It has been a pleasure getting to know many of you in conversations around the school and at recent events. It’s hard to believe that we’re well over a month into the school year. In that time, I’ve had a chance to learn more about you and, through you, the C&C story.
As I contemplate our story and how we might best continue to write it together, I’ve also been thinking about the essential components of a progressive education.
As a child, I found myself frequently asking, “Why do I have to learn that?” I experienced what I would call a backwards model of education: I learned something because the teacher told me to and I knew I’d get graded on it. Then, sometimes, I learned how what I was learning truly worked. Very rarely, and only if time allowed, would I come to understand why I needed to know the particular information or skill. This, of course, is the prevalent model throughout much of the world. Progressive Education, on the other hand, starts with context.
The Vs dictate their stories to a teacher; and in the process, they feel the need to cut out the middleman and learn to write their thoughts with their own hands, all the while developing their own voice. A IX pores over prices for pencils from several different stores. They come in packs of 2, 10, 12, 100, and 144. They set out to determine the best deal and are helped along by a short cut we all know as the long division algorithm. A XIII sets out to write about a topic for the newspaper that’s important to them and in the process develops their persuasive writing with accuracy, depth, and purpose. The VIIIs, in their first year in daily Ball Yard, struggle with rules and how the games can be fair for the whole Group. What does fair mean? Which needs are more important: mine, yours, or the Group’s?
Progressive educators tap into the natural curiosity that every child brings with them into the world. When we root learning in meaning—through a social study, a classroom job, a school job, or a responsibility to the classroom or school community—students can easily see why they’d do well to learn whatever it is that is being studied. The question of why they’d need to learn it doesn’t need asking.
Children are not only given context for their academic learning, but for how to function as a citizen in a democracy—grappling with questions of fairness and inclusivity. For instance, our IVs’ budding independence within the C&C community is fostered by our XIIs—a task perfect for the XIIs’ growing need to prove they are responsible and ready to transition into adolescence and the greater world. And it’s no easy task: each XII has to support the individuality of each IV while also helping them learn the importance of the Group.
I’ve had the opportunity to spend time in many of the classrooms as this process of extending curiosity is set in motion for this school year. I have watched your children grow into their new roles at school. They, along with the teachers that guide them, live and breathe this sense of curiosity and purpose every day. They make all of this real!
The year is off to a fantastic start, and I look forward to more conversations about Progressive Education, what we do, and why it’s important in the future.