EXCELLENT TEACHERS, EXCELLENT EDUCATION AT AD FONTES ACADEMY
Whilst in Washington DC, an opportunity arose in the neighbouring State of Virginia to connect with Dean Luckenbaugh, the President of Ad Fontes Academy located in Centerville, a non-profit private school of approximately 200 students – ranging from Kindergarten (ages 5-6 years) to Grade 12 (aged 17-18 years).
AD FONTES ACADEMY
Ad Fontes follows a classical curriculum, since they believe this equips students with an ability to think more for themselves; something Soul Action is also keen to see in the South African context. The approach involves the:
- teaching of core knowledge in each area of study (grammar)
- development of logical thinking skills; the ability to ask the right questions and draw proper conclusions (logic)
- development of persuasive writing and speaking (rhetoric)
The high competence of the teachers who support students as they develop foundational skills to become independent learners, was very evident at Ad Fontes. Teachers communicated how they had a high regard for children – they believed in each child’s capacity to learn and their ability to fulfil their optimal potential – which, when combined with teachers’ obvious passion for learning and their subject, led to an encouraging life-giving environment where students felt supported to develop a genuine love for learning.
THE IMPORTANCE OF TEACHERS
In visiting a wide range of outstanding schools in different contexts across the world, one of the things that stands out, is the privilege of meeting, observing and dialoguing with such high calibre and passionate teachers. From high schools, primary schools to early childhood centres, what the best teachers have in common is they:
- respect the rights of the child
- are committed and motivated
- listen, think, reflect and interpret
- are creative and leave space for curiosity
- support children to develop critical thinking skills
- seek to support every child to fulfil their potential
- create learning opportunities connected to children’s interests
- work in partnership with children, parents and their colleagues
- have the skills to ask questions to enable children to think for themselves and be curious
‘Excellent’ education – that develops children that are adept at, ‘Complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, people management, coordinating with others, emotional intelligence, judgement and decision making, service orientation, negotiation and cognitive flexibility’ (WEC, 2017) – requires a staff team that is highly competent. As a direct consequence of this piece of research, careful consideration and reflection is required with regards to the qualities of the kind of staff needed to establish a demonstration school in Durban and – once those staff are employed – how to put appropriate systems in place that will best support these staff.
‘Every child begins their journey through life with an incredible potential: a creative mindset that approaches the world with curiosity, with questions, and with a desire to learn about the world and themselves through play. However, this mindset is often eroded or even erased by conventional educational practices. 98% of children in kindergarten are “creative geniuses” – they can think of endless opportunities of how to use a paper clip. This ability is reduced drastically as children go through the formal schooling system and by age 25, only 3% remain creative geniuses. Most of us only come up with one or a handful of uses.’