We visited the classroom of Dustin Simmons, a directed reading teacher and dean of students, and watched a lively discussion about Jonathan Swift’s book Gulliver’s Travels.
Sitting in a circle, with Simmons in his reading chair, students used the Socratic method to learn – reading important passages, discussing philosophical ideas, and even swapping relevant pop culture references. It was striking how much students engaged, not only with the teacher’s direct questions, but with each other in organic dialogue.
Simmons pushed the students to consider big questions, asked for opposing opinions, and often made the students laugh.
Students shared with me their love for the teachers, the smaller class sizes and the unique social environment. While the school emphasizes classical learning, the students accessed the classic texts using iPhones, iPads, and laptops. Students explained that technology is a great tool, but technology is not necessarily the focus of their education.
Mr. Simmons said that the school’s motto, “truth, honor, virtue,” makes its way into the classroom, where students look for opportunities to find the truth in the readings and strive for virtue – or in other words, excellence.
Karl G. Maeser Preparatory Academy is doing something right. And we were happy to get schooled by them.