Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Middle School at Shannon Forest Christian School

The three grades in Middle School, developmentally, are three of the most diverse and difficult years for all students.  Students grow exponentially in all areas at different rates in these grades.  Middle school is full of tall girls, short boys, boys with facial hair and girls who are often more mature than their male counterparts.  It is a unique and diverse world, and at times, it can be a very difficult world to navigate if students are left to navigate it on their own.

Middle School students begin to grow physically, emotionally, spiritually and cognitively at different rates in Middle School.  Up to this point, student growth has been fairly constant. Students in 6th - 8th Grades begin to look at the world as individuals.  Their emotions guide their choices.  Cognitively, they move from a purely concrete way of thinking, where everything is in polarized camps of good and bad, to more of an abstract one, where things are no longer as neat.  And spiritually, Middle School is where their faith begins to become their own.  Needless to say, there is a lot of change occurring in these critical years, which speaks to the need for a Middle School that addresses these changes.

As Shannon Forest, our goals in Middle School are rooted in preparing students for our High School, for life and for eternity.  One of the first areas we have identified as a need is the attention to fine tuning the executive functional skills - organization, time management and study skills of our students.  This is a need that all students must have today.  The onset of technology has created a void in the area of developing executive functional skills for all students.  Our Middle School will be designed to instill in each student these skills in ways that are unique to them.  This will be done in a non-evasive, informal way that flows out of their day and puts no additional pressure on them.

Secondly, our Middle School will create a safe, student-oriented space where students can be Middle School students.  Middle School is a way in which our 6th - 8th Grade students can be known in a more intimate way.  These students need an advocate, an encourager, a motivator, and a leader who understands who they are and where they are in life.  We aim to provide those people for our students.

Third, the spiritual development of Middle School students is vastly different than those of Elementary students or even High School students. Middle school students begin to examine their world through their own eyes; they begin to consider questions never before contemplated.  Our Middle School will be a place where students can begin to crystallize a worldview that will guide them through life.

And finally, our Middle School will be enhanced to prepare students for our High School and beyond.  We begin with our 5th Grade students - preparing them for the transition to 6th Grade.  Crusaders Crossroads is designed specifically for that transition.  We have found that when rising 5th Grade students have a context of what is coming the next year, their anxiety levels go down.  Once students enter Middle School they will enter a school with an intentional plan for each grade designed to prepare them for the next grade, High School and life.

In closing, it is impossible to communicate all that will take place in our Middle School.  We want to encourage you to come to us with your questions and comments.  The enhancement of this program is an extension of our partnership with all parents.  We have intentionally made the process a slow one in order to fine-tune our Middle School program in step with who we are as a school and who you are as parents.  Our door is always open.

Thank you for your partnership with us in the education of your children.  Blessings to all of you!  

Craig L. Bouvier

Head of School

Monday, March 13, 2017

What Does Middle School Look Like at Shannon Forest?

- Guest post from Middle School Lead Teacher Kara Wheeler

It happens all the time.  I can be in conversation with someone and the question always comes up, “So, what do you do?” Most recently it was a nurse at my son’s doctor’s office.  This is the part on which I can depend.  The part that is the same in almost any situation.  Before I answer, I am already picturing the response. The recoil, the grimace, the recovery, the apologetic smile… as if teaching Middle School English was some cruel punishment passed down to me because of some horrid crime I committed.  “I teach Middle School,” I responded with smile.  And, sure enough, I receive the response I was expecting.

Many people cringe at the thought of teaching Middle School.  Not me.  I love it.  I love the challenge, the hormones, the changes, the breakthroughs, the questions, the lightbulb moments, and the self-discovery.  So, when Mr. Bouvier asked me to “enhance” the Middle School, I felt as though I was being handed a gift.  I was being given the task of taking something I LOVE and making it even better.   As a classroom teacher, I have an advantage.  I can use what I know about students and cater to the Middle School students’ emotional, spiritual, cognitive, and intellectual needs.  

So, what will the new Shannon Forest Middle School look like?  First, it will look like Shannon Forest Christian School (SFCS).  In today’s society, full of distractions and devices, it has become apparent to us, at SFCS, that students seem to lack a sense of organization and management.  Our first order of business is to devote intentional time to help students take notes, time manage, plan for daily study time, and organize their belongings.  As Middle School teachers, we recognize that when a student establishes good life-skill behaviors during 6th, 7th, and 8th Grades, they are much better prepared for High School and college. We hope to instill a sense of ownership of these skills by our students in order for them to be better prepared for our High School and life.

Additionally, we hope to establish a consistent and continuous instruction set.  During Middle School, students are changing, and nothing seems constant.  They are growing and changing…their identity, their handwriting, how they decorate their rooms, who they hang out with, their style, choice of music…all during these 3 years.  Their voices change and so do their hairstyles.   At times, these changes can become overwhelming.  If we, as a school, can keep Middle School teachers, standards, and routines consistent, we hope this will bring balance to the ever-changing lives of our Middle School students. As a Middle School, our goal will be to establish classroom routines and expectations that are consistent from one teacher to another, keeping at least one aspect of the ever-changing life of a Middle School student constant.

Middle School changes are coming to Shannon Forest Christian School for one reason… because it will afford us more opportunities to provide your children with an education marked by wisdom, excellence and purpose. Thank you again for trusting us with the education of your children.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

What Makes A Successful College Student?

On Wednesday, February 1, Dr. Tim Wardle presented a picture of student success, as experienced at Furman University, to our Upper School faculty.  Dr. Wardle is a professor in the Religion Department at Furman University.  He holds a B.A. from Wheaton College, an M.A. from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a Ph.D. from Duke University.

Dr. Wardle began by setting the context of the presentation.  He referenced that he had conducted an informal survey of his fellow faculty regarding the traits of freshmen who were considered successful in college.  He initially presented the idea that student success varies according to the setting, but that he and his fellow faculty found three consistent traits present in those college students who handled the initial rigors of college as freshmen.  As a K5 - 12 Grade school, he suggested that these three traits were what most students needed to be successful in college and life. 

Dr. Wardle suggested that first trait is curiosity, which is about asking big questions that demand serious thought.  He suggested that curious students are motivated by big questions which force them to think deeply about self and one’s interaction with the world.  Schools who prepare students who are curious are schools that ask big questions of their students and themselves.  Ends are not seen as conclusions, but instead as beginnings.

The second trait is academic humility.  Educators have many roles, but one of the more important roles is helping students understand their place in relation to knowledge.  Humility is understanding that the more you know the more you realize how much you do not know. Successful students learn for learning’s sake and not just for a grade.  A focus only on the grade is a pragmatic end to a means and more in line with academic pride than humility.  The school, as a whole, models academic humility through a faculty and staff who are life-long learners, open and transparent and intellectually curious.    

Dr. Wardle’s final trait is that of forward thinking.  The idea of forward thinking is rooted in two areas; who students are and what they can do.  Who we are dictates how we move forward. Sometimes, the best thing an educator can do is to keep the standards high and push students to meet those standards.  Dr. Wardle was clear; where you set your standards will matter greatly to your school and to your students. Once you have done this, you must decide what students can do.  Schools need to determine the skills students need to develop in college and beyond.  Dr. Wardle presented three skills that he felt were vital to success in college and in life.

1.     Active critical reading: college students are expected to read with a critical eye, follow a line of thinking presented in text and ask questions related to the text. This is vastly different than reading for pleasure.
2.     Writing as a process: college students are expected to write continuously therefore writing is a process and not an event. Writing is continuous revision.  College students must be able to write good, clean papers that are grammatically clean and present clear concise thoughts in response to the text. 
3.     Attitude of openness: college students are expected to be open to new and diverse ideas.  Dr. Wardle suggested that if you know what you believe, you can examine other ideas without fear.  Students who enter college with a clear, deeply rooted worldview tend to be those who engage new ideas without being swayed by them.  

Dr. Wardle concluded his comments with a final thought.  Educators are those that disciple and teach students, but more importantly, educators are those that push students toward excellence in ways that do not allow them to settle for what is good.  Our goal at Shannon Forest Christian School is to prepare our students for college, life and eternity.  Dr. Wardle’s comments reinforced who we are and provided motivation for us to continue our pursuit of excellence in all that we do as a school.   

Our vision is to educate and equip students to pursue excellence and impact the world for Jesus Christ.  This is Shannon Forest Christian School.    

Monday, January 23, 2017

Social Media and Our Children

There is a growing concern on the part of many educators regarding the presence of social media on school campuses. The Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (OJAAP) urges caution in regard to social media and adolescents.

I cannot, in words, convey how destructive the misuse of social media and wide range of apps “could” be for our students, especially those in Middle School, if not monitored and managed properly.  Most parental concerns are related to bullying and crude behavior toward and against other students on campus, but there are also deeper, more emotional concerns.

The OJAAP writes regarding these; “The main risk to preadolescents and adolescents online today are risks from each other, risks of improper use of technology, lack of privacy, sharing too much information, or posting false information about themselves or others.”  These types of behavior put a student’s individual privacy at risk, which delves into their emotional and spiritual well-being.

Social media apps like Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat provide students a covert means to bully other students in a variety of ways.  They also provide open access to the Internet with little accountability. Snapchat is one of the worst offenders, as it offers students the opportunity to post messages that delete automatically and provides suggestive content that cannot be eliminated.

While I agree that social media is not, in itself, either inherently evil or supremely good, I would suggest that all of social media provides students with temptations that, in many cases, are too much for them to handle on their own.  This is especially true for Middle School students.  Students change more during the three years of Middle School than at any other time in the educational lives.  Social media left unchecked can be detrimental to students, especially during these Middle School years.

I recently read an article which referenced Facebook and how “likes” on Facebook actually trigger the same endorphins in the brain that build addictive tendencies. I neither support or deny this claim as I have not done any research beyond the article, but I reference it as one example of how powerful and still unknown the impact of social media is on our students.

Social media can be a wonderful tool for students to use to communicate with one another, but it can also be destructive and debilitating.  I encourage you to engage your students regarding social media. Have conversations with them; examine their phone from time-to-time.  Many students desperately need this accountability because the apps themselves provide none.  The issue of social media is not going away.  Become educated on the pros and cons of social media for the sake of your students.


Wednesday, November 30, 2016


Since the birth of Shannon Forest Christian School in 1968, the symbol of our school has been the crest.  Ornate in its design, each element of the crest has a specific meaning that presents, in image, our Vision and Mission.  As you study our crest, you are able to see clearly who we are as a school.


The Bible is the Truth and the worldview in which we live, educate and equip our students.

The Torch stands for our calling.  We embrace this calling to be a light on the hill and seek to engage our world in a loving, but truthful way for Jesus Christ.   When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” -John 8:12

The Wings are a symbol of the protection provided by a faith rooted in Jesus Christ.  In faith and prayer, we rest in the knowledge that we are in union with God and that He will guide us and direct us.

The Crusader reminds us that while we know His peace and protection, we also understand that we are called to action and we, therefore seek to be a school of warriors for Jesus Christ.

The Cross is a sacred symbol of defeat, claimed by Jesus Christ, as His symbol of victory over death.  We, as Christians, display this symbol as citizens of His kingdom.


White stands for the purity of the Lamb of God in three persons; the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and our future in Christ our Savior.

Green is an indication of the growth of our new life in Christ.  We strive to educate in the truth of a Biblical worldview with the hope that each student will come to know Christ and grow in Him.

Black represents our sins and our reality without Christ.  We understand that we live in a fallen world, but we seek to consistently walk in faith rooted in Jesus Christ.

Gold reminds us of the streets of gold in our future with God in His eternal kingdom of Heaven.

This is who we are and we are Shannon Forest Christian School.