Why In-Person Learning?
by Headmaster Richard Halloran
Providence Classical School has had to make a multitude of decisions in order to continue carrying out our mission during a pandemic. For the 2020-2021 school year, we were pleased that we had the option to begin school in person. While we recognized that every family is facing different circumstances and some would need to learn remotely, we believe our mission is best carried out with in-person learning. Of course, the safety of our students always takes top priority, and answering the question, “How do we begin school safely?” was always at the forefront of our decision-making process.
Developing a plan and implementing it was critical.
While we have learned to adjust and learned to implement classical Christian education remotely, we have always considered that in-person is the most effective way to provide a classical and Christian education. Let me suggest a couple of reasons why this is true.
First, our teachers make the difference!
Every year we bring alumni back to school to share their experiences with our parents and our junior and senior students. Each year, without fail, we hear the recurring theme that PCS teachers have made incredible impacts in the lives of our alumni. This is because education is not simply a means to input content or information into a pupil’s brain. Our goal is to partner with parents to shape and transform the hearts of children. As G. K. Chesterton stated:
Education is not a subject, and it does not deal in subjects.
It is instead the transfer of a way of life.
As such, a loving teacher who devotes himself or herself to investing in the life of a student is critical to the process. From PreK to 12th grade, students will spend more than 14,000 hours with teachers. It is critical to have trusted teachers, who are committed to transferring a God-honoring way of life, teaching this next generation. While the pandemic has forced some of this to occur virtually, nothing can replace the development of relationships which occurs when students and teachers are in each other’s presence day in and day out.
Secondly, children thrive in an environment of joy and structure, where they learn to live in community.
Routines are healthy, especially for students who struggle with the temptation to slack off. It is in a community that children and teenagers learn social and communicative skills. They learn patience, humility, gratitude, and confidence. They learn how to love their neighbor by placing others’ needs above their own.
Throughout their education, and especially in the logic and rhetoric years, students learn to think and communicate in discussions regarding difficult topics. This year has provided, and continues to provide, a host of topics that our students must learn how to think through critically and how to discuss winsomely. Socratic discussions that occur in classical Christian classrooms foster such growth. Having classes on campus, even with the pandemic forcing some to engage remotely, provides a more ideal setting to carry out life and learning together.
Classical Christian schools are transferring a way of life to students with results that far exceed other school models.
You may remember our previous blog post titled The “Good Soil” of Classical Christian Education. In it, we direct readers to the findings of a comparative study conducted in 2018-19 by the Sociology Department of the University of Notre Dame. The study compared responses on the topics of life-choices, preparation, attitudes, values, opinions, and practices of 24-42-year-old alumni from six types of schools: public, secular private, Catholic, evangelical Christian, religious homeschool, and ACCS (classical Christian) schools. As I looked at the study results, I was encouraged to see how classical Christian education bears fruit for the lifetime of students, not just during their Pre-K through 12th grade years. Reviewing these findings again this summer, I became more convinced of our need to deliver our mission and more determined to have class on campus safely.
Providence Classical School is uniquely equipped for in-person learning during the pandemic.
Through God’s providence, our school has been blessed with an open-concept campus that makes it possible for us to follow CDC and TEA guidelines for in-person learning. Our classrooms are equipped with external doors and windows and individual air conditioning units. Students can access classrooms without crowding into internal hallways. We have ample space for outdoor play and lunch. And our pavilion allows us to continue physical education in a safe manner.
In addition, our school’s traditionally small class sizes and excellent student-teacher ratio are in line with official guidelines. We haven’t had to force students off campus or divide classes beyond our staff resources. We are proud of and grateful for our excellent faculty and staff who have pulled together to accomplish more than we could ask or imagine during this trying time.
One person who has already proven to be a great resource to our students and families is Dr. Dawn Ontiveros (or Mrs. O, as she is affectionately known to most PCS students). Dr. Ontiveros holds degrees in elementary education, psychology, and education and supervision counseling and has taught at PCS for many years. This year, in addition to teaching 7th grade Humanities, Dr. Ontiveros is serving as our Student Academic Liaison, assisting students and families as they participate in remote learning as needed. We praise God for equipping Mrs. O for such a time as this!
The labor is worth it.
As we have faced a multitude of trials since last March and will continue to face challenges, we need to remind ourselves that the labor is worth it. Our students and children, while not perfect, are showing signs that their education is falling on good soil. God has equipped our school community for the task ahead. Let us continue to pray for the safe and fruitful education of our PCS students and trust that, one day, we will hear our heavenly Father say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.