How Do We Become Better People?: Battling Screens for Our Imaginations
How do we become better people? How do we, as educators, raise up a generation that deeply loves what God loves – creating a faith so dynamic that it tangibly governs our lives and the choices we make?
Reading great literature isn’t just for mental push-ups, it is to engage living stories with powerful, influential narratives that shape how we see ourselves and the world around us. If we are ever going to compete with the world of screens, it is through great literature. And it is ultimately through the renewal of our stories and our imaginations that we gain the perspective and encouragement we need to be more like Christ.
Join us for an engaging conversation with Dr. Jessica Hooten Wilson as she shares from her new book: The Scandal of Holiness-Renewing your Imagination in the Company of Literary Saints along with a book out in May: Learning the Good Life: Wisdom from the Great Hearts & Minds That Came Before.
Whether a school leader or a classroom teacher, join us to reignite your faith and catch a glimpse of what Jessica will offer at this summer’s conference.
Those who teach the early grades understand the extreme weight of the responsibility they take on when they agree to teach the very young. Knowing that you are beginning the journey of cultivating virtue in a young one can be ominous and downright petrifying! I well remember the year that the kindergarten teaching position at our school opened and our head of school asked me to take the class. I said, yes, and then, no, to the job numerous times throughout the summer but finally gave in and took on the class. By saying, yes, I learned more about myself and what it takes to be a good teacher than what my students ever learned from me. I guess you could say that as far as my teaching career goes, everything I learned, I learned in kindergarten! (Or at least almost everything)
Lesson one: A successful teacher is a disciplined teacher
Being disciplined meant that I had to commit to putting in the time and effort required to make my lessons. My students and my students’ outcomes had to be my first priority. That may sound obvious, but it has some real- world consequences. It meant things like reading a book cover to cover, annotating it, and writing comprehension questions for it when I would have rather watched my favorite show. It meant going to the community library every week to find books that might instill a sense of wonder in my students or add richness to our lessons. It meant writing postcards to each student three times a summer so that they could feel a connection between their lives and my life and look forward to whatever we were going to learn in the upcoming year. It also meant that I might need to attend a local pee wee baseball game or soccer game so that each child might know that I was interested in his whole life and not just his life in my classroom. Discipline for a teacher means that you have to become a voracious learner. Not only must you learn what you must teach presently, you must learn as much as you can about each level of work that your students will encounter as they work through the levels of the trivium.
I spent time in visiting and learning in other teachers’ classrooms so that I would have a better idea of what was ahead for my students’ sake.
Lesson two: A teacher must always be prepared
John Milton Gregory (The Seven Laws of Teaching) describes this as “a teacher must be one who knows the lesson or truth or art to be taught.” This means, anything that you are going to teach needs to be thoroughly read, thought out and practiced by you first. Practically that meant that I needed to read every page of every book in advance, I needed to learn every lyric to every song and chant and be the master of any information or fact I was going to teach. As Gregory wrote, “what a man does not know he cannot teach successfully.” You cannot “wing it.” You cannot open a book for the first time in front of your students. You have to think about the questions your students might ask. You have to know the lessons you are going to teach “inside and out” before you enter the classroom. Along with preparing a lesson, in the youngest grades, this also means that you have planned out where in your classroom each lesson will take place (mapped it out) and have thought out and readied all teaching armamentaria there. This allows you to teach and then release without interruption so that discovery and the joy of successful learning becomes internal for each student.
Lesson Three: Teaching must be predictable and offer consistent structure
This lesson was not so difficult for me to grasp. Being the mother of three children, early on in their lives I had learned that the best way to keep a happy home and form good habits in my children was to offer them the structure. This structure took the form of a set of negotiables and non-negotiables in our home, and I was always steady, stable and unwavering in my expectations of their meeting those. This made for an easy transition to the classroom. Beginning lessons for the very young means a lot of practicing procedures and expectations over and over until the desired behavior becomes habit. Practically that might be a young student learning to raise his hand to speak instead of blurting out, or it might be the expectation that the students will line up quietly and orderly every time they get ready to exit the classroom. For the teacher, this also means practically that a classroom schedule must be fairly regimented so that students can come to depend on “what comes next” or “what they should do next.” The structure must first be set by the teacher, and the structure is then imposed on the student.
Each subsequent year of teaching kindergarten, I gained a deeper understanding of what it meant to be disciplined, prepared, predictable and structured. All three lessons served my classroom well. My students flourished and their parents were appreciative of the changes they were seeing in their children that were spilling over into their homes and lives.
About the Author
Debra Sugyama, Executive Assistant and Educational Consultant at SCL (2009-2015)
Dr. Angel Adams Parham is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Nyansa Classical Community. Nyansa provides after-school programming and curricula designed to connect with and draw students of color into the beauty of classical literature and the great conversation. She is also Associate Professor of Sociology at Loyola University-New Orleans. Dr. Parham's sociological training provides an in-depth understanding of the social and economic challenges facing many low-income communities of color, while her Christian faith emphasizes the importance of combining this sociological knowledge with a commitment to students’ spiritual formation and the cultivation of their moral imagination. She is also a wife and mother of two beautiful girls who are homeschooled according to classical Christian principles and pedagogies.
Teacher preparation and knowledge are fundamental to student reading achievement. In this session, we will discuss why a systematic phonetic approach to reading instruction is classical, brain-based and effective. We will address the importance of phonemic awareness, language and vocabulary development and best practices for reading instruction. Practical strategies for providing support in the grammar school classroom will be shared. Participants will be able to apply their knowledge of reading development into effective instructional practices as well as assessment tools.
Jessica Gombert is in her 16th year as the grammar school headmaster at the Geneva School of Boerne. She holds a MA in Education and has been involved in many aspects of education for 30 years. Teaching experiences include special education, kindergarten, adult classes for Region 20 Alternative Certification program and student teacher supervision at University of Texas at San Antonio. She has a passion for teaching students to become lifelong learners, mentoring teachers and for classical and Christian education. She is currently writing children’s readers to supplement the phonics curriculum.
Melissa Siller has spent the last 20 years in various areas of education, including assessment item writing, classroom teaching, teaching pre-service teachers in field based teacher education, and is currently in her 8th year as the reading specialist at the Geneva School of Boerne. In addition, she is an adjunct faculty member in Trinity University's Department of Education. Her research focuses on teacher education, brain-based teaching practices, curriculum and inquiry as well as beginning in-service teacher induction support. She earned her PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Texas at San Antonio.
There is more to discussion than merely getting students to talk about the material. There is more to it than provoking their opinions. Is your classroom a place where students think well, listen well, and speak well? What practices stifle those qualities? This practical workshop provides ideas about how to get our students to interact with the material, with the instructor, and with one another.
Christopher Schlect, PhD, has worked in classical and Christian education for nearly thirty years. He is the Director of the Classical and Christian Studies program at New Saint Andrews College, where he also teaches courses in history and classical rhetoric. Schlect has also taught at Washington State University, and remains active with his historical research related to American Protestantism in the early 20th century. He taught many subjects in grades 7 through 12 at Logos School in Moscow, Idaho. He now serves classical and Christian schools around the country through his consulting and teacher training activities, and his writings appear in various school curricula and other outlets. He and his wife, Brenda, have five children, all products of a classical and Christian education. They also have four grandchildren.
Over the last 40 years, classical Christian education has been recovered and renewed in North America. What has been learned in this process? Dr. Perrin presents key lessons gleaned from this resurgence. Educators from around the world seeking to recover this ancient tradition will find these lessons insightful and helpful.
Christopher Perrin, MDiv, PhD, is the CEO with Classical Academic Press, and a national leader, author, and speaker for the renewal of classical education. He serves as a consultant to classical Christian schools, classical charter schools, and schools converting to the classical model. He is the director of the Alcuin Fellowship, former co-chair of the Society for Classical Learning, an adjunct professor with the honor's program at Messiah College, and previously served for ten years as a classical school headmaster.
We are all storytellers. We tell stories every day in our jobs, in our conversations at the grocery store, and with our friends. Children love to tell stories. They are excited to share their ideas and all of their experiences seem worthy of a discussion. In this session, you will hear how I’ve used flannel boards and story pieces to practice narration – the art of telling, with my students. My students have become confident storytellers through the practice of oral narrations. They listen to a variety of stories, create their pieces, organize their thoughts, and tell the story in their own words. Oral narration reinforces reading skills such as fluency, beginning, middle, and end, setting, and characterization. It has allowed my students to express themselves and to practice communicating with others effectively. They are connecting the dots to become better listeners, thinkers, and speakers.
Valerie Rennie is a Kindergarten teacher at Trinity Academy in Raleigh, North Carolina. She has a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree in educational technology. She has taught grades Kindergarten through 3rd grade. She has a passion for Classical Christian education because she has seen how it has transformed the lives of her two boys, both Trinity graduates. When she isn't with her favorite 5-year olds, she enjoys reading, listening to music, drinking coffee, and spending time with her family.
Assume the role of an online student as Joanna Hensley leads you through a discussion of Virgil’s First Georgic (have your copy of Virgil’s Georgics with you, theνDavid Ferry bilingual edition, if possible). In this presentation, you will see a demonstration of online tools such as chat box, webcam, and microphone used to facilitate deeply meaningful classroom discussion. During the Q&A, you can finetune best practices for teaching literature in an online classroom in a way that builds classroom culture and makes the most of distance learning.
Joanna Hensley has been teaching Latin and literature online since 2007. Active in classical education for over a decade as a teacher, writer, and conference speaker, Joanna has published several chapters in the Veritas Press Omnibus series, which forms the backbone of WHA’s The Great Conversation courses. Inspired by her own high school Latin teacher, Joanna studied classics and art history at the University of Minnesota, double-majoring in Latin and Classical Civilizations and graduating with honors. A pastor’s wife and a homeschooling mom, Joanna lives in Adelaide, Australia, with her husband Adam, who is a professor of Hebrew and Old Testament theology, and their five children. Joanna enjoys reading, road trips, and finding ways to make difficult subjects a pleasure to learn.
After hearing this presentation, a veteran teacher of 30+ years commented that it had a more impact on how she viewed her role as a teacher than anything she had previously heard. This is the power of seeing your students as fellow image bearers – a profound understanding of the opportunities you have on a daily basis, to speak into the lives of your students their unique image bearing. What does it mean to see your students as unique image bearers? How might that understanding change the way you see them, teach them, and inspire them? Through personal story, movie clips, and deep insight, this workshop will move you and transform your teaching.
Peter Baur has been professionally involved in the field of independent school education for over thirty years. His tenure has been marked by firsthand experience in nearly every aspect of a kindergarten through grade twelve private schools including admission, college guidance, development, community service, capital campaigns, conferences, strategic planning, major events, marketing and public relations, camp director, teaching, and coaching. Peter Baur serves as the Head of School at Faith Christian School and on the Board of SCL.
Recent developments have forced upon us the question of doing CCE online. Can it be done? Can it be done well? Is it even compatible with the classical understanding of education and it’s primary methodology of Trivium-driven learning?
Dr. Tom Vierra is Director of Academics at Wilson Hill Academy and a teacher of Great Conversation, Rhetoric, and Logic courses. He holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Arizona State University and has taught in classical education for fourteen years, the past six entirely online. In addition to having taught courses in classical literature, philosophy, writing, history, logic, and rhetoric, he has also helped to start two different classical schools, which included service as Academic Dean and Assistant Headmaster. He and his wife, Tracey, homeschool their five (soon to be six) children on their small farm among the beautiful rolling hills of middle Tennessee. Tom and Tracey share a love of Dickens novels, great books on education, and anything that Wendell Berry writes.