’s what makes the media center work. A common ground. A shared space.
This beautiful collaboration shows up quite literally on the walls [don’t worry - you can write on them!], the windows [those too!], and in the moments of dialogue that pop up over a news story or an assignment. Teachers model work and study for students. Tutors support and encourage through tough material. Students prod each other on. And work is accomplished. We’re learning together.
If you haven’t visited yet, stop by. Find a favorite spot. Enjoy the peace. Read a bit or work on your to do list. In community with others. After all - we were created for it.
MS/US Media Specialist
Life seems to force us into what I have begun to refer to as “Decisions of the Or.” Do I want power or performance when I purchase a car? Do I want a salad or fries when I buy lunch (I have heard there are places you can get both)? Do I want good grades or good athletic performances? Do I want a church that is concerned with being excellent on Sunday mornings so that people want to come worship there ordo I want a church that goes out to serve people as their main focus? Do I hold my child accountable for actions that are not in line with the will of God or do I love him and tell him that it’s okay when we mess up, while working to shield him from the consequences of his actions? I am currently reading a book that floated the idea that we don’t have to settle for the “or” in life. Instead, this book argues, we are called to be people of the “And,” not the, “Or.”
In 2 Timothy, Paul says that we have been given a, “Spirit of power and love andself-control.” If I am really honest, too often my attitude and actions portray the belief that I am a person of the “Or” more than I want to be. Too often I falsely believe that if I have been given a spirit of love, then of course I have to eradicate all vestiges of power from my soul. Or if I have been given the spirit of power, then all sense of self-control must go, because of course power and self-control cannot peacefully co-exist. I see this manifested the most when as a dad I am called to hold my child accountable for one of his actions, and instead of exercising powerand love and self-control, I default to whichever one makes me feel best in the moment.
More than I would like to admit, the traits listed in that verse become mutually exclusive in my life. For Paul, however, the “And” is more powerful and complete than the “Or.” We have been called to exercise fully what we have been given by the Holy Spirit, which is who allows all those things to co-exist in complete harmony in Christ.
As the varsity head coach and director of the girls’ basketball program, I am teaching the girls that God wants them to be players of the “and.” We have 8 Program Pillars, and they are listed in the couplets below:
- Humility and Hard Work – It’s all a gift (humility) but you still need to work your hardest to maximize it (hard work).
- Love and Toughness – We love each other and our God best when we never give up and fight to the end.
- Faith and Identity – The process is bigger than any of us (faith) and yet it does not get accomplished without us (identity).
- Joy and Competition – It is fun (joy) when we compete together to bring the best out in everyone (competition).
On the court and in life we believe that the traits listed above do not have to be mutually exclusive. We believe that we can work as hard as we possibly can, while still understanding that what we are working with is merely a gift from God. We believe that the process, that life, is bigger than any one of us, and yet at the same time the accomplishment of the process does not happen without us. We believe that our love is best shown for God and others when we never give up and fight to the end. And we believe that ultimately joy is found in striving to bring out the best in everyone, not in whether we win or lose.
We are striving to hold each other accountable to the standard of being a team of people, a family, that is defined by the “and.” Our hope is that you see that and will join us on the journey.
For His glory and our good,
2 Timothy 1:7
 Michael Zigarelli, The Messiah Method: The Seven Disciplines of the Winningest College Soccer Program in America (Xulon Press, 2011), 83-109.
“We are just waiting for the choreographer, and then we can get started.”
I was standing on the stage in Lamb/Johnson Gymnasium that had been built forShrek when I heard those words come from Mrs. Bear’s mouth. Dancing? Dancing!?! I hadn’t signed up for that. As she laughed, I turned to see two of my former students smiling at me, apparently giddy at the thought of massive Mr. Boythe dancing in the upcoming production. As I tried to process the steps that had led me to this critical moment in my life, one of my students said, “Mr. Boythe, don’t worry, you will be fine.”
The teacher had become the student.
Luke 6:40 is a verse that simultaneously motivates and frightens me. Jesus says, “The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.” As a teacher it reminds me that the moments that we have been given with our students are gifts from God and are incredible opportunities to build into their lives. At the same time it reminds me that on some level my influence in their lives will be seen in how they act and react in certain situations. Certainly teachers don’t bear the full responsibility of who our students become, but certainly we offer massive influence over who they become.
On some real level, who they become is a reflection of who I am as a teacher.
In the moments when we teach them, do they see Jesus being reflected in my life? In the moments when we correct them, do they see the love and justice of God being reflected in my life? In the moments when we comfort and encourage them, do they see the comfort and encouragement of the Father in my life? Though none of us is perfect, my hope is that more often than not, they see Jesus in my life.
In my moment of fear it was a student who comforted me, a fully trained student. Has she arrived, spiritually? No, but none of us has. But in that moment, she was able to speak into my life, to offer me peace and encouragement when I needed it the most, in a way that I hope that I had done for her multiple years ago. As teachers we should always be looking for ways to challenge ourselves, to push ourselves, to learn, and to grow. For me it was really cool, and a huge blessing, to have had the privilege of being taught by my student that day.
College prep is about much more than academics, it is also about teaching students to be fully trained. I count it a joy to be part of that process.
A learning teacher,
Middle School Bible Teacher
So here we are—at the end of the school year. The seniors have spent their last day in class. Students have completed their exams. And the second class I taught at Charlotte Christian School has been graduating from college for the past two weeks or so--I’ve been “liking” Facebook pictures and celebratory posts with a lump in my throat. Time does more than fly. Most times it feels like a runaway dog we’re trying to catch by the leash.
I asked my ninth graders to mimic a poem in their textbook but to change the title from “To Poets” to “To Freshmen.” Had I their permission, I’d share a sample or two. But, suffice it to say—they all apparently spent some time thinking, and, in the end, their poems examine their own first year of high school. They warn the rising ninth graders about the whole runaway dog thing—time will go so much faster than they think it will. Work hard, they say. But enjoy yourselves—don’t become so caught up in doing stuff that you lose sight of friendships and the wonders of high school. Remember the important things: God, family, friends.
And while my students (or “lovelies” as I call them—affectionately, not in a Cruella Deville voice) have expressed definite excitement over losing the “freshmen” moniker, I detect a measure of angst in their poems. If this year went fast, then the next three…
David, in the Psalms, expresses the same idea—our lifespans are like a blade of grass, he laments? Or exclaims? Because, this is one of the tensions in our faith I struggle with. Of course my heart cries out for Christ to come quickly. But life is also beautiful and significant and with every step of independence my sons take, for instance, my heart feels that tiny bit of angst. Slow down. Stop growing so quickly.
I imagine I’m not alone in this.
My son, nearly eight, asked me the other day if I want him to “stay little.” I thought about it for a second and said, “There are some things I miss. I used to be able to pick you up whenever I wanted to and you couldn’t protest. And in a few years, maybe months, I may not be able to pick you up at all. But every new stage brings something about you that I love. It was a big deal when your vocabulary was big enough for us to have conversations. And now, we talk about really important ideas and I enjoy that. I guess it’s that I know your baby days are over. I can’t get them back. But I love what’s ahead.” [Or something like that.]
Time passes. There’s no leash to grab onto, no way to freeze time. And so, I suppose we need a certain grace to examine the past, learn a few things, and smile at the future. Because I haven’t seen, yet, that beauty, joy, and hope are limited to any specific age…
Upper School English Teacher
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