Ambleside Schools International Blog
Reporting On Growth
The aim of Ambleside Schools is student growth, and one of the distinctives of an Ambleside education is that student growth is not measured by grades.
In Hyde Cox’s introduction to Robert Frost’s book of poems You Come Too, he shares how the wisdom learned from Frost taught him the difference between growth and progress.
He taught me that growth is a bigger word than progress. When I was a boy, I thought that all sorts of inventions and changes that represented progress were all important. But I learned from him that progress is what men may or may not achieve, while growth is what is intended for us. Growth implies the inevitable rounding out, the fulfillment of living things.
This inevitable rounding out and the fulfillment of persons is often disrupted by parents and teachers who begin to measure a child’s experiences and progress and make comparisons. “She is crawling later than… but talking earlier than….” “My oldest knew the alphabet by 20 months, he was a natural. Yet, all my children were reading by four.”
As formal education begins, whether at home or school, the measuring intensifies. Opportunities arise to “best” one another through grades, awards, and prizes. Parents sometimes act as the great equalizer, spouting the exceptional progress of their children in sports, music, or academic work, differentiating one from the other.
In the 21st century, progress is a supreme value in education. So, it is not surprising that much of school life is viewed as progressing from one grade to the next in classes for gifted and talented, advanced studies, and honors, with some progressing more rapidly than others. Some are viewed as being limited by the same academic and relational weaknesses carried from year to year, without any hope of growth.
Growth is synonymous with change. Physical growth is seen through bodily maturation from infancy to adulthood; whereas intellectual, spiritual, and relational growth is seen through changes in behavior and thinking, resulting in skill development, the ability to talk and write about a subject, and the pursuit of further knowledge.
At Ambleside, we are more concerned with student growth than with student progress. Teachers carry on the work of facilitating student growth through daily oral and written work, both individually and as a class. Each day, every student is an active participant. Children are called upon to recite, recap, and retell what was read, seen, or heard, both orally and on dry erase boards. Students are given explicit instructions on how to work, strengthening habits of accuracy, thoroughness, and neatness.
Ambleside teachers know their students well because throughout the years they are with them, both while doing the work of learning and during times of refreshment at lunch and play.
In the upcoming weeks, parents will receive their children’s semi-annual Report of Growth. Throughout the month, teachers have been engaged in the painstaking and delightful work of looking over each student’s work in lesson books and examinations and reviewing comments and data in their teacher record books. Teachers have reflected on both student relational maturity, with classmates and adults, and on the student’s approach to academic work, in the many disciplines of study such as mathematics, history, handwork, literature and much more. Upon reading the teachers’ comments, parents often remark, “the teacher really knows my child!” and “these same weaknesses are seen at home.”
At Ambleside, our primary concern is always the kind of student each child is becoming. We are confident that the student who masters the art of learning and living well will attain his full potential for understanding subject content. The student who fully grasps the art of relating well will attain the fullness of life for which he or she was created. Growth is what is intended for each of us.
Let knowledge grow from more to more,
But more of reverence in us dwell;
That mind and soul, according well,
May make one music as before, But vaster.