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Phoenix Home Office Walks the Walk in Seminar

Phoenix Home Office January 11, 2024 -

At Great Hearts Academies, we place a high value on literature and seminar in our high school Humane Letters classes, where the goal is to help students obtain an enlarged understanding of ideas and values by means of Socratic questioning and active participation. While reading these texts, a seminar allows students to discuss freely and learn how to maintain a discussion without outside support. They must think about the text critically to bring strong ideas to the table and master integration of their own thoughts with the ideas of others. With this solid foundation in the classics, students approach the challenges of today by mastering how to self-evaluate, pursue the truth, and maintain consistent work ethic.

But this is more than just a teaching style for our faculty and staff. Seminar is a fundamental part of our culture at Great Hearts that reaches from the classrooms to the administrators and back-office personnel at our home office in Phoenix. The Home Office Academic Team frequently host a set-aside time to seminar, where staff are invited to pre-read a piece of literature and discuss the work together.

Home Office staff engaging in seminar

“Aristotle says you can’t give what you don’t have, and this is, I think, something that we believe in very much. So that we want to self-seminar to remind ourselves of the beauty of the things we’re trying to communicate to the kiddos,” said Michael Austin, the seminar organizer who serves as Manager of Curricular Projects at the home office.

Portrait of American Poet, Robert FrostGreat Hearts Arizona Superintendent Brandon Crowe recently lead a seminar for home office staff on two poems by Robert Frost, “Birches” and “Mending Wall.” Administrative assistants, specialists, directors, and trainers all came together in true seminar fashion around tables forming a circle to discuss the works of the American poet. Crowe wasted no time in guiding his colleagues to see what Frost was presenting poetically in the two pieces. As any good Humane Letters teacher, Crowe practiced restraint during the Socratic discussion, allowing the habits of conversation and listening to flow freely through the participants in the room.

Austin encourages anyone who wants to seminar to start with a Frost poem. “It’s an easy place to start [and] makes for very good conversation,” he said. “It doesn’t take a lot of labor to prepare for a seminar on Frost poetry, but the fruit that comes out of the conversation is great. Together, the conversation can come to the common understanding of what the text was about and what the major issues raised in the text are.”

“You can watch baseball together, you can be excited about a movie together, but to engage in an intellectual activity about something which really matters, that’s a different kind of friendship and it’s the most precious kind of friendship,” said Austin.

At Great Hearts, the art of seminar is a cornerstone of our pedagogy. But not just for our students throughout our upper school academies. It is also at the forefront of our staff who work inside and outside of our campuses. We stand behind what we teach. Our actions align with our philosophies. And most importantly, we know we are all pursuing Truth, Goodness, and Beauty together.

Home Office staff engaging in seminar

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