Inspiring Purpose & Equipping for Life
9th- 12th Grades
In the Upper School, learning is dynamic, relevant, and exciting. We equip students with 21st century skills that will enable them to access, analyze and evaluate information through a biblical lens utilizing excellent cognitive and social skills. Use of information technology, a focus on developing critical and creative thinking skills, as well as self-directed learning are integral parts of every curriculum. As sons and daughters of the Creator, we also aim to develop responsible citizens who understand topical issues and propose solutions to improve the world in which we live.
New Perspectives Class Opens Minds & Hearts
Racial tensions. Opioid crisis. Anxiety and depression. These are some of the topics students researched, debated and discussed in the new Perspectives class offered to juniors and seniors, co-taught by Coach Jordan Thompson and Coach Kyle Story.
“Coach Story and I want our student community to be impactful outside of this place,” Thompson said. “We don’t need to just send our students off to be in comfortable settings but equip them to deal with hard things.”
So Coach Thompson and Coach Story created a class in which students research and teachers facilitate conversations about some of today’s hottest topics, framed within a Christian worldview.
Before this class, Coach Thompson explained that there were two ways students seemed to react to hot topics. He says one is the “bunker mentality,” in which we don’t talk about it, or the other extreme is resorting to ‘twitterverse’ in which we attack it with no ability to engage in conversation. “We are trying to get our students to realize that everybody has a different story and perspective. They don’t have to agree with everyone, but there is a reason they have those ideas. And that part of it needs to be respected. Coach Thompson adds, “We want these students to be able to hold firm to what they believe but be able to engage in a conversation with those who don’t believe the same thing. They are agents of redemption as much as anything. We need to equip them to do that.”
Coach Thompson adds, “We want these students to be able to hold firm to what they believe but be able to engage in a conversation with those who don’t believe the same thing. They are agents of redemption as much as anything. We need to equip them to do that.”
Coach Thompson begins each topic session asking students about their preconceived ideas about that topic, which are typically very polarizing. “Usually,” he says, “conversations are a lot louder and less understanding at the beginning of the topic. By the end, it is much more coming back to seeing people and not just the problem; instead of seeing people as addicts, they see them as people who struggle. The best conversations start with, ‘I never really thought of that’ or ‘I haven’t heard that.’ Those are the most rewarding.”
Coach Thompson added, “It makes them slow their mouths a little and open their ears more. There’s a reason people make their decisions. They begin to look at them as people instead of just their decisions.”
Coach Thompson credits the administration for its support in creating this class. Braxton Brady, Head of School, and Jenny Shorten, Academic Dean, encouraged Coach Thompson and Coach Story to address these issues head-on. They ask questions such as How do people become addicted to heroine? and What drives someone to commit genocide? They watch videos pertinent to the topic and hear really hard and difficult conversations.
As a part of this process, the class took a field trip to the National Civil Rights Museum. After learning the many stories of racial injustice on display at the museum, several students said, “I can’t believe that this actually happened, that it was that bad.”
Assessment in a class like this takes on different forms than the typical multiple choice or short-answer test. Instead, students engaged in debate, group projects and presentations to exhibit their understanding of a topic. Teachers evaluated skills such as critical thinking, research, collaboration, debate and the ability to engage in conversation. Thompson’s favorite assessment was when he and two students recorded a podcast about the assigned topic in the school’s Equip studio. Thompson explained, “If we are trying to develop research and presentation skills, then you have to test those skills. Every assessment has them talking from their own viewpoint and presenting research to support that.”
This class surpassed Thompson’s expectations because it has promoted students to start conversations and ask more questions. “When we gave them the opportunity and the forum, they are way more insightful and intuitive than we give them credit for. This class has been what we were hoping we would see, and that has been amazing.”
Getting to know Coach Thompson…
High school: ECS class of 2006, where he played soccer and was kicker for the football team
College: Union University class of 2010, Bachelor of Art in History; Student athlete (soccer)
Family: Wife, Whitney, class of 2006 (his ECS senior prom date!) and two daughters: Corinne (age 2) and Meryl (age 5 months)
Professional: Teaches World History and Perspectives; Head of Discipleship Groups; Allender House Dean; Varsity Boys and Girls Soccer Coach
Most influential coach while a student at ECS: Coach Dave Carter, his soccer coach, who intentionally mentored his players. Thompson remembers, “He cared about us, loved us, pushed us and invested heavily in our lives.”
Soccer Championships: Three ECS state championship titles: two in girls soccer in 2019.
Goal as a teacher/coach for students: “For my students to realize that they can be a positive tool of redeeming grace in the lives of others right now. They don’t have to wait until they get a high school diploma or when they get a college degree, but now.”
View on excellence: “Because academics and athletics are gifts, we have a duty to be excellent. For instance, He has given me the opportunity to coach soccer, so it has value. Therefore, I’m going to study soccer methodology and tactics and put out the absolute best soccer team that I can because somehow that brings honor and glory to the Lord. I have a responsibility to constantly be challenging myself so I can challenge my students and players to do the same.”