Tag Archives: Back to school

The mind: A talent to be invested

September 14, 2018

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Time to Crack the Books. September is here. The summer is behind us. It is back-to-school time. Whether it is preschool or elementary, middle school or high school, college or trade school, or adult education, fall is the time for so many to immerse themselves in their studies.

SolomanLearning, A Noble Christian Activity. A mind is an awesome gift from God and a talent to be invested (see Mt 25:14-23). God wants us to develop our talents and then to put them to the best possible use in order to produce a rich yield for the Master. It is the vocation, privilege, and obligation of students to apply themselves to their studies.

A Model Learner. The best example of a learner in the Hebrew Scriptures is Solomon. When Solomon inherited the kingship from his father David at the age of twenty, he was young, unlearned, inexperienced, and not knowing how to act. At this opportune moment, God appeared to Solomon and said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you” (1 Kgs 3:5b). Solomon replied, “Give your servant an understanding heart” (1 Kgs 3:9). God does not pour understanding or wisdom into a person’s head. It is the outcome of long and diligent study combined with the insights provided by the Holy Spirit. Solomon could have asked for a long life, wealth, or victory over his enemies, but he asked for understanding that he would know what it right (1 Kgs 3:11). It is presumed that tutors came to the palace to provide the young king with private instruction. Solomon had a brilliant mind, but his God-given talent had to be developed. He thoroughly immersed himself in his studies, and the outcome was wisdom unparalleled by any other person in Old Testament times (see 1 Kgs 3:12).

A Greater Learner. Solomon prefigures Jesus, a connection made by a detail regarding their births, the only two biblical figures wrapped in swaddling clothes (Wis 7:4; Lk 2:7,12). Solomon may have been wise, but Jesus is the personification of wisdom itself. Solomon may have been the greatest of the Old Testament, but Jesus said, referring to himself, “There is something greater than Solomon here” (Mt 12:42; Lk 11:31).

The Model Learner. Before Jesus became the greatest of all teachers, he was the greatest of all learners, as St. Luke clearly states, “Jesus advanced in wisdom” (Lk 2:52). Jesus was home-schooled by his parents, Mary and Joseph, both who were wise, well-read, and well-taught, and Jesus devoured every word of their instruction. Mary and Joseph took their son to the synagogue in Nazareth (see Lk 4:16b) where Jesus was taught by the local rabbis. Jesus gave them his full attention and absorbed their reflections, applications, and insights into Scripture. His hunger for learning was so great that it took him to Jerusalem, the pinnacle of learning for the Jewish people. At his own initiative at the age of twelve, he took it upon himself to go to the Temple, sit in the midst of the teachers, a group of scribes, biblical scholars, listen to them, and ask them questions (Lk 2:46). Jesus was in the habit of unrolling Scripture scrolls (Lk 4:17), and he often read Scripture, sometimes in the synagogue, other times by himself alone in the desert (inferred, Mt 4:4,6,10 and Lk 4:4,8,10,11). Jesus had a brilliant mind, learned from his parents, sought out the wisest teachers he could find, listened attentively, was a critical thinker, asked penetrating questions, was an active reader, and studied on his own. Jesus immersed himself in the learning process and developed the gift of his mind to the fullest possible extent. Students of all ages would be wise to look to Jesus for inspiration and for guidance in the educational process.

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Words Matter: A Catholic Civility

September 6, 2018

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Anne Weyandt

Anne Weyandt

By Anne Weyandt

Here’s an idea to consider as the school year begins.

Let’s encourage more students to pay close attention to civility as an essential component of our Catholic identity.

As a nation, we need to prepare our learners at all levels to problem-solve and shape practical solutions; to find common ground; and to achieve meaningful discourse and inclusivity, with compassion, gracefulness and dignity.

To do these things, we need people for whom words matter. We need people who put the needs of ‘the dear neighbor’ before their own. We need people who think clearly and act with conviction and civility.

Our world is in desperate need of reflective individuals whose words and actions will profoundly influence the nature and content—the civility—of our public life. As Pope Francis wisely reminds us, ‘securing the common good and human dignity [is] the ultimate aim of politics, and political life’.

Thanks to our parents and our teachers, many of us are readers and writers for whom respect and reverence for the word runs deep and true, and is inextricably bound to the Word–our Catholic identity.

Civility is profound manifestation of the Word. Our individual choice of respectful words and meaningful deeds tangibly manifests Christ’s presence in our world. These choices—at whatever age level, in every stage of learning and life—can and should express the preferential option for the poor and the solidarity that is the essence of our One-ness with the Other.

This commitment to civility means that we stand against bullies, and bullying. It means that as teachers, we encourage our learners to engage deeply and respectfully with classmates that express cultural and faith traditions that differ from theirs. And it means that young adults must accept the fundamental expectation of civility in our democratic republic, the obligation to vote thoughtfully, with a focus on building up our society and our world, as contrasted with tearing it apart with words and deeds of hate and disrespect.

It is our job as educators, committed to a deep Catholic identity in our classrooms and communities, to ensure that the practice of civility is learned. By observing Saint Teresa of Calcutta, who lived the words of the beloved Latin hymn, ubi caritas et amor Deo ibi est [where charity and love exist, God is there], learners of all ages and faith traditions learn how to see and to believe. And act, with compassion and awareness of the inherent dignity of all.

The practice of civility is aspirational. Young Malala Yousafzai, courageously doing all of which woman is capable under threat of terror and personal harm, exemplifies fully present and engaged servant leadership, in the here and in the now.

And ultimately, practicing civility is enduring; it is our life’s work. Civility is demonstrated in attitudes and behaviors that reflect honesty and justice when we are confronted by hatred or intolerance. As former First Lady Michelle Obama reminds us, “When they go low, we go high.” That’s civility–a thoughtful and informed choice of words and deeds expressing our shared dedication to an honest, just and joyous common life.

Fidelity to civility—seeing and believing and choosing to speak out and work for the common good, right here and right now, must be our hope for our common future as a nation. It is a hope we must inspire our students of all ages to embrace as a fundamental expression of our Catholic identity.

Weyandt is the vice chair of the St. Pascal Baylon Catholic School board and associate provost of the College for Adults at St. Catherine University in St. Paul.

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Back to School: Jesus, a guide for students’ advancement in wisdom, age and favor

September 6, 2018

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Jesus The Student

Late August and early September signal the beginning of a new school year. Whether a student attends a Catholic school, private school, or public school, education is a spiritual process. Jesus was a student, and his example serves as a guide for all students. As a twelve-year old, “Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man” (Lk 2:52), which is to say that he matured intellectually, physically, and spiritually, and students are to take their cues from him.

Wisdom presumes the mastery of academic subjects like reading, writing, and arithmetic; or history, art, and music; or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. A good student has a strong desire to learn, willingly attends school, pays attention in class, stays on task, asks and responds to questions, completes assignments and projects, and does one’s own work. Jesus is a shining example. He was so eager to learn that he remained behind in Jerusalem, went to the Temple, the center of learning, and sat in the midst of the teachers, listened to them, and asked them questions (see Lk 2:46).

Wisdom is more than the mastery of facts and figures or the ability to conduct an experiment and analyze the results. Wisdom is a gift of the Holy Spirit (Is 11:2). Wisdom combines academic learning, experience, insight, and common sense. It distinguishes between right and wrong, seeks and upholds the truth, applies information constructively, and balances personal good with the common good. Wisdom is the ability to exercise sound judgment.

Jesus also advanced in age. Jesus grew in size physically. He matured from infancy to childhood to adolescence to adulthood. He put on weight, grew taller, and got stronger. Jesus was a good steward of his body, and students are to do likewise. Young people have a spiritual duty to eat a well-balanced diet, get enough rest at night, and exercise regularly. It encompasses healthy practices like brushing your teeth, taking a bath or a shower, and wearing appropriate clothing. At school, physical development includes playground activities, physical education classes, and health classes, as well as extracurricular opportunities like volleyball, dance, soccer, or swimming. Physical safety is also a major concern: the avoidance of dangerous or risky behaviors, caution when crossing the street, and saying no to drugs.

Most importantly, Jesus advanced in favor. He became pleasing to God, and one of the best ways for a young person to please God is to obey one’s parents. When it came to Mary and Joseph, Jesus was “obedient to them” (Lk 2:51). He had a respectful attitude, a cooperative spirit, and a bright disposition; and he listened to his parents, followed their directions, and complied with their house rules. When a child goes to school, the respect accorded to one’s parents is extended to one’s teachers.

To advance in favor is to grow closer to God and to increase in personal holiness. This improvement is fostered by daily prayer, Mass every Sunday, the regular reception of the sacraments, religious education classes, church youth group, and good works. It also includes virtuous behaviors such as telling the truth, getting along with brothers and sisters, performing assigned household tasks, respecting classmates, good behavior on the bus, the use of appropriate language, and playing in a sportsmanlike manner.

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County Fairs and Back to School

August 24, 2015

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Tim-ParkerGlastonbury154MuckyBoots-300x225August has a certain rhythm for me; it means the hottest days of the summer, the county fair and preparing to go back to school.

Every August we see the ads: Back to School Sale! Even years after having no children to buy school supplies for, I still have this uncontrollable urge to purchase notebooks and No. 2 pencils! There is something about that anticipation of starting something new and fresh and getting all new notebooks and pens that is so exciting! This year, although I am not going back to school, I am starting a new job. It was such a pleasant and welcoming surprise for me on my first day to find new note pads, pens, paper clips and post it notes on my desk.

August also brings back other memories for me; that of the county fair. Being involved with 4-H, the fair means projects, barns and showing animals. If you didn’t grow up around animals, you may not know much about manure. Let me teach you a few things that this farm girl knows. A lesson I have learned from manure can be used whenever we are starting something new.

As you walk through a barn and collect manure on your boots, you need to be careful not to track that mud and manure into other buildings, whether that is another barn where disease could spread to other animals or your home and clean living spaces. Often, there is a hose or tray filled with water outside of the barn put there just for the purpose of washing off the muck.

The image from Matthew 10:14 come to mind whenever I see this process. “Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words—go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet.” Although not shaking dust exactly, the image of ridding yourself of the muck on your boots before entering into new territory is a good practice.

The anticipation of children starting a new school year fresh is wonderful. I would remind my children that anything is possible! They were starting with a new teacher, new subjects and a new start! Issues from the previous year or school didn’t need to follow them. If last year you struggled with a certain class or classmate, now was the time to set a new tone. This is a lesson I think we all can use as we start new seasons of our life.

Is there any muck that is stuck to your boots that could contaminate a fresh start?

Let’s thoroughly clean the muck from our hearts and minds and start fresh! And just for good measure, buy yourself a new notebook and a No. 2 pencil, too!

* This post was originally posted on WINE: WomenIn the New Evangelization

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