Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Spirituality and Teaching

As I was reading some of the senior students' licensure portfolios this week and meeting many of them again at an end of semester gathering I couldn't help but compare them with my Schools and Society class students. Admittedly they have grown and learned a lot in the intervening two years but there is something else that makes senior education majors different from sophomore education majors and I think it has to do with the spirituality they have gained from their varied educational experiences at St. Michael's.

One of my colleagues in the Education Department at St. Mike's, Aostre Johnson, is one of countries leading experts on spirituality in education having published many books and manuscripts on the topic. One of the things I find particularly interesting is the way she defines spirituality in a pluralistic sense; in other words, there are many dimensions to the idea of spirituality in addition to the religious interpretation we tend to think of first.

There are, Aostre writes in Many Ways of Understanding and Educating Spirit, many ways we can think about spirituality. There's spirituality as meaning making , as self reflection, as mystical knowing, as emotion, as morality, as ecology, and spirituality as creativity. For example, spirituality as emotion is "a sense of wonder, awe, appreciation, and love for our universe and all creatures in it"; while spirituality as ecology means that "As a teacher, I can inspire kids to do things for the good of others, for the good of the earth". Isn't that neat, especially in a world obsessed by standards-based education?

As teachers of children we must inspire them through our spirituality, whichever form it might take, to seek knowledge and understanding of the world about them; to want to pursue their best selves, and to discover the joys of intrinsic learning. To read more by Professor Johnson see: Nurturing Child and Adolescent Spirituality: Perspectives from the World's Religious Traditions.

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