Leave your trepidations behind about which school or curriculum to choose and step inside the progressive and imaginative realm of what the future of education should be – right here at Dubai’s leading American school – Clarion School.
Launched in 2016, Clarion has already developed an enviable reputation and is one of the most unique schools in the region. What makes it special is their approach to learning and the culture within the school that allows that to happen in such a powerful way.
Like most other American schools, Clarion follows the academically rigorous Common Core standards but that is where the similarities start to end. Clarion believes that for a child to be a successful, learning should be understood to be a continual and never-ending journey. A person who stops learning will be quickly left behind by our rapidly evolving society. Clarion’s underlying philosophy is that learning should be happening within a child and not within a school.
The school places a strong emphasis on developing children to be independent learners, where each child develops an intrinsic joy for learning that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. In Clarion’s progressive model of education, children are co-creators of learning with their teachers and each other. They ask meaningful questions, dig deeper, collaborate and critically think. Children are given a voice and ownership of their learning.
However, it is not just about children being independent learners but to have the traits to use that learning in a positive manner and for the betterment of others. Values such as empathy, integrity and social justice are developed. Likewise, children are also taught to be intellectual risk takers. To ask challenging questions and understand that there may be more than one right answer or none at all. Teachers are very conscious of this and their teaching strategies and assessments place great stock in the process of learning, one where failing forward is valued.
The school’s framework to support this joy for learning is built on knowing where children are and how to effectively engage and support them. Each child is seen as unique and thus the way children learn cannot be prescriptive or standardized if they are to fulfill their potential. Teachers work passionately in support of all students and learning styles, in contrast to the more traditional education model of one size fits all. Likewise, in a traditional model, where teachers seek to grade and categorize children’s progress and knowledge through sweepingly standardized testing and grading, Clarion’s progressive approach recognizes intelligence as varied and non-linear, and as such, it observes a child’s success over time (not just a 1 hour exam). Elements such as portfolios of work, learning journals and the questions student ask form a significant part of the ‘assessment’ process.
Clarion’s approach is to make the learning authentic for every child, so they enjoy the process of learning and feel appropriately challenged and motivated to want to learn more.
In keeping with the philosophy of the school, that children are active participants and problem solvers, much of the learning is supported through experience, social interaction and an application of that learning. Without appropriate context, children have limited understanding of what they are learning and why they are learning.
A large part of the school’s ‘active learning’ is the use of frequent field trips to varied locations. New studies and topics are often first introduced to students with a field trip, with the effect of bringing excitement and engagement to a subject from the start. Instead of learning about a theory or notion in a book, Clarion actively seeks to ignite interest through a lived experience, and continue the learning fueled by that energy. Students will regularly return to a location on a second field trip, with a new perspective, to explore a deeper understanding of a concept.
Subjects itself are viewed in a more fluid way at Clarion, where teachers develop connections between subjects to create as much context and relevancy for the children so as to make the learning more powerful.
However, to pull all this off requires a fair amount of expertise, support and intentional planning. That is why Clarion is unique in having two qualified teachers in every classroom and nearly all Lead Teachers have a Master’s in Education. With this comes two distinct benefits; first, this deep knowledge and experience provides Clarion teachers with an understanding of what hooks each child needs to get them excited and engaged in their learning and to appropriately challenge them.
Secondly, all teachers see themselves as learners as well. This means that children witness the continued curiosity and thirst for learning in adults and come to understand that learning is a lifelong pursuit (and joy), a concept that is the cornerstone of the school’s foundation.
This understanding filters through the school from the very top, with Clarion’s Executive Principal, Dr. Paul Lieblich, a self-confessed lifelong learner who is eternally excited to learn. Dr. Lieblich’s reputation is internationally renowned having co-authored the Primary Years Program of the International Baccalaureate as well as being awarded the National Distinguished Principal Award by United States Department of State.
Parents at Clarion testify that they witness leaps forward in the way their child develops because of the enjoyment their children take from learning both at school and on their own. However, the learning is open to all and you can see how engaged parents are when you come across them hanging out at the Parent’s Café over a latte or participating in any number of parent talks. It speaks volumes of the community element where parents are encouraged to view themselves as an active participant in their child’s learning as well as their own.