Westminster School plans parent learning group

By MICHAEL J. BROOKS

Special to the Reporter

NORTH SHELBY – Our technologically-filled era sometimes makes face-to-face communication rarer and more difficult, but Chris Knowles believes improvements can be made.

Knowles, upper school principal (grades 7-12) at Westminster School at Oak Mountain, plans to offer a dialogue with parents shortly after the school year begins.

“I like the book, ‘Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age,’” Knowles said. “Sherry Turkel has written a bunch, but this book offers some suggestions about how to start making things better in everyday conversations.”

Knowles said Turkel’s book is 300 pages but he’d like to lift out a few “conspicuous themes” for discussion with the parents.

“What Turkel suggests is what we try to do in the classroom,” he said. “We use technology to improve the educational process, but we also must improve the conversational role in our teaching. There are touch points in the book for school and for home.”

Knowles said he plans to look at the impact of how teachers, parents and students relate to one another and how they can improve “sustained attention.”

“Unfortunately, our sustained attention is fractured due to technology. Our attention-span is lessened, and this affects how we hear political debates, sermons or other presentations,” he said.

Knowles said the planned parents’ meeting is built on the success of Westminster’s lower school success with book clubs.

Lower School Principal Lori Jill Keelor has had success in offering reading clubs for grammar school students and for their parents as well.

This summer’s reading assignment for the parents is “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens.

“Lori has done a super job with these clubs for a number of years,” Knowles said. “The clubs promote learning and relationships, and I want to do the same thing with our upper school parents.”

Knowles said he has helped with parent discussion groups several times, and last year the upper school used the same text for its parents as the lower school used for its parents: “To Kill a Mockingbird.” He said he’s also interested in using Sen. Ben Sasse’s new book, “The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis—and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance.”

“We teachers and parents are all in this together,” Knowles said. “We spend a lot of face time with the kids and we definitely need one another as we work toward the same goal: improving communication and learning.”

Knowles, now in his third year as principal, served previously as teacher and dean of students at Westminster.

An Atlanta native, he graduated from Davidson College in North Carolina and the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Hamilton, Massachusetts.

Westminster School at Oak Mountain is affiliated with Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church and is located off Alabama 119 at 5080 Cahaba Valley Trace in Birmingham. For more information, visit WestminsterKnights.org.