October 12: Clear and Unclear Windows

It is very clear that beyond having a passion for teaching and working with students in individual areas of expertise, it is essential for educators to have at the forefront of their minds the responsibility they have of preparing students to be civically engaged individuals. In the majority of films or television shows about school or the experience of students and teachers in a school setting, the phrase “educating future world leaders” is always mentioned. This phrase, in whatever way it can be stated, is completely true on two different levels. The first level is expressed through the word “educating” and can be understood as the responsibility a teacher has to share their knowledge of their subject by providing opportunities for students to not only receive knowledge, but discover and construct it as well (Scheuerman, 2014). The second level has to do with “future world leaders” and directly relates to the ancient Greek understanding of the word meaning, as Hannah Arendt has described it in The Human Condition (1985), vita activia. Educators in all disciplines have the responsibility of shaping the leaders of tomorrow who through intentional and careful planning on the teacher’s part can learn to abide by that principle of vita activia which according to Plato, Aristotle and other great Greek philosophers is promoting the good of all through “collective endeavors” (Scheuerman, 2014). Educating future world leaders means providing learning experiences in each subject matter for students to learn how to collaborate, problem solve and contribute their own individual success towards the common goals of the group. All of these experiences encourage them to be active with the hope that they will be able to take those skills and apply them in their own lives beyond the school house.

One thing that is unclear to me is the practical application of these two responsibilities. How are teachers able to be effective and provide meaningful experiences for their students when there are systems in place, for good reason, such as Common Core Standards? How do educators reconcile the expectations of the nation, the state, the school and the parents for academic excellence in subject areas with the intentional exposure to becoming a good citizen who is shaped by the 6 columns of moral education? This is something that recently has been a struggle within my very own experiences in the classroom.

In my role as a religious educator I am obligated to abide by the religion framework created by the United States Council of Catholic Bishops. This framework has great foundations in Scripture and the Catechism, two incredible sources of received knowledge, but because of this it is heavy on students demonstrating knowledge of faith and teachings of the Catholic Church and is greatly lacking in the meaning of what being a Christian  is and what it means to have a personal relationship with Christ. At a recent professional development opportunity I attended Mark Markuly, the Dean of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, shared his research on the process of teaching religious studies and found that teaching faith has to be authentic, emotional and based in the heart ,as teenagers see the words of religion as old, outdated and from time that is irrelevant to them. This attitude of being “old, outdated and from time” can be applied to other subject areas or aspects of of each respective subject area that all public schools are required to offer to students. With that attitude, how can educators make the learning experience meaningful within and beyond the classroom setting? How do educators share knowledge that inspires students to be active participants in society?

References:
Scheuerman, R. (2014, October). Session 2 Podcast A: Paideia.EDU 6120 Foundations. Lecture
retrieved from Seattle Pacific University, Seattle, WA.

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