A few years ago, I sat in Adoration and asked God where he needed me. I asked for more professional development as a Catholic school teacher. The Master Teacher had a plan beyond my wildest dreams. In January of 2011, I began a new chapter in my professional life by accepting a position at Regina Coeli Academy. From my first day, I knew God had directed me here. Every day I am in awe, as together with my students we are immersed in the wonder of what is true, good, and beautiful in ourselves and God’s world.
Teaching in a classical school has changed my life in every way. It has changed me from the inside out. Why? Because in a classical education we are immersed in the truth of the Gospel which permeates every subject and in turn transforms our lives. My class and I kneel in prayer before every single class and we attend Mass every Tuesday and Friday.
Whether I am teaching religion or history, my perspective is the story of
Salvation. The truth is that everything begins and ends with God.
Curriculum resources are effective, based in common sense, and fun for the kids. A few examples:
This year my 3rd and 4th grade students began their studies of the early explorers by meeting the Vikings, Erik The Red, and his son, Leif Ericsson in the classic book, Leif the Lucky. The story delighted my students as they sat in a sun-bathed library listening to me bring Leif’s adventures alive. We then went on to read from our history textbook and make Viking long ships. Later, we sat around our cloth world map and tracked their voyages from Norway, to Iceland, Greenland, and Vineland (now Newfoundland, Canada). The human spirit for exploration had landed its first Europeans in what we now know as the New World. We also learned that Leif Ericsson was baptized a Catholic and later converted many people in his newly established lands.
We use the Shurley English program, which teaches grammar rules using jingles. Each day we begin our grammar lessons singing, dancing and laughing. After a short lesson, the students happily and independently practice the new skills in their workbook. There is no need to give homework or ask the students to study because it is so well designed that the students easily master the information. Grammar without tears.
The Saxon Math program also is so much better than any other math programs I have encountered previously. My students begin the class with a math morning meeting to review prior information and drill math facts, all geared toward the children’s active involvement. The students work with me as I model the new concepts on a worksheet, which serves as a template for their homework. They really love this fun routine.
This summer, I attended the CIRCE Conference in Houston, Texas.
CIRCE stands for Curriculum Instruction and Resources for Classical
Educators. This summer’s conference was entitled: A Contemplation of Imitation. I realized that in all my years of schooling, no one ever encouraged me to slow down long enough to ponder, to sit and stare at a beautiful picture, or to sit quietly in the beauty of a darkened Catholic church. Classical educators understand that.
I took this theme back into my classroom this year. Would you believe that my 3rd and 4th graders discussed what a contemplation of imitation means? Throughout our days, we often stop to look again at those words on our bulletin board as we dig into new information. It helps us look for examples of virtuous people in history and literature lessons.
Every day we try our best to imitate the best teacher, Jesus.
Each year as I dig deeper into what it means to be a classical teacher I am humbled by my ignorance and then inspired to learn and do more. I also copy the master teachers, like the parents of my students, colleagues I meet at conferences, and my teacher friends, like Mrs. Denise O’ Connell who teaches her students to Look (point to your eyes), and Listen (point to your ears) to Learn (trace your index finger over your forehead). Like a carpenter who measures twice and cuts his wood once, my class is asked to think twice, read twice, then write once.
As a person, I feel more alive. I feel like I, too, am beginning to open my mind. Along with my students, I am growing in wisdom and grace through the beauty of God.