It’s All About the People
March 8, 2013
Engaging. Vibrant. Challenging. Stimulating. These are all words that accurately describe the unique programs at Vermont Commons School. They are not just adjectives picked out of thin air to entice the hundreds of people who explore our website, moreover, they are accurate descriptions of what happens in our classrooms, on our playing fields and courts, and of course during our many ventures beyond VCS every day. Making learning exciting, meaningful, and memorable is what we are all about, but saying we have a terrific school, and actually proving it are two different things. One needs to not only look at what we do, but more importantly who is doing it to really understand our success.
Independent school educators fifty years ago were cut of a certain cloth. As there were fewer schools (most of them boarding), there was a much smaller number of people who responded to the calling of private school teaching. Lower school teachers were invariably female, middle school teachers usually young and inexperienced, and upper school teachers thought of themselves as much more like college professors who happened to coach too. The image of a private school teacher clad in a natty sport coat and loafers was in fact the norm in most schools. The vast majority of these folks had attended private schools and private colleges, and were well steeped in the firmly held traditions of lecture based classrooms, and one-directional thinking – theirs.
Our schools, and our teachers have come a long way from those days. Over the past thirty years independent schooling has exploded in popularity. There were certainly a few pioneers (mostly day schools) started in the 60’s, but by the 80’s and 90’s schools were popping up everywhere. With the new schools came new curriculums, visions, and a whole new breed of teacher. It became very apparent that these people were not satisfied to reproduce the old formulas of schools established hundreds of years ago. In order to really institute change, the teachers and administrators needed to fit the mission of the school. So hiring the right people for the jobs became vitally important, and the old school paradigms just didn’t work.
Today, our school is no exception in this; we look for the best fit for Vermont Commons whenever we hire. There is no single formula for making a terrific VCS teacher – they certainly come in all varieties. Each person brings their own individual knowledge and experience to the class whenever and wherever it is assembled. Our native language speakers have a wealth of information about life in their own countries, as much as our native Vermonters help all us flatlanders appreciate the uniqueness of this beautiful state and its inhabitants.
What makes them different from each other is important, but what they have in common is critical to our success. Passion for their subjects, a dedication to serving others, and a true love of working with children are what bind them together. They also need to be willing to create our wonderful course offerings and be willing to spend a week in the woods with kids. Have our science teachers been peering under rocks and staring at bugs since they were toddlers – of course! Have our LA teachers been journaling their feelings since they could pick up a pencil – naturally! Have our Social Studies teachers been dreaming of ancient Greece, or life of the Westward pioneers during long family car rides – certainly! These are the traits that are essential to the VCS teacher, and for producing an exceptional experience for every student. These virtues, combined with innovative curricula and a can-do attitude, make the Vermont Commons experience different from anywhere else.
Engaging. Vibrant. Challenging. Stimulating. Yes, these are the words that describe what we do, and not surprisingly, they describe who does it too. VCS – it’s all about the people.