What are the elements of successful professional development? That is the question posed to school leaders around the world as they seek to fulfill their duties of developing teachers and professional staff to serve students effectively. As school principals and heads of school, we are tasked with ensuring that our faculty and staff deliver excellent instruction utilizing effective, evidence-based techniques. But is this responsibility any different for the leader of a Christian school? I contend that it is. It must be. In fact, our professional development must be as unique as our service to students because it is different from that which is offered in our local public and non-sectarian private schools. A uniquely Christian education stands upon the philosophical idea that all truth belongs to God and this truth can be fully understood only when placed in its proper context in relationship with him who revealed it. Therefore, learning is approached best through a biblical perspective, where each field of study reveals the nature of God, the nature of humankind, and how the two relate to each other and with the rest of creation. Such a philosophy has immense implications for Christian schools and their educators and is starkly juxtaposed with another, all too common approach to Christian education that results in a secular academic program to which we add Bible study and prayer.
Just as our approach to learning should be different and informed from a biblical perspective, so also should our approach to developing Christian educators. If we, school leaders, are to expect teachers to practice honest biblical integration in their teaching practice, then we must do the hard work of biblically integrating our in-services and training programs to equip them to deliver a uniquely Christian education in the classroom. And just like Christian education, biblically integrated training requires addressing best practices in the classroom as an outworking of biblical truth. It cannot simply be the implementation of the latest educational fad supported by a few Bible verses. I believe this can be done in a natural, unforced way.
A recent example of such a training occurred during our annual fall in-service. Our chapel and in-service theme was “The Patience of Christ in Sanctification” and the central Scripture was 2 Peter 3:8–9:
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
Our quarterly training always begins with chapel and is followed by professional in-service training. The chapel speaker focused on Christ’s patience with us as we are slowly transformed into the likeness of Christ. The comforting truth is that God, though perfectly holy, does not expect us to be perfectly Christ-like overnight but instead that over time we become more like Christ “with ever-increasing glory” (2 Cor. 3:18). The Christian life can best be compared, as Jesus did, to the life of a crop that is planted with the seed of the gospel and is cultivated over a long period of time, bearing fruit in due season. His divine patience produces in us a deep sense of peace, knowing that even when we inevitably fall short, we can return to him, repent, and be forgiven, and he can use even those mistakes to mold us to the image of Christ. Alexander MacLaren, in his exposition of 2 Corinthians 3, says it this way:
Such transformation, it must be remembered, comes gradually. The language of the text regards it as a lifelong process. “We are changed”; that is a continuous operation. “From glory to glory”; that is a course which has well-marked transitions and degrees. Be not impatient if it be slow. It will take a lifetime. Do not fancy that it is finished with you. Life is not long enough for it. Do not be complacent over the partial transformation which you have felt. There is but a fragment of the great image yet reproduced in your soul, a faint outline dimly traced, with many a feature wrongly drawn, with many a line still needed, before it can be called even approximately complete. See to it that you neither turn away your gaze, nor relax your efforts till all that you have beheld in Him is repeated in you.
At the end of the chapel message, there was a clear transition into our in-service, where we focused on learning how to apply the biblical principle of God’s divine patience in our professional practice. How can we apply this truth to our professional practice as educators?
Dweck, Carol. “Carol Dweck Revisits the ‘Growth Mindset.’” Education Week, 22 Sept. 2015, www.edweek.org/leadership/opinion-carol-dweck-revisits-the-growth-mindset/2015/09?cmp=cpc-goog-ew-growth%20mindset&ccid=growth%20mindset&ccag=growth%20mindset&cckw=%2Bgrowth%20%2Bmindset&cccv=content%20ad&gclid=Cj0KEQiAnvfDBRCXrabLl6-6t-0BEiQAW4SRUM7nekFnoTxc675qBMSJycFgwERohguZWVmNDcSUg5gaAk3I8P8HAQ.
“Growth and Fixed Mindset Definition.” Growth Mindset Institute, 8 Mar. 2018, www.growthmindsetinstitute.org/2018/03/08/growth-and-fixed-mindset-definition.
MacLaren, Alexander. “MacLaren Expositions of Holy Scripture.” Bible Hub, biblehub.com/commentaries/maclaren/2_corinthians/3.htm.
Thomas Lambert lives in south Mississippi with his wife, Rachael, and their three children. He is the Head of School at Enlightium Academy, a virtual Christian school that serves homeschool, online, and co-op students around the world.