If one phrase were to define RVA's educational philosophy, it would be "Wake up!" Students are often complacent, about their academic performances, about their ability to change (or not change) anything, about their views of America and the world.
RVA will question almost every assumption they come in with, asking them to analyze and justify what they believe. In these interactions, they're allowed to question our beliefs as well in an interchange that expresses mutual respect.
Questioning means active engagement. Questioning beliefs can overthrow long-held prejudices. Once students learn to ASK relevant, appropriate, and substantial questions, then they have learned how to learn.
That is to say, over time students need to learn to take responsibility for their own learning. As Plutarch said, "The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled."
Examine your assumptions - RVA school for gifted kids
We can provide the match, the impetus, through modeling for the children what it is to be always curious, always wondering, always questioning. Our job is to make school interesting enough and engaging enough that children want to be there.
It's not uncommon at the end of the day to hear someone in my class say, "Is school over already?" They say you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. Applied here, it might read, "You can lead a kid to school, but you can't make him think." RVA shows our students the joy and power that comes with being able to think clearly.
Another tenet of our educational philosophy is borrowed from Frederick Douglass: "If there is no struggle, there is no progress." We apply this not only to our students when we challenge them academically, but also to ourselves.
Complacency is the bane of teaching; to keep it energized, focused and interesting for the students, the teacher needs to be constantly stretching herself – to learn new things, to accommodate different learning styles, etc. If there's no discomfort, you assume everything is all right and may never realize that you're missing something. For the students, it means convincing them that they often need to change their habits if they wish to be successful. Complacency is unacceptable; there's always room for growth.
And this leads naturally to an idea that comes from Aristotle: "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." This means excellence in all areas, not just academics. We want them to be excellent thinkers, analyzers, and evaluators. If we can get them to internalize these philosophies, they will be better people and better citizens.