Venn Academy's Philosophy & Tenets
We have two classrooms, divided by age and developmental level. The Willamette room is focused on early elementary education, and the Rogue room is focused on middle school education. There are many private, independent, schools in the Portland area, so it’s important to take a moment to recognize what makes Venn Academy unique. Here are the central tenets of our educational model.
We strive to:
Provide a Relationship-Based Education,
Create Personalized Instruction,
and Support Empowered Learning.
These three tenets are at the heart of our academic curriculum and structure, and to talk about them is to talk about Venn Academy.
Relationship-Based Education is any academic environment which focuses primarily on the relationships present. Instead of being beholden to a specific outcome for all students, relationship-based education takes a more holistic view in considering each student as an individual learner.
Teachers in outcome-based models and relationship-based models both start with analysis, but they analyze different things.
1. Determine what the students know
2. Identify content standards from a mandated list
3. Construct a content delivery which increases the number of students who understand
1. Get to know the student (strengths, challenges, passions etc.)
2. Identify student needs (empathy, movement, time etc.)
3. Work to meet those needs
This difference in the prioritization of the individual child has important implications. In practice, it means that teachers are often more concerned with a student’s respect, honesty, care, appreciation, ambition, and joy in learning than they are with any specific academic lesson. It means that teachers use authentic assessments which more accurately reflect student knowledge and skill than standardized exams. It means that children can simultaneously excel in both mathematics and basketball, and feel that both are equally important. It means that children are not pigeonholed by their ‘behavior’ or ‘gifted’ status. In short, relationship-based models allow students to thrive in all aspects of their lives, those that are narrowly academic, and those that are human.
This is not to be mistaken for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). It is not the use of diagnostic assessments and progress monitoring to track students into specific programs or to identify them for additional services. Instead, it is a proactive approach to student learning needs. While all students in a given classroom receive identical curriculum content, how that content is delivered is personalized based on student needs, history, learning style, and personal preference. While the classroom is working on a writing assignment, for instance, a student with a need for additional handwriting practice might be doing so by hand, while another student might be doing the same assignment through dictation software because of a specific language difference such as dyslexia. This might also mean that for certain assignments which lend themselves to personal choice, one student might be reading fantasy novels during independent reading while another student might be reading books about Vietnam War-era planes. This personalization helps to obviate learning challenges before they become a learning deficit or require outside or intervention based educational services.
Empowered Learners are students and teachers who are confident, capable, and cooperative. An empowered learner has a strong knowledge base in the major content areas and an extensive toolkit of learning strategies. More importantly, however, an empowered learner is one who feels safe in exploring new concepts and content with or without the help of others. While any learner can receive information, an empowered learner seeks out new information, asks meaningful and thoughtful questions, and thinks critically about the answers and information they receive. Students who leave Venn Academy should feel capable in any future academic environment, whether that environment is highly structured, minimally structured, rudimentary, or advanced. To achieve this, students must be supported both personally and academically. They must build confidence. To do so, they must work through carefully chosen, challenging, and engaging activities. Venn Academy teachers work to expand, not diminish, a child’s natural desire and propensity for learning and exploration. While no one creates an empowered learner, Venn Academy is an environment in which empowered learning thrives.