Education of Character
At The Philadelphia School, we seek to educate the whole child. Education of character helps children develop a sense of moral integrity and respect for the individual, the community, and democratic ideals. Education of the intellect concerns itself with understanding the learning process, developing intellectual skills, and acquiring knowledge.
Valuing Moral Integrity. We believe that values are expressed more by what we do, what we say, and what we believe than by unthinking compliance with rules and regulations. We care about the context in which children make decisions. We help children to understand their own feelings and to empathize with the feelings of others. Our teachers respect the questions and concerns of students. In turn, we expect students to respect the advice and counsel of their teachers and their peers.
Valuing the Individual. We believe in the worth and dignity of each individual. We help students to recognize and respect many kinds of intelligence and to identify and develop their own unique abilities. Students are encouraged to contribute to our community by sharing their talents.
Valuing School and Community. We work to instill in our students a sense of responsibility for themselves, as well as for the school community, city, and the natural world. There are many opportunities during the school day for cooperative work, by which students help each other meet goals and complete tasks. Students are encouraged not only to enjoy the benefits of the city and the natural world, but also to recognize that those benefits come with responsibilities.
Valuing Democratic Ideals. The Philadelphia School is committed to achieving a diverse student body that reflects and respects ethnic, religious, and social differences. We expect our students to be open-minded and fair. Within our curriculum we communicate stories and experiences of the different ethnic groups in our society, thereby fostering appreciation of diverse racial, cultural, and historical backgrounds. We try to instill in our students a rejection of prejudice, racism, and other pernicious forms of discrimination, oppression, and abuse.
Education of the Intellect
Understanding the Learning Process. Students are encouraged to understand concepts by studying ideas deeply. They are challenged to ask tough questions, to look for relationships among ideas, to reason, to test ideas, to predict, to analyze, and to generalize. We want our students to respect the process of learning, not just its ends. Students are encouraged to tolerate confusion, appreciate mistakes, and to understand that exploration, perseverance, and experimentation - rather than immediate solutions - lead to deepest knowledge. We try to teach that uncertainty is not ignorance and that clarity of thought often comes only at the end of a long process. In their search for understanding, we help students to value intuition, creativity, and imagination.
Developing Intellectual Skills. At TPS skills are not mastered just as ends but rather as tools. We learn to read in order to answer questions or for pleasure; we write, we paint, and we compose music to explore an idea or express understanding; we speak to explain feelings or ideas; we compute to solve problems.
Acquiring Knowledge. Acquisition of knowledge occurs in developmentally appropriate steps. Our curriculum pulls content from mathematics, science, history, geography, social sciences, language, literature, art, music, drama, dance, physical education, and technology; our teachers structure learning experiences to fit a variety of developmental stages, interests, and learning styles. We strive to understand the social, emotional, and physical realities of students' lives in order to humanize the curriculum and integrate learning experiences here at school with the broader issues facing students outside our walls.
How We Achieve Our Goals
Active, Experiential Learning. We accomplish our goals of educating the character and intellect through active, experiential learning. We devote time to guided exploration and discovery, leading to mastery. Students at TPS are made aware of how they learn. They become flexible thinkers and independent learners by helping formulate the questions that guide their learning. Teachers help students develop strategies to plan and manage their time, to make choices, and to solve problems. Built into the curriculum are many opportunities for asking questions, researching answers, gathering and organizing data, making generalizations, making decisions, and experiencing the consequences of choice.
Community of Learners. We believe that teachers should be models of enthusiastic learners. Powerful teachers value learning and communicate excitement. Our curriculum is a constantly evolving entity that responds to the needs and interests of students and teachers. As a result, students and teachers often learn side by side. Faculty and staff are given opportunities for professional development in order to explore, to solve problems, and to learn.
Thematic Learning. A theme provides a focus for learning, giving purpose and meaning to the educational experience. We use a thematic context to create a need to inquire, to do purposeful research, to communicate, and to solve problems. Academic skills are taught in a meaningful, integrated way. Connections made among skills, knowledge, and concepts across the disciplines deepen student understanding. A thematic approach to learning offers possibilities for understanding material through traditional academic disciplines, as well as through alternative pathways - singing, dancing, painting, building, acting, and composing. A thematic curriculum thereby accommodates a variety of learning styles.
Use of City and Country Resources. We encourage children's awareness, exploration, and appreciation of the Philadelphia region’s cultural and natural resources. We work to develop responsible citizens and future leaders. The school's regular use of a natural area helps students to become comfortable in and to develop a concern for protecting the natural environment.
Flexible Groupings and Individualization. We respond to the needs of our students through flexible groupings. Different kinds of grouping ensure optimal learning situations. Grouping children of varying ages and abilities enhances the opportunity for each child to work, learn, play, and explore at his or her individual level, regardless of age. A child in a vertically grouped classroom, for example, has an opportunity to be among the youngest in a group and to experience the uniqueness of that role. Later the same child will be among the oldest in the group and will learn the expectations and responsibilities associated with that position. Vertical grouping provides many occasions for leadership skills to be developed. Homogeneous groupings by grade or by learning style provide opportunities to consolidate skills or focus on social or academic concerns.
Teachers often work with the same children over a number of years, eliminating the usual getting-to-know-you lag and the time it often takes a student to learn classroom routines. More importantly, strong personal and working relationships between student and teacher can be forged over the course of two or three years. This permits maximum attention to each student, educationally and emotionally.
Preschool – Grade 8 Setting. A responsive, caring, and loving environment can best be achieved in a relatively small school community. Close-knit bonds develop among students, teachers, parents, and administrators. The school provides leadership opportunities for adolescents, as well as an intimate environment for our youngest learners. A low student-teacher ratio helps achieve the goals of educating the character and the intellect at The Philadelphia School.