If only ACS was located in San Diego. Granted, we’d have to change our name to San Diego Christian School. We’d also have a terribly large part of our budget paying for the commute, we would have issues with international visas to attend SDCS, and a lot of people would have to relocate. But boy, it sure would be nice. Sunshine, 20 degrees, palm trees, and the beach—and that describes the San Diego winter! Sign me up!
When I went to San Diego in early October with 5 other ACS staff to visit High Tech High (HTH) and to participate in the Education Leadership Academy, I was awestruck by the beauty, warmth, and sunshine of the environment, even though we were kept so busy during course work and tours that we only saw the sunrise and then the sunset on the first day. During the second day of our visit/work, we were able to eat our lunch outside, and while I forgot my sunglasses at the hotel (Note to self: bring sunglasses from hotel), the early October heat (instead of fog and drizzle) was a welcome change.
High Tech High operates 11 schools across San Diego and excels at educating students in 21st century, project-based learning. As I wandered the halls, I was very impressed with the incredible amount of artwork (both 2-D wall hangings and 3-D works) on display in all of the HTH buildings. The quality of student creativity that was intentionally shown to visitors was lovely. Every space on campus was used as a place to demonstrate student achievement – even the men’s room at the high school had paintings above the urinals (how I got pictures of that art work is another story). I’m not sure what you think, but I would love to have even more of our ACS work (whether art or otherwise) on display for the community.
Another element of HTH that impressed me was their strong integration of head and hands. They do not simply want to be an academic school, nor do they simply want to be a trades-prep school; rather, they work very intentionally to make all of their projects both academically rigorous and technically demanding while striving to contribute back to their community. I really appreciate their recognition that students are more than “brains on a stick” or “hands made for a task”! They were also working very hard to make education accessible for all students in their particular socioeconomic context.
Yet despite my initial positive impressions of HTH’s environs, artwork, and integration, I felt there was a critical element missing from their school culture. The team I travelled with mused about this as well, and we recognized a number of things that ACS is doing excellently that were missing from HTH:
- A high-quality music program for all students
- Second-language training that develops cultural and lingual understanding
- An athletic program that not only develops skills, but competes strongly at Provincial levels!
But even more importantly, ACS is rooted and established in their identity and heritage, a heritage that says, “Heads and hands aren’t enough – we also need to teach your heart!”
When the team returned to work at school on a dreary Tuesday morning, my attitude of reluctance to get back into the swing of things after the beauty of San Diego was instantly changed when I saw a beautiful chalk rendition of our Elementary theme verse carefully and magnificently drawn on our chalk wall in the lobby. It reads, “The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” Job 33:4. I will gladly give up a lot of warm, sunny days to work in a place that celebrates Truth and desires this Truth to become an integral part of all lives in our community!
(But I would be even happier if we could do our Kingdom-building work in sunny California…)