We were blessed this year with an incredible school for Jackson – City Neighbors Hamilton. Wendy and I have been as involved as much as we possibly can be. We love it.
The education at City Neighbors is very different from anything we grew up with. It is a beautiful combination of several different elements: arts integration, project based learning, inclusion, Reggio Emila inspiration, diversity, and a strong sense of community. One of the missions of the school I love deeply is to produce great citizens. This is our first year and we are looking forward to many, many more.
Here are a few things I’ve learned from watching this unique educational experience:
1. Everyone is beautifully different. Kids are incredibly creative and hungry for knowledge. Part of the Reggio Emila inspiration is the phrase “Kids speak a hundred languages.” The idea, as I understand it, is that kids want to learn and create, but they each do it in their own way. The teachers at the school work to discover how each child learns and grows. It is an amazing celebration of individuality. There are kids at City Neighbors thriving because of it that I can’t imagine succeeding anywhere else. I wonder how the church might learn from this and begin customizing spiritual growth and discipleship. Do people stop speaking those different learning languages as they mature? I don’t think so. Isn’t that the message of 1st Corinthians 12?
2. Teachers must be learners if they are to empower individuals. The teacher’s at Jackson’s school an incredible. They are constantly learning, shifting their methods and communication to help each child. They do not practice the lecture style of education that comes to mind when I think on the word “teacher.” They are more like personal coaches. Their teaching is truly an art form.
3. We are better together. The school seeks not just to inform parents, but to truly involve them as part of the team. Every family is asked to volunteer 40 hours a year toward the school. Serving along side one another has helped develop us into a community. Also, the governance model uniquely places a large amount of administrative responsiblity on the families. It has been wonderful to see people from all different backgrounds and professional fields come together to solve problems, think creatively, and work to improve the school. The school is so much richer because the systems were designed to create space for outsiders to come it.
4. People should be released to create and their creations should be celebrated. When you walk down the halls of Jackson’s school all the kids work is proudly displayed. There are the kids’ paintings, sketches, poems, and photos everywhere; and it is all astoundingly creative. I’ve heard it said that learning doesn’t happen through listening. Learning comes through experiencing. I see that in action at City Neighbors.
5. Community is a beautiful thing. Jackson’s class is like a little family. This is not unique to his class either. It is something the teachers work to create. I don’t fully understand how they do it yet. I know it involves a lot of working together, learning from each other, and sharing experiences. One of my favorite moments in the day was dropping Jackson off at school. I loved walking him into the cafeteria before school officially started. All the kids would be sitting together, talking and playing. Jackson would walk right over and join in as if he had known the group for years.
I could go on and on, but I will keep it short. We love the school and are proud to be a part of it. I’m learning so much there…not to mention Jackson is doing great. This week we will try to write more about our experience and the great things going on.