Clapham Christian Classical School

Clapham Journal

Common Sense Teaching

By Cheryl Ward, Class Five Teacher


Over my thirteen years of teaching, I have developed ideas about education. I have formed strong opinions about what works, and what does not.


I believe that a classroom should be calm, pleasant, relaxing, and warm. Simple is better than complicated. Attractive, well-chosen pieces of art and plants are better
than mass-produced, loud colors on the walls. Humans respond to beauty.



I have also found that people of all ages need to feel safe in order to reach their full capacity for learning, and that this safety could be nurtured through developing healthy relationships. Classrooms need excellent structure but they also need a good dose of humor. Firm, consistent, and kind go very well together.


I have discovered that a deep well of knowledge and skill is an excellent foundation for curiosity and creativity. People like to be challenged and to learn new ideas. Most of all, I have learned that the people who succeed in life tend to have very good life habits and those who do not succeed lack them.


In many ways, these realizations gave me a new definition of what it meant to be a good teacher, formed from experience, common sense, and relational observations.


When I returned to the United States after many years teaching overseas, I wondered where I might possibly find a school which would mesh with my personal philosophy of education. It was at this time that I began to research the classical education movement. I realized that this method, combined with Charlotte Mason’s approach to habit training and attention to atmosphere, made sense of what I had already discovered to work in my own classrooms.


The freedom to teach in this way has awakened me.


I knew that children were bright, interesting, and energetic but now I have been able to experience how truly deep is a child’s capacity for that which is intellectual and thought-provoking. Children can engage at much deeper levels than they are given credit. Children are capable of interacting with literature, art, music, math, and science at extremely high levels. They are capable of reasoning. They can produce quality work, and revel in the effort of a challenge. They can develop a loving relationship with knowledge, the world, and God.


I now spend my days guiding my students, struggling and delighting with them in the work at hand. This is truly a wonderful place to be.


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