When did you begin at Ad Fontes?
I started at Ad Fontes in first grade. I was at a different private school for Pre-K and kindergarten, but I don’t remember much from my other school aside from a few classmates and my teacher.
Can you describe what your classes look like once you enter Upper School?
I feel like classes get a lot more engaging. There is a lot more discourse between students and teachers. There’s less lecturing, more sharing of ideas and viewpoints. It gave me a different perspective on the modern “normal” teaching method of talking straight at you.
How do you think having more discussion-based classes has influenced your way of learning?
I believe it became a lot easier for me. I learn best through auditory learning and talking things out. It helps me understand topics and be able to put my thoughts out there and bounce off other people’s thoughts. It really expanded my way of learning.
Are there any drawbacks to getting immediate feedback during discussions?
Usually, no. Of course, students aren’t always going to agree with you, but it’s not harmful feedback that they give you.
When having a discussion with someone who disagrees with you, do you ever change your viewpoint?
Sometimes yes, if it’s not something I feel very strongly about. It is more of I see where they are coming from and they see where I am coming from, then we try to find that middle ground.
Would you say you enjoy discussion-based classes as opposed to lectures?
Oh yes, absolutely.
Now, going from the Lower School, which has traditional rows of desks for seating arrangements, the Upper School has what is called the Harkness Method seating, which is a U-shape. How would you say this influences your classes?
I feel like it is easier to harness these kinds of discussion-based classes. When you are sitting in rows, you don’t want to turn around to talk, you are just naturally looking forward toward the board or teacher. In this U-shape, everyone is looking at one focal point in the middle and it’s a lot easier to listen to the teacher and the students’ inputs, rather than looking back and forth.
Can you describe your experience with the House System?
There are so many great moments from school and most of them come from the House system. You create friendships that you never thought you would have; you find a lot of jokes to share. Being in the same room with everyone, focusing on this not-(academic)related thing, we’re allowed to build these relationships with people I might not normally interact with. It allows for the community to blossom through that.
How has the leadership style of the House System impacted your relationship with students and teachers?
Taking on the House Leader role, it put me eye-to-eye with a lot of people. It didn’t make me feel like I was better than other people, or that they all have to listen to me. It was more camaraderie, of “I’m here with you, I’m here to have this discussion with you.” Being appointed as that leader, it helps facilitate that. It’s like being a general in battle; I’m not sitting back and giving orders, I’m leading from the front, with the people. This allows the students to build that respect for you more.
With the teachers, you spend more time with them, you get to know them better. It isn’t as though they tell you what to do, you do what they say. It’s more like you are working together with them to perfect the House System.
How has House Leadership impacted responsibility for you in your day-to-day life, as well as at school?
It has made me focus more on my responsibilities. It made me realize, there are some things I need to prioritize and that I need to make time for, and that pushed me forward to take on that responsibility. I used to have a problem with time management, but it helped me work out schedules and think out my day-to-day.
What are some of your favorite memories from House events?
A big one was Faeriae Artium, the arts show, where Ilium got to display our talents and the judges came out to announce winners, and it would be all Ilium on the board. Winning the House Cup in 2019 was a big one of course, where we got to see the culmination of all the effort we put in, the time and dedication we put in. Even when we lose, like the House Olympics, I don’t think we’ve ever won a House Olympics, but it is still fun to be out there and work for that.
Would you say that even during competitions, intra-House relationships and community thrive? Is it all in good nature?
Absolutely. Take Socrates’ Revenger for example (a competition where House teams are being asked questions from all subjects and grade levels), where we are all battling it out, no one is going to bash you for getting a wrong answer. It’s not all about winning. We are doing what we can for each other and building each other up.
Christian values and faith are a big part of community here at Ad Fontes. How does that contribute to relationships within the school?
It allows you to form those closer relationships. We discuss this in the monthly House Leader meetings, how we can be servants to our fellow students. Not only has this helped me in my walk with God, but it has also made it easier to do things with others, talk with and mentor others.
Now, you have time set aside with your Housemates to discuss Chapel topics. How do you use that time?
We go over the questions, and then it is an open discussion. Everyone shares their answers and opinion. It’s a great time to speak God’s truth and to understand what is going in other people’s minds.
What is participation like for the younger students? Do they speak up, or is it mostly older kids?
I think mostly the 8th and 9th graders are most eager to share their viewpoints. We have a couple of shy 7th graders, but we encourage them to speak up as well and share their ideas and talk through things.
Have you noticed a difference from the beginning of the school year through now with some of the shyer 7th graders?
I definitely have. I would say especially in House lunch they are talking and sitting more with other kids than in the beginning; playing cards with sophomores, juniors. Even in the House groups, I don’t have to ask them questions, they share their opinions on their own.
How do you think classical education, with the focus of grammar, logic, and rhetoric, has prepared you for adulthood and life after high school?
I feel like it allows me to hold conversation and my own logical opinions. In an argument, I’m not going to use a strawman to attack your argument or ad hominem to attack you as a person. Rather, I am going to back my argument by the truth, goodness, and beauty that logic and rhetoric has taught me. Additionally, the ability and experience with public speaking translate into bigger things later in life.
Okay, so you mentioned public speaking. A lot of adults and parents think “Oh wow, this is great experience for my students.” However, some kids may think it’s not vital to their education. After all, you don’t even have to call a restaurant anymore, you can just use GrubHub. Why do you think being prepared for public speaking is important as a student?
You never know when the opportunities is going to arise. Even if the opportunity never does arrive, it is still good to be prepared. Take TedTalks for example. Even when the subject is interesting, it is not just the subject, but the way in which it is present that makes the topic interesting. An engaging person is easier to listen to and converse with.
So, at Ad Fontes, you get a chance to study a little bit of everything with a liberal arts model. How has having that rounded view helped you understand and have conversations across different subjects?
I would say firstly, it’s well rounded but not on a surface level. You really dive into each subject. You can pursue different avenues of subjects; you don’t just stop at the broad knowledge that you have. If you want to have a well-rounded education, this is the way to do it. Have rigorous classes that dive deep into the subject matter.
Now, different grades have different time periods that they focus on throughout the year, across most subjects. Do teachers ever collaborate, or tie in information from other subjects from other classes?
Right, yeah. So this year we are focusing on US literature and history. Our teachers are very good at tying things in. I can make points in my literature class from ideas that stem from history or vice versa and my teachers encourage this. It allows me to make those connections with their help at first, but then making the connections on my own. You learn, hey, I can do this myself.
Right, you learn how to connect the dots on your own, further down the line. Well, I think is all we have for today, unless you have anything to add?
No, I think that’s all. Thank you!