by Elise Redfield, Class Four Teacher
As students attend various field trips throughout the Chicago area I constantly hear from employees and other visitors how attentive they are, what intelligent questions they ask, and my own mother tells people that I teach at a school for “The Exceptionally Gifted.” Clapham is a unique place where children from many backgrounds can learn and grow. The way we encourage students to engage helps them reach their full potential. This looks different for each child, but produces the results that set us apart.
“My child is so bright!” say many parents. I myself often brag on the minute details my nine-year-old students remember in narrations and notice in nature studies. Our students at Clapham recite seemingly endless portions of poetry so joyfully that they will recite for hours on bus rides to and from field trips. They request Alexander the Great themed birthday parties. Six-year-olds play Egyptian merchant with a Lego set. Ten-year-olds mummify chickens. I love my students and am constantly amazed at how they grow, but must remind myself that it is not ultimately due to either my hard work or theirs, but to the attention to rich texts and placing these at the center of their learning. Learning about such beauty brings beauty into their lives as well.
Many parents ask me at the beginning of the school year what they can expect to see during the year. I look back on all of the things they have learned and explain that I seek to help bring them to maturity. Just because a student can impress intellectually does not mean that we have reached the full goal of education. What good is memorizing the dates of the Civil War if one is unable to put them in the context of larger history? What good is knowing the current geography of Eastern Europe without understanding how and why it has changed? What good is being able to read a good text if you have not learned the responsibility to even bring it home to read for homework? In seeing our students move from the grammar stage to the logic stage of Classical education, I see a lot of my work focusing on the last of these questions, but with the desire and intent that students grow in the habits of responsibility with the goal of maturity.
Growth into maturity means that my students learn to care for others. They solve problems on their own and are kind to one another. They should be able to problem solve and seek forgiveness as they relate to one another. I encourage them to be responsible for their own learning (both in and out of the classroom) and have the tools to make good choices on their own. I have grown personally in knowledge, wisdom, and maturity at Clapham. Continuing to see my own needs helps me have patience as I seek to help them grow. And may we all be like the wisdom in Proverbs 8:12 who “dwell[s] together with prudence” and “possess[es] knowledge and discretion.”