7.22.2014

Teacher Training Conference Daily Blog: Day 1

Well let me say this: there is entirely too much to report back on from my first day at the Rockbridge Academy Teacher Training. (please go here for my introduction to the training)


My brain is more than a little tired, but I will try to share some of the best snippets from today. I've taken 7 or so pages of notes, so the difficulty is condensing it all. I've decided to focus on one of the talks more than the others and then offer a few choice quotes from each of the other talks. I should also say a number of questions and issues arose in my mind throughout today, but I'm not going to share them as of yet. I'll share those in separate posts later. Today, I'm focusing simply on the material I've learned.

Here's a list of the sessions I attended today which I found thought provoking:
What Do We Mean by “Classical” “Christian” Education?
Shepherding Hearts: Practical Applications for secondary schools
Teaching Literature to the Dialectic (Logic) Student
Creating and Maintaining Faculty Unity

So, to serve as an intro for this week and for those who might be reading this blog and don't know much about Classical Education, I'm going to focus the most on the first talk of the day, "What is Classical Christian Education All About?" by Michael Mckenna the headmaster of Rockbridge Academy.

He starts out noting that education starts before it starts, with the worldview of the teacher(s), which is then imparted onto the students. “Worldview” teaching is something so deeply embedded into who I am that I have never actually rejected it but it's something I haven't thought about for a long time. Through reading the works of Francis Schaeffer, Josh McDowell, and Charles Colson I was early on immersed in the “Worldview” worldview. So it's interesting to think the teaching might be novel to some. I am pretty sure I am still a subscriber to it, but it will be an interesting exercise to re-examine it this week.

So, according to McKenna, the reason we give our children a “Christian” education is we believe worldview matters. We believe the presuppositions of our education are integral to the end result. In other words, the beliefs and assumptions we start our kids out with dictates how their education will culminate in their adulthood.

He went on to discuss how Augustine founded a school towards the end of his life and how he based the school on the first principles of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom taken from the book of Proverbs, which he saw as parallels to the Greek Trivium of Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric.

He goes on to explain the stages more, focusing the most on Grammar and Rhetoric:
Grammar/knowledge—there are things that we simply have to memorize, the bits and raw data. Often they are isolated little fragments.
--we learn the ABC song before we understand what reading and writing is. It gets embedded there and we use it later when it makes more sense.
--This is the first stage, but it needs to be challenging. It sets the precedent for the years to come, giving them the work ethic and the knowledge base.

--this is interesting to think about in terms of how we want our kids to be busy doing so much. Yes, teach them a ton of stuff while their young, but where does it leave us if we've given them a great base of knowledge from which to draw but they have no foundation of character. We must equally invest in their moral and ethical base as we do in their knowledge base.

Rhetoric/wisdom: We take our knowledge and we put it to use, knowing what must be done.
We must go through all 3 stages. We crown our understanding with wisdom, the great tool of discernment.

He concluded this session with 4 biases built into Classical Christian Education:
  1. We have a language bias. We must teach our kids to know language deeply and to know many languages.
    Why did Erasmus learn Latin? So he could get great SAT scores?
    No! It's so that he could access all the great works of the world. A language is a symbolic reduction of a people's worldview. The decline of a language represents the decline of a culture
  1. A History bias: we must understand where we've been, who we are, and where we're going. How do you explain where we are without understanding where we've been?

  1. Aesthetic bias: every study is to be seen in the beauty of God's creation, the beauty of the Gospel, of God's intention for all of creation.
    For example, the sciences are not to be seen as the study of the way things are and the way things need to be done, but as an exploration of the glory of God and God's character and intention for the world.
  2. The Observative Bias: for some reason I didn't take notes on this bias and don't remember what it was! Sorry Mr. McKenna.

Here now are my favorite quotes from the other sessions:
Shepherding Hearts: Practical Applications for secondary schools
If our highest aim is to make our students disciples of Jesus, we are actually free to teach them.
--Shepherding the hearts of our students can provide the overarching mental framework for teaching both classically and Christianly.
--Our goal is to help them see all of life in proper relationship to the Triune God.
--We are working to support parents in this endeavor.
--We are to help the child realize his or her heart is the fountain of his or her life

A great insight: when a kid is really judgmental about other kids or teachers or whatever, that is a kid who is also really unhappy with themselves.

Special things to consider for older students:
--In the older year kids appreciate transparency more.
--you have to lead them more by influence than by your authority
--their friends' opinions about the world and them affect them far greater than our opinions as teachers and parents. We need to confront these other influences
--therefore we need to engage with them on a higher level, dialoguing with them and actually engaging in issues and answering their questions.
--we have to model Christ like character before them. We are showing them a model at all times no matter what in how we deal with conflict and face confrontation.

Teaching Literature to the Dialectic (Logic or Jr. High) Student
The 4 foundational rules for teaching literature: 
  1. Read together
  2. Read carefully
  3. Discuss often
  4. Write an essay
The main advice: Let it breath....
Let the literature speak for itself and allow your students to engage in discussion about it with you and each other. The text is another person in the room with which to have a conversation.

Great practical advice: read through texts slowly in the in 6th, 7th, 8th grades. If you give them too much to do they'll want to cheat and go to wikipedia to get a synopses of the text. If you go slowly they'll understand better and by the 9th grade they'll be able to read at a quicker pace.

Creating and Maintaining Faculty Unity
1. Love the Lord, love your children, and love your subjects in front of your children
2. Teachers and faculty who cannot work with each other honestly, openly, and enjoyably have no place teaching at a Classical Christian school. We have to model humility and love and the fruit of the Spirit before our kids.
3. For administrators: the day teachers stop bringing you problems is the day they stopped trusting you to deal with them--leaders tackle problems!!!
4. Don't be overwhelmed by yourself, let others be overwhelmed with you. This is how we handle problems. “Are we making the school better together?”

Check back again tomorrow for more. Cheers and blessings.

Related Post:
Teacher Training Conference: An Introduction


2 comments:

April said...

Man, I hope they provide audio of some of these! I love this line, "A language is a symbolic reduction of a people's worldview."

Great notes. Thanks.

FYI-I linked them on one of my pinterest boards. ;) Also, added one to Aletheia's Pinterest board.

Chris Marchand said...

I had no idea the school had a Pinterest page. What does that even mean?