Been there, done that…
Dr. Summerhill, Head of School
Usually when I hear someone say that they’ve been there and done that, I take that to mean they want to move on in the conversation—it’s old news for them and no longer needs my reiteration. Often it is said with a smile, coming from the wisdom born of experience. As I look at two of the essential components of an Ascension Academy education I am certain that the been there, done that experience is one that pays our students dividends far beyond what they’d ever imagined were possible.
Girls and boys coming to Ascension step into an academic culture that preserves two of the most basic and proven disciplines that have defined education since schools first came into being: homework and examinations. Homework, in particular, has lost its favor in contemporary curricular programs, even being banned in some schools, which comes as a surprise to me given how much it is linked to success in two of our greatest cultural passions: sports and entertainment. When applied to athletics, it is called practice. And when describing arts and entertainment, it is called rehearsal. No matter what you call it, the fact remains: people learn and get better, stronger, and more talented through repetition.
No matter what you call it, the fact remains: people learn and get better, stronger, and more talented through repetition.
Repetition enables us to write onto our cerebral hard drives those formulas, grammar rules, language endings and cases, and essential historical data that we can retrieve whenever we need. Lacking a body of stored information, we limit ourselves in our dependency on the knowledge of others, such as our elders, our “smart” friends, or our adopted technological crutches with names like Siri. I fear that when we don’t require children to memorize facts or practice math and language skills, their intelligence becomes a function of what they can look up or call up, not of what they know. In the process they are reduced to being consumers of data they may not understand, lacking that body of information they must “know” if they are to develop into consistent and critical thinkers.
Testing plays an equally important role in education, even though, in increasing numbers, people are questioning its validity. I am not of that mind. Testing forces all of us to recall, review, and refresh what we have heard or read so that we can form it into thoughtful patterns of mental organization. When we test children we force them to do more than live in the moment. Test preparation calls on their memory and reflection, both so important in problem solving and reasoning.
This week we will publish our semester exam schedule, running for four mornings from December 16-19. All of our students will be expected to review, recall, think about and study material in their math, English, science, history and language courses. Their teachers will then be able to assess how much they have retained from a semester’s worth of classes. More importantly, our students will gain valuable experience that will put them ahead of their peers competing for college placements, scholarships and degrees. For when it comes to practicing via homework and preparing for exams—the stuff of higher learning and education--Ascension students have been there, done that.