The one-word version: Engagement.
Mabel Slade Vickery founded Latin School of Chicago with a shared vision of developing a school that is inclusive, student-centered, and interdisciplinary.
Enduring understanding comes from meaningful content combined with a powerful social context. In other words, when students are exposed to interesting and relevant curricula in a stimulating learning environment, they remember the information longer, have a richer conceptual understanding of it, and are able to transfer that knowledge to other situations.
The five-word version: Student-centered approach to learning.
In order for students to best engage in learning, their unique aptitudes and needs must be recognized and understood by the individual students, their teacher(s), and parents/guardians. Perhaps the most effective and well-researched student-centered approaches are proficiency- and/or standards- based learning. These entail an individualized approach to instructing children, along with assessments that demonstrate ongoing, formative progress. Rather than simply reducing a student’s nuanced or inchoate understanding of a concept into a summative and overly simplistic letter grade, the focus of feedback should ensure that everyone involved in the scaffolding of a student’s success has a good understanding of where they are on a continuum of mastery on a particular skill or concept. Final scores may complement this understanding, but not supplant it.
A more extended version: A progressive education approach to learning.
Mabel Slade Vickery founded Latin School of Chicago with a shared vision of developing a school that is inclusive, student-centered, and interdisciplinary. In part, her views were influenced by the “founders” of the progressive movement, namely John Dewey and Francis Parker. They rejected the rigidity of the one-size-fits-all approach of the past and, instead, focused on responding to the interests of students and individualizing curriculum and instruction accordingly. While idealistic in some ways, it was also grounded in pragmatism. Dewey once famously said, “Education is not preparation for life. Education is life itself.” As such, his practices and teachings included an emphasis on the development of community, civic engagement, and active citizenship. Schools as communities was a radical, but important shift in the history of education to personalize and contextualize the learning experiences for children, teachers, and families.
During graduate school, I had the good fortune to learn from many influential progressive education pioneers, including:
John Locke–Truth and knowledge come from experience;
Jean-Jacques Rousseau–Rote learning and memorization are not ways children retain information;
Johann Pestalozzi–Learning requires a holistic head, heart, and hand approach;
Friedrich Fröbel–Play and experimentation are essential elements of learning; and
Maria Montessori–Methods of assessing students must be authentic, intentional, and multi-dimensional.
Our promise to Latin families is that we will prepare your children to pursue their passions and lead lives of purpose and excellence.
These individuals and so many others helped to shape and influence my own approach to teaching students and leading schools. Collectively, these philosophers, educators, researchers, and practitioners created a tapestry of both important aspirations and practical strategies that have impacted my work over the past 30 years. Perhaps the most significant aspect of my interest in joining the Latin community was the understanding that these were shared beliefs and values.
Of course, having a philosophy and translating it into action are two different things. As a Head of School, it is important to keep our vision at the forefront of decision-making, articulate goals for both curriculum choices and instructional approaches, evaluate programmatic success using a variety of high-quality metrics, address areas that need improvements or corrective actions, and provide appropriate resources and supports to accomplish these lofty aims. Embedded in this approach is supporting our teachers, who are experts in their fields and child development, and ensuring that our parents remain active partners and advocates on behalf of their children.
Our promise to Latin families is that we will prepare your children to pursue their passions and lead lives of purpose and excellence. We fulfill this commitment by believing in the inherent possibility of every child, fostering a sense of individual and collective agency, instilling a sense of social responsibility, and encouraging our students to dream–then make those dreams a reality!
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