February 15, 2014
Teachers Talk - Clarity on the Concept of Success
Darren Shankel, Principal, Peace Christian School, Chetwynd, BC

Peace Christian School invests a lot of time in the community of Chetwynd.   We presently run three adventure racing events and plan to offer a fourth for next year.  It is a very effective and popular way to foster relationships and to encourage an active lifestyle.  This year I had asked a couple of experienced racers (one of whom had won in the past), to include a novice racer on their team of three.  They agreed, but as a result were unable to complete the course on race day as a team.  I ponder the events of the previous days as I write, but find myself reflecting on more than this past season of adventure racing.
This has been the busiest and most stressed-filled year to date in my career.  In addition to the daily “normal irregularities” that come with a rapidly increasing enrollment, we were up for our six-year evaluation from the SDACC, our three-year for the provincial government, our application for senior academy status was reviewed by the NAD, and we initiated a building project that will double the size of our present facility.   In the few moments where “escape to nature” was available, these various forms of scrutiny provided the opportunity to ponder the concept of success.
A few points that are beyond pondering, or at the very least, are outside the scope of this article:
  • Academic excellence is an expectation – a given if you will, that must be synonymous with success.  Supporting the academic aspect of education is what makes a school a school.  It is not optional.
  • An increase in enrollment may not provide a valid indication of success.  We are in pursuit of quality, not quantity, right?
  • A decrease in enrollment may not provide a valid indication of a lack of success.  We are unable to control all factors in our schools, let alone our communities or economy and the factors that influence them.
So where do I start when evaluating my level of success as it pertains to my program?  What am I really trying to accomplish?  As a principal in an “Adventist Christian School”, should I develop a complex when I fill out my Closing Report in June, unable to place double-digit numbers in the “baptized box”?  What about the students who didn’t realize academic achievement?
I will acknowledge that Peace Christian School deviates from the norm in Adventist Education, but whether that reality contributes to or diminishes our level of success is fodder for another article.  Part of what makes us different is how we approach our target in order to be a success.
Adventist Education in Chetwynd is an opportunity to allow people to “test drive” what we claim to be true.  As a provider of Christian Education in our community, we must be the window that allows people to see Christ and the value in Christianity.  The ability of my staff to represent what makes us different than the public school down the street will directly result in our level of success.  Do our students feel like we care?  Do parents feel welcome when they enter our school?  Are these not key components essential to functional Christianity?  How can we expect to pass on Adventism in greater detail to our students or their parents (regardless of whether or not they are “Adventist”), if we can’t represent the most basic tenants of our belief?
What am I doing to make sure people appreciate why my school is different, rather than simply enjoying what my program offers for academics, extracurricular, or a disciplined/structured environment?
There is more to a race or a team than being “#1”.  Success in an Adventist School cannot merely be measured by how it looks like we’re doing on the surface (enrollment), any more than placement in the standings on race day.  It demands the simplicity demonstrated by the One who gave us the example to treat others the way we would like to be treated.  If we are unable to convey this concept, pitching the idea that anyone should be associated with the God we claim to serve, will make real success through our school unattainable.