Sometimes I Think...

Sometimes I think that people do not know how good a school GGCA really is. Sometimes I think that people say to themselves, "Well... it's better than my local public school, but it's so small... I mean they only have one classroom per grade, and the building, well... it's really just a strip mall turned into classrooms, right? And the tuition... if it was a really good school, wouldn't they be charging a lot more? I mean, look at the private schools that have libraries and laboratories and teach languages starting in elementary school and have auditoriums for drama and music performances and lots of electives, extra curricular activities, and after school programs. Now, those are are really nice schools, and the students there are getting a quality education." Maybe these are just demonic projections and nobody has ever thought these things but me. But I do get asked quite often by students why GGCA doesn't have things that other schools do, and I do hear indirectly that parents talk about the school as if there are greener pastures elsewhere where they would consider placing their children if they could afford it.

The other day I was researching Baltimore City Christian schools, and I came across one that charges twenty-five dollars a month for tuition. The school is located in an area where you would not expect to find a private school, and it was being operated by some wonderful folks who view it as a mission and an outreach to the community. I'm sure that the school is not very fancy, that perhaps only the essential, basic subjects are taught, and that some of the teachers are better than others in the estimation of students and their parents, who would probably like them to have something better, if it were possible. But I am also sure that the people running it are doing the very best they can with what they have, as unto the Lord, that students who want to learn are learning, and that this school, if it seeks to glorify God, pleases Him and is beautiful in His eyes. I wanted to go and see this school and to pray for these people and their mission.

When I came to GGCA thirty-five years ago, it was not called GGCA and it was not a school in Baltimore, but a school in Scarborough, Maine called Southern Maine Christian School. My classroom was a room in an old Catholic home for boys, a room just off the kitchen that had not been designed to be a classroom - just a room with windows, a door, four walls, a ceiling, and a floor. I had the only genuine school-type desk in the room, because nobody else wanted it; everyone else sat at a hodgepodge of tables with mismatched chairs around them. My teacher had a table of his own for a desk, and we had a chalkboard on one wall. A chalkboard, some tables and chairs, and a lot of used textbooks from... somewhere. There was nothing new in that room. What made it a classroom was that there was a teacher and some students who had come together to engage in learning. 

I transferred into this school from one of the very best public schools in Maine, a school with lots of money to spend per pupil, which had just built a state-of-the-art high school with an Olympic-size swimming pool, an enormous gymnasium, and athletic fields that were the envy of the surrounding towns. I was fortunate to live in this affluent bedroom community though my family was not by any stretch of the imagination affluent; we lived on the outskirts of town in a cozy Cape Cod house on a little plot of land, not in one of the grand houses that lined Shore Road with its breathtaking views of the Atlantic.

I left behind that large, well-funded school I had been attending to join the ranks of students enrolled in a small, makeshift Christian school where I could hear the cooks banging pot and pans as they made lunch while we read The Three Musketeers in language arts class. There was no chorus for me to sing in, no band for me to play in like I had done in my old school. I had no locker to store my books in, no bus to bring me from my front door to the entrance of my school, and there were no after school sports or other activities for me to get involved in. There was no gymnasium for physical education class, no art room, no library, no music room. There was a chapel, because there were church services meeting in the building and we had an honest to goodness drinking fountain. By sight, I had come down in the world. All I had were my classes to take - math, science, language arts, Bible, history, a little outdoor exercise we called gym class, plus sporadic visits from a young woman who played guitar and got us to sing or brought the most basic art projects for us to do in our classroom.

Despite all the seeming deprivations, I loved this humble school more than the school I had come from. And despite the seeming lack of new books, matching classroom furniture, and other amenities, I learned. Better still, I excelled. I came to love learning and I learned something I had never known in my public school - I learned to love God and began to understand Who he is and what He had done for me and where I stood in relationship to Him. I loved my classes and my teachers. When the church started a new school in Lenox, Massachusetts and my father moved my family there so he could attend Bible college, I was enrolled in this new school, which, though it looked more like a typical school, was still a far cry from the gleaming public school I had once attended. The books were not any newer and the furniture was still second hand, but I continued to learn. When I graduated high school, I went to the local public school and took an SAT exam. I had not studied for it and did not know what the test was, only that colleges expected prospective students to take it; so I did. I did pretty well, nothing to brag about, but my scores were nothing to be ashamed of and I was never turned away from any college I applied to. I did very well in college and felt I had been well-prepared for all my classes. I knew how to think and I knew who I was as a child of God and I had a vision for my life - to become a Christian school teacher, if God allowed.

School is school. School is a teacher and some students and a bunch of stuff to learn. My first year as a teacher in Baltimore I had a small classroom - a room in a former funeral home with two windows, a walk-in closet, four walls, a ceiling, a floor, a white board, a monstrosity of a teacher's desk that I loathed because it took up too much space in the room, and twenty-one chairs in two rows for my students - no desks. My students' textbooks were Alpha Omega LifePacs, flimsy booklets filled with black letters on grayish newsprint paper that wore out quickly from everyday use. I had combined classes of juniors and seniors and also freshmen and sophomores that I saw twice per day each for math and history classes. I also taught a drama class in place of study hall. I was a pretty-good bad teacher or a bad pretty-good teacher, which you would understand if you have ever been a first year teacher before. I did my very best, which did not seem like very much, and I made lots of mistakes; I said dumb things, did dumb things, and embarrassed myself with my ignorance and novice traits. Somehow the students survived and thrived and have gone on to become some very successful people that I count today as friends.

Our school has come a long way since then, a long, long way, but school is still school. Our classrooms are so much nicer now, we have new books and new classroom furniture, new computers, overhead projectors, and a relatively new gymnasium - God has blessed us very much. No, we are not as glitzy and shiny as the private schools charging tuitions in the five figure range, but we are still a school, and a darned good one at that. Our students score very well on Stanford achievement tests, and our graduates attend the finest universities and Bible college in Maryland and do well. 

I sometimes wonder if parents and students think that by placing their child in a real Christian school like ours they are sacrificing better quality academics for better quality spiritual teaching. I sometimes wonder if parents and students think that academics suffer because we take time to have daily Bible class and send students out to do community evangelism. I sometimes wonder if some parents and students equate Christian education with an education that is not rigorous, not meeting the world's standard of excellence, not preparing students for secular colleges and universities, but just graduating good kids with good hearts who are good enough for Bible college or community college, yet missing out on opportunities for scholarships. I really wonder that.

Let me finish by saying this: I think it's a lie from hell that academic quality is compromised when spiritual quality is important in a school. Can't there be balance? Isn't there a complementary relationship between the two? Wasn't Daniel both brilliant academically and spiritually? And didn't God raise him up into a position of influence and power in the world? Is the choice between being spiritual or well-educated? That is so wrong! It makes me want to curse and spit at the devil and his filthy rotten lies! 

Greater Grace Christian Academy is a great school, an excellent school, both academically and spiritually. It is a school that does the very best it can with the resources it has been given. We strive for excellence in all things to bring glory to God. Is GGCA perfect? Nope, but what school is? Can GGCA improve? You bet your boots it can, and by God's grace it will, if the Lord tarries. So, love your school! Be proud of your school! Pray for your school and its staff, its families, and its finances. 

It is a miracle that this school continues to exist, because the trend across our country is for schools our size to close. I thank God that GGCA is still here, fulfilling its mission to disciple young people, help families educate their children in the Lord, and to provide students with the godly balance of academic and spiritual education that will help them be successful Christians in this world. Thank you for your support. And forgive me for going on and on about myself, but I speak from my experience when I write and say that Christian schooling in our school gave me everything I needed to truly succeed in life. Thanks again, Mom and Dad, for sacrificing to put me in this Christian school.

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