A theme that has emerged in my work with teachers, administrators, and various institutions is that integrating Schools Attuned comprehensively at various levels can be challenging. As the SA program is designed specifically to include tools for integration at the student, classroom, and school levels, many participants leave their core course feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of immediate integration… Let alone at what level. Wasatch academy has developed a unique approach to Schools Attuned training, professional practice integration, and teacher collaboration/ support. My hope is that by sharing some of what we have done, others may benefit. And yes, I also hope to get some good ideas from those who respond to this blog. I will start several blogs with this, an overview of the school, and what I believe makes it a prime environment for school-wide Schools Attuned integration.
First it may be helpful to offer readers some historical background information about Wasatch Academy. This post will be a precursor to future contributions that will hopefully get to the “nitty gritty,” of Schools Attuned integration.
Wasatch Academy, a private co-educational college preparatory boarding school, is entering its 133rd year. It is nestled in the pastoral mountains of central Utah. Yes, Utah. Originally founded by a Presbetarian Minister to teach (and maybe convert) the Mormon population in the surrounding areas, it has evolved into an independent liberal arts school. It holds no religious affiliation, however students do attend non-denominational weekly “chapel” sessions that offer a variety of religious viewpoints ranging from Tibetan Monks, to Southern Baptist Ministers. The philosophy of Wasatch Academy’s chapel program is that people benefit from knowledge of and respect for viewpoints that differ from their own.
Clearly the school has expanded its approach to religion and philosophy since its early Presbyterian-supported days. But the school has also grown in nearly every other way too. No longer is it the mission to serve the local Central Utah population alone (although it still loves and honors its local students and patrons). It is currently attended by students from all over the world (22 countries) and has a reputation for maintaining its decidedly academic college-prep mission, while committing to supporting learners of various profiles. Wasatch Academy is not a therapeutic, academic remediation, or second-chance school. Yet it opens its doors to all students who are committed to college entry and excellence in education.
This is NOT to say that our school sends all of its students to Harvard, although it does send some. On the contrary, Wasatch Academy students go on to attend colleges ranging from Cornell to Columbia, to Seattle Community College. And we (faculty and administration) are proud of all of these students equally, celebrating their unique gifts and supporting them as they find their niche. Wasatch Academy is truly a remarkable institution nestled in the high mountains of this often overlooked state.
OK, so having expressed my love of the school, I should admit my bias as the result of my own experiences here. I was a student at Wasatch Academy for four years. As a scholarship student, I found that the school embraced me despite my difficult childhood circumstances and inspired me to become a lover of learning. Now, I am fortunate enough to come back and be of service to this school; a place that is dear to my heart. I rejoice as I watch my children grow in this small quiet town nestled in the high mountains. The community is something really special here. Anyone who comes can see it right away. The diversity and sense community are inspiring. The school embraced diversity of all kinds when I attended as a student, and continues to do so today. Now, however, I grow even more excited by the progress we are making in integrating Schools Attuned at various levels within our little community (200 students and about 50 teachers).
The faculty at this school are outstanding. Nearly all hold advanced degrees in their field of expertise. We have highly trained dorm “parents,” who look after the students residential needs as a full time position. This is not unique among the private college prep schools though. One of the things that makes our school so unique is its commitment to the promotion of understanding and sensitivity to differences in learning. In short, we wholeheartedly prescribe to the mission of the All Kinds of Minds institute. We require that all teachers, student advisers, dorm faculty and many administrators are certified in the Schools Attuned program. This gives us a shared vocabulary, philosophy, and useful tools as we support our students. Our academic interventions are all based on our Schools Attuned training and commitment to its principles. Teachers are recruited, hired and trained based specifically on their predisposition to the principles and philosophies of All Kinds of Minds. The Headmaster is fully committed to making Wasatch Academy a model school, where Schools Attuned is a major defining factor in contributing to the professional culture of the school.
With that background, I hope to engage some conversations centering around schools Attuned integration at the student, classroom, and school levels. We are doing some exciting and innovative things here and I look forward to sharing them with others. I have also asked a few of my teachers to add their commentaries to the blog. Their perspective will undoubtedly add to the quality and dynamic of the conversations. Cheers.