by Cary Stelmachowicz
I want to thank my colleagues who contribute to the ALSS Journal. Your words and thoughts serve as inspiration to many as we struggle through our days and ways as leaders. Thank you for reminding me to never give up and to surround myself with Christ-centered people who live for others. While we all have great jobs, we also all struggle with the realities of life on both personal and professional levels. You have reminded me I do not struggle in isolation.
Here are three Scripture passages, and three candid thoughts relating to each.
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2
The Cycle of Fashions
Teaching and learning are fascinating subjects to research and ponder. No matter the discipline, learned instructors are faced with the task of motivating children to reach their peaks of intellectual prowess. This never ending process begins each fall and ends each spring in a multitude of graduations and dreams (often times deferred). Educators renew, refurbish, replenish, and resurrect ideas from the past and present them as the newest gloss on polished pieces of antiquity. Teachers and administrators labor and inspire, work feverishly and retire. At times there seems as if there is no rhyme or reason to this season of education, but we continue to forge ahead in an attempt to reach a future that has always, and will always elude us. Here’s the point: There is no perfect way, or perfect path to earthly success, only theories and effort in the loneliness of pursuit.
“I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths.” Proverbs 4:11
No Dummies Allowed
In 2017 an article appeared in The New York Times entitled “Why Kids Can’t Write.” The article focused on a myriad of reasons why 21st century students have difficulty expressing themselves properly in the written word. Seventy-five percent of 12th and 8th graders lack proficiency in writing according to the most recent National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). Forty percent of students who sat for the ACT writing exam lacked writing skills necessary to successfully complete a college level English composition class. Why? Reasons ranged from a lack of emphasis on writing in schools to the electronic social media frenzy distracting students and teachers alike. Pick your poison.
Closer to home, a recent marketing expert (so-called) commented to our faculty and staff regarding our website—“You have too much text. There is too much writing. You need more pictures.” We were advised that people tend to scroll by the written words and messages only viewing the pictures or streaming video. Even my opening article on the website came under scrutiny—“too many words” was the comment. Oh well. If at this point in this article you are struggling with attention span issues, get up and walk around. Perhaps enjoy a favorite beverage, but please return to read the entirety of this article.
Outside of attending church regularly, the most important habit a parent can instill in a child is reading. The second most important is writing. Role modeling reading and writing is a significant step in influencing a child’s academic success. Children emulate parental habits which, as we all know, can be both good and bad. At Lutheran High, we continue to emphasize reading and writing as crucial elements of academic achievement. We choose not to “dummy down” our educational product by just showing pictures and videos. We believe our students deserve better and greater challenges leading to greater opportunities for future success.
Lutheran High students score well above average in reading and writing and our plan is for this trend to continue. In fact, we pride ourselves in this achievement. Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are indeed crucial elements in formative education as well and our curriculum has expanded in recent years to include more courses in these areas. But the ability to read, write, and communicate effectively doubles down on any other acquired skills attained in one’s educational journey. Employability continues to depend on a variety of skills blended together to make one a desirable member of a team.
Please continue to read, write, and encourage others to do the same. Infuse these tools of antiquity into your curriculums and watch the children grow and expand. A positive correlation between staring at one’s phone and enhanced verbal communication skills has not yet been discovered. Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat will be here tomorrow, or at least in some form or facsimile. So there will be time to tune back in and not miss a friend’s latest irrelevant post, picture, or comment. Escape the irrelevancy of life and read and write. Read to learn, to enjoy, to escape, and to live again. Write to emote, to understand, to communicate, and to breathe. Try it, you might actually like it.
“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31
The first semester of school has flown by, AGAIN. My attitude toward school will remain rather furtive as I continue to approach my job with the professionalism it deserves. Since this is year 41 in a career spanning five decades, school years have a way of meandering together. While each year is unique because of the students, families, and peers, the calendar, events, and rituals can often maintain a uniformity of sameness. I pray the energy and excitement I experienced in year one remain the same in year 41 and beyond. If nothing else, I hope I can mask any misgivings or trepidation I might feel toward the tasks before me.
Now, what tasks are on the agenda for this semester? Find a director for the play, annual auction, capital campaign leadership, annual fund, student teacher housing, new hire orientation, begin a Thrift Store, prom, graduation, etc…Oh yeah, and teach my class.
We do have the greatest jobs!