Our written Educational Plan was beautiful and inspiring and it guided us in finding materials that manifested the Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in which we hoped to immerse our students. But that Plan – or any other – would remain simply words on a page if it were not brought to life by the teacher in the classroom. When we read Shakespeare’s plays, we can be edified by their language and story, but the full force of their meaning and impact can only be felt on the stage.
So the challenge of preparing a faculty (most of whom have been educated and formed by contemporary education standards) to internalize the classical approach and master it fully enough to effectively educate children loomed large for us. I will share with you below what I believe has helped us in the formation of teachers:
Curriculum, pedagogical methods, and all the details of the school’s life must constantly assessed in light of the conviction that knowledge and love of truth, beauty, and goodness are ends in themselves. –The Educational Plan of St. Jerome Academy
Because it is teachers who face twenty-five pairs of eyes each day, they tend to be eminently practical beings. Most contemporary teacher formation programs are essentially “how to” seminars in administering curricular material. In the modern world, philosophy has been made to be the opposite of practical. In the classical model, however, it is the foundation upon which any later practical matters can occur and the lens through which practical decisions must be made. Be prepared to spend time absorbing the philosophy of the Catholic classical approach; read and discuss books and articles together as a faculty.
The teacher must know that which he would teach; therefore, know thoroughly, clearly, and familiarly the lessons you wish to teach. - The Seven Laws of Teaching, by John Milton Gregory
Our curriculum is based on an historical frame – essentially the arc of Western civilization from the ancient cultures of Egypt and Mesopotamia through the Greeks, Romans, Medievals, Moderns and Americans. During the summer of 2010, we held a seminar week for teachers in which they were immersed in both the highlights of the various historical eras and a demonstration of pedagogy that is consistent with this approach, e.g., Socratic dialogues, read-alouds, and analyzing classical art. We enlisted the help of local university professors in each of the areas. Since then, teachers are expected to engage in an ongoing process to deepen their understanding of the content they are expected to teach.
Give me wisdom, the attendant at your throne. - Wisdom 9:4
We know that wisdom is a virtue that develops with experience. We scheduled professional development with both the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education and the Circe Institute early on and in subsequent follow-up trainings. Many of our teachers have partnered with teachers at other Catholic classical schools – like St. John Bosco School in Rochester, NY – to share ideas and lessons.
In the end, the Catholic classical teacher will be formed through a dedicated and serious interior life of prayer and the willingness to pursue learning for life. Our ability to guide our students toward lives of moral and intellectual virtue is entirely dependent on our own growth in faith, reason, and love.