One hundred years ago, teaching young people involved the transmission of knowledge, and only a fraction of the American population remained in school beyond the elementary level. It is certainly true that society has come a long way in 100 years’ time—and so has Tower Hill School, a place where transmission is less often the modus operandi because another activity more accurately defines behavior in today’s classrooms: facilitation. The evolution of Tower Hill’s robust academic program over the last century can be touted as a move toward the facilitation of critical thinking, a key aspect of which is metacognition, or the understanding of the thought processes involved in learning. Couple this with the research neuroscientists of late can offer us, and we have an entirely separate, and important, academic undertaking. Metacognition and neuroscience alone, however, do not fully substantiate a need for 21st-century institutions to create programmatic changes. The need to evolve a Teaching and Learning Center (TLC) at Tower Hill School, venturing into a new academic subdivision, comes from the individual needs of Tower Hill students and teachers themselves.
As garden-variety information/communication technology has transitioned from being a luxury to a staple in our lives, students are more distracted and subscribed than ever before—and consequently face a number of stressors. Additionally, expectations and standards in school are higher and ever-changing because the technology at our fingertips can expedite the gleaning, processing and sharing of information. We as teachers must remember that students do not necessarily process information as quickly as their devices do. So how do we ensure that all students, no matter what their learning strengths and challenges are, can meet the demands of an ever-developing, innovative curriculum? We facilitate the personalization, individualization and differentiation of the learning process. The TLC does just that.
Established in 2016, the TLC facilitates student learning by providing resources that lead to the growth and success of Tower Hill faculty and students. The TLC exists to help teachers utilize research-based practices, to teach students how to understand who they are as learners and to provide students with learning strategy instruction, which involves individualized coaching in time management, note-taking, written expression, memory building, organization, reading comprehension, assignment execution and test preparation. Learning strategy instruction is an effective way to help students with learning differences improve academic performance, and if a strategy can serve a student who learns differently, then it can serve all students. The additional layer to our system is the teaching component. Implicit in the center’s name is the value our school places on quality teaching—on new developments, resources and support for faculty as they endeavor to enhance and reflect on their practice. If we believe that learning processes are varied (and we do!), and if we believe that improvement is always possible (and it is!), then it stands to reason that students who may be looking to increase or maintain high achievement can utilize strategies from the TLC as well. The TLC is, in fact, for everyone. A little TLC can go a long way! And it’s exciting to think about where we will be in another 100 years’ time.