As a young adult, I am constantly invited into the conversation of what my husband and I will choose for schooling once our kids are of age. Growing up, I remember hearing others discuss this same topic with my parents. I remember them being asked why they wouldn't place their kids in a public school, largely for athletic purposes. I remember thinking as a young athlete what it would be like to play sports in a public school environment. I remember letting my mind flirt with the idea of switching, asking myself the questions: What would the coaches be like? What would our goals be? What would before, during, and after games look like? Quite honestly, that's about where my thoughts stopped, because where I was? Mattered more to me in that season of my life. I wouldn't change a single thing about where I was then. With so many options for schooling in our world today, everyone is entitled to do what is best for their child(ren) and family, be it public, private, or homeschooling. I'm not here to say that one is less than, or that what is given in private school cannot be given elsewhere. I am here to tell you why, athletics aside, I am for private education:
1. Spiritual freedom. Being a three sport athlete growing up and someone who is heavily involved in athletics and in the community, I have countless mentors in my life that have poured into me. I have been challenged, stretched, and molded by the people God has placed into my life growing up and even now. I attended private school my entire life. The spiritual freedom I had as a student allowed me to explore my faith. I could ask questions and have discussions with anyone around me, without fear of how it would be received. I had mentors then that are still pouring into me spiritually. I had mentors then that still make me feel closer to Christ, just by being around them. As a teacher and coach in the same environment, I am able to do the same. I am able to invest spiritually, just as much as I invest academically and athletically. I have seen first hand hearts changed, mine included, due to the freedom that comes with being able to discuss the power of God in my life and the lives of my students, parents, and co-workers.
2. Focused attention. Due to the smaller class sizes, I am able to know, really know, each student. I'm able to see their strengths and weaknesses. I'm able to see what triggers them emotionally, what burdens their heart spiritually, and what excites them academically. Each student, like each human that steps foot into my classroom, is complex. I would be lying if I said I don't go home emotionally, spiritually, and physically exhausted most days. In a public school, I would be just as exhausted, don't get me wrong. But there's something beautiful about feeling depleted, because I allowed God to use me over and over and over again to speak His Truth into the lives of my students.
3. Mentorship. Being a K-12 private school, we are exposed to elements of leadership that students don't often experience until they are adults. I remember walking the hallways as a senior and hearing an elementary boy rattle off my basketball stats to me. I remember in that moment thinking that my testimony matters when other teams are present, but even more, with my home team. As a high school coach, I cannot tell you the joy it brings me hearing the elementary and junior high students light up with excitement when one of my players spends time with them. I cannot tell you how much joy fills my heart when I hear the elementary and junior high students saying they want a relationship with Christ like one of the high school students. One of the most beautiful things I see on a daily basis is my junior high students mirroring what some of my high school students are doing: encouraging, writing notes, seeking people out in the hallway. Our students are surrounded by student leaders that challenge them to be something better. I wouldn't trade that for anything.
4. Every Thursday morning during the school year, I meet with my secondary co-workers and we pray by name for our students. We bring requests forward and pour over the hearts of those God has entrusted to us during the school year. One of my favorite aspects of my job is being able to not only pray for the hearts of our students, but then being able to praise God when we see that heart change in our time with them. I love seeing God move.
5. The family environment. Feeling close and connected is difficult to do in today's world. Loneliness is easier. Keeping to yourself is easier. Being left out is easier. If you were to ask every private school in our country what their school means to them, it would be safe to say they would all be saying the same thing: my school is my family. Be it the small size, small classes, tight-knit community, whatever -- you will always find that element present. Grace has been my family since before I could walk. It continues to be my family. People move away, graduate, and move on, and they still remain my family. One of the hardest parts of teaching is watching your students grow up and leave you. One of the best parts of teaching is gaining a new group of family members each year.
Private school is a sacrifice; a sacrifice some people aren't able to make a reality. We are given many options in life. I believe in private education. I believe in every part of it. I believe you would love it. I believe you would cherish it, just as I have, after all these years.