Schools have cultures, just like civilizations, homes, churches, baseball teams, and every other society we’re part of. There are things I like and things I don’t like about every culture I’m in. For example, I don’t like how our national culture is obsessed with money; greed and consumerism seem rampant. Yet I am very glad that our culture has produced such amazing technology that makes so many astounding things possible that were only a dream a generation ago.
There are things I like and things I don’t like about the culture of Regents Academy. I was meditating on the culture of our school recently, and several things came to mind, both things I love about our school’s culture and things I would love to see changed about our school’s culture.
I love that Regents Academy’s culture is built on respect: honor for teachers and parents, respect for fellow students, respect for propriety and decorum, esteem for tradition, and reverence toward God.
I love that our school’s culture is marked by joy in hard work: rather than exalting laziness and shortcuts, our school exalts hard work and fosters seeking the reward that comes to those who achieve through diligence and not entitlement.
I love that Regents is serious about academics. Academic decline in our nation is well-documented and oft-lamented, yet Regents offers a positive environment that takes a classical Christian education seriously. There is a constant upward pressure on academic standards.
I love that Regents has been built on sacrifice and vision, not on baser motives like egotism, vainglory, profit, or power trips. The founders of our school have always been about the mission, not about personal ambition. That sacrificial love has trickled down into the cracks and crevices of the school’s culture, from teachers to students to families.
Are there things I want to see changed about our school’s culture? Of course there are, just like with every other culture in which I find myself. I happen to see the Regents culture up close and personal – and I know that many of its failings find their way back to its leadership (me).
There is a tendency in our school’s culture to be about grades rather than about learning. Those two things don’t have to be exclusive, of course – a student can strive for good grades and also love learning. However, the two can be mutually exclusive. A teacher sees it very clearly: the first question the student asks when presented with a new assignment is, “Will we get a grade on this?”
Something I have addressed with our junior high and high school students is their use of the tongue. Like all young people, our students are tempted to use their tongues to cut down and criticize one another and to speak inappropriately. I can think of no quicker way to foster a culture that oppresses the weak and that glories in crudity and rudeness than to allow an unbridled tongue. And even as I write these words, I am reminding myself also of the Bible’s teaching about the power of the tongue – both for good and for evil.
There are other things I could mention, of course. Everyone at our school is a sinner. But God’s grace is greater than our sin, so the keynote of our school’s culture is not sin and condemnation but redemption in Christ. Therefore, our school culture is really filled with thankfulness and joy.
The question I am left with is, What am I doing to foster a school culture that honors Christ and that lifts students up so that they reach the great heights that we aspire to?
I hope you will ask the same question, too.