So much of our lives and society is compartmentalized and segmented. It’s easy to think, “Worship happens at church; pastors are responsible for biblical teaching and discipleship. Learning about the world happens at school; teachers are responsible for disseminating knowledge. Experiencing relationships happens at home and with friends; parents are responsible for teaching their children about love, grace, and forgiveness.” While these assumptions and responsibilities are in part correct, they do not fully represent how Scripture prescribes our lives.
The familiar words of Deuteronomy 6:5 provide the framework for a holistic approach to education and discipleship, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” As parents and Christian educators, we desire for our students to come to love God with all their minds, hearts and souls.
The verses following Deuteronomy 6:5 describe a more comprehensive model of leading our children and students: “These commandments that I give you today are to be in your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”
In other words, every place, time, and activity that we find ourselves and our children in, we can and should impress upon them the love of God and His ways–whether that is at breakfast in the morning, the commute to school, a chemistry experiment, a new painting project in art class, a language arts lesson or a math proof or a soccer practice. It is toward this reality that a Christian, educational community must move. It is a full-time job and requires “all hands on deck.”
In order for this endeavor to work, parents and educators must be on the same page. Study after study in academic research demonstrates that parental involvement has a direct, positive impact on student success. This is especially true for any school that aims to teach to the whole student–-mind, heart, and soul-–in direct alignment with and in support of values and principles taught in students’ homes and churches.
If transferring knowledge and information to students was the chief objective of a child’s education, this could arguably be done with little or no cooperation between parents and teachers. Lifeway publisher and Wheaton professor Trevon Wax expresses the truth of the matter though, “Education is formation, not just information.” A holistic approach to education and discipleship falls flat without a unified, integrated, communicative environment present among educators and families.
Worthington Christian School Assistant Head of School and Elementary School principal Jim Parrish encourages parents and teachers to view each academic year as “a nine-month conversation about the academic, social-emotional, and spiritual growth of each student.”
This “conversation” could happen at various times and in numerous ways: over the phone, via email, at drop-off or pick-up, even in the hallway. Technology makes parent-teacher communication much easier than in the past. Worthington Christian High School art teacher Beth Heisey asserts, “Just meeting the parent…opens up a wide vista of understanding of the student’s background. This is where all teaching must begin. We need to know our students to begin to do our job well.”
Teacher experience, academic research, and Scripture all point to the same truth that parent and teacher communication and cooperation are paramount as it pertains to student growth, formation, and success. Healthy parent and teacher communication includes mutual trust, intentional listening as well as speaking, and embracing the mindset that we are all on the same team and are working towards the same goals: that our children develop the mind of Christ in all areas of life.