Patrick Long

‘We believe that teaching is an art and that teacher need to be formed in their craft.’

Beautiful Teaching

When we go ‘through the wardrobe’ in the world of Classical Education, to borrow a phrase from Autumn Kern, we start to look for a map to navigate this wonderful world – I won’t suggest who might be the fawns or White Witches within! It is easy to be overwhelmed by what’s Classical and what is not, what the ‘good bits’ are in more progressive models that can still be used, and so on. Fortunately, Beautiful Teaching, founded by Adrienne Freas, exists to help us find our way this new world of education.

I was fortunate to attend three training sessions with Beautiful Teaching over the last few months, looking at Socratic Seminars and Teaching History Classically. As well as being highly informative, each session was replete with practical strategies.

The first session in May, led by Adrienne, was on creating and leading seminars in any subject and developing a Spirit of Inquiry within the classroom. Adrienne led us through examples of different question types such as Narration Prompts, Wonder Questions and Normative Questions, incorporating Socrates’ maieutic approach, and rules and guides for the seminar itself. The session finished with a solid seminar experience on Duncan’s ‘Masque of Love’, where we were all participants in a Socratic Seminar.

Kiernan Fiore led the second session in June, with a focus on Australian poetry. This was filled with practical tips such as preparing the pupils and the classroom for the Socratic Seminar, the power of ‘La Pause’, and the role of the teacher or facilitator. The session concluded with a seminar, too, though focusing on different poems and modelling appropriate questions.

The most recent session in early October with Mark Signorelli synthesised classical pedagogy and more modern techniques within the Humanities classroom. Mark’s insights covered the role of textbooks and projectors through to video documentaries and lectures. Finally, as with the previous two sessions, we were taken through a typical lesson, and Mark shared a number of tasks he has used with students beforehand.

With the demands of our own national curriculum and the ever present examinations, exploring and sampling the delights of classical education can often feel like indulging a fantasy. What a joy it is, then, to learn that much of what we desire in our own classrooms is attainable, and does not have to rock the boat too much. In an ACES newsletter last year, I reflected on the theme of ‘a better way’ and cited the 1982 Paideia Proposal: ‘We are on the verge of a new era in our national life. The long-needed educational reform for which this country is at last ready will be a turning point toward that new era.’ I am so pleased to see such big strides into this era being taken by a few schools in Australia now. These sessions with Beautiful Teaching demonstrate how we can do the same in our own classrooms.