It’s tempting to think I know Dominion students, know their struggles and certainties. Such pride! God is gracious and full of mercy, and recently, he gently reminded me that I don’t know everything about our students.
At a lunch forum in September, Mr. O’Donnell (our Upper School head) and I asked Rhetoric School students what Dominion does well, what benefits they see in attending Dominion. Some of the answers we expected: the Christian environment, the small classes. But we were surprised to hear some of the things they noticed, some of which derive from the expected answers, and others reflect the growing awareness that Dominion really is different. What follows are a couple takeaway summaries.
Relationships. A school like Dominion cultivates fertile ground for relationships. Because we have students from K4 up, our student body resembles a large family–even down to sharing meals together. Students know each other, and their teachers, more deeply than a larger school would allow. Students noted the general kindness they have experienced from other students and from teachers, but also the greater sense of accountability.
Joy. Several students mentioned the humor in their classes, the laughter that punctuated their learning.
Being “classical.” Our students realize that Rhetoric is the capstone of a classical education, and that understanding both what rhetoric is and how to use it is an unusual privilege for students at this stage. Not only is rhetoric mechanical skill in speaking, it is an advanced tool for understanding. They see that the tools of grammar and logic, the ability to see and analyze the parts of something before making an argument, are still relevant.
The great conversation. They recognize, too, that rhetoric is more than speaking well in front of an audience. It also involves comfort in conversation about great ideas. Students noticed the centrality of conversation in their classrooms, which they saw reflected even in the classrooms’ design and arrangement. They noticed, too, their teachers’ willingness to engage in conversation–even if it doesn’t fit in the day’s plans.
The point of it all. Dominion is a Christian school, and they feel some comfort in that, despite the challenges it brings. More importantly, they recognize that it is a gift to be reminded of their purpose. They appreciate knowing that what they do is a part of God’s plan, because all that they do, they do for God’s glory.
I plan to share some more specific quotes with our school community next Thursday at our State of the School/Dominion Association Meeting. In the meantime, ask your children what they appreciate about attending Dominion. Their answers may surprise you.