Traditionally, people might answer, “to teach students”, and while that isn’t incorrect, it’s not the whole story by a long shot. For Dr. Crouch, a school is responsible for so much more.
“We want to develop a well-rounded child,” he insists, “who has the ability to think critically, who has the ability to understand where to find knowledge when he or she needs it, and who has the capability to be a successful part of today’s world.”
Teaching with Excellence
At AIS, the well-rounded student begins and ends with the teachers. Studies have reported as much: famed educational researcher John Hattie, for example, has seen that beyond any other factor in school, teachers are most influential on a child’s experience.
It just makes sense: the student spends most of his or her time with teachers in school. And that’s why Dr. Crouch focuses much of his work on employing the best teachers from around the world. In addition to a bevvy of qualifications, when the he interviews new staff members, he looks for a few extra things. “It’s more important to me that they have an understanding of what’s called pedagogy. In other words, how a student learns – what’s the best way to help a student learn?”
Often the idea of pedagogy deals with the relationship between the teacher and student as much as what a teacher will teach. “The teachers here are quite approachable. Students don’t fear them; they feel like they can talk to them about whatever needs to be talked about.” During the most vulnerable developmental period of a person’s life, this is a crucial idea.
With the right teachers on board, the next step for any good school is setting up the right curriculum. And of course this isn’t just about learning facts – these can be looked up easily on the Internet – but rather about the way the student thinks.
It’s this nurturing of critical thinking skills that gets Dr. Roderick Crouch the most excited. In an age when many schools are adopting technological programs as the be-all and end-all of curriculum development, Dr. Crouch insists on critical thinking skills above all else.
Critical thinking is something that must be trained – it’s not innate. The best way is to start teaching it young. In the first grade, Dr. Crouch explains, students are first introduced to different ways of thinking. They then practise thinking about certain things in certain ways.
This way, when they reach secondary school and begin to write papers and take exams, critical thinking is a natural process. The idea of looking at the world and questioning the way things are done is the key, Dr. Crouch says, to producing contributing members of society.
A Mind Broadened with Empathy
The best way to instil empathy and understanding is to broaden a child’s understanding of people in different walks of life. How? Through charity work. Starting from grade one, all students at AIS are required to participate in charity work. Although the school is connected to several worthwhile organisations, much of the charitable help is centred around the Loreto Kids Charity and the Christina Noble Children’s Foundation, two organisations that give support to children in need.
The kids and staff at AIS work throughout the year to raise money through bake sales, performing arts and other community charity events. These do more than just help a good cause: they show students that community outreach is valuable and necessary to be a committed member of a global society.
The ability to think outside of oneself is perhaps AIS’ crowning achievement.
No one thing makes a school unique or exceptional; rather, it is a combination of many traits that work in tandem to produce the most intellectually and emotionally intelligent kids possible. Dr. Crouch sums it up best: “Students go out of here well-prepared intellectually, and they go out of here well-prepared, equally, emotionally. I think we do that extremely well.”