In the Gimnasio Moderno we educate ourselves based on our life projects, but above all, we educate ourselves for service towards others and for the construction of a better society. We want to bring critical and self-critical people to the country and universities, citizens of the world with a social and environmental conscience, with a sense of justice and respect for diversity. The word “Modern” has many definitions. For us, it is the will of human beings to understand the possibilities and challenges of their own time, to create new alternatives based on dialogue and knowledge, freedom and empathy towards others. For this reason, our main purpose is to awaken innovation in students, educate them from a very young age in environments of freedom and active construction of democracy, where honesty and trust are fostered.
By leadership, we understand the ability of our graduates, whatever roles they occupy, to work together with others in transforming the world and specifically, Colombia. We think that this leadership is built through self-awareness, understanding of one’s own being, their limitations and scope, the particularities that differentiate it. This way, through self-discovery, that is, from authenticity and acceptance, it is possible to better understand the environment, and thus respond to its needs. We do not know the challenges that the future may hold for our students. However, we fully trust that these challenges, difficult as they may be, can be overcome with joy and effort, with rigorous capacities and ethical principles that guide actions. We think that the words of Tomás Rueda Vargas, in the Statutes of the school, have a greater validity every day, even when the societies are not exactly the same:
It has been said that the Gimnasio is concerned with the education of the so-called ruling classes. It is true, and that is precisely where its merit lies, and that is the sum of its difficulties. As long as the education of people who for any reason occupy advantageous positions in society is not dine with all the care it deserves, it is useless to pretend that they beneficially influence the well-understood progress of the country …
To educate honest leaders, defenders of freedom and democracy, the formative and the academic are essential aspects of a comprehensive education. We seek to educate comprehensive students, capable of reconciling, in their lives and at work, ethics and knowledge, love for Colombia and commitment to a world that goes beyond borders. However, it is very important that what we understand by each of these categories means, so that in practice, they cannot be separated.
Agustín Nieto Caballero and the Samper Brush brothers, founders of the Gimnasio Moderno, wanted to create a school where children were happy, felt valued and respected, enjoyed rights and had the possibility to disagree. Their basic idea was that children were not empty containers to be filled, but sparks to be lit and fed. They also believed that the purpose of the school is to allow students to develop character from what they learn in class, in their life experiences, in their relationships with other classmates and teachers, and in self-awareness.
For this, the Active School was the pedagogical model that best suited their purposes: children learn and develop more easily though interaction, experience and a favorable environment than with discourse or theoretical classes. It was also important to create a school of more horizontal relations between teachers and students, so that admiration and not fear was the binding factor between one another.
The success of these efforts that we believe in today has as its best indicator the character of children and adolescents. Our students are happy, they make friends for life, they have identity and a sense of belonging, they love their school and their country, they develop leadership and autonomy, they know how to disagree and they make friends with their teachers who transcend the classroom.
In education, the essential thing is to allow students to get in touch with their inner world and their inner voice, through reflection. That they generate knowledge and learning from the habit of questioning and dialogue, and not from imposition. Students must educate themselves, inspired by the guidance and dynamics of their teachers.
In recent decades, research from Positive Psychology, Neuroscience and Educare Pedagogy have confirmed the need to pursue these purposes. We know today that what generates human development and ethical education are the example of parents and teachers, the environment and the culture of the school (which educate more than discourse), putting students in contact with their inner world (the reflection on life experiences and self-knowledge), the cultivation of positive emotions, the search for meaning and purpose and the development of character. The school’s human education project is currently working intensively on these dimensions.
Educating is, in an important way, developing character by identifying and developing the strengths of our students. It is also instilling in them virtues such as effort, perseverance, dedication and vigorous and sustained work. In the Gimnasio Moderno, coherence between what is felt, thought, said and done is possible, to the extent that dissent is allowed. On the other hand, we are also concerned with identifying the weaknesses of the character of the students so that, once they are made aware, they try to mitigate and correct them.
This has been called the Discipline of Trust in the Gimnasio Moderno. In this school we believe and trust our students. We trust their word, their actions and their abilities. We believe that we should educate with reasons, not with impositions from the authority, because we educate so that they learn to dissent. In the Gimnasio Moderno, students have rights, especially that of expressing their objections, a challenge that aims so that every decision of the teacher, student or directive is reasonable. With this way of understanding relationships and authority, we try to cultivate assertive students who think for themselves: autonomous people.
When we talk about the role of the teacher (“What the teacher is, the School will be”), a leading figure in our school, we say that this implies a huge challenge because our example educates more than discourse, as John Dewey, the main motivator of the Active School stated. Therefore, teachers must work every day in their own human education to be able to set an example and be consistent.
The questions we seek to answer when we talk about academic strengthening respond to questions such as the following: how do we generate passion for knowledge? How do we generate a culture of effort, work ethics and dedication? How do we transform our climate in the classroom? How do we give the students tools to improve every day? According to the Active School, we must change our practices to generate more passion and involvement. What do we think should happen in the classroom?
First, it is essential to connect what is being studied with the lives of students. With their needs and interests, with their reality, with their ages, with their concerns. It is also essential to create bridges between knowledge and a connection between disciplines. It is essential to always start with questions and problems, and not content. It is essential to generate possible challenges with adequate levels of difficulty in our classes, which allow us to create involvement. It is essential to relate to our students from their strengths, not from their shortcomings. See the good in each one of them. It is essential to value effort, work, sacrifice, process and dedication, not only the result, talent or intelligence. Finally, it is essential to teach in a context, and explain the reason and why what you are studying is being learned. For these reasons, classroom projects are so valuable, as they integrate several of these guidelines.
All of the aforementioned connects with our pedagogical model, the Active School. In the Gimnasio Moderno we learn best when what we study is related to our life, with our problems and interests. We learn best by example. We learn best by doing. We learn better through experiences. We learn with the environment we live in. We learn by reflecting. We learn in discussion with others. We learn by working on projects. We learn by solving problems. We learn from our mistakes. We learn when we have context about what we study. We learn through teamwork. We learn when we relate areas of knowledge. We learn by playing. And we learn in an environment of emotional security and joy.
Academic strengthening in the Gimnasio has to do with modifying the institutional culture, the climate in the classroom and the relationships between teachers and students, in addition to establishing very clear evaluation parameters, which allow us to transmit the progress of their learning and their own development. Also, with making the education received meaningful for children and adolescents, which, incidentally, almost always contributes to better results for all students. And it has to do, above all, with honoring our hymn: “We love perseverance and effort.” By teaching our youth that there is nothing in life more important than effort, dedication and hard work, together with the importance of having purposes and goals, and working from strengths, talents and passions. The seed of the reward will almost always be in effort; It is to be hoped that from an adequate follow-up, attentive to the difficulties, but enhancing the strengths above all, the best results will flourish.
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