What outcomes should we look for and expect through excellent scheduling practices?
- Joy: a good schedule spurs on five components of joy
- Flow: “The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile” (Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi).
- Harmonious Passion: “a strong inclination toward an activity that people like, that they find important, and in which they invest time and energy” (Robert Vallerand)
- Laughter: “Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them’” (Psalms 126:2).
- Inner Tranquility: “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14).
- Love: “‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Jesus of Nazareth).
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- High academic performance
This references the ability of each child to be successful in your school. I emphasize the word each. We all learned early in Sunday School the story of the ninety-nine sheep and the one. The shepherd left the ninety-nine in order to find the one that was lost (Matthew 18:12). As Christian educators, we are deeply committed to the individual, just as our Father in heaven has numbered the hairs on our heads (Matthew 10:30).
In our Christian schools, we are committed to each child and to each child’s success. Every parent has enrolled their child and paid tuition to your school to ensure the care, nurture, and success of that child. The schedule’s design and the policies and procedures that surround that design must provide the best possible environment for academic success, by which we mean mission delivery success. Schedule is an important driver of the conditions for mission success.
It should also be that, as a result, scheduling practice will pose questions and issues that might cause you to have some deeper conversations about your school’s definition of success, classroom and otherwise. Scheduling at its best seeks to maximize the potential of each individual child rather than all children collectively. The value is not in the average / mean (and certainly not the average that is “better” than other schools), or the exceptionality of the high score (making your school appear elite), but in the amazing accomplishment of each child as an individual member of Jesus’ “flock.”
- Balanced lives
School has become far more hectic and the pressures seem to increase every year. It is not right for us to throw up our hands and say, “That’s life and suck it up!” Being in school should teach our children far more than the ability to run the maze quickly. Through the structure of each school day, we are creating the attitudes and practices that will follow that child into adulthood. What do healthy lifestyle habits look like? Consider whether:
- The child has an opportunity to eat in a relaxed manner, interacting socially with friends and neighbors.
- There is a chance on a daily basis for the child to be reflective and have moments of quiet.
- There is space for both the introvert and extrovert.
- Transitions between classes are chaotic or pleasant and purposeful.
- Children can go home and eat supper with their parents.
- Based on the school’s expectations, the child will get enough sleep each night.
- Chapel is crammed in between more important things – or constantly runs over, impacting excellence in other areas.
As St. John wrote to his friend: “Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well” (3 John 1:2). Schedule should bring light into a child’s life in terms of balance. Note that balance does not imply moderation. We actually want our children to be passionate about their faith, about their learning, in their relationships. As John says in Revelation: “I know your works, that you are neither hot or cold. I wish you were cold or hot” (Revelation 3:15). Balance does not imply a lack of passion, drive, or engagement, or a detachment from life. Balance in our schools should exist as part of our schools’ desire to be healthy places. Good schedule practices help us to reach the goal of balanced lives for students.
- Well-being – we want our children to flourish
This is far more than the fleeting emotion of being happy. Martin Seligman says that there are five prongs to our well-being: positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, accomplishment (https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/newsletters/flourishnewsletters/newtheory). To help us remember this, he gives it the acronym PERMA. This makes a lot of sense to us as Christians. The idea of being happy is, of course, not a bad one. It’s just not close to the ecstasy of joy. St. Paul had his own version of PERMA in his letter to the church in Galatia where he wrote: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness” (Galatians 5:22).
This seems pretty close to what Seligman in his research is talking about. For our children, well-being is measured through the fruits of the Spirit and that includes:
- a life lived in the love of God (meaning)
- joy (positive emotion)
- peace (accomplishment)
- forbearance and kindness (engagement)
- goodness and faithfulness (relationships)
Scheduling can’t create the fruits of the Spirit but, without a light-bringer schedule, the child is often unable to demonstrate those fruits despite the child’s every effort. We adults are culpable when that happens.