Must Academic Rigor Lead to Rigor Mortis? How to Engage Your Students Through Classical Methods and Active Participation

Classical education need not be stodgy or strictly lecture-based. Children (and adults!) benefit from a variety of instructional strategies and learning methods. Students can think deeply and stay engaged when they have the opportunity to play with ideas, to move to learn, and to articulate their understanding along the way. This practical workshop will equip you with creative, classical tools to take back to your classroom. Veteran teachers: come share your ideas and refresh your toolkit. Just getting started? Here we go!

Allison Jackson

“By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made from what was visible.” (Hebrews 11:3) I am honored to be a part of the Regents community as a School of Logic science teacher! I love middle school students, I’m passionate about the wonders of the natural world, and I am ever so grateful for the discipleship-centered approach of classical, Christian education. As a pre-med biology major, I earned a biology degree and a chemistry minor from the University of North Texas and worked in labs on and o campus. I felt called to teaching, and my career began in public high school, where I taught high school pre-AP Biology. Since then I have taught and developed curriculum in a variety of se ings, including summer science camps for grammar and middle school students where we raised butterflies and learned kitchen sink chemistry. I have tutored students and parents in a weekly class day for classical homeschoolers and helped to found a classical, Christian private school near San Antonio. When I’m not teaching or working in our new School of Logic garden, you might nd me cheering at my sons’ baseball games or outside catching lizards.

Benefits and Principles of Integrative Teaching

One of the fundamental insights of classical education is that knowledge is unified, and yet the way many of us teach treats subjects like history and literature as though they are distinct by separating them into two different classes. Whether you teach these classes separately or you teach Humanities in one “block,” it is possible to successfully integrate the content of the two disciplines if teachers are willing to collaborate on aligning them as closely as possible. This allows for students to gain a fuller understanding of the “story” of whichever time period you teach. In this workshop, we present the benefits of integrative teaching, offer practical advice on how to achieve alignment (drawn from our own experience working together), and conclude with some principles for successful collaboration across disciplines.

Christine Godwin

Christine Godwin has a degree in History and Classical Studies from Texas A&M University. After years of teaching in the public school system, she fell in love with the classical education model and for the last ve years she has been a Humanities instructor at Regents School of Austin, teaching Classical History, Medieval History, Rhetoric, and American History. In the summer of 2014, she served as a teacher in the inaugural SCL in Orvieto program.

The Science of Learning

The best teaching takes the human mind and its development into account. In particular, understanding how we think and the way we form memories, and thus learn, is an essential foundation for good teaching. This seminar will explore research in the science of memory and cognition and offer suggestions for how that knowledge can be creatively integrated into the classical classroom.

Annie Bullock

Annie Bullock lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and three children. She is a humanities instructor at Regents School of Austin, where she teaches Apologetics and Literature classes. She holds a Master’s in Theological Studies and PhD in Religion, both from Emory University.

Beyond Academics: The Transforming Power of Seeing God’s Glory in Your Students

What does it mean to see our students as fellow image bearers… to see in them, and call out of them, God’s glory? As teachers we have a responsibility to teach, but we also have an incredible privilege to speak into the hearts, minds and souls of each student the distinct, God given qualities that make him or her unique image bearers. Does it strike you that a nearly universal experience is people mentioning a particular teacher or coach as having had a transformational role in their lives? After hearing this workshop, a veteran teacher of forty years commented, “I have never been more encouraged about my role as a teacher than I am now.”

Peter Baur

Peter Baur has been professionally involved in the field of independent school education for nearly forty years. His tenure has been marked by rsthand experience in nearly every aspect of K-12 private schools: Headmaster, admission, college guidance, development, community service, capital campaigns, conferences, strategic planning, events, marketing, camp director, teaching, and coaching. Stints include “elite” 150 + year old private schools in Philadelphia, Pa. as well as young Classical Christian schools. He has taught in the middle and upper schools (Math and Economics) and coached soccer, basketball, baseball and at the college level in soccer. Peter holds two patents in Mobile Advertising. Peter is known for his ability to articulate the power and simplicity of a classical and Christian education. He has presented at national conferences including the Association of Classical Christian Schools, The Society for Classical Learning and the CiRCE Institute and has been a featured speaker at Classical Christian Schools across the United States.

Finding the Delight and the Beauty in the Tragedy of Oedipus

How do we get past the “ewww” factor and help our students appreciate the depth of Greek tragedy more fully? Focusing on the Oedipus plays, we will address finding beauty in the midst of tragedy, and how it is necessary to complete the experience of reading the Greek tragedians.

Rachel Greb

Mrs. Greb is Head of School at Oakdale Academy in the Detroit area. She graduated cum laude from the Hillsdale College Honors Program with a B.A. in Christian Studies. Prior to serving in her current role as Head of School, Mrs. Greb owned a small business and successfully homeschooled her children for eight years. She is happily married to Jason, and they have five children

Defending the Christian Liberal Arts: Helping Teachers Tell the Story

George Sanker

George Sanker currently serves as Headmaster of The Covenant School in Charlo esville, VA. George has worked in education since 1996 and served as the principal of two charter schools in Washington, DC and Longmont, CO. He started his career in education working in private Christians schools where he was a history and theology teacher for middle and high school students. George graduated from Colgate University with a BA in political science. A er Colgate, he served his country as an o cer at the Central Intelligence Agency, where he specialized in analyzing data pertaining to Southeast Asia. He also received a MA in Religion from Reformed Theological Seminary. George is currently ABD in sociology at the University of Virginia. He and his wife Jeanne e live in Charlo esville with ve of their children—Nicholas (10), Jonas (9), and Lukas (6), Thomas (3), Magdalena (6 months). Their h child, Kendrick (18), a ends Hampton University in Hampton, VA.

Teachers as Intellectuals, Not Technicians

Many 21st century teachers view themselves primarily as technicians: they are professional educators who have been trained with a set of skills that, when correctly employed, will produce the prescribed outcomes. In this seminar, however, I argue that teachers should view themselves primarily as intellectuals, not as technicians. Teachers are master learners whose primary job is to model a life of learning for their students and to lead students on a path of learning that they also are traveling. In addition to examining the conceptural differences between these two paradigms, we also will consider some practical applications of this. We will focus in particular on how teachers conceive their purpose, how they interact with students in and out of the classroom and what teachers and administrators alike understand to be excellent teaching and worthwhile professional development.

David Diener

Dr. David Diener began his formal post-secondary education at Wheaton College where he graduated Summa Cum Laude with an undergraduate degree in Philosophy and Ancient Languages. After putting his philosophical training to work by building custom cabinets and doing high-end nish carpentry for an Amish company, he moved with his wife to Bogotá, Colombia, where they served as missionaries for three years at a Christian international school. He then a ended graduate school at Indiana University where he earned a M.A. in Philosophy, a M.S. in History and Philosophy of Education, and a dual Ph.D. in Philosophy and Philosophy of Education. A er teaching for one year at The Stony Brook School on Long Island he moved to Fort Worth, Texas, where he served as Head of Upper Schools at Covenant Classical School. He now is the new Headmaster at Grace Academy in Georgetown, Texas. Dave has also taught philosophy courses for Taylor University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary as an Adjunct Professor. The Dieners have four wonderful children and are passionate about classical Christian education and the impact it can have on the church, our society, and the world.

Teaching from a Place of Rest: Christ Centered Teaching

We are counseled to, “Be diligent to enter his rest,” but what does it mean to enter His rest and how can we do so in our schools and classrooms? The answers are surprisingly practical, and unsurprisingly important. Come and reflect on how diligence and rest belong together in Christ.

Andrew Kern

Andrew Kern is founder and president of the CiRCE Institute, founding author of The Lost Tools of Writing, co-author of the best-selling book Classical Education: The Movement Sweeping America, which he wrote with Dr. Gene Edward Viet, and is an SCL board member. Since establishing CiRCE as a research and consulting service to classical educators, Andrew has trained teachers, led board retreats, and assisted with institutional development and start up in over 100 schools. Andrew helped start Providence Academy in Green Bay, WI in 1993, where he served as “Lead Teacher,” Foundations Academy (now Ambrose School) in Boise, ID, where he served as Director of Classical Instruction from 1996-2000, The Great Ideas Academy in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he served as Headmaster from 2001-2003, and The Regent Schools of the Carolinas where he served as Dean of Academics from 2006- 2008. He and his family live in North Carolina.

How to Get the Education You Never Had

Those who are teaching students how to think, how to act, and the basic story of the civilization they live in are already doing classical education, whether they know it or not. But in order to do it well, parents and teachers need to know these things themselves. Classical educator Martin Cothran gives you practical advice on what you should know and what you should read in order to get the classical education you never got.

Martin Cothran

Martin Cothran is a writer and teacher who lives in Danville, Kentucky. He holds a B.A. in philosophy and economics from the University of California at Santa Barbara and an M.A. in Christian Apologetics from the Simon Greenleaf School. He is a prominent voice in Kentucky on public policy issues and is a regular guest on radio and television. He is author of Traditional Logic: Books I and II and Classical Rhetoric.

Avoiding Mission Drift

I received a notice in the mail recently from the 100-year old Episcopal boarding school down the street announcing the appointment of a new headmaster. It took my breath away when I looked to the bottom of the letter to read the school’s mission statement, which for a century has been the verse from St. Paul to the Ephesians, “…until we all come to the full measure of the stature of Christ.” This statement is written in Greek in the stained glass of the campus chapel. The statement at the bottom of stationery, however, proclaimed boldly: “until we all come to full stature.” The “of Christ” part was neatly deleted with a simple keystroke, so I presume the students are just growing up with no particular end in mind. Well now, might we be just a wee bit embarrassed about Jesus? Clearly, mission drift has been going on in that school for a long time.

The hard work of sustaining fidelity to a clear mission challenges the most august and established institutions. The last twenty- five years has been a founding generation of classical schools in large part because the mission of providing classical education was dropped by schools that once espoused it.
Since the publication of Wilson’s Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning, there has been a renaissance of schools rising to the effort called for in that and subsequent books. There is a palpable energy felt in the hallways of these schools, freshness in the spirit of teachers in the classroom, an enthusiasm unmatched in any sector of private education. Once the first flush of success dims, however, mission drift can be a great enemy.

The mission of a school is obviously the stewardship of the “owners,” the board of directors. Boards, however, can only affect a relatively small handful of factors that keep the school on course, and most of those are systemic – hire the right head of school, enact policies that are on mission, etc. They cannot – and should not – interfere in the daily discharge of the school’s work. Thus, mission drift is most successfully attenuated when there is buy-in to the mission from top to bottom. Board members must be appropriately profiled and selected, but so must faculty members and students themselves.

School heads are in the single strongest position to guard the mission because they work directly both with boards and with staff. That doesn’t mean that teachers and other administrators don’t play a role. Here are a few suggestions that headmasters and faculty members might try:

Read your school’s mission statement out loud routinely. It sounds cheesy but lead teachers, deans, or heads of schools should consider beginning formal faculty meetings with a unison recitation of the mission statement. I’ve done this for more than ten years, and my faculty agenda template includes the mission statement and the collect of the day (ours is an Anglican school). Every meeting begins with these, and I have often found that even some minor detail on the agenda links directly with something major in the mission statement. Moreover, as time passes, this practice helps newer faculty members obtain a sense of what is important to you. Use those first moments of a meeting to “catechize” new members of the faculty in the big picture in a conversational and uncontrived way. Over time, they will come to understand that the mission is who you are. If you find that reading your mission statement this way is awkward, ask yourself if that feeling is because the mission statement sounds disconnected from what you’re actually doing. If the answer is yes, you’re already in mission drift.

Print your mission statement everywhere.

If you’re sending out printed information, include the mission statement appropriately on every print piece. Will this avoid mission drift? Of course not; but it’s a simple thing, that, over time contributes to establishing the main thing in everyone’s minds. Don’t overlook it.

Consciously justify programming in terms of the mission. Every program a school starts, changes, or eliminates, should be done because there is a missional purpose. If a school has an athletic program, it should be because it comports with the stated mission of the school. A perceptive leader will quickly realize that this drives other less visible policies. If a school’s sports program, for example, is driven by its mission, does it make sense to restrict students from playing sports because of poor grades? Maybe; maybe not. Would a student be withdrawn from, say, Latin, because he had a 74% average? Why then should a student be pulled from athletics if it was within the stated mission to develop students with team sports? One could substitute any number of other curricular inclusions in this example, but the point is to think through the mission and consider how it should drive policy.

Eliminate programs and practices that are not on mission. Before a school starts a new program, leadership should ask the basic question: Are we starting this because of a felt need, a temporary circumstance or because it’s within our mission? If a school’s stated mission is to educate traditional learners, it makes little sense to make significant and costly accommodations for the inevitable minority of students who present learning disabilities. I am not suggesting that a school should or shouldn’t, but before going out on that limb, the board needs to determine if it is part of the mission. A teacher in the classroom can be guided in the same way, albeit at a more granular level. If it’s the school’s stated mission to develop students who think and reason critically, one would expect that faculty and sectional team meetings would buzz with strategies to incarnate those skills in science, history, or Latin class pedagogies.

Talk openly with students about the kind of school they attend. Teachers should not take for granted that youngsters “get” the first principles of the school. They may know the buzz words, but they might not have a clue as to what Trivium, liberal arts, or dialectic actually mean for them. Take time to make the student self-consciously aware not only of what he’s learning, but of the larger commitments the school maintains. In short, provide the larger context of his efforts and the principles that are guiding that process.

Summarily, the mission of the school should not simply be a statement written down on the first page of the school’s by-laws. Every member of the school’s board, administration, faculty, and student body should be conversant in the school’s first principles that give identity and direction to their efforts. In that way everyone gets stewardship of the mission. As these constituencies gel over time, they will give unified voice to the school’s fundamental purpose, and the school’s reputation will successfully express its mission.