When I think of my time here at the Academy, my time as an Independent School educator, the one word I keep coming back to is autonomy. For both instructors and students, independent education has a more flexible curriculum, one that adapts to our ever-changing world, and thus, one that allows teachers and students to explore our world and ask questions not limited by a curriculum, religious affiliation, or government-imposed standardized tests.
Once hired in 1976, I began my academic planning. The chosen textbooks were filled with project-based activities. The Lab Handbook accompanying our Biology I textbook was an exploration in academic science activities that allowed students to take ownership of their learning. From the beginning, my teaching at MPA mirrored why the Academy speaks to our families – it prepares students to be global leaders, make a positive difference in the world, and inspires independent learners. One thing that has not changed during my time here, and which reflects an independent school academic atmosphere, is that we embrace a hands-on approach which lets students experience concepts rather than simply listen to a lecture.
One of the exciting changes I have been a part of is the Academy embracing the advancement of technology. From a computer a third of the size of my classroom, to my iPad, I have had the opportunity to share the Academy’s commitment to technology, which started with our first computer purchase in 1978. What this allows our students to do is to apply what they learn inside the classroom to the outside world. For several years I was fortunate to teach our Basic Computer classes as well as summer session Robotics class. In the latter, students built and programmed robots; at the end of the session, they competed against each other in different challenges, including a robot tug of war. Working at the Academy has afforded me these types of opportunities that I may not have had elsewhere and has allowed me to keep a finger on technology even up to today, as our tech lab now has a 3-D printer.
Teaching in an Independent School has allowed me and my students to ask questions, has encouraged us to do so with the promise of support to find answers. My past students have become policemen, entrepreneurs, business women, lawyers, and doctors, among many other respected and influential careers. Because of an independent education, students take the initiative to look for the unusual and have the courage to explore. Students benefit from our college-preparatory curriculum and at the end of their years at MPA, possess the necessary aptitude and interest to excel in whatever path they choose.
This blog (the first in a series of five) is the start of my recalling, retelling, and recording my time and observations during my tenure at the Academy. As many of you know, I will be retiring at the end of the school year and I want to reflect on my time at the Academy. Telling stories, sharing stories, helps to not only preserve our history, but our traditions as well. Traditions allow us to remember who we are and what we represent. It is my hope to do so with these blogs. I hope you enjoy reading them.
I leave you with one story until next time. I have a note in my desk drawer which was given to me by a student many years ago. It reads “Look at when sad. Only.” I have never opened it.
By Thomas Malcolm
Mr. Malcolm teaches Middle School science at Morgan Park Academy.