Nestled on the side of Sharp Mountain, Gillingham’s old brick school building stands tall and beautiful. Since 1894, students have attended St. John the Baptist Elementary School and played in the playground next door to the former Bunker Hill School. We even have some alumni in our Collaboration!
The building was carefully renovated in 2011 with respect to its history and incredible architectural details. Modern safety codes and standards have been met, yet the schoolhouse has not lost any of its historical charm.
It is not difficult to surround our students with beauty and order in this atmosphere. Six marble demi-columns frame the main entrance. Glorious wood staircases, spacious rooms with 14-foot ceilings, and wood floors are only a few of the marvelous attributes of one of Pottsville’s oldest schoolhouses. Like the building, the schoolhouse’s surroundings offer much for the students to see, explore, and enjoy. The woods rest behind the building, green mossy lawns lay next to it, and two public parks are only a block away.
A Relational Education, one based on Charlotte Mason’s (1842-1923) framework, constitutes a learning community that relies on relationships, discipline, and concepts to help students meet state learning standards while also preparing them for a full life in a changing world. Mason did not see students and adults as automatons, but as born persons who needed to know material and information to better live life.
The goal is to learn knowledge and to learn how to live, not just to learn knowledge. This is what she hoped for students:
The Full Human Life.––I think we should have a great educational revolution once we ceased to regard ourselves as assortments of so-called faculties and realised ourselves as persons whose great business it is to get in touch with other persons of all sorts and conditions, of all countries and climes, of all times, past and present. History would become entrancing, literature, a magic mirror for the discovery of other minds, the study of sociology, a duty and a delight. We should tend to become responsive and wise, humble and reverent, recognising the duties and the joys of the full human life…. when our ideal for ourselves and for our children becomes limited to prosperity and comfort, we get these, very likely, for ourselves and for them, but we get no more.
Our mission is to be a schoolhouse that students, teachers, and parents want to go because, “It is a place where everybody knows your name, and they are all so glad you came!”
Students don’t come to Gillingham merely to hang out with friends, learn facts, pass a test, or to prepare for college. Students come to feed their minds and their souls.
Here, they love to learn and they learn to live a full life, rich in relationships with self, others, nature, and ideas in our small classes.
They will be prepared for college and for whatever their heart desires for the future. They will leave the school knowing how to live, not just exist. They will also be proud of who they are, from whence they came, and for what they will do for our community and the world.
Living Ideas, Living Books and Living Things – We read the best, well-written books full of inspiring and engaging ideas that are rich in vocabulary & information. Traditional textbooks, dry facts, worksheets, or books that contain too many pictures are avoided.
All students act, experiment, read the classics, produce Shakespeare, speak foreign languages, paint, dance, type, garden, and read orally, They also take AP courses, write narrations, play instruments, care for the building, compete in a sport, sing and build.
Beautiful, orderly classrooms, spaces, and grounds are adorned with attractive furniture, couches, rugs, lamps, framed pictures, and such other tasteful things found in a home. There are no teacher supply materials, cluttered walls/shelves, or institutional structures/furniture.
This is a true learning organization – all persons learn & lead. “No Persons Left Behind”. This allows teachers and students to learn and philosophize side by side. We offer a small teacher to student ratio of approximately 20 (need to confirm with school this is appropriate) students per teacher.
All teachers guide instead of “manage” student learning and living through the method of Masterly Inactivity, a Charlotte Mason theory, and the principle of High Expectations:
Individual learning plans, true inclusion, self-education
No behavioral classroom management programs, stickers, emulation, fear or grades
Short class periods judiciously scheduled for the sake of variety and attention spans
All students, rich and poor, are treated as future community leaders
All students enjoy monthly:
- Service projects
- Field studies
- Visits from local experts
- Creative & innovative partnerships
- High School Internships:
- Juniors and seniors test and discover future vocations.
- Juniors and seniors spend time with the BEST in the field of their choice.
All children develop habits for learning and life. At Gillingham, we nurture the “soft skills” that will enable students to succeed not only academically, but throughout their entire lives. These “soft skills” are habits employers claim are missing in the workplace today.
As part of this development, we utilize the following techniques:
- Whole to part instruction teaches mathematical thinking rather than memorization
- Reading and writing in all subjects
- Narration develops attention and other reading habits
- Oral, written, dramatic and illustrated retelling
- Student directed dialogue
We believe there is no need for quizzes, spelling tests, teacher interrogation, lectures, worksheets, or excessive homework., However, individual work is assigned as needed.
It is important for young persons to be with family and pursue life-giving activates. Studies have shown that traditional homework has little or no impact on life-long achievements.
A different approach to testing…
At Gillingham, we believe grades, marks, prizes, and punishments lead to needless competition and negate self-motivation.
Our students demonstrate what they know and care about through:
- Student Talks and the Grand Conversation
- Copybooks and Journals
- Open Ended Exams and Rubrics
- Narrative Report Cards
- Charlotte Mason Institute Assessment Program
We also offer alternative and dynamic practices in the mathematic programs throughout all grade levels. Gillingham’s Mathematics curricula emphasize the understanding of math concepts instead of rote memorization of equations and formulas. Students not only cover the core curriculum required by PA State Standards, they go on to truly understand math and it’s applications in real life. Math becomes “relevant and compelling”. They can “strategically apply math both in college courses and everyday situations”.
Our Math Curricula are supplemented by Singapore Primary Mathematics materials and strategies in the K through 5th grades, the Connected Mathematics Project in the 6th through 8th grades and the Interactive Mathematics Program for grades 9 through 12.
“Supporters of Singapore math credit the Singaporean methods of instruction and curriculum for its students’ success. While American math instruction often relies on drilling and memorization of many skills each year, Singapore math focuses on children not just learning but also truly mastering a limited number of concepts each school year. The goal is for children to perform well because they understand the material on a deeper level; they are not just learning it for the test.
“The sequence of topics in Singapore math has been carefully constructed based upon child development theory,” says Jeffery Thomas, president of Singapore Math Inc., the primary producer of Singapore math products for the U.S. market. “The means to mastery is problem solving, and the beauty of the approach is that the majority of students are well prepared to tackle increasingly difficult topics, such as fractions and ratio, when they are introduced in the third through fifth grades. Those students are also then typically ready for algebra and geometry in middle school.” Excerpt taken from an article written about Singapore math on PBS.org.
“…Teachers of Connected Mathematics (CMP) report that students in succeeding grades remember and refer to a concept, technique, or problem-solving strategy by the name of the problem in which they encountered the ideas. For example, the Basketball Problem from What Do You Expect? in Grade Seven becomes a trigger for remembering the processes of finding compound probabilities and expected values.
Results from the cognitive sciences also suggest that learning is enhanced if it is connected to prior knowledge and is more likely to be retained and applied to future learning. Critically examining, refining, and extending conjectures and strategies are also important aspects of becoming reflective learners.
In CMP, important mathematical ideas are embedded in the context of interesting problems. As students explore a series of connected problems, they develop understanding of the embedded ideas and, with the aid of the teacher, abstract powerful mathematical ideas, problem- solving strategies, and ways of thinking. They learn mathematics and learn how to learn mathematics…”
Learn more at the Connected Mathematics website.
Gillingham utilizes a rather innovative math program in the high school. It is an Asian Style Math approach to instruction.
Just like Finland, Japan and Singapore, Gillingham’s Asian Learning Approach to Mathematics offers the students not only the core high school mathematics curriculum, it helps students to learn and think creatively and critically. Students learn to draw simultaneously from many areas of math to solve real-life problems. Our students will also learn advanced math topics such as statistical analysis, matrix algebra, discrete mathematics and the conceptual basis of calculus.
Please visit this Integrated Math Program web page. It is specifically designed for inquiring parents who wish to explore the Math program further.
Also, here is an article about integrated math: Integrated Math.
The Little Green Book
The Little Green Book is required reading for all prospective teachers and staff. It is a summary of our Relational Education philosophy. We recommend this book for parents because it clearly presents the philosophy in a concise way. Books can be purchased for $10 at the school office at 912 Howard Ave.