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Professional Development: "Engaged, Empowered Minds"

Professional DevelopmentSeveral weeks ago, theology teacher Father Francis Hein, O.S.B., and classical languages teacher Mr. Kevin Nolan traveled to Boston, Mass. for a Learning & The Brain conference called Engaged, Empowered Minds: Using Brain Science to Educate Ethical 21st Century Citizens and Problem Solvers.

In today’s complex, 21st Century world, it is essential for students to be engaged and ethical learners, thinkers, and citizens. Mind, brain and developmental research has found that students who have a voice and choice in their learning and feel empowered are more likely to be actively engaged in school and their community, perform better academically, have more positive social-ethical behaviors, and are more likely to be active citizens. The conference aimed to help educators examine how to empower students to be engaged learners, ethical citizens and real-world problem solvers.

Father Francis said, “The age of memorization is past, because information is readily available. With our understanding of how the brain works now, we know that people are cramming for tests and examinations but within a few days, weeks, or months most of that information is gone. With a better understanding of the brain, we can discover more effective and long-lasting ways to teach.” He shared that 45% of all current college graduates are not finding gainful employment, and is already thinking about what kind of professional environment Priory’s current students will face. “We’re an increasingly global society, and we must think about what that means for our students,” he said. “Priory offers so many of the programs and experiences that teach students how to be critical thinkers, which is what’s necessary to be successful in today’s world.” He felt that the conference reinforced that Priory, unlike many schools who are forced to “teach to the test,” goes beyond basic education and helps create intelligent, inquisitive, and resourceful thinkers who can adapt to our ever-changing world.

Mr. Nolan echoed many of the same feelings about Priory’s current pedagogies. He felt that several of the sessions he attended, while valuable, also served to reinforce that as a private, Catholic school, Priory goes beyond training students to be problem-solvers or social workers. “We think of them as people,” he said. “We are way ahead of the things the speakers at the conference are proposing. Our kids are brilliant and we ask them to solve problems every day and they do it, but we don’t just stop there. We go beyond thinking of them as good citizens, we think of them as good people. We are helping them become happy, well-rounded people.”

He really enjoyed the conference, which he described as a series of TedX-style presentations that ranged from how to create good citizens to developing social leaders. “Some of these sessions challenged me to think about why we teach classes like Latin and Greek, why we place emphasis on higher mathematics when many of our students won’t need to use it later in life. It’s because we want them to achieve human excellence. We aren’t just training them to follow a certain career path or giving them only what they need to be good service workers, but ensuring they’ll be good at whatever they do. All of this must come from a good moral foundation, a good character foundation, to make ethical and moral decisions.” Mr. Nolan reflected that our Benedictine, Catholic foundation enables us to delve deeper into these philosophies, and he returned to his classroom with a new motivation to also teach his students about relevance. “When our students think that what they are learning is relevant, they care about it more. We’re teaching them how to learn, and we need to remind them that we are interested in their formation and helping them become the best people they can be.”

“Listen carefully, my son, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart.”

Prologue, 1

“This is advice from a father who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice.”

Prologue, 1

“First of all, every time you begin a good work, you must pray to him most earnestly to bring it to perfection.”

Prologue, 4

“If you desire true and eternal life, keep your tongue free from vicious talk and your lips from all deceit; turn away from evil and do good; let peace be your quest and aim. (Ps 33[34]:13)”

Prologue, 17

“Clothed then with faith and the performance of good works, let us set out on this way, with the Gospel for our guide, that we may deserve to see him who has called us to his kingdom (1 Thess 2:12).”

Prologue, 21

“If we wish to dwell in the tent of this kingdom, we will never arrive unless we run there by doing good deeds.”

Prologue, 22

“What is not possible to us by nature, let us ask the Lord to supply by the help of his grace.”

Prologue, 41

“Therefore, we intend to establish a school for the Lord’s service.”

Prologue, 45

“The good of all concerned, however, may prompt us to a little strictness in order to amend faults and to safeguard love.”

Prologue, 47

“The reason why we have said all should be called for counsel is that the Lord often reveals what is better to the younger.”

Chapter 3, 3

“Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way; the love of Christ must come before all else.”

Chapter 4, 20-21

“Never give a hollow greeting of peace or turn away when someone needs your love.” –Chapter 4, 25-26

“Bind yourself to no oath lest it prove false, but speak the truth with heart and tongue.”

Chapter 4, 27-28

“Place your hope in God alone.”

Chapter 4, 41

“Respect the elders and love the young.”

Chapter 4, 70-71

“Pray for your enemies out of love for Christ. “

Chapter 4, 72

“If you have a dispute with someone, make peace with him before the sun goes down.”

Chapter 4, 73

“The first step of humility is unhesitating obedience, which comes naturally to those who cherish Christ above all.”

Chapter 5, 1-2

“Speaking and teaching are the master’s task; the disciple is to be silent and listen.”

Chapter 6, 6

“The first step of humility, then, is that a man keeps the fear of God always before his eyes (PS 35[36]:2) and never forgets it.”

Chapter 7, 10

“Let us consider, then, how we ought to behave in the presence of God and his angels, and let us stand to sing the psalms in such a way that our minds are in harmony with our voices.”

Chapter 19, 6-7

“On arising for the Work of God, they will quietly encourage each other, for the sleepy like to make excuses.”

Chapter 22, 8

“Every age and level of understanding should receive appropriate treatment.”

Chapter 30, 1

“Above all, let him be humble. If goods are not available to meet a request, he will offer a kind word in reply, for it is written: A kind word is better than the best gift (Sir 18:17).”

Chapter 31, 13-14

“Let all the rest serve one another in love.”

Chapter 35, 6

“Indeed, nothing is to be preferred to the Work of God.”

Chapter 43, 3

“Idleness is the enemy of the soul. Therefore, the brothers should have specified periods for manual labor as well as for prayerful reading.”

Chapter 48, 1

“The life of a monk ought to be a continuous Lent.”

Chapter 49, 1

“All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matt 25:35).”

Chapter 53, 1

“Proper honor must be shown to all, especially to those who share our faith (Gal 6:10) and to pilgrims.”

Chapter 53, 2

“(B)ecause wherever we may be, we are in the service of the same Lord and doing battle for the same King.”

Chapter 61, 10

They should each try to be the first to show respect to the other (Rom 12:10).”

Chapter 63, 17

“We wish this rule to be read often in the community, so that none of the brothers can offer the excuse of ignorance.”

Chapter 66, 8

“Trusting in God’s help, he must in love obey.”

Chapter 68, 5

Never to do another what you do not want done to yourself (Tob 4:16).”

Chapter 70, 7

“No one is to pursue what he judges better for himself, but instead, what he judges better for someone else.”

Chapter 72, 7

“Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us all together to everlasting life.”

Chapter 72, 11-12

“What page, what passage of the inspired books of the Old and New Testaments is not the truest of guides for human life?”

Chapter 73, 3

“What book of the holy catholic Fathers does not resoundingly summon us along the true way to reach the Creator?”

Chapter 73, 4


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