It is good for us to be here

“Lord, it is good for us to be here..” -  Matthew 17:4

If my memory serves me correctly, I ended my first newsletter message of the year, way back in September, with this quote, “Lord it is good for us to be here..” Now, eight  months later, I can enthusiastically agree with my earlier assertion.  It has been so good for us to be here, in school, in person for the entire school year.  God has been gracious, indeed.

Real learning has happened here.  Minds have expanded, thought processes have been refined, skills have been strengthened, knowledge has been gained.  More importantly, though, our teachers have embodied the love of Christ to our students and created an environment where our students can come into contact with Truth itself.

The end of the school year has brought with it some special moments.  We had a beautiful and poignant National Honor Society induction ceremony. It was incredibly edifying to listen to our students speak so eloquently to the audience. It was a moment in which we could experience the “end product,” if you will, of what we are striving for daily--intelligent, thoughtful, and truly human expression.

Last Friday, we held an impressive May Crowning ceremony here on campus, where we also recognized our recent First Communicants and Confirmandi.  The incense, music, and fleet of altar servers lent a solemnity and dignity to the service that mirrors the love and devotion we have for our Blessed Mother.  

On the same day, we held our Silent Auction event, which highlighted one of the best parts of Mount Royal Academy -- our community.  It was a long-awaited treat to be able to gather as a community again.

Currently, we are hosting four students from Magdalen College  who are participating in the Cardinal Newman Teaching Institute internship program.  As part of the program, I had to prepare to give a seminar on what it means to be a teacher in a Catholic school.  It was a good opportunity for me to reflect on what makes a Catholic teacher different.  It occurred to me that  it might be a good idea to share a couple of those thoughts here.

One of the most basic concepts regarding teaching is relationship building. Regardless of a teacher’s skill in lesson planning, classroom management, or lesson delivery, if a child doesn't believe the teacher cares about him, he will have difficulty learning from her.   A child needs to know he is cared for, respected, and heard.  

I believe a Catholic teacher has an advantage in relationship building because he or she recognizes that each student is made in the image and likeness of God and, therefore, has inherent dignity. The student’s unique strengths, challenges, and perspectives are known and taken into account as a teacher considers the best way to meet a particular student’s needs.  Because a Catholic education is a humanizing education, the Catholic teacher must really see the human being before them, not their behavior, their academic performance, or their test scores, but the child itself. 

One fine distinction a Catholic teacher must make is that we teach children, not curriculum.  Yes, we introduce them to curricula, information, facts, and knowledge, but the distinction is important.  When we focus too much on the curriculum and how much material we cover, we lose sight of the student, how they process the material, and how much they can absorb. But, of course, we must cover material. It is a delicate balancing act.  Focusing on the human element of our vocation keeps us on track.

To be a teacher in a Catholic school is to cooperate with Him, by His grace, in the salvation of souls! What an incredible privilege!  What a weighty responsibility!

Pope St. John Paul II describes the vocation of teacher in this manner: “The life of a teacher, as I know from personal experience, is very challenging and demanding, but it is also profoundly satisfying. It is more than a job, for it is rooted in our deepest convictions and values. To be intimately concerned in the development of a young person, of hundreds of young people, is a highly responsible task. As teachers, you kindle in your students a thirst for truth and wisdom. You spark off in them a desire for beauty. You introduce them to their cultural heritage. You help them to discover the treasures of other cultures and peoples. What an awesome responsibility and privilege is yours in the teaching profession.”

I am profoundly grateful for my vocation as a Catholic teacher. Even on the days when I go home exhausted, I still look forward to coming back to work the following day refreshed. Therefore, I can sincerely repeat my statement from earlier in the year, “Lord, it is good for us to be here.”

- Mrs. Lisa Sweet, Academic Dean