6 Steps to Transformed Students: Step 1- Be the Living Example
This week, I had the privilege of presenting to a group of Catholic School teachers from the Archdiocese of Atlanta. The request was made for me to explore 6 steps to transformed students, the topic of my free download. The context was from the perspective of religion classes but applies to all disciplines. The experience was a learning opportunity for us all and I thought I would share 6 Steps to Transformed Students over the next several weeks.
The premise of the 6 steps is that in today’s classroom there has been (or needs to be) a seismic shift from teacher to facilitator and student to learner. No longer should we approach education as the knowledge-filled teacher filling the student with content. Nor should we see students as subjects but learners on a journey.
I opened the session with a fantastically revealing infographic comparing School vs. Learning. Highlights include looking for answers vs. asking questions, prescribed content vs. exploring passions and interests, giving information vs. making connections, and sequential vs. non-linear. The approach to education is a huge departure from 100 years ago! (Even 25 years ago!)
The 6 Steps we’ll be looking at are:
1: Be the Living Example
2: Faith Exploration
3: Student Driven
4: Culturally Relevant
5: Cooperative Learning
6: Go Beyond the Classroom
Step 1: Be the Living Example
Of course, educators should be the example of the consummate learner. We should model interest and fascination of the subject at hand. Educators need to draw from personal experience, share stories from those around us, and use examples from current movies, television, and news.
With respect to teaching religion, we are wise to reveal that a balanced faith is modeled on the Catechism of the Catholic Church as believed, celebrated, lived, and prayed. That means that as we gain understanding of what our faith tradition teaches, we practice through celebration of the sacraments, live our faith through the moral decisions we make, and pray with Jesus to be better disciples.
Practically speaking, we might incorporate use examples of Saints, practice virtuous living, or make connections to what we hear at mass. The saints are exemplars of lived faith. By learning about the saints we can share their struggles and successes and apply their wisdom to our lives. Focusing on virtues we can present a model of how to live by practicing a virtuous life. And by staying connected to the mass we can share what scripture teaches us leading to practical application of biblical principles.
Following the calendar of saints is as easy as subscribing to emails that highlight the saint of the day. AmericanCatholic.org offers a fantastic free email subscription to both written and audio reflections. In less than two minutes we can hear the story of the Saint of the Day and learn about their lives. Inevitably, we will be able to recall and share this information with students.Practicing virtuous living isn’t as easy as it seems! Every moment presents us with opportunities to put these habits to work. Similar to learning about the saints, we can highlight a virtue that the saint of the day exemplifies. Even highlighting one per week can make a huge difference in the lives of our students. Catholic Identity Links offers us actual resources that make these connections and present classroom and at home opportunities to do just that!
While attending daily mass is not practical for many educators, accessing the daily readings is. USCCB.org offers a free subscription to the daily readings in text, audio and video reflections. We really have no reason not to be connected!
Draw From Personal Experience
In addition to seeking resources for making connections, we may choose to draw from our own personal experience. How many cute kid stories permeate social media that we relate to because we experienced the same thing with our children, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren? Why not take a look at these stories and show how they relate to faith development. If we see the world with children’s eyes we will begin asking what’s it all about, a great way to prompt approaching teaching about faith!
Finally, the world is full of stories that make us ask what we fell and what the church teaches. Turn on any news or television show, social media or movie and look for faith related stories to discuss. Never fear of talking about (age-appropriate) difficult or challenging subjects with our students as if they can’t talk about it where they can find the truth, imagine what they’ll be taught without it!
Next week, we’ll be looking at religion as an emergent and expanding area for exploration and application.