Elevator Speech

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I have heard it said that if you are trying to sell an idea, you should have a speech ready that can be delivered in the time it takes to ride an elevator. Here is my first attempt at an "elevator speech" for RiverTree:

Most schools view education as a systematic process and, therefore, implicitly view their students as products of that system. (How many times have you heard someone refer to the "educational system"?) The result is a cold, mechanistic, dehumanizing education that stifles children by teaching them to survive rather than thrive.
A RiverTree education is not a system. It is, as the founder of our method Charlotte Mason said, "a life." We constantly keep before us the truth that children are born persons, weak and ignorant to be sure, but fully formed in the image of God. We value them because of who they are, not what they can (or cannot) do.
We recognize that a child's mind is a spiritual organism hungry to be fed with living ideas: the good, the true and the beautiful. The young mind, as any parent will tell you, is astonishingly curious - eager to learn and understand. Too many schools stifle this desire by burdening children with repetitive work, teaching them that getting a smiley face or a star on their paper is the goal, and giving them nothing but dull, predigested texts with lots of facts, but few ideas.
Our goal at RiverTree is to feed a child's natural curiosity; it is our best ally. We want our students to have a steady diet of the best thoughts of the best minds so that they become engaged and their desire for knowledge grows. We do this by presenting them with living, vital books, and by asking them to assimilate and respond to the ideas in the text from the earliest grades. We teach them the habits of learning, especially the habit of attention, so that as they grow learning becomes easier and more a part of their daily life. And especially, we teach them that learning is its own reward. We do it because it is good and right without regard for extrinsic motivators like grades.
At RiverTree we also recognize that life is about relationships. Each person lives life in relation to God, self, others, and ideas. The role of the school and the teacher is to present opportunities for these relationships to form and then stay out of the way. This is nowhere more important than in a child's relationship with Christ. Too often Christian teachers, in their desire to see their students have a rich, vital Christian faith, try to form the relationship for them. They read a Bible story and then quickly follow it up with the proper moral conclusions hoping that if the child hears the right answers, the faith will necessarily come. Of course, that is not the way it works. Each child must form their own relationship. It is not the role of the teacher to serve as an intermediary between the child and Christ, but rather to be a wise guide and friend who introduces the child to Christ and then allows the relationship to grow.

It is the same way with other relationships, even relationships to ideas. A child who has been taught only about a subject doesn't necessarily know it. For example, a child who has learned the dates, locations and outcomes of the major battles of the Civil War only knows something about the war. However, unless these facts are connected to greater ideas, they will be of little value, and less interest. On the other hand, a child who has read and loved Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage has developed a relationship with several important ideas such as the nature of battles in the Civil War, how they were conducted, and what it was like to be in them. He also may have learned important ideas about courage, duty and honor. In other words, he has started to know the Civil War (and several other important things as well). Ironically, it is the student fed on ideas who will almost always have better command of the facts because they are no longer disconnected bits of data, but rather part of a larger, more complete picture.

In a practical sense it means that the children at RiverTree read (or are read to) a lot. They are expected to assimilate what they read or hear through a technique called narration, which is essentially a re-telling of the text they have just encountered. They interact with the ideas in a variety of ways, often very sophisticated ways. The students find delight in the learning because it is done for it's own sake. There are no marks given, the focus remains on the student's relationship to ideas, not on his ability to perform on quizzes or worksheets. It is gentle and humane and yet very rigorous. The children learn much.

Okay, so it would have to be a very slow elevator that stops a lot. What do you think?


Having a philosophical base behind your school rea...

Having a philosophical base behind your school really singles you out. Most teachers seem to focus on method and even classical education focuses on content, but CM's philosophy gives method and content meaning. Since every teacher naturally has some sort of philosophy, deliberate or not, naming the philosophy helps to unite the school.Deborah