How Excellence Happens

 

“Schools are for the education of children.”

I was sitting in a 17th century church in Britain, just arrived off my overnight flight to start my Masters of Education. Our professor opened with this statement and then stood back as though this was some sort of deep and profound thought.  I was second guessing my choice of graduate school at that moment.

Now, seven or eight years later, I find myself repeating his words.  They are profound because so many schools have completely and utterly lost their way.

We know that excellent schools are the ones where children develop character; where resilience is formed; and where innovation is both inspired and celebrated.  In short, schools like Headwaters Academy because these are the things our parents talk about when asked about the value of a Headwaters education.

The problem is that the cart is leading the horse in most schools (or worse).  In their all-out effort to ‘add this’ and ‘add that’ to the program they have forgotten that the reason children come to school is to learn that 2+2 does indeed equal 4. In public education they’re swayed by special interest groups, by evermore programming, and by teacher unions (to name but a few).  There is no continuity and no focus upon the true goal of the school.

At Headwaters we focus on the learning environment.  Small class sizes. Engaging material aimed directly at the student, not some imaginary ‘middle’ that mollifies all but suits no one. A conversation, each morning, on how learning that day will shift to meet the ever changing trajectory of our students.  Through this we focus on the fact that schools are for the education of children.  As a result we have an incredible community where everyone is valued, resilience is developed, and caring is implicit.  Because we focus on educating children are parents are able to talk about those extras that take a school from good to excellent.

As I write this an athlete I coach in mountain biking, who has risen to the level of world class, is racing in his native Bermuda due to the pandemic.  He is minutes ahead of his competition in a race that will last less than an hour.  When I look back on our journey from 11 year old to World Cup rider I recognize that our time was spent, in those early days, looking at crabs beside the trail and playing silly bike tag games.  To this day we spend the day before the World Cup out exploring – from our favourite wildlife refuge when he races in Quebec to an electrical power station in Andorra or a famous mountain pass in California.  The focus has never swayed from a focus on fun – the result is excellence.  

At Headwaters the focus is on learning.  The result is excellence.