September 15th was Back to School Day at Christian Academy in Japan(CAJ). It is always encouraging to see all of the parents who attend, especially at the elementary level. If I did my math right and matched up all of the families we have 106 families representing 132 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. There were less than 10 families that didn’t attend and that included several students who were absent. For some families it was challenging to be in 2 or more classrooms at the same time, but we appreciate the effort everyone made to make it a successful day. The video shows some of the activities that students were doing with parents along with some of the activities our students do every day.
The rest of the week had many other activities including a chapel by the fifth graders. Our theme for this year is Rooted, Growing, Seeking. They used Galatians 5:22-23; “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” as their text. In small groups they wrote and performed skits showing each of the fruit. It was wonderful to see some of my former students taking leadership roles and speaking up and out as they performed. Here is just a taste of the performance.
On Monday, September 22 we had a professional day for the teachers with no students. Often for professional days the school will invite a special speaker. This year it was decided that the principals would be in charge for the day. Being the new principal this had some challenges since the other 2 principals had already decided to spend much of the day discussing the spiritual climate at CAJ. Fortunately, in the spring the elementary division had decided to have two book discussions, one on The Vocabulary Book and one on Why Gender Matters. I am very thankful to Christine Iijima for leading the vocabulary discussion and Denise Owen for leading the discussion on gender. Here is a short video of what the elementary staff were involved in.
We began the day sharing some more of our stories and how we came to Japan and or CAJ. Then we spent some time interacting with four questions:
- How can we help our students make a difference in our world?
- What does a Christ-centered classroom look like?
- What do we want our students to be able to do when they leave elementary school?
- What are obstacles for teaching with a biblical perspective?
I also had a poster from the first day of staff meetings that asked “How will you equip students to impact the world for Christ?” A lot of good ideas and discussion was generated. Lots of laughter was also included. We spent two of the sessions discussing our chosen book. Denise had us not only share our observations and applications but had us up and moving, giving us concrete examples of how to engage our students. At the end of the day we did an inside/outside circle share. We did several rotations and then each person completed a 3-2-1. 3 things that you learned or were reminded of in a new or different way, 2 things you have a question about or would like more information or ideas on how to, 1 strategy you will commit to trying in the next week. Everyone had a lot to share and many have asked if they can do the other book. We still have 3 more sessions with each book and maybe we can have some shortened book discussions later in the year.
It has definitely been a full two weeks of seeing others step up into various leadership roles of which I am very thankful. I have also done a lot of thinking and learning about how gender influences seeing, hearing, thinking and ultimately learning. I’m excited to hear and see how what we as educators are learning will influence the strategies we use to teach students. This coming Wednesday we will be having more discussions and hopefully sharing some of the successes we’ve had as we’ve tried new strategies.
I almost forgot another colleague who has stepped up to lead a lunch meeting for the language arts teachers to have a discussion about The Daily Five and CAFE. Thank you Andrea Wordell for leading a discussion on the third Thursday of each month. I’m sure it will encourage each of the teachers who work using the Daily Five. Esther Tsuji is also helping to mentor and encourage the 4th and 5th grade teachers at lunch on Tuesday afternoons. I am so very thankful for each and every one of the staff members who support me and their colleagues.