Educating Ourselves on Education

“We have increased our test scores. Our students are more engaged and performing better in the classroom. Teachers are more empowered and supported in our school. But… the government has told us that our test scores are not good enough. We have not excelled enough.”- Sonia Stewart, CCDA Conference 2015

Last week, I got the chance to travel to Memphis to attend the national Christian Community Development Agency conference (CCDA). CCDA is a huge collection of individuals and groups interested in finding ways to intersect faith with the work they do in their communities. Nine hours later and few hundred pounds of snacks, I’m feeling exhausted. I traveled with a few friends doing community development work in Boone. JB, Laura, and Tomás work with the Hispanic immigrant population in a trailer park that supports a very impoverished community. They live in the trailer park and work to minister to various people in the area.

Sonia Stewart was one of the speakers at CCDA, and it was her talk that struck me more than anything. Stewart is the principal of Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School in Nashville, Tennessee. She is not a theologian or a preacher. She has had huge success with schools in the past which is why she was appointed to magnate school. The school was not doing very well before her administration. Teachers were not receiving the proper support to do their jobs. Stewart voices what many schools are facing across the nation. Things are looking up, but it’s not good enough.

Blackburn House has the opportunity to work with Green Valley Elementary School. We provide an in-class tutoring program to help both students and teachers. We don’t measure our success by test scores, but we measure in a different way. Last year, Mrs. Stanberry, a teacher at Green Valley, raved about the Blackburn tutoring program. She felt supported and like we had made a difference. We can’t put that into a grant form.

But we call that success. Like Sonia Stewart, we are excited to support students and teachers not in numbers, but by being present. Tutoring can seem like not such a big deal, but we are providing a free resource that teachers can rely on. When I tutor, I know that in the long run, I may not make as great an impact as the teacher’s activities throughout the week, but I have chance to help the teachers out where needed. Teachers work over fifty hours a week. My mother was a teacher for years teaching K-5. She would be at school by 7am and wouldn’t leave until 4 or 5pm. Her job required her to take worksheets and papers home to grade. Realistically, she would work another hour or two at home. She had to have lesson plans weeks in advance. This is not to mention the outside duties teachers are expected to perform. This might include bus duty, lunch duty, and meetings. Overall, a teacher could be working maybe twelve hours a day, depending on the grading they take home.

Tomorrow, we will be hosting the Green Valley Community Dinner at 6:30pm in the school cafeteria for students and staff. Our hope is to show support for the elementary school and all those involved. We are community that supports students and teachers. Come out for some chicken, wild rice, soup, and salad. F.A.R.M Café and the Green Valley PTA is partnering with Blackburn House to make this event happen. The event is donation friendly with all donations made out to F.A.R.M Café.

If you’re interested in more information about the education system, visit this site




Pictures from the Conference: Laura, my traveling companion on the top, and Brandon with Chris Evans on the bottom.


Susan helping me put up signs for the Green Valley Dinner.

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