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Chapter 4: The Teacher and the Atmosphere
The role of the teacher or parent in setting a classroom atmosphere of joy and order hinges on the nature of authority between the adult and the students. Does the teacher lead with an authoritarian or authoritative role? The authoritarian teacher leads by anxious and controlling means, setting an unpredictable and fragile atmosphere that squelches a student’s love of learning, desire for growth, and sense of joy and peace. The authoritative teacher, as described by Charlotte Mason in School Education, leads as a person authorized by another, with immovable fixed principles in all matters of importance. Proper authoritative leadership lives peacefully under authority and is moved only by responsibility and what is good and right; selfish wants and needs are quickly dismissed. At Ambleside® schools and homeschools, weakness is not seen as a disturbance, but rather as an opportunity for discipleship; “It is good to be me here with you. . . . We’re going to figure out a strategy to help you move in a more life-giving direction.” Dr. Bill St. Cyr and Maryellen St. Cyr of Ambleside® Schools International discuss the distinctives of a proper approach to authority in the classroom that fosters an atmosphere of joy, curiosity, exploration, learning, and peace.
Chapter 5: Masterly Inactivity
Masterly Inactivity is a peaceful presence held by the teacher that gently calls, invites, a child back to a strengthening of the will – to sit up straight or say a kind word, for example. Dr. Bill St. Cyr, of Ambleside Schools International, discusses the importance of Masterly Inactivity and the toxic effects of the “Heavy Handed” teacher. “The teacher is preserving peaceful, good, instructive, life-giving atmosphere, and the way she does that is by practicing what Charlotte Mason called Masterly Inactivity.
Chapter 6: Aesthetics and Atmosphere
Cultivating a taste for the good and beautiful begins with setting the Atmosphere. Beautiful music, art on the walls, wooden furniture all play a part in setting the tastes of a child. Dr. Bill St. Cyr, of Ambleside Schools International, notes that children don’t innately know what is good, what they would like, but rather respond to what is in the Atmosphere. “She [an Ambleside student] had been introduced to beautiful music. Her natural appreciation for beautiful music had been cultivated such that when she heard something that was not beautiful, she was quick to recognize it.