A common practice in schools is to build professional development days into the calendar each year. Typically, it is a day to unveil the latest, new teaching technique; to hire the outside expert replete with buzzwords and catchphrases; or to simply catch up on grading and planning. While these are all valuable ways to spend time, and useful knowledge may be gained, they are disjointed and discrete activities. What is the purpose? What is the larger goal?
Last Friday our Mount Royal staff was blessed with an opportunity to meet together and share a day of prayer and study. Planned in alignment with our mission and vision, we began with Mass together, filling several pews at St. Patrick’s. Mid-morning we paused for time together in front of the Blessed Sacrament, offering thanks and prayers to our patron, St. Joseph; as well as commending ourselves and school to his care. In between these times of prayer we met together to mirror the learning engaged upon by our students: the reading of great texts and engagement in Socratic dialogue. We also viewed a talk given at the annual conference of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education.
It was wonderful to spend time in fellowship with one another, and I wholeheartedly agree with the teacher who stopped by my office this week and said, “I love our staff! Spending the day with them, in the way that we did, really made me appreciate how amazing everyone is.”
We read a short article by Dorothy Sayers entitled, “The Lost Tools of Learning” (1947), as well as a chapter from John Milton Gregory’s The Seven Laws of Teaching (1884). In both of the print based texts and video we were presented with lofty ideas, knotty problems, and nuggets of wisdom. As a group we wrestled with how these concepts fit with our students, our teaching, and our goals. Did we find any clear answers? No. But that was the beauty. We discovered new questions, new ideas, and new connections. We listened to one another and truly engaged in learning at its most real and unmanageable. We made connections to our own classrooms and experiences, and shared much laughter at our own shortcomings and mistakes. At the end of the day I can say with confidence that I learned something new about myself, my fellow teachers, and grew a little closer to God. A perfect day of true professional development.
Yours Truly in Christ,
Amy Sansone, Academic Dean