Growing and Learning

Posted by Tess Rives
Do you enjoy working with your hands? Do you see the Lord's presence in growing things? Dialectic teacher Tess Rives recently took a group of Caldwell sixth-graders on a service project to work in a garden, and there they learned that working with nature often points us back to Christ.
On a cold Tuesday, Caldwell’s sixth-grade class was pulling weeds and sifting through compost. Some students hauled tarp over a large garden bed while others cleaned out old storage boxes. I made every effort to ensure students knew which leafy greens were weeds to pull and which were vegetables growing for the next harvest. I am forever grateful for the field trip to Out of the Garden Project’s urban teaching farm (and I am confident all of the students were happy to be out of class for part of the day!).

While a group of us were weeding, I asked how we could make a spiritual connection here in light of missing class today (I am sure they were devastated to miss all of our readings). One student chimed in and began to connect the idea of how, as we weeded and pruned the garden, so the Lord also prunes and sanctifies us. Another student threw out the image of this garden being a small foretaste of the True Garden that was (the Garden of Eden) and is to come (eternity with Jesus). Others brought up the passage in John 15:5 where Jesus states “I am the vine and you are the branches.” I wanted to hold on and lean in for more than the clock allowed. Inside I was hollering with delight—this is what it is all about! This is what I believe sets Caldwell apart from so many other schools. 

These students are learning and growing at challenging and impressive standards in education, but they are learning how to learn. These kids know how to think and make connections with all of life. And, most importantly, they see God at the center of all learning and life. If nothing else, this is the greatest joy as a believer to witness. Some of my favorite moments at Caldwell have been “off-the-cuff” conversations with a class. Sometimes a student will make connections during our discussions on history to a portion of the Bible we are studying. Likewise, a student will elaborate on the literary structure of a poem in the Psalms and connect it to a New Testament passage. These are not ideas I provided or prompted but came from an individual student who has learned to view the entirety of life as a canvas for learning. I find myself repeatedly learning from them. 

When I was pursuing employment at Caldwell, I knew people who had attended the school. One of my dearest friends graduated from Caldwell. Going through college at the same time, I was amazed at her ability to navigate classes and academic rigor with ease. Half the time, I was drowning! Moreover, she was able to make connections to jobs and internships in ways I could not conceive. This is not just her story; I have seen this pattern with the countless others who have graduated from Caldwell. 

Working at Caldwell has been one of the greatest joys both occupationally and personally. Daily, I find myself encouraged and challenged spiritually by my co-workers and excited about learning new things within the subjects I teach. This would not be possible unless school leaders provided the means to do so. Caldwell’s staff has something of a different nature, and perhaps this stems from being connected to the body of Christ. Knowing the leaders and educators invested at Caldwell provides great assurance for wanting one day to plant my children here.

I believe this is our school’s aim; we strive to raise men and women who love Truth and train students to seek it out amidst a world thickly laden with hollow facades. This is a mission I can get behind and want to invest in for many years. 

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” - 2 Corinthians 3:18 
    • Students work at Out of the Garden

    • Students work at Out of the Garden

    • Dialectic teacher Tess Rives talks to students while they work

    • Caldwell 6th grader Jake Barnwell helps at Out of the Garden