A few years ago I began a list of qualities that I see in the best schools I visit. I measure the quality of the school by the depth of its investment into the students’ souls, so that might make this a not very practical list. But here it is.
The best schools are characterized by the following activities and qualities:
- The atmosphere/environment corresponds to and supports the teaching. Both are leisurely, orderly, beautiful, and focused.
- High standards for communication, participation, and thought are implemented in a loving, patient, and consistent pattern.
- The faculty reads literature together and talks about it, usually informally, but constantly.
- A lot of Socratic teaching takes place at every level, so students’ thoughts are drawn out and refined.
- Sports are put and kept in their place, which is not insignificant.
- The roles of the board, headmaster, administration, teachers, parents, and students are clear and kept.
- Students know what is expected of them.
- Authority is vested in people who understand and are committed to Christian classical education. The degree of authority is linked to the level of understanding and commitment.
- In the areas where a school falls short, the board develops a non-jarring plan to prioritize them in fitting ways.
- The curriculum guides teachers as members of a community with a common goal without undercutting their creative insights. Teachers are trusted and trained (and these two things go very closely together).
Call it subjective, but in 15 years of observing schools, those that practice these things are remarkably effective. However, these items follow the pursuit of wisdom. They are NOT techniques that stand alone.