Each of our teachers are truly unique and special. It is such a joy to know when we've found someone new to add even more awesomeness to the team. Mr. Ryan Cox is just that. He joined us for the summer to help run Camp Via Vita and will be joining our teachers this fall for Via Vita Academy's Year 2. He is talented, enthusiastic and passionate. What more could we ask for? Please give Mr. Ryan a warm welcome and enjoy his first, of many, posts to our blog.
I’ll often find myself at parties, self- stationed near the snack table, meeting new faces for fun, and inevitably talking about teaching. Recently, though, my side of such talks on teaching has enjoyed a new and exciting, long-awaited opening line.
Let me explain how the convo used to go, first.
“So Ryan, what do you do?”
For me, the seemingly straightforward answer has long been, “I’m a teacher.” However, it’s that classic follow-up question that so often intrigues me:
“What do you teach ?”
Well, the go-to, safety-first response has always been simple enough: “English, Social Studies, and Music,” and yes, it’s kind of a kickstarter for further conversation, but if I’m being honest, this answer sounds like Water Soup must taste: flavourless and predictable.
(Spoiler Alert: the following is the opening line that’s since been refined.) For the longest time, if the person I was meeting seemed genuinely curious, I would answer them with something a little less obvious...
“I teach the truth, as often as I can afford to.”
Sounds cool, right? This answer would almost always raise eyebrows, and I would always get a kick out of my own cleverness.
Still, sometimes I would be asked to explain what I meant. On those occasions The conversation would start sounding a lot clunkier, more serious, and far less cool and clever. Here’s an example:
New Face raises an eyebrow in curiosity. “Do tell!”
“Well, what I mean is that the subjects I teach are traditionally flexible...for me. As an English teacher, the typical direction I’m given is: Short Stories > Novels > Essay > Poetry > Play > Projects in between. So basically I’m given carte-blanche. Same goes for Social Studies; the materials are more concrete to be sure, but really, past Latitude, Longitude, the Compass Rose and Western Europe on a map, the cornucopia of human endeavour is mine through which to pick. And Music? After “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” the rest of the sky’s the limit! So really, with loose guidelines like those, how could I not afford to be truthful in my teaching ?”
New Face nods, grabs a piece of celery from the vegetable tray, douses it in ranch dressing, and chomps on it contemplatively while I get farther and farther from my once-cool line. ..
“I mean sure, I like getting to teach interesting things, but then I look around the classroom and see twenty to forty different learners. That’s when I shrug and just explore materials that excite me , in the hope that my excitement proves contagious to all of them. And yeah, it sometimes does. But what if the student enjoyed something similar to those carte-blanche guidelines so typically given to me ? That way students might feel like they have some genuine control over their own learning, and get to explore materials more likely to excite them. Doesn’t that sound like something much closer to the true nature of education?”
New Face smiles and says “Of course it does!” Then, having finished their celery stick, they move on to the plate of dessert squares, find a nanaimo bar, and (while I delve into act three of my monologue) begin nibbling away...
“I mean, we’ve both gone through school, so we know that a school where students are given a lot of control over what they learn is pretty much fantasy; in most schools, everyone--the students, the teachers, and the parents--still expect that the student be evaluated objectively, and mostly through the materials that the teacher tells them to explore. As a result, I still end up functioning in the classroom as that stereotypical sage on the stage--standing tallest, oldest, and so presumably wisest at the front of the class, wielding the whiteboard marker like a wand and sharing tidbits of my ‘invaluable’ knowledge through methods of my choosing. And while I may well convince them tha--”
New Face interjects with a question meant to help me get to my point.
“Sorry, but what is the truth that you wish you could afford to teach more often ?!”
“Oh! That there is no singular path in education, for either the student or the teacher. That both deserve a lot of freedom to learn effectively; students deserve the freedom to explore more material that engages them personally, and teachers deserve the freedom to instruct more around those materials. Alas, with class sizes and curricula the way they’re currently set, I feel like I can only afford for my classroom to work like this a couple of weeks of the year.”
In solidarity, New Face shakes my hand and says,“May you find a place where you can teach like that all the time!” Then I straighten my back a bit, and have a go at that dessert plate.
So recently, I found a new school that teaches this way all the time, which is how I came up with my new opening line.
Last night, at a party, near the snack table, I once again met a new face, who soon asked what it is that I do. After I told them that I’m a teacher, they asked what it is that I teach. This time I had a new answer:
“I teach at Via Vita, which means ’Way of Life.’ That’s what we teach--how for every learner, education is exactly that: A Way of Life.”
Then, beaming with confidence over New Face’s curiosity, I grabbed a celery stick off the snack table and started talking.
Arts-Infused Education sounds fancy, but it's actually quite simple. It's messy, of course, but simple. It often requires a change of clothes, a large space, some loud noise, bright lights (darkness, too), movement, talking, and plenty of expression, but honestly and truly, it's not tricky nor is it difficult to implement. It's probably the most natural way of learning for any child (or adult, for that matter) and the most universal way of representing and expressing information. It connects to our most natural sense and ability that we all have. Most definitely, above all, it reaches to children as they are constantly seeking to learn about the world around them and find out how they fit into it. It connects to the sense of curiosity, a child's ability to express, and their need to explore.
What's important to remember is that it's much more than painting and singing. (Although it includes that, too) It's filmmaking, exploring sound, music and theory, creative movement, dramatic forms and theory, sketches and structures, singing and speaking, handcrafting and building - it's endless!
Arts-infused education involves getting your hands dirty.
Discovering inner emotion.
Discovering emotions of others.
Education infused with the arts allows students to experience learning in a way that connects to who they are, creating the ultimate hands-on learning environment that works to the benefit of each child.
Anything infused with arts, really, has the opportunity to inspire. When education and arts come together, it pulls at a students' inner ability and want to create, share, and explore. No matter their ability, their interests, their uniqueness - anything, especially education, that has the availability and opportunity for creativity to take form WILL reach, and motivate each child.
The arts are vast, without limits. There is an endless amount of possibilities for learning, creating, expressing, and exploring ideas and emotions. Infuse the arts into reading, writing, math, science and socials and you've got the winning ticket! There's no limit to the ways to represent knowledge, the ways to express understanding, or the ways to engage each student.
Arts-Infused Education offers a way to enhance learning that anything else would be hard pressed to compare. Students gain skills far beyond the textbook, and far beyond the classroom, that will help shape who they grow to be - their character, their personality, their work ethic. Wouldn't you want that for your child? Above all else, here's why we think it's important, and why it's implemented in every grade, for every child.
4 Lifelong Benefits of Arts-Infused Education
The process of establishing novel ways to think, learn, and do that are representative of one's ideas, thoughts, and emotions.
Students learn who they are, who they want to be, how they learn, how they express themselves, and how they achieve success. Students develop their individuality. They develop skills. They invest in knowledge and want to share their successes. Students create deeper understanding of how things work, as well as, why, where, and when they work. They learn from mistakes, take risks to learn more, and construct new and innovative ideas based on experience, understanding, and knowledge.
The process of working together with others toward a common goal or experience.
Students learn patience, empathy, negotiation, and compromise. They learn how to build respect, earn respect, and give respect. They learn the power of diversity and celebration of diverse perspectives. Students gain knowledge from listening, talking, asking questions, and sharing. They try new things, create meaningful experiences, and build concrete understanding of complex issues. They feel emotion, express emotion, and learn to deal with emotion. Students build lasting, hands-on learning experiences that are connected with a sense of togetherness, inclusion, and peer support.
The process of using original and complex ideas to ask questions, solve problems, gain understanding, gain perspective, and seek depth.
Students develop strategies, ideas, and new concepts. They learn what matters - to them, to others, to the world around them. Students create connections between the world, themselves, and experiences shared between them. They get to the root of the issue. They build strong character traits, work ethic, pride in achievement, and genuine respect for learning. Students apply concepts, manipulate and rediscover ideas and operations, and value the input of others. They seek out information, experiences, and opportunities to learn more about the world they live in.
The process of effectively expressing, sharing, receiving, and understanding ideas, emotions, thoughts, and concepts.
Students are heard. They learn to express their ideas and have others respond. They learn how to connect with others, with learning, with the world. Students discover their self-confidence, find their inner voice, their bravery and strength. They test the boundaries, work wonders with words, find innovative ways to express knowledge, and challenge themselves to new levels of success. Students find value in advice, support, experiences, and constructive criticism. They experiment, explore, play, and reinvent. They learn about themselves, others, and the world around them. Students learn to redefine, manipulate, and explore ways to convey meaning, messages, emotion, and character, and ultimately, prepare themselves well for the future ahead.
To learn how we integrate arts with education click here or comment below!
Roots of life-long learning begin as early as Pre-Kindergarten. How a child is encouraged to explore, create, and interact with the world around them can set a foundation for how they view learning as a whole. It is this reason why we understand that the decision to select a pre-school should not be taken lightly.
It's a bit overwhelming to think of all of the programs and resources available for the pre-school year. We understand that finding a pre-school for your child that feels right, encompasses your philosophies, works with your expectations, and most importantly, inspires your child to succeed can be a lengthy process. We're hoping, of course, to make that easier on you.
Knowing your child is happy, safe, supported, and cared for everyday is a goal we believe all parents strive for, and we are right there with you. We know the importance of a good foundation and for each child to feel empowered, no matter the age. From our experience working with families over the years, we have developed a pre-kindgerten program for four year olds that does just that. We believe a pre-kindergarten program, and any school, should provide the safe and supportive environment each child needs - a place second to home - that believes in developing a child’s self-worth and identity.
6 Key Differences That Make A Pre-Kindergarten Program Stand Out:
1. Life Experiences
Hands-on learning - it's the best kind of learning, especially for a child who learns mostly by getting into it, muddy puddles and all. Your child should engage in tangible learning experience that directly connect to their life outside of school and to the themed learning in the classroom, providing them with lasting impressions and applicable experiences. Gardening, cooking, constructing, repairing - the list goes on! Your child should gain confidence in their abilities, learn to try new things, and feel supported and safe to learn about the world around them so that they have a good foundation to set forward into further schooling. You never know what a young child is capable of until they are given the opportunities to try!
2. Keeping Active
Moving around, getting silly, using that young vibrant energy, and above all else, learning to fine tune those motor skills. Not only should your child engage in the typical indoor and outdoor playtimes, every day, where they are safely encouraged to use and grow their imaginations, creativity, and natural curiosity, but they should also participate in age-appropriate physical activity classes, every day. These classes should range from sport-specific activities to games and interactive activities that strengthen teamwork, leadership, sportsmanship. At this age, your child's interests are starting to develop and exposing them to a wide range broadens their perspective and builds their individuality. At this crucial age, children should be engaged in experiences that build their physical ability, while teaching them to embrace physical activity into their daily life and to respect and support the abilities of their peers that make each of us unique. When it's bedtime, your child should feel calm and ready for a good, long sleep!
3. Fostering Self-Worth and Self-Esteem
A Pre-Kindergarten program focused on the development of each child should pride itself on being community focused and helping children learn from other generations. Your child can benefit greatly from working closely with children and adults of varying ages within the school and community through mentorship and role modelling Doing activities together and among each other on a regular basis builds trust, connectedness, respect for others, varied perspective, self worth and self esteem, and overall improved social development. Benefiting both the young and the old, it boosts positive behaviour as the younger children are guided to learn and grow with and from their older peers. The stories shared around the dinner table or on the ride home about your child’s older peers and how they helped them out will make your heart melt with pride knowing that they are building lasting impressions.
4. Encouraging Creative Minds
Children are naturally creative, which inspires their curiosity and their ability to take risks by saying what they think, not afraid yet to be wrong. This should be fostered as long as possible to help strengthen their individuality, self-esteem and creative expression. Your child should feel safe to express their feelings, learning to appreciate and fine tune their creative abilities, while supporting others'. A program that integrates art, music, drama, dance, and creative writing will help your child to connect their own feelings, opinions, and thinking to their learning about the world. It will build a strong foundation for keeping an open mind and always giving something a try, which is especially handy in the years to come as math and language get a bit more detailed!
5. Teaching Methods That Engage
We believe a Pre-Kindergarten curriculum should entail a theme-based (or similar) study that enables students to connect their learning and experiences to a common thread of understanding. Lessons should be age-appropriate, stimulating curiosity, engaging enough to hold their focus, and dynamic to meet the varying interests and abilities of each student. Activities should encourage pre-writing and early mathematics, while also exploring creativity, movement, senses and logical reasoning, Teaching in this adaptive way supports each individual child and will have a huge impact on future academic performance and individuality. Building a positive school attitude fosters a love and confidence in learning that is invaluable to future success. At the end of each day, your child should be beaming with pride to show you their new skills and tell you their experiences.
6. Experienced, Dedicated Teachers
We saved the best, and most important, for last. Well, at least we think so! Our teachers are our pride and joy. We know that they truly make all the difference in our school and can inspire greatness in their students. Their knowledge and efforts are invaluable. We believe, no matter the grade, the teacher is key. A Pre-Kindergarten teacher should have the compassion, commitment, and experience that keep the program moving along, keeping each family in the loop, working together and motivating each child to succeed. A Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood Studies, as well as a Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education, ensures their understanding of child development, but also the hands-on experience and knowledge to teach it. Years of experience teaching and working with children and families builds the ability to be passionate about teaching, ensuring that each child is heard, appreciated, and valued as an individual. Supported as a professional and treated with respect, a teacher who is recognized for their strengths will be dedicated to the class they are teaching and to the families supporting them. A teacher should be attune to the needs and wants of families and, as all of us believe in upholding here at Via Vita Academy, maintain transparent and open communication with each family about the growth and development of their child. Imagine: never having to wonder how your child is doing and always feeling a sense of confidence that your child’s best interests are the top priority.
For more information about Via Vita Academy and our Pre-Kindergarten Program (which offers each of these!) please don't hesitate to contact us! firstname.lastname@example.org or 902.452.1500.
Welcome to Our Blog
Each post is written by a supportive member of Via Vita Academy, be it a teacher, parent, student, community member, who is invested in the topic of education. Take a read and comment below!