ENCINITAS — On June 10, The Grauer School celebrated its 20th graduating class, with all 14 of its graduates heading to college.
The Grauer School is a college preparatory school for grades 6 to 12, founded by Dr. Stuart Grauer in 1991. It adheres to the Socratic model.
“Socratic teaching is the most compassionate and respectful form of education because the Socratic teacher presumes the natural intelligence of the learner, rather than their emptiness,” Grauer said. “It consists primarily of questioning that becomes increasingly probing in nature. Five thousand years and 50,000 research studies after Socrates, we know of no teaching technique that comes close to the Socratic method in efficiency or respect for the learner.”
Grauer started the school with seven students, teaching everything himself except math, science and Spanish.
“We had one senior that year, and she was the first graduating class!” he said, laughing. That student was Aviva Nathan, now a mother of two.
“My very first student was Rian Alworth, a junior that year, and daughter of San Diego football legend Lance Alworth,” he said. “She graduated and today she and her husband operate a preschool located not far from The Grauer School.”
This year Rian Alworth enrolled her son, Nino, into the school’s sixth-grade class. Grauer is one of his teachers.
The new campus, built around a “green school” nestled in a two-acre habitat corridor, opened at 1500 S. El Camino Real in 2001. By offering instruction in gardening, greenhouses, the “farm to table” movement, campus beautification/planting, recycling and habitat corridors, Grauer explained that the school does qualify as a “green school.”
The Grauer School has limited enrollment of up to 150 students, capping class sizes at 12 students.
“We can’t have big (sports) teams, but that’s OK,” he said. “Education shouldn’t be ‘one size fits all.’ Our design allows us to cater education to the unique aspects of students and faculty.”
“You can see how much that relationship really means,” said Clayton Payne, dean of students.
A weekly assembly is centered around a large hearth in the Great Room.
“We’ll sit and tell stories and share successes,” Grauer said. “I usually have a moral that I want to talk about every week.”
The school boasts an active music program, with 40 percent of its students participating.
One of the key features of an education at The Grauer School is their Expeditionary Learning program. Students spend at least two weeks each year outside the school walls on expeditions that have taken them from Yosemite National Park to every continent except Antarctica. Expeditions offer valuable opportunities to practice the Grauer philosophy of resourcefulness, compassion and humanitarian service, as well as broaden students’ education, Grauer explained.
Students have the opportunity of processing “big life” questions with kids from other cultures and participating in ecological missions including building houses and schools.
A product of one such trip was “Portraits of California,” an exhibit at Lindbergh Field in April and May. The exhibit showcased the work of 11 student photographers from The Grauer School who documented one of their trips along the California coastline.
Stuart Grauer will be going on the road this summer and fall for a sabbatical. He said he will attempt to study “real teachers.” His first stop will be Fort Yates, N.D. Aug. 5 where he’ll participate in the Wounded Knee Memorial Motorcycle Run with riders that include Red Cloud High School teacher Roger White Eyes.
“I want to reignite what it means to be a teacher,” Grauer said. “It’s the noblest profession and is not being ‘nobled’ in the mainstream right now.
“Rembrandt, Einstein, Jesus and Buddha — after such time as they made a major contribution, they became teachers. I am looking for people who somehow see the good, not just in kids, but in all creation. I want kid whisperers, not judges,” he added.
For more information, call (760) 944-6777 or visit grauerschool.com.