I recently read a great quote from Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, who wrote, “”[I]t’s amazing to see the difference between schools that have been around a little while and figured out how important culture is at their school versus those who have just gotten started and think that all they have to do is get it right in terms of having the right curriculum in place and then everything will work. So much more of what happens is the sea of assumptions that kids are raised around about what the good, the true, and the beautiful are and what you want your appetites and your heart and your loves to start inclining towards.”
Every school has a culture, those mostly metaphysical characteristics that are shaped and defined by what students love. There are good cultures and bad ones, cultures of light and cultures of darkness. I’ve always been fascinated by the dynamics that shape school culture, and I’m constantly looking for key markers that reveal the health of our own school culture. There are several things I keep a pretty close eye on, like student interest in our House program and community service, church attendance and involvement in our student body, and student adherence to our community standards, just to name a few.
This year I saw something pretty awesome. It was mid-May on a Wednesday morning and our students were on their way out to play ultimate Frisbee for House Games. I was in the foyer, watching students go outside, when I saw one of the most encouraging indicators imaginable that our school culture is one of light: a small handful of our alumni, newly returned to the valley from their freshman year in college, came walking in the door. They were proudly wearing their House t-shirts and athletic shorts, all ready to play ultimate Frisbee for their beloved Houses. Our student body erupted in joy, and smiles and hugs filled the foyer.
One thing to note: this wasn’t a page taken out of Dazed and Confused – a twenty-something refusing to grow up – but these alumni are among our best and our brightest: valedictorians and national merit scholars, drawn back to our school by the community they loved and where they could find truth, goodness, beauty, and Christian fellowship.
I graduated 25 years ago, and I haven’t set foot in the hallways of my former high school in all that time. There simply wasn’t anything to draw me back. It speaks volumes about our culture that alumni are excited to come back and want to remain a part of our community.
1 John 1:5-7 reads in part, “… God is light and in Him is no darkness at all…. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” A community of students walking together in the light. That’s about the best definition of a healthy school culture that I can think of. Crafting a culture of light, where our students and faculty walk daily in the light as Jesus is in the light, is something we strive to do at The Ambrose School. I’m encouraged that, by the grace of God, we’re having some success.
Our alumni seem to agree.