As I approach emptynesterhood (is that a word?) and see my children flying off to experience this wide world on their own, I am increasingly grateful for the chance I had to fall into TJEd. I had already been practicing the principles taught by Oliver DeMille in “A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-First Century” during my college days at George Wythe University and I knew they worked for scholars, but it was as a mother teaching my littles that solidified the effectiveness of TJEd for Love of Learners. From my daughter who speaks passionately about her PhD work in biochemistry, to my son who just recently expressed he finally has a love for reading, I see the positive results of having TJEd as a part of our family culture.
Consequently, TJEd is also the foundation of Leadership Education Academy, my online academy. As LEA mentors we strive to create an environment of freedom where Love of Learners and Scholars can thrive. Here are 3 specific ways we make this happen:
1. Parents are always the #1 Mentor I remember mentoring a 15 year old boy once who was just struggling in class. I had met with him a couple of times to try and help him over whatever roadblock was keeping him from succeeding, but he just kept apologizing and saying he would do better. I could tell something wasn’t right, so I contacted his mother who let me know that her son was struggling because his father was dying. Oh my heart! She told me that she thought her son needed to spend time with his father without the pressure of school work. Of course! Together, we were able to put the class on hold for her son and come up with a plan that allowed him to finish the class months later after spending all the time possible with his father. I love when parents let me know specifics about their children so that we can make the class experience fit their unique needs.
2. Assignments are Suggestions I never want a family to be stressed out because of an assignment given in one of our courses. They are suggestions to help students learn and grow, not torture techniques for already busy moms. One year I had the sweetest mom contact me because she was really worried about her daughter missing three weeks of class and having to try and stay “caught-up” on the assignments. I discovered that their family was going on a service vacation to Guatemala. Talk about educational! We decided that instead of trying to watch the recordings and do the work she would miss, her daughter would create a PowerPoint and give a report to the class on what she learned on her trip. The day she gave the report was so touching. Our entire class got to learn a little bit about Guatemala and see the sweetest pictures of the student serving in an orphanage. We all learned that day.
3. Grades are Based on Growth I’ve had the opportunity to work in a factory-like setting making jam and one of the things I noticed was that success was measured by all of the final products turning out exactly alike: weight, appearance, taste, etc. Now, this is a very good thing for a factory, but a very bad thing for children, and the reason I shun hard and fast rubrics at LEA. It makes me think of a nine year old student I had last year. He was taking a writing class and was so much fun! He loved to participate in class, but didn’t turn in any writing. I was bummed because I love to see my students’ work, but I didn’t put his name up on the board under a list of students who were missing work or call him out in class and tell him he better write. I didn’t put big, fat zeroes on reports for his parents or tell him he couldn’t play the games in class if he didn’t do the assignments. Instead, I just let him be him and kept mentoring away. And then I got a paper, and another paper, and this amazing email from his mom, “Before the class started, it was like pulling teeth to get my son to write 1 sentence on his own. The last three writing assignments he’s done, he’s gone off to his room and come back 20- 30 minutes later with the whole assignment completed! That was HUGE for him! He’s had such tremendous growth.”
Mentoring from a place of love and freedom, really does work. TJEd, while not easily measured and graphed, is very effective in helping students grow in character and smarts! If you think an LEA class would be a good fit for someone in your family, before they fly out of your nest, I’d be honored to have the opportunity to help.