ClassicalU–Training Classical Teachers

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We have discussed the need for teachers to be trained by other human beings (mentor teachers) in order that they master the art of teaching. We think that while there are several ways we could segment the training of a teacher, it is wise to conceive of it as a three-step process moving from beginner to advanced to expert (or master). While “master” is a fine and traditional word for and expert teacher, we also like “mentor” because mentor connotes not only an expert but friend, counselor, and advisor.

Following the traditional apprentice model, we designate teachers taking level 1 courses as apprentices (beginner), teachers taking level 2 courses as journeymen (or “journeys”), and teachers taking level 3 courses as mentors.

The training program at ClassicalU, however, seeks to train classical teachers, as our name might suggest. This means we take a distinctly classical approach to training teachers. Any teacher should study content as well as methods of teaching that content. In traditional, classical terms, this means a teacher should study a liberal art or science and the appropriate pedagogies for teaching the same.

Lower school teachers will also commit a good deal of study to the ways of cultivating the affections, loves, and tastes of younger students. This means they will learn to cultivate piety and engage students in an embodied education that inspires wonder. Borrowing from the work of Kevin Clark and Ravi Jain (in their book The Liberal Arts Tradition), this means that lower school teachers will become masters of education that involves piety, gymnastic, and music—music in the wider sense of the engaging wonder through the study of literature, history, nature, poetry, song, and dance.

All classical teachers will more deeply study the liberal arts of grammar, logic, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music. Not all of us will master each of these arts in the next five years, per se—but to be a master classical teacher, we must know the essentials of these arts, and we should have some deeper proficiency in some of them.

All classical teachers will also study philosophy and theology. If the classical curriculum (as Clark and Jain suggest) is grounded in piety and governed by theology, then we must know something of both as they shape the entire enterprise. The study of philosophy enables the right study of theology—philosophy has often been called the handmaiden of theology and theology has been called the queen or governess of the whole classical curriculum.

By “philosophy” we don’t mean the modern philosophical studies program you will find a typical university (though there will be some overlap). We are using the term in its traditional sense of “the love of wisdom” that is engaged through the study of the natural world (natural philosophy) and human relations (moral philosophy), and an immersive study of what is real (divine philosophy, or metaphysics). This may sound intimidating to some of you who have not studied philosophy or theology formally, and who may not be familiar with the categories of natural philosophy, moral philosophy, and metaphysics. We can assure you that they are well within the grasp of anyone called and gifted to be a teacher, and that they will bless and encourage all of us who study them. Furthermore, we have prepared some excellent courses to familiarize you with these disciplines (see, in particular, our course on the Liberal Arts Tradition, taught by Kevin Clark and Ravi Jain).

Attaining mastery over any art is done so gradually over time, as a patient exercise. A. G. Sertillanges, in his classic work on being a scholar-educator (The Intellectual Life), suggests that we need to dedicate two hours per day, over years, to attain mastery. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers: The Story of Success, cites research that seems to show that to become the best one can possibly be at an art, one must spend 10,000 hours practicing it. That works out to about 2.5 hours a day for 10 years. If you studied the art of classical education for ten years at about 2.5 hours per day, then—just possibly—you would become the best you could possibly be.

Now, our definition of mastery will not entail a rigid adherence to 10,000 hours or 2.5 hours per day. Still, these recommendations remind us that we become masters over years, not months.

A great added bonus: we get to do this in a community of people who love the same things and love each other. Beyond this, we love our students most of all. This makes time fly.

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