Monthly Archives: September 2014
The start of a new school year brings with it a unique set of hopes and fears. Most of us are decades removed from the emotions that accompany the first day of school, but as an educator I witness them afresh each year. I was struck these past several days by the intensity of these back-to-school emotions and the attending questions that plague so many students each August. Questions like: “Will I like my teacher?” or more importantly perhaps, “Will my teacher like me?”; “Will I struggle in school?”; “Will I have a best friend”; or even “Will I have a friend?” to name a few. Yet for all this August anxiety, West Dallas Community School, with its Christ-Centered distinctive, is a place marked by hope.
While I don’t envy the students for all the uncertainty they face, the rhythms of the school year do provide the students a rare opportunity for a distinct new beginning and fresh start which we all desire. The new year offers a chance to start over with new teachers, a new attitude, new resolves, new habits, and a commitment that this year will be different. Yes, there are tears on the first day. Yes, there is nervousness and apprehension. And undoubtedly a few go home disappointed after the final bell rings. But what stands out are the beaming smiles of children unable to contain their excitement and anticipation at what this year will hold. At West Dallas Community School, this “clean slate” of a new school year breeds joy and begets hope. Perhaps this optimism functions on some level at most schools, but I think WDCS is unique for a few critical reasons.
First, it’s a hope borne from the living examples of others. 95% of our graduates have graduated from area high schools and most of them have earned or will soon earn a college degree. One is in medical school training to be a doctor. One serves as a Dallas police officer. And one now teaches 4th grade here – a daily reminder of what can be.
Additionally, it’s a hope borne from the concrete experience of measurable growth. Students learn to recognize their letters and sounds, decoding and unlocking God’s gift of language and eventually enjoying the wonder of rich literature. They learn to master their numbers. They learn to reconcile with classmates and the power of forgiveness. They learn to dribble a ball, to regulate their emotions, to control their impulses, and to peaceably receive, “no.” They learn that through discipline and focused effort, meaningful growth and change are possible.
It’s a hope borne from being known. No child here is merely a number and he is always more than his name. Our graduates experience a small, tightly knit community for 10 years; it is a community that seeks to encourage strengths and strengthen weakness. In a school that views education as “life on life” discipleship, students get in touch with their failings and the sin that is common to all human beings, as well as their God-given uniqueness and the imago dei inherent within them. In short, our students come to know their worth.
Most importantly, it’s a hope borne from the reality of the resurrected Jesus. For we are decidedly Christ-centered, and in everything we do, we seek to reflect God’s goodness and purposes in the world. It should follow then that our school would be a place of peace where students feel safe, known, and loved. We are not immune to fear and discouragement. This is not a Pollyanna hope based on religious platitudes or rose-spectacled optimism. At West Dallas Community School we are partnering with families to raise mature, courageous young men and women who will be prepared to live purposefully and intelligently in the service of God and man.
At this time of year, I’m reminded oddly enough of the great Christmas carol that proclaims, “The hope and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” Or better yet, Paul’s line to the church in Corinth, which Eugene Peterson translates,
“Whatever God has promised gets stamped with the Yes of Jesus.” 2 Corinthians 1:20
WDCS Head of School