SouthLake Christian Academy – Update October 2021

As you head into your week off from school, let me be a cheerleader for SouthLake and give you a few bits of good news.

First, you should soon receive by mail a copy of SouthLake’s Strategic Plan. I hope you will take a few moments to read the document, or at the very least look at the great pictures. This publication reflects hours of collaborative work by many in our community and outlines our school’s strategic priorities for the future. The goals we’ve set are lofty, but I believe you would rather us aim high. A mentor once told me that most organizations overestimate what they can accomplish short term, and underestimate what they can accomplish long term. I am excited to see what God can accomplish as we work together in the years to come.

Second, this week I received a remarkable compliment from the Principal of Hibriten High School, our varsity football rival from one week ago. She called to tell me how impressed she was with our students, staff, and parents this past Friday night. She received many compliments from her staff about how polite and respectful our folks were, and how much they enjoyed having us on their campus. She mentioned specifically that our players were careful to say, “thank you” and “yes sir” or “yes ma’am” when speaking with the Hibriten staff. Whether we win or lose in competition, how we conduct ourselves among our rivals speaks volumes about ourselves, our school, and our Creator.

Third, I would like to recognize SouthLake junior John Levantino for being selected to the North Carolina Honors Chorus. John auditioned with over 700 students from across the state. Only 176 students were selected from 78 participating schools. To put this achievement into context, there are nearly 1000 high schools in the state enrolling over 1.1 million students. This makes John’s accomplishment even more impressive. And let me add that John also plays cello and runs cross country.

Fourth, I continue to observe our teachers in the classroom, and this month’s report comes from our Upper School orchestra. Students are learning an arrangement of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Procession of the Nobles” from the opera Mlada. How do you take an orchestral piece with 50 different parts and make it work for an ensemble of 5 strings, 2 trumpets, one flute, and an electric piano? Well, our Fine Arts Director Jose Bas is a master at solving problems like this and making music with the resources available. In an orchestra of 9 members, every musician is exposed. Mr. Bas knows all the parts, and can sing them when needed, and he knows theory and technique for strings, brass, and woodwind instruments alike. A virtuoso string player himself, Mr. Bas balances his high demands with frequent words of encouragement. Sometimes during class everything falls into place and genuinely beautiful music results. Heaven knows we have our problems, but in moments like these, I am reminded how much God has blessed SouthLake.

I hope you have a restful and relaxing week. We will return from Fall Break as scheduled, fully in person for all grades. See you on October 11.

Onward,

Matthew S. Kerlin, Ph.D.

Head of School

SouthLake Christian Academy

Fine Arts Leadership Sports

What I Put In My Syllabus for Freshmen

The following statement appears at the end of my syllabus for the course I teach freshmen at Samford University:

“You are here at Samford to be a student.  You are paying good money to be here, or someone else is, even if you are on scholarship.  Make the most of the opportunities this class provides.  I will probably not be the greatest professor you have. I will probably not be the worst either.  I will do my absolute best to teach, but what you learn is largely up to you.  You should not cheer when your classes are cancelled due to bad weather or illness.  Skipping class is wasting money, like not eating what you’ve ordered at a nice restaurant.  You’ve paid for these classes – you should get your money’s worth.  You should never whine or moan or complain about assignments, however long or boring or complicated they may seem.  Refuse to be wimpy students!  Learn everything that you can during this time in your life when your primary responsibility is to learn.  You may never have an opportunity like this again. YOLO.  Carpe Diem.”

College

What Do College Students Care Most About? Friends!

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I was reminded in a recent blog post by my son (read it here) that for students, college is about friendships. Professors want students to think high-minded thoughts, to probe the depths of intellectual inquiry, to increase in knowledge. Campus ministers want students to deepen their faith and their commitments to Christ and the Church. Parents want students to make good grades, gain a marketable set of skills, and get a job after they graduate. All good things, but students mostly want friends, at least at first. After they find good friends, then maybe they’ll want some of that other stuff too, especially if their friends want it. This means that for most students, friends can make or break the college experience. With this in mind, here are a few thoughts on college friendships for each of the players involved:

Parents – Talk to your students about finding the right friends. Consider Greek Life carefully and prayerfully, knowing that the choice to pledge could be the most significant decision your son or daughter makes. Think not just about the academic programs and job prospects that a university provides, but think about its campus culture as well. Get to know your student’s friends. Have them over, feed them, help do their laundry. You can learn volumes about your student’s college experience from his/her friends.

Professors – Your students care more about their friends than they do you or your class. They’re probably taking your class because a friend told them it was good. They’ll skip your class to spend time with a friend in a crisis, and they’ll be confused to learn this isn’t an excused absence. They will skip studying for a late night pizza, coffee, or Sonic run. Nothing you say in class will change this. Students who don’t find good friends tend to transfer to another school. And you were probably the same way when you were a student.

Campus Minister – Your events, programs, and activities should capitalize on students’ perceived need for friends. This isn’t pandering, it’s understanding and adapting to a culture, as you would in a missions setting with an unreached people group. Students will follow their friends to a party or to church, to a summer camp job or a summer missions experience, to a campus lecture or a campus ministry. To call this a “herd mentality” is to degrade this stage in a student’s life.

Students – If you leave home for school, and even if you commute to a campus near your home, your life is uprooted, upended, and upheaval is the result. You need friends, good friends, and quickly. Go out and find them, don’t wait for them to come to you. This will sometimes be uncomfortable and occasionally awkward, especially if you tend toward the shy side. Embrace the awkward – all new students feel it, and most older students too. Friend groups morph from semester to semester, so everyone is always making new friends. And most importantly, find the RIGHT friends who share your faith and your values, who want truly good things for you, who will challenge you, confront you, disagree with you, sharpen you, hold you accountable, and keep you from thinking that college is all about you.

College

Sermon Preparation

Finishing sermon preparation this morning has me thinking about the process from start to finish. If time is no issue (and it almost always is), here is the full process I follow, with very little commentary, when preparing a sermon:

  1. Select the text – or better yet, have someone, or a team, or a sermon series, or the lectionary select it for you. A text of between 15-20 verses is about all most people can handle in a single sermon.
  2. Read the text several times, thinking primarily about its application to you, the preacher/teacher. Here’s where prayer is most important, although it should take place at every step.
  3. Think about the audience, their place in life, their needs, where the text will bump up against them.
  4. Outline the text – A, B, C, i, ii, iii. Often you’ll get your main points from this step.
  5. Diagram complex sentences, research unclear meanings, consulting commentaries, cross-referencing other biblical texts.
  6. Construct a thesis statement – the main idea or argument of your message. This should generally be a simple sentence.
  7. Select 3-5 main points, then consolidate them to 2-3.
  8. Fill out each point for clarity, listenability, understandability. Here I sometimes ask my wife, kids, or colleagues if I’m making sense.
  9. Tweak for “fix and flow,” in other words, the fixed points that the listener needs to follow, and transitions between those points.
  10. Add analogies, stories, illustrations to explain important or complex principles.
  11. Memorize, practice, edit. Repeat.
  12. Preach, get feedback, critique.
Leadership