There’s a misconception in our society that bigger is always better. As a Texan, I grew up hearing this theme all the time. Think about it. Throw “Texas Edition” on a car and it’s automatically better. Texas-sized anything in a restaurant is a sure best seller. I will admit, as a Texan I sometimes take pride in the idea that anything less than the biggest, just isn’t worth it (That’s why I always Whatasize it). This idea, however, resonates in our society.
For 3 years, I have served as the Director of Admissions and Development at TSCA. I’ve witnessed countless faces surprised as I shared our enrollment, 170 students. There’s an assumption that smaller lacks significance or value. Smaller isn’t as attractive or appealing. I want to challenge the bigger is better premise in hopes that we would all be more cautious in de-valuing the small.
LESS IS MORE
First, let me begin by stating that the average size of a conservative Christian school in the US is 169.5 students, which is reflective of our enrollment. In a highly populated metroplex, with overcrowded districts, and class sizes of up to 30 students, small seems odd. In our school, the average class size of 11 students continues to be a benefit as our faculty and staff have meaningful interactions with students.
As a Townview Magnet School graduate, I received a solid education. Being at Tyler Street I’ve realized that an education should comprise more than just classroom instruction – it should also be enriched by authentic relationships with teachers. Unfortunately, I didn’t receive this type of attention in high school. While it might have been the desire of my teachers, it just wasn’t the case.
For example, my college counseling at Townview consisted of an annual meeting with my counselor, who would say, “Now tell me your name again?”
We have a unique (small) environment which allows us to discover our students’ strengths, and weaknesses, and challenge them to pursue excellence in all they do. How can you do this when you don’t know a student’s name?
Admittedly, there are countless teachers in public schools who devote themselves to their students. My point is that our environment in which our students receive individual attention from teachers is effortless and organic. Teachers whole-heartedly care about the development of the whole person, not just the scholar.
SMALL DOES NOT MEAN INEFFECTIVE
How do we gauge our effectiveness? Is it the number of students enrolled? The number of students attending 4 year universities? Test scores? I don’t intend to debase these measures of success – all are very important to what we do. But before something can be rendered ineffective, “effective” must be clearly defined.
For us, effectiveness is producing servant-leaders who, in a self-centered society, learn to place others before themselves.
Effectiveness is igniting a passion for learning and inspiring students to be life-long learners.
Effectiveness is challenging our students academically to excel in mastering concepts which will advance their careers.
Effectiveness is seeing our students accept the truth of The Gospel and live it out unashamedly.
This is our criteria for effectiveness and I would have to say that we are #winning!
GOD USES THE MIGHTY AND THE SMALL
Let me remind you of the Sunday school favorite, David and Goliath. On the surface this seems like a classic underdog story, but David never considered himself as such. After David volunteered to battle Goliath, Saul questioned his judgement. David’s response to Saul comes in 1 Samuel 17:37, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of the Philistine.” David was confident that God would give him victory.
David’s success was amplified by the misconception that his size was inadequate. Everyone was in awe of his success, but the victory wouldn’t have had the same effect if he were Goliath’s size.
One of our greatest challenges as a school was raising money to centralize our student body. While we had a gym and high school wing, classes were also held across the street at Tyler Street Church.
We kicked off a capital campaign to raise funds for a new building. We approached one of the largest foundations in Dallas, The Crystal Charity Ball. The process of receiving funding from The Crystal Charity Ball is extensive to say the least. We were told by fundraising consultants that no one ever got funded on their first attempt.
So, imagine the shock of everyone when in 2001, we received $647,591 from The Crystal Charity Ball (one of the largest funders of children’s charities in the nation) in support of our capital campaign.
While we received many warnings to not get our hopes up on being selected to be funded, our Board of Directors stood firmly on God’s promise that we needed to build. You could say that our response was like David’s.
Our school is special. We won’t apologize for being small. We embrace it. We strive for growth, but at the end of the day, our success isn’t measured by the size of our school, but merely the impact we have in the lives of students and in turn, the eternal impact on God’s kingdom that can never be measured.