This week Hillcrest watched a list of students go from 38 to 11. The list held names of those who have a 70% or lower in any one class. While some might think the move was a simple academic improvement of the student body, the reality is that the movement of students off the list has more to do with virtue than necessarily gaining a few points for a correct answer in a class.
Hillcrest has a unique perspective on education. Teachers effortlessly move from Moby Dick and the periodic table to lessons on courage, wisdom, faith, and hope. They do this by starting with the Bible as a primary textbook. All academic endeavor at Hillcrest aims to point students to know and understand the character of God in a deeper way. In doing this, Hillcrest unites faith and learning. When academic pursuits start with the knowledge that the world is held together by God, a concept the Apostle Paul unpacks in his writings, it provides a base for students to see that lessons in mathematics and science aren't simply worksheets to get through. They have an opportunity to see these studies as a time of worship. A marveling at the mind and nature of God and his intricate designs. This provides a basis to link faith and learning to virtue.
What is expected out of the classes is more than simply high test scores and the first letters of the alphabet on the report card. Students are challenged to engage their classes as a discipline in seeing the mind and heart of God. As students engage in the structure of a story and the form and function of historical documents in history they are challenged to glean wisdom and understanding. Through rhetoric, students are challenged to use their understanding of grammar to form logical statements in classrooms where the primary teaching method is dialogue and in-depth conversation. This pushes students to engage in classes for more than a grade, they are taught to seek truth.
So, when a student has a grade that is lower than the average, Hillcrest seeks out the student. The student services department catches them in the hallway to discover why their grades show a lack of understanding. From there, the department works with the student to engage the class, a loving call to courageously interact with their classes, whether they find the subject matter interesting or not. The goal is not to be captivated by the subject, but to see the glimmer of Christ in the discipline.
We believe these actions of holding students to an academic standard of engagement will prepare them for bigger obstacles later in life. Difficult things happen to everyone, however if we're taught to see the consistency of God and understand the bigger picture of situations there can be a virtuous approach to handling problems, temptations, and successes. Going through difficult times with a Christ-centered focus brings about disciplined virtue, and while test scores may rise and students may find success, the general habit of engagement to see Christ in all aspects is a training that is worth so much more than a diploma.