Children need schools that offer them the sanctity to be themselves, to learn and grow, and to take risks so they can garner the experience of life without paying devastating prices. In these “sanctuaries” human genius in all it forms is honored.
Schools as sanctuaries have a deep sense of soul, a passionate spirit, and strong emotional bonds and intellectual challenge. These educational sanctuaries are:
* Wonder-ful — The wonder of learning is in the air because the imagination and creativity of children are not lost. Children are spontaneous and explore and ask questions or make comments that spur more thought and reflection. The expressiveness of childhood is not lost and innocence, with its reluctance to accept the conventional, is the catalyst that produces the magic of learning in its purist form.
* Reverent — Wisdom is revered and children learn that both the head and the heart are important. Regardless of their ability or station in life, children understand their responsibilities and obligations with the guidance and affectionate prodding of teachers and mentors. Education is valued because it liberates the mind and the spirit and help students break self-imposed limitations and boundaries. It cultivates the boundless potential of children’s lives.
* Passionate – Schools are not places of ambivalence and neutrality. They abound with passion, just like the children within them. Educating children invokes deep feelings of excitement and efficacy where passion is transformed into commitment. This passion drives teachers and others to create places of learning for children in a creative and joyful environment. Passion, coupled with perseverance, gives birth to the music of our imagination.
* Connected — In these schools children belong and are connected to the people within the school as well as those in the outside world. As sanctuaries, schools are clear on their values and ideals, they build strong bonds with children and their families.
Children are not “customers” who have interactions based on mercenary motives like profit or ego. Children need long-term attention and care through unbreakable emotional bonds, which allow children to feel safe to explore the outside world and how they fit into it. They begin to see themselves as competent, complete people.
* Focused on Purpose — In these schools everyone is a learner — children and adults. They share the excitement of learning something new and of struggling with mastering innovative things. The curriculum reflects strong academic understandings in all the disciplines including the fine arts. These schools cherish the intellect and celebrate matters of the heart. They nurture character as well as knowledge and skills.
* Idealistic — Strong ideals that are very difficult to reach exemplify these schools. Because ideals are lofty and noble, people must stretch to reach them. There is no settling for pedestrian goals of basic literacy or application skills. Sanctuaries pursue virtue, justice, beauty, equality, goodness, liberty, and democracy so students gain the wisdom to act on them.
* Safe — Children have a right to feel safe physically, emotionally and intellectually. Safety of the mind and spirit, as well as body, needs to be a part of every school. Children need protection from verbal assaults, emotional muggings, and intellectual attacks. They need the warmth of compassion to express feelings and emotions, the security to express ideas no matter how divergent or imaginative, and the assurance that they do not have to worry about their physical safety.
In safe schools, there are no haves and have-nots, chosen ones and outcasts. There is no mold all children must fit. All children are safe to be who they are as products of their heritage, parents, potential and experience.
Creating imaginative schools requires courage. Courage is a matter of heart. Pushing against the grain, standing up for principles, and holding one’s own against peers, conventional wisdom and “the way we always do things” take strength of character.
We must be loyal to the wonderment of childhood in all its stages. To do so takes courage because open discussion of schools as sanctuaries brings scoffing and charges of naiveté from those whose perception is stuck in the quicksand of engineering and pragmatism. To be an idealist takes courage, and to champion the cause of educating children in matters of the intellect and the heart takes true heroism.