I have been asked many times what my vision for education would be. Here, in a nutshell, is what I have in mind. I have called the school “Arete Academy” from the Greek arete for excellence. I look forward to your thoughts!
Arete Academy is a school where deep exploration goes hand-in-hand with high expectations; a school where students are encouraged to never stop asking questions; a school where students engage in high-concept, high-touch projects using real-world, real-time applications. We believe that the key to student success lies in offering an engaging curriculum that fosters a symbiotic integration of head, heart, and hands. At Arete Academy, students are immersed in the process of learning, exploring, discussing, designing, reflecting and refining.
The Arete Academy is a school that intentionally begins with the end in mind, believing that the students who walk out of our doors should be capable of deep thinking, collaborative problem solving, and virtuous living. They should be individuals full of curiosity, imagination, and initiative, capable of leading by influence and working toward the greater public good. Our students will be ones who see opportunity in difficult problems to be solved, consistently use their minds to figure out solutions to unpredictable situations, operate in their dealings with others from a place of concern and genuine thoughtfulness, and who have mastered strong intellectual habits. The vision for education at Arete Academy is that students will leave having not only mastered the disciplines, but more importantly, learned to possess the ability to use good judgment, to live reverently, to make decisions with kindness and justice, and to engage in thoughtful citizenship.
At Arete Academy, we believe that every life has a story and that every story matters. We shape our pedagogical vision around the practice of writing a good story with one’s life. The stories our children live have the power to shape better communities, better institutions, and a better world. We believe in the idea that the right habits, practiced over and over, breed the right virtues and in turn shape a story that has value to one’s self and the greater good. Our pedagogy is therefore shaped around the belief that a wise school helps its students form good habits, both intellectually and personally. We are a culture organized around centers of care: care for self, care for others, and care for ideas. We believe that the mark of a good school is to be found in its practices of wisdom, kindness, honesty, and service to others.
The Arete Academy employs a learner centered, project-based curriculum that shapes a vision for education that blends the head, the heart, and the hands. Arete Academy intentionally seeks to keep the fire and passion of young learners going throughout their educational career. Students work to discover, create, and dream from a variety of curricular disciplines, often combining multiple subjects (math with English, science with music, arts with history, etc.) to produce an artifact assessed both on the merits of its educational value (what the students learned) and its functionality (how well the project meets and exceeds expectations). Sample projects for our students might include designing a hydroponic garden to study both nature and nutrition; writing, editing, and self-publishing a creative writing anthology; designing a medieval castle using only the implements available from that era. Sample courses might include “The Problem of Evil”–a course that combines literature, science and history to explore the nature of humanity and the problem of violence; “Democracy”–a course that combines philosophy, history, and debate to explore the creation of a just society; or “Friendship”–a course that looks at the Aristotelian virtue of friendship and its role in creating more moral communities.
We believe that this model of education can shape generations of students to be agents of transformation, challenged and equipped to do hard things. It is an educational vision that values intense rigor on the one hand and collaborative learning on the other. It is a pedagogy based upon projects of both personal and social value. It is a school where play, learning, and transformation go hand in hand. Students from the earliest ages will engage in “learning-as-discovery,” as they are pushed beyond finding the right answers, to learning to ask the right questions. Arete Academy prepares every student to be a virtuous human being, an engaged citizen, and a scholarly innovator.
By working collaboratively in groups facilitated by master teachers, students create something together that demonstrates their new discovery and understandings to a real audience through presentations of learning that showcase a genuine confidence in their work. Revision and reflection are key components to successful learning, and students have the opportunity to question, improve, and rethink their work in their quest for wisdom and mastery. Most assessment is performance based: students develop projects, solve problems, write and discuss reflections of their findings, and present them to their peers and the larger community. At Arete Academy, the measure of accomplishment lies primarily in the students’ ability to explain or demonstrate his/her overall process of learning from the beginning of the project to the end.
Everything that goes into Arete Academy is funneled through our vision of open, participatory learning. In every pedagogical space (from the classroom to the lunchroom, from the playground to the hallways), the intent is on shaping conversations that matter. Arete Academy is a place specifically designed in every detail, from architecture to scheduling to course selections, to promote our distinctive vision of transformational education.
By opening our doors to after school tutoring programs, the arts, parent training classes, courses on financial literacy, children’s camps, computer workshops and the like, Arete Academy serves as a bridge between the schoolhouse and multiple points of contact within the community. By extending education beyond the classroom and into the community, Arete Academy is distinctively poised to be a beacon of creative inspiration for the larger public good.
At Arete Academy, the role of teacher is of the utmost importance in shaping the trajectory for a child’s learning and development. We believe that the most important relationship in the schoolhouse is that between the teacher and the student, and that such a relationship takes a long time to develop. We believe that to know a child well enough to speak truth, wisdom, kindness and courage into his or her heart, the teacher must come to know each student as a person. We work hard to create an engaging, supportive, active community of vibrant professionals dedicated to becoming masters in their chosen craft. We seek to attract teachers who understand that the best learning comes from the collective grappling with essential questions. Our teachers understand that the type and quality of teaching we expect is difficult because it involves asking more questions, creating opportunities for deeper thinking, and working with each and every student to know what excellence in their work entails.
It is the responsibility of Arete Academy to create the type of place that attracts the brightest and best in the teaching profession and then to work tirelessly to help them hone their craft. Our teachers are expected to be highly read in their field. They must show a continued pursuit of mastery in their subject area, and, to this end, each teacher is expected to create his or her own presentations of learning that they, in turn, present to the school body as part of their commitment to practice and model what they teach. Arete Academy also works hard to support each teacher in his or her calling through a strong commitment to professional development. We believe in giving teachers a voice in the shape and quality of the place in which they work, and value them as colleagues, peers, professionals, and innovators. As such, Arete Academy seeks to be a pioneer in the field of creative, innovative ideas in the field of teacher education.
The strength of the Arete Academy lies in its fervent belief that excellence fosters excellence, and this is echoed in the strength of our leadership, the passion of our teachers, and the intellectual curiosity of our students. In every area, Arete Academy stands poised to provide not only the greatest educational opportunity for the children of Oklahoma City; it also exists as a living, breathing workshop in the power of education to transform communities. The vision for Arete Academy is threefold: to change lives, to deepen community, and to serve as an example for other schools locally and across the nation of all that is right, good, and powerful in the field of education. It brings to Oklahoma City a fresh vision for education from which others (both locally and nationally) can learn, and adds to the vitality of a city on the move. At Arete Academy, innovation, teacher training, cultural development, and collaboration with families and the larger community are all part of what we do on a daily basis. By offering an education that promotes enthusiastic participation from all its members, 21st-century leadership and innovation, strong community support and enhancement, a collaborative learning environment, and access to the resources of a thriving city, Arete Academy provides a truly special, one-of-a-kind education to Oklahoma City.