7 Questions with Ron Hoch
Name: Ron Hoch
Current title: Head of School
Current organisation: Redeemer Classical School in Virginia
Ron Hoch (MA Reformed Theological Seminary, MS University of Pennsylvania) is the Head of School at Redeemer Classical School just outside of Harrisonburg, VA. In 2011 he coauthored the book, "Old School, New Clothes: The Cultural Blindness of Christian Education." He and his wife have four children.
1. What have you found most challenging as a Christian school leader?
To me the most challenging aspect of Christian school leadership is the number of different areas in which you're expected to be an expert. In other words, the school leader has to be a master of all trades, not just a jack of all trades. For example, it's expected that the Christian school leader will be able to lead well with regard to student learning, pedagogy, discipline, finance, facilities, human resources, marketing, governance, strategic planning, public speaking and writing, theology, and more.
While a part of the school leader's responsibility is to hire others who are highly qualified to complement the areas where s/he is weak and to help lead, that's still a lot of different areas that require working knowledge. And in small schools it isn't always feasible to hire all the talent that is needed, placing a larger amount of the responsibility on those leaders who are in place.
2. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I get up around 5:30 every morning for devotions and prayer. After getting ready I eat a quick breakfast with my two older children and head to school. Once at school I check and answer emails. I try really hard to only check/answer emails twice a day - once in the morning and once in the later afternoon.
After answering emails I set off to complete the to do list that I've set for myself the day before. In the midst of checking off my to do list, I respond to the more immediate concerns that arise from faculty, staff, students, and parents throughout the day. I also try to walk to the hallways several times throughout the day to interact with students during breaks, recess, lunch, etc.
Following my afternoon round of emails, I set my to do list for the following day and head home. Once I'm home I try my best to put school responsibilities on the back burner, at least until my children are asleep. I go to bed around 10pm, read for 30-60 minutes and then go to sleep.
3. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
The importance of self-care as a leader has been one of the most significant lessons I've learned recently. Leading through the numerous crises that we've seen here in the U.S. over the past six months, it was very easy for me to put my head down and work long, hard hours at the expense of my family life and personal well-being. It became abundantly clear that I needed to put a priority on resting, sleeping, and spending quality time with my family. Without that my ability to love and serve others at school and home is greatly diminished.
4. What one book has had the most profound impact on your Christian school leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
This is a hard question, because there are a lot of books that have had a profound impact on my leadership. The one that comes to mind first, however, is "The Human Side of School Change" by Robert Evans. It really helped me understand the psychological and relational aspects of leading a school through changes big and small. Whenever another school leader mentions the major changes that face their school, I recommend they read this book.
5. How do you find and keep great Christian teachers?
Finding great Christian teachers requires school leaders to always be in recruiting mode. I always keep my eye out for great teachers who are passionate about Christ-centered education. When one comes to our attention we try to engage them regularly about joining our team. Even if the timing isn’t right at the moment, we're putting the bug in their ear for down the road.
In my experience great Christian teachers is more a function of culture and climate than anything else. Yes, salary and benefits are important, and I'm constantly thinking about ways that we can improve those areas for our teachers. But culture and climate of the school are more important. If we want to keep great teachers we need to show them on a regular basis that they're valued, cared for, respected, trusted, and heard.
6. What's most important as a Christian school leader for developing a culture of wellbeing in your staff and students?
I touched on this somewhat in my previous response. I think it's important that school leaders regularly show faculty, staff, students, and parents that they're a vital part of the community. This involves making sure that everyone is heard, respected, cared for, and loved. It means that school leaders need to find new ways of telling and showing people that they are valued. And it requires school leaders to express gratitude for the various constituents in their school community often.
7. If you had to pick just one story, what would be the most meaningful story from your time as a Christian school leader so far?
Some of the most meaningful times as a school leader are when graduates return to campus to tell you about the incredible impact that the school has had on their lives and who they are today. That never gets old!