In their attempt to find new trade routes to Southeast Asia, Spanish and Portuguese sailors in the 15th century worked tirelessly to figure out what it would take to sail down around the southern tip of Africa and on east to what is now India and China. They found the voyage down the western coast of Africa long and difficult, but fortunately, one of the explorers discovered a way to expedite the trip. He found that by swinging farther west and closer to the coast of South America as he made his way south, he could take advantage of a robust eastbound current that helped carry him over toward Africa and around its tip. This ordinary current, once utilized by the mariners, became a powerful force in helping them reach their destination.
Perhaps in a similar way, our schools have access to a resource that could help us reach our objectives as Christian day school teachers and administrators if we would take advantage of it. The members of the communities that surround our schools represent a vast wealth of knowledge, skills, interests, and wisdom. There is the older gentleman who has farmed all of his life and has a penchant for telling stories besides. There is the young lady who has just graduated from nursing school. There is the enterprising young father who is designing and building websites for non-profit organizations. All of these individuals, along with many other members of the community, have information, skills, and gifts that could enrich our student’s lives. As school personnel who often feel a shortage of resources, we need to figure out effective ways to tap into this resource.
One way to begin doing this effectively is to make a database of the people and skills that would be useful to our schools. Start by carefully perusing a list of the people that live in your community. They may be school patrons, supporting church members, family members of students, or general community members. Consider the occupation, life experience, and interests of each person, and when a particular skill or knowledge set comes to mind in relation to an individual, write their name down on a spreadsheet along with the set of resources that they would have to offer. Label another column “Application” and travel back down the list, thinking about the opportunities that you would have throughout your school year to utilize those resources. Notes must be placed in textbooks and lesson planners ahead of time and be carried on from year to year in order to ensure long-term effectiveness.
Many of the areas of expertise and interests could be incorporated in our regular curriculum. The mechanic could be asked to help teach the sixth grade’s lesson on the internal combustion engine or perhaps host a visit to his shop for a demonstration. The medical professional could dissect a cow’s eye for the biology class as they study the human eye. The mom who enjoys writing could be asked to come and share some writing tips with the high school English class. Some resources could provide opportunities for field trips for various classes. Still others could be great resources for times of celebration or recreation. Christmas cookies could be decorated at the house of the grandmas who loves baking; a Mother’s Day project be facilitated by the lady who enjoys crafts. Some of the human resources involve gifts of spiritual insight and care—these could be resources for chapels, devotionals, and times of special focus and growth.
The benefits of utilizing these local human resources are numerous. Utilizing the gifts and skills of members in our community can strengthen the quality and effectiveness of our academics. In addition, it has the potential to occasionally lighten the load of our teaching staff. This kind of interaction also teaches our students the value of learning from a wide variety of people and developing relationships with people outside of their normal social strata. It connects people to the school who otherwise would be largely disconnected, and it helps to cultivate support and interest in the school among these individuals.
CONTRIBUTOR: Kendall Myers