What Makes a School Great?
4 Thoughts from Valor Public Schools
1. Intentional School Culture
The best schools are like well-tended gardens. Just as a gardener carefully plans and attends to each aspect of the garden in order to allow plants to thrive, in the same way school leaders must carefully and intentionally shape the school environment so that it allows all students to flourish.
So what does an intentional, purposeful, and unified school culture look like?
Here are a couple of questions to consider:
- When you walk on a school’s campus, what do you see?
- Are student conversations and attitudes energetic and uplifting, or are they overshadowed by a tone of cynicism and negativity?
- Do teachers actively engage students in meaningful conversations, or do they merely sit on the sidelines “refereeing” misbehavior?
In a great school, there is a palpable sense of joy, order, and engagement among both students and their teachers. Students have a fundamental trust in their teachers, knowing with confidence that each one will hold them to the same high standard. In such an environment, students feel safe, secure, loved, and valued for who they are.
2. Emphasis on the Whole Child
“Poetry just isn’t for me.” … “I hate sports—I’m not athletic.” … “There’s not a musical bone in my body.”…”I’m just not a math person.” Maybe we’ve uttered these mantras to ourselves, or worse, been convinced by someone we respected and looked up to that they were true. By emphasizing premature specialization, some trends in modern education have actually served to limit the potential of our children. The truth is, when we define ourselves by these false labels, we deny something fundamental about what it means to be human. Mortimer Adler says that “the ultimate end of education is happiness or a good life, a life enriched by the possession of every kind of good…” Our students deserve access to every kind of good. From the humanities to the sciences, from fine arts to athletics, a great school will give every child the opportunity to explore their talents and interests by immersing them in a range of disciplines. Teachers who model receptivity and openness will inspire students to go beyond any preconceived notions of their abilities. A great school educates the whole child.
3. Love of Learning
Does your child come home from school each day excited to share with you what they learned?
- A great school enlivens the natural sense of wonder that all young children have, nourishing it as they grow.
- It avoids the “teach to the test” approach that has dominated so many classrooms in recent years, squashing a child’s desire to learn for the sake of learning.
G.K. CHESTERTON ONCE SAID, “THERE ARE NO UNINTERESTING THINGS, ONLY UNINTERESTED PEOPLE.”
- Great teachers inspire and sustain wonder during the years when students are most prone to becoming apathetic, uninterested people. They accomplish this not by gimmicks or tricks, but by drawing students into provoking and illuminating conversations that address the most important questions of every discipline.
- A great school understands that when students are fully engaged in their learning, outstanding academic results will naturally follow.
4. Classical Approach
Educational fads are just that—fads. They often come in flashy and expensive packaging, promising to revolutionize education, but all too often our children are the ones who suffer when these trends fall flat. It takes judgment and a balanced perspective to incorporate what’s most beneficial in contemporary research without abandoning the time-tested content and methods of our classical tradition.
Rooted in the most lasting and permanent things, a true classical education is never out of date. It focuses on what is true, good, and beautiful throughout history and today, from the Great Books to the most profound discoveries of science. It forms the mind and heart with lessons from the past, preparing students to act with purpose and responsibility in the world today.
A great new school is coming to North Austin! Apply Today!
Valor Public Schools creates the highest quality K-12 tuition-free charter schools, educating the whole person for authentic freedom and a full human life. Valor is launching its second campus in North Austin this fall.
Valor North Austin is accepting applications for the 2020-21 school year in grades K-8! Apply today for a transformative free education. www.valorpublicschools.org/enroll
You can also learn more about Valor at www.valorpublicschools.org and join their interest list to receive more information.