Community of Learners

Community of Learners
Kathryn Stejskal, MS Latin, US Humanities, and Dean of US Girls

While repetitiveness in a speech is usually to be avoided, every once in awhile it can be a good sign. Nearly every speaker—teachers, heads of school, even the two students—at the Upper School Open House said that one of the most important and beloved aspects of Wilberforce is the community of learners. "If we sound repetitive," said Dr. Ristuccia, "it's because we're consistent with our mission."

When we talk about a community of learners, we point to two primary aspects of our culture:

First, a faculty-led culture means that the teachers draw the students up into a lively and robust intellectual conversation, rather than stooping to attract them with pop-culture gimmicks and the like. We seek to model a world where being a life-long learner is exciting and attractive.

Second, a community of learners features classes in which students discuss, collaborate and eventually are able—as a class—to take the conversation into their own hands. Teachers are guides: we've climbed this particular mountain a few times before, and we know the way, but we surely aren't going to climb the mountain for you while you stand at the bottom and admire. We are all climbing that mountain together.

One of the greatest blessings of being a member of our community of learners is, I admit, a somewhat selfish one: I am daily introduced to new ideas, I ponder new questions, and I hear new answers.

I have had the privilege of being a part of some great conversations:

Reading Hobbes' Leviathan with Class 10, I pondered along with the students the nature of justice and the pressing question: Do you have a moral obligation to wear your seatbelt in the backseat on a long road trip just because it's the law? During a discussion that arose in HL 9, we took a few minutes to wonder whether the suggestion in the Constitutional Convention that our government have a council of three presidents from three different regions would in fact have improved our system. While monitoring lunch and contemplating an unusual utensil holder with several students, we considered: Could a stump with a fork jammed into it be considered real art?

Teaching a class often feels as rigorous and exhilarating as taking a college course. And then there is extra reading on top it all! Students make book recommendations to me all the time—often appalled that I haven't read their favorite biography or work of historical fiction—and some students even bring the book and lend it to me.

Finally, we know that the only true basis for a thriving community is Christ. We believe that praying together and praising together is the only way that real learning together will happen. Please pray for our community of learners!