If education is meant to shape a life (which it is), then we must let our students practice living.
Living means learning. It means trying and failing and then trying again. Living means prototypes…lots and lots of prototypes until you learn what works…and then probably failing a few more times. Living means serving. Living means leadership.
At Liberty Classical, we teach life…not just topics and content.
One of the ways we do this is by giving our 5th grade students the chance to run for student government positions. If they decide to run, they must campaign. If they campaign, they must do it well. And after the students vote, there are winners and there are losers (a reality that we all discover at some point).
Another stage is one of performance. Dr. Kimberly Kokx has developed a serious (and probably initially terrifying) culture in her theater program that allows students to step out and try new things without fear of ridicule.
It’s not just theater. It’s choir and band. We have Chronological Quest and Speech Meet. We have teams and competitions. We have after-school programs and volunteer opportunities. The platforms for leadership are everywhere at Liberty Classical, and opportunities for growth are tied to each of them.
Each Opportunity for Leadership Requires Action.
We want our students to know…
It’s easy to have an opinion about others and the roles that they have. It’s easy to be critical of people, especially leaders…and criticism is like currency in our culture. We use it to get ahead, to shift blame or to shift focus. We use it to exonerate ourselves or to feel better about our own shortcomings.
But through action…through leadership experiences…we get the opportunity to challenge this. We can fight against our tendencies. We can give students a place to practice falling down and getting back up. Through taking risks and standing on stage; through winning (or losing) an election, our students get something that they’ll need for the rest of their lives:
They walk in another’s shoes.
They learn empathy.
They experience victories and defeats.
Our students don’t all want to run for student government and not all will. Some are terrified to go onto any stage for any reason. But each of them will be challenged. And each will be told, “We believe in you. Go and do. And learn, because you are safe to practice living here.”
There’s no hiding in the background when it’s time to practice living.
So for the 5th grader who runs for student government and loses. And for the students who stand on the stage and completely flub their lines. And for the students who succeed and the students who fail. And for the students who are excited to take risks in leadership and for the students who are terrified by it:
We put you on stage not because you’re perfect, but because you are able.
We put you on stage because this is practice for the rest of your life, and for the rest of your life you’re going to need to understand learning and trying and failing. You’re going to need to understand serving and leadership...and what they really mean.
So now’s the time for practice. And that’s why we do what we do.