“Our children deserve to be able to navigate through this world… I trust that we’re going to provide for them the education they need, the spiritual fortitude that they need. Our children are going to take over as they are supposed to. That’s what I tell my children, the students who graduated, I say, ‘Go show off. Just take over!’ That’s what our children are supposed to do. All of them.” – Dr. Susie Long

The following excerpt has been edited for clarity and brevity. Listen to the full podcast episode here or using the player below.

Michael Arnold: Dr. Susie Long joins us in the Teacher’s Lounge today. She’s an educator’s educator with over 40 years in education, beginning in Maryland as a teacher for the deaf and hard of hearing and becoming a certified principal there, a special educator. She’s currently wrapping up her tenure as a private school principal and curriculum and instruction specialist at From the Heart Christian School in Camp Springs, Maryland, and turning her attention to educational consulting. She serves as CEO of Long Educational Consulting. Welcome, Dr. Long.

Dr. Susie Long: Well, I thank you, I’m so happy to be here.

Michael Arnold: Well, I have enjoyed hearing bits and pieces of your story as we’ve had a chance to interact from time to time over the past three or four years. You’re sharing some of your insights and experiences with us on the Curriculum Trak Blog as well, so people can find out more about you there.

Today I wanted to see if we could do a quick fly-over of some of the highlights of your educational experience in the form of three chapters, with chapter one being your public school experiences, chapter two being your private school experiences, then chapter three, the what’s next, what are you doing now? Is that okay with you?

Dr. Susie Long: That sounds great.

Michael Arnold: Okay. And I thought we’d take a cue from backward design practices, we’re not going to go in order. We’ll start at the end of chapter two, just to keep things exciting. I want our Curriculum Trak community to hear some of the successes that you’ve been celebrating as you begin to transition out of From the Heart Christian. But first tell us a little bit about the nature of your school. It’s a church-based school; unpack that for us.

Dr. Susie Long: Yes. Well, the great thing about our school is that everybody in the school is a member [of the church]. From the parents, the children, the teachers—and the school was actually designed that way from our founding father who started the school in 1984. And what his idea was was that, you know, we’re taught the seven spiritual principles that he actually extracted from the Bible. And it talks about organization agreement and obedience and authority, and all of these wonderful principles that he has taught over the years. And what he wanted to do was to start a school, where our children could grow up untainted by the world, and that the teachings would be in their heart, and still get a sound academic program. And so with that being said, it was important that everybody who was in the school were members, because we would hear the same thing, and there wouldn’t be that back and forth and conflict and that kind of thing.

I was called about 11 years [ago] to come to the school. I always knew I would teach at the school, but I never imagined that I was being called to be the principal. And at that time I was actually a principal in public schools.

So coming there, it was really exciting. I had prayed, because I was coming to a point in public schools where I was really becoming disgruntled and disillusioned, just saddened by the fact that the impact that I was hoping to make, it just could not be made in a public setting. And I understand why now, because you know, what we as Christians really want to do, you can’t do in public schools.

But God heard my heart; he never ever let that desire come out of my heart. Over the years I always wanted to work at the school, but to be asked to be the principal, I was just really amazed. And so to come in and to experience what I did, to just see a total opposite of what I was coming out of, to come into a school where you see the students so confident, and the young men, especially—because in public schools, you know, it’s that constantly trying to pull and build up the children, and that kind of thing. So to come there, and to see these young men who almost could be called arrogant; but they were so confident, it was so refreshing, and they were so knowledgeable. It was just a really exciting time for me.

Michael Arnold: When you say that everyone is from the church, it’s not just the teachers, it’s also the students and their families. You have to be a member of the church to attend your school.

Dr. Susie Long: Yes. And it’s funny too, because a lot of people actually joined the church just so that they could put their children in the school. And it just turned out that it was one of the best things that they could have done. They loved the church; they loved the school. The community was amazing.

And to come into the school where you had just all of this wonderful parental involvement, to see fathers—in public schools that’s a rarity, you know, mothers handled everything—to come into the Christian school to see so many fathers that, you know, handled the business, and whenever there were meetings or different things, mothers and fathers attended. And it was just wonderful. So that was the parent part.

The academic part; it was a good school. They’d always had children to go to college, so that wasn’t an issue at all. But coming in and seeing so much that was still antiquated, you know, still using overhead projectors, you know, and I’m like, whoa.

But [there were] teachers with the most wonderful heart. And so being able to come in and to just watch; that first year, I really wanted to just watch and take in all of the strengths of the school and look for the weaknesses, and to begin to think, how do you gradually change those things without making it seem like you’re coming in and flipping the switch and, you know, just changing everything.

So it was a grand experience for me, and it took some years because I came with a lot of expertise. I was also a curriculum and instruction specialist, so I was accustomed to curriculum mapping and project management; just a lot of experience. And I had to be careful not to overwhelm the teachers. I didn’t discover that until I had overwhelmed the teachers.

This is an excerpt from the podcast episode “What drives faith-based educators toward excellence?” Listen to the whole conversation here.