People are often attracted to the fact that our school enjoys a low student to teacher ratio. It sounds like utopia: 17 students to two teachers while everyone else averages 28 to one? Yes, please.
But when someone equates fewer with less effort, I respond: “It’s challenging in other ways.”
What do I mean by that?
In his book, Small is Beautiful, E. F. Schumacher writes: “When it comes to action we obviously need small units because action is a highly personal affair, and one cannot be in touch with more than a very limited number of persons at any one time.”
With a school ethos and culture that encourages depth of action in teaching and learning, fewer students with more hands on deck is a necessary ingredient to a just-right stew.
In many ways it looks like conscientious parenting. When parents know their kids, they’re better equipped to bring out their children’s best. It sounds easy but it isn’t. Trust takes time. Opportunities require resources and patience is worth its weight in gold.
It might actually be easier to be “old school” when parenting or schooling: Do this just because. Learn this just because.
But that doesn’t cut it. The kids know it and so do we. If we want to be conscientious about our task as tenderers of our future, then we should readily acknowledge the limitations wrought by our own “old schools” i. e. parenting and educational histories. Some traditions we keep and some we update. Look at any parenting forum, it’s with great care that we navigate the task of throwing out the bathwater without injuring the baby. The do-the-right-thing seesaw is continuous. Actions shift befitting the situation and the child.
We’re invested in the idea of making learning as conscientious as possible. That takes dialogue, research and mutual respect. This process is what we invite people to be a part of at THS. Fewer students per teacher equates to more quality interactions. It means two levels of math taught in tandem, age-appropriate and accelerated. It means that a student not meeting an objective experiences teachers spending extra time to address rather than just accept this. It means that at the pivotal point of Middle School, students harness strengths and work on weaknesses, empowered rather than defeated to grow into their High School selves.
I began my career in education wanting to make a difference. I’ll confess that my car’s vanity license plate as a graduate student was “AMELIOR8”. Juvenile and naive? Maybe. Inspired and ready to roll my sleeves up? Always.
I feel lucky to work in a place where amelioration is a reality each day. Thanks to the care and dedication demonstrated by my colleagues in bringing out the best in their students and to the support of parents who appreciate the complexities associated with forging new educational (and this year, physical) grounds, it’s all just a day in the life of a school where learning is “a highly personal affair.”
E. F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered, 1973.