READING, UK – School founder and Headmaster, Munawar Karim, started Deenway Montessori School and Unicity College in 2009 to provide an educational environment that encouraged children to express themselves and contribute positively to the world. The Junior school, serving children ages 3 to 12, follows the Montessori method, while the Senior school, currently serving children ages 13 to 16, follows the Liberal Arts educational model – both working within the tenets of Islam. The schools currently serve 100 students, both Muslim and non-Muslim, and are run as a non-profit so as to be accessible to a broader range of families.
In the 2016-2017 school year, Deenway Montessori School and Unicity College began school-wide Thematic Programs with The Art of Learning Project. Over the summer recess staff were give copies of The Art of Learning and invited to begin their own personal reading of the book. In the spring, they plan to begin each morning reading and discussing a few passages from the book and thinking about how the ideas can be applied to their school community.
The Senior school students have begun an Art of Learning book study and discussion group, which will continue throughout the next two terms. Their teachers also plan to incorporate a selection of the learning principles into the school-wide Shakespeare study. At the same time, Mr. Karim is forming a parent book study group in order to educate the parents as to how they can support their children’s learning development at home. In addition, the Junior school staff will begin to weave the Resilience learning principles into their spring units of study in order to provide the students with repeated exposure to the concepts across disciplines.
When asked about his interest in The Art of Learning Project, Mr. Karim explained, “At our school we wish to prepare our young people for the world which they will be inheriting and that preparation entails much more than simply pushing students toward academic study and excellence in sports. It entails having a mindset, tools and attributes that can enable them to have the highest aspirations and know how to work toward them in whatever field, discipline or pursuit they are inclined to; and to be able to cope with the challenges that life gives us. What makes The Art of Learning special is that it not only agrees with some of the best research out there on self-improvement and learning, it is actually based on the real-life experiences of someone who continues to live by those principles and concepts.“ Regarding the school’s experience with working with the JW Foundation, Mr. Karim said, “The JW Foundation provides clear and structured resources together with one-to-one mentoring to help schools translate these ideas into life-transforming habits for staff, students and parents alike. The help they have given us so far is already beginning to make a difference in some quite unexpected ways…”
As participants in our semester long Thematic Program project, the faculty in both schools receive regular support from the JWF team over the course of their program. This support includes
· Monthly emails that lay out a plan for each phase of the program such as staff exploration of concepts, building personal daily habits, analyzing student needs, planning curricular tie-ins, working with students, and reflections on the program
· Scaffolded support of each participating staff member’s daily journaling on slack to analyze daily practice, note struggles, and plan for improvements.