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Playgrounds, Paradise, & How this Principal Connects

January 03, 2023
By Jen Baham | Teaching Principal

The mission of San Jose Christian School is to advance the kingdom of God through exceptional teaching and curriculum fully integrated with a Biblical perspective. Within our Christian community, we seek to engage and transform culture for Jesus Christ.


Ask elementary students about a favorite part of school and you will likely hear, “RECESS!” Mister Rogers himself would agree that recess is an important and necessary “classroom” as he noted, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” The well-known poem "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten" confirms this viewpoint with its opening lines, “All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in Kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sandpile…”

At San Jose Christian our Reformed perspective starts at creation with the truth that the whole world belongs to God for God’s kingdom purposes. Eden was paradise where people were created for flourishing. This is why we teach the whole child at SJCS and why all aspects of our time at school–classes, collaborative work, spiritual practices, relationship-building, recess and playground time–are valuable and critical parts of the school day. Seriously!

Part of my job description as Teaching Principal is to “foster sound relationships among students, parents, staff, and Board; oversee student discipline and advancement of citizenship and spiritual/emotional/academic growth; and mentor and counsel students as needed through transitions or growth.” This is no small task, and, by its very nature, will not be complete until Jesus comes again. Given the challenge and scope, I see student support as one of the most difficult yet kingdom-oriented parts of my job at SJCS. I have opportunities every day to see God at work and join Him in that good work, work which can bring the kingdom of God here on earth and give glimpses of the paradise for which we were created.  

The playground is full of opportunities for us to transform culture for Jesus Christ.

 

What might paradise, the flourishing for which we were intended, look like at SJCS? Imagine a playground where differences in students are celebrated and enjoyed. Imagine a recess game where each student joyfully and purposefully contributes. Imagine a conversation between principal and parent where grace and truth coexist. Imagine two students practicing conflict resolution tools which lead to forgiveness and healing in the relationship. Friends—these are all marks of God’s kingdom here on earth! The playground is full of opportunities for us to transform culture for Jesus Christ.

We were created for paradise! We see this paradise in part whenever God’s will is done or His power is shown. But it is an already-not yet kingdom until Jesus comes again. Until that day, we have good work to do in moving toward the flourishing for which we were created. Here are some of the intentional ways we are living out God’s kingdom at SJCS.

August | Grades 1-5 students gathered in the auditorium for a Playground Presentation to establish procedures and expectations in a community setting. Teachers joined the fun by role-playing for students what good choices can look like on the playground.

September | Our first Grade 5 Recess Pieces students started their leadership role. Each one completed an application which included self-reflection on servant leadership. Six students applied for the position and were chosen to serve this year. The Recess Pieces support the recess monitors with playground equipment pickup and advise the Teaching Principal in understanding concerns of our playground culture.

October, January, March, May | Four times throughout the school year I go into elementary classrooms to lead a Principal Connect session on an area of social-emotional well-being. In October we explored self-awareness, the ability to understand one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values. We recognized the range of emotions God created in us as a stepping stone to understanding self and promoting communication about our emotions with the important people in our lives. (If you are an SCJS parent you can read about this Principal Connect in your student’s Faith Journey postings.) Upcoming Principal Connect sessions will focus on self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.

Year-round | I have the heavy and holy responsibility to walk students through conflict resolution and choice-making. If students come to my office after a conflict, we take time to practice active listening. During this time of gathering information, each of us listens fully to the other without interrupting. In a culture where assumptions and interruptions are the norm, we want to listen well to one another to hear the heart and seek healing and restoration in relationship to God, self, and others.Through object lessons such as a quarter in my hand, a string held by two people, two concentric circles, or an apple placed among a group, I help students consider what a step forward might look like.

Imagining paradise in our daily lives sharpens our purpose and moves us forward in kingdom-minded ways. God made a beautiful, whole, fully-alive creation meant for flourishing and His glory. While we are reminded daily of the sin within ourselves and others, as Christians we have hope based on the truth of the resurrection. We can love those who hurt us because God loved us first while we were still in sin. We can seek healing and restoration because the Holy Spirit bears fruit in us of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. While this “work” is not always easy, it is good. It is God’s work in and through us that brings God glory. 

Father, we praise you as our Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, and Provider. You are holy, God! We confess our sin to you today—sins of pride, gossip, grudge, or hate. While we are still far off, you look for us as a Loving Father, and run toward us, welcoming us into your arms with feasting and joy. In this day, whether on the playground, in the classroom, at the office, or at home, may we see where you are at work and humble ourselves to live in ways that bring your kingdom here on earth. Amen.

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