Monday, July 21, 2014

The Patron Saint of Teachers

St. John Baptist De La Salle, patron saint of all who work in the field of education.
Did you know that we had a patron saint? I didn’t. I was pleasantly surprised when I attended an orientation meeting for my new job and learned a very important history lesson.  

“To be entrusted with the teaching of the young is a great gift”   John Baptist De La Salle
John Baptist De La Salle was the son of wealthy parents and was ordained a priest in 1678.  Early in his life he became interested in the many children of peasants who would have no opportunity for education as they would not have the resources to attend school.  Most of these children would not have parents who were there to guide them and if they did, the parents did not have the money or capacity to supply them with the necessary resources they would need to be a contributing member of their community..  He very quickly recognized his calling to education, left his family home to move in with teachers and created a community of Brothers of Christian Schools.  Facing stiff opposition over his determination to provide an education to every child regardless of their financial state,  using innovative methods that included focusing on the whole child and teacher preparation, De La Salle and the Christian Brothers went on to establish a network of very good schools throughout France.

The network of schools they created today are LaSallian schools.  “LaSallian Schools operate in over 80 countries around the world with a special emphasis on the poor and teaching people from all walks of faith and culture.”  The values found in the LaSallian tradition are embraced by   Catalyst Charter Schools.  Everyone is welcome at Catalyst Schools and positive change is the result of compassionate and caring adults working with children in a mutually beneficial relationship that will educate and inspire.

The foundation of Catalyst Charter Schools:
  • Faith and Hope: The belief that the children who enroll will be active in their own education.  The belief that the families of these children will do what is necessary to allow their children to grow.  The belief that the community will play a major role in developing these young children.
  • Service: The mission is to be a “catalyst” for change in the neighborhoods these schools serve.  Participation in community activities is encouraged as it is vital in making these communities grow and allowing positive change.
  • Community and Relationships:  Learning is not an activity done by an individual.  It is the result of relationships.  Relationships between teachers and students, relationships between teachers and families, and relationships between the school and the community.
  • Dignity and Justice: Recognizing and celebrating every person’s worth and value, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, etc.
  • Educational Excellence: Having high expectations, high accountability and educational growth.

‘'Take even more care of the education of the young people entrusted to you than if they were the children of a king.”  John Baptist De La Salle

The first thing that struck me as I heard about the history of Catalyst and the values that serve as its foundation is “Shouldn’t all schools be based on these values?”  I mean, we, as educators have made a commitment to do everything in our power to help our students grow, not only in their knowledge and skills but also as individuals who will some day take their place in a community.  These values are pretty basic, or at least they should be, in every community in the country--not to mention the world.  

“Inspire and lead others by encouraging them”   John Baptist De La Salle

How do I, as the Director of Instructional Technology, work to put these values into action? How do I support teachers and scholars in their quest to embrace these values?  For me, I see almost everything through a technology lens.  How can I help to promote these values within the Catalyst organization. I may not be directly working with scholars in the classroom but my responsibilities include helping teachers use technology to both engage and inspire their scholars and that will have a tremendous impact on these values.

Faith and Hope: What better way to have scholars engaged in their own learning and partnered with teachers than to add technology to the mix.  Connecting scholars to people around the world with similar struggles and obstacles can be very powerful.  Scholars would not have had the opportunity for access to this type of technology, nor have the world as an audience,  but now will have it in their hands and at their fingertips every day.

Service:  Children that are a part of the Catalyst system will take their place within their communities one day in the future.  Access to technology will allow these scholars to expand their knowledge of what the world has to offer.  They will be able to explore the many opportunities that are available to them and in turn, will impact their communities and become change agents. Technology will also allow these scholars and their teachers the ability to affect positive change.

Community and Relationships: Education, teaching and learning--its all about the relationships.  Imagine the types of relationships that can blossom with the use of technology.  Connections can be made with a simple “send” button.  Networks can be created with collaboration opportunities.  Communities will sprout within the constructs of the school.  Some say technology has been damaging to our ability to develop relationships.  I would disagree as I think technology changes the types of relationships we build but we are still responsible for cultivating and enriching those relationships.  The community and the world will unfold in front of our scholars, like it never has before.  

Dignity and Justice:  Technology, I believe, can be the ultimate game changer for many.  Regardless of the community you live in, the circumstances of your birth, etc. Technology can level that playing field, giving every child that comes into Catalyst Schools an opportunity to expand and grow without limits.  Not enough can be said about the opportunities present as a result of technology.  Opportunities, that until now, have been only available to schools and children that are in specific districts or schools.  With a 1:1 initiative, Catalyst Schools is making a commitment to providing scholars with the same technology that can be found in a number of schools around the country.  Technology that you would not find in the homes of most of the scholars. The goal of Catalyst Schools is to prepare every scholar for college, and in order to completely prepare our scholars for the college experience, they must be treated with the same considerations that you would find in most average communities.

Educational Excellence: High expectations and high accountability.  We can’t forget that these children are going to be in a world where technology is everywhere.  We have a responsibility, a duty, to create a culture of excellence through a rigorous curriculum and technology will help us do that.  Technology will allow teachers to push scholars to use critical thinking, problem-solving and collaborative skills that will prepare them for college and the work world they will enter.  It is no longer enough to teach content.  We must continue to expand the array of 21st century skills our scholars have at their disposal.  The only way we can do that is to encourage and expect academic excellence which in turn will aid scholars in becoming a part of a global world.

Catalyst deliberately chose to open schools in neighborhoods with the most need, which is a direct reflection of De La Salle’s philosophy.  Identifying the people who would benefit the most from education and opportunities and doing whatever is necessary to serve those communities.  I am humbled by the opportunity to join Catalyst and help to make these opportunities become realities.

**Information and facts taken from Catalyst Schools Orientation Materials

**Thank you Ed Siderwicz

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