Educational Mission and Ministry
As Brothers of the Sacred Heart, we inherit a tradition of quality Catholic education. This tradition stems from the religious commitment, personal dedication, and professional competence of the many men, past and present, who have devoted themselves to the education of youth. Our tradition in education has developed as each generation of teachers has learned the lessons of experience from previous generations.
While our philosophy and teaching methods share many aspects in common with all of Catholic education, particularly Catholic education directed by religious communities, over the years we have developed a basic educational philosophy and fundamental pedagogical techniques which have become our hallmark. This educational spirit is lived out in the attitudes, values, and practices that we have traditionally emphasized. We value our spirit and wish for it to continue to play a major part in the role of Catholic education. We want to retain our educational heritage and share it with future Brothers and with the dedicated lay people who join us in the educational apostolate.
We believe in a holistic approach to education. We believe that a young person learns from his or her total experience of the school setting. We attempt to address the religious, academic, social, psychological, physical, and cultural development of the young person through the school's programs, courses, and policies.
Because we believe that a student learns through his or her experience of the total school environment, we devote ourselves to build within the school a community spirit that is characterized by a pervading influence of Christian values, a strong insistence on an orderly and disciplined atmosphere, a personal approach to education, and a firm commitment to academic excellence.
The most important aspect of any Catholic education is the development of Christian values and the transmission of Catholic heritage. We accept this task as the call of the Church and as the primary goal of our school apostolate. Our efforts to have religion permeate the school environment include directing religion and campus ministry programs with a pastoral orientation, modeling Christian values in dealings with others, providing religious activities in the school calendar and religious symbols in school facilities, including Church teachings and Christian values as essential components of instruction in all disciplines, and committing ourselves to service to others. In general, we aim to help students experience religion as being loved by a personal and loving God who cares for them and who is the ultimate source of true happiness and freedom.
We also believe that an orderly and disciplined environment is essential to teach love of God, love of neighbor, and love of learning. Our emphasis is on “friendly discipline” which admonishes and corrects, but at the same time teaches and encourages. While we expect and demand respect for authority and adherence to rules and regulations, we advocate discipline that is respectful of the dignity of the individual, is consistent and fair, and is based on a relationship of mutual trust and cooperation.
To promote an environment characterized by Christian concern and friendly discipline, we attempt to know our students personally and individually. We look for opportunities to be and work with students outside of class time and in less formal settings. Realizing our partnership with parents in the education process, we extend a warm and friendly welcome to parents. We give our personal attention to developing a spirit of openness and cordial relations with students and parents.
We view academic excellence as the development of each student to the maximum of his or her potential. We commit ourselves to this goal as a means of helping students become the whole and complete persons that God created them to be. To accomplish this, we pursue our own ongoing professional development, establish a demanding curriculum that emphasizes command of the basics, work at presenting well-prepared and interesting classes, and continually adapt our curriculum and methodologies to meet changing needs.
In summary, education according to the tradition of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart is holistic education rooted in religious values, structured through friendly discipline, nurtured by personal attention, and committed to academic excellence. While such an approach to education may not be unique to us, it is characteristic of us. This educational spirit consists of ideals and practices that we, through experience and reflection, have grown to value as essential to our school apostolate.
The following pages expand upon this general description of our educational spirit. They describe essential components of instruction, formation, and witness in the Brothers of the Sacred Heart educational tradition. They are not a comprehensive treatment of what is or should be, but explain those values and practices that are characteristic of our approach to education. Also included is an ideal profile of a graduate of a Brothers’ of the Sacred Heart school.
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It is the responsibility of all faculty and staff members to form themselves in the educational tradition of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart and to understand and to accept the religious and educational mission of the school. — “Selection and Formation of Faculty”
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We see the role of teacher as a Christian ministry offering the Church's attention and sensitivity to young people through the teacher-student relationship. Through the teacher’s availability and concern, Christ is made present to students.— “Availability”
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As their personal competencies improve, students’ self-esteem is enhanced, and their ability to understand, critically examine, and contribute to bettering the world also increases. — “Classroom Method’
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We see extracurricular activities, including athletics, as ways of extending the apostolate of Christian education outside the classroom. These activities reflect and reinforce the philosophy and policies of the school.— “Moderators and Coaches”
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We see our schools as successful if students graduate with a strong belief that God loves them. Students develop this belief in proportion to two factors: how much their teachers love them and the extent to which students sense teachers' love through the interest shown them in the classroom and extracurricular activities. — “Demonstrating God’s Love”
Beyond Methodology, Introduction – pp. 11-12
The successful teacher in the tradition of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, therefore, is one who sets clear, high, worthy, and profound expectations for himself or herself and for students and consistently holds students accountable for meeting these. At the same time, the successful teacher effectively communicates to students his or her unconditional commitment to students’ success. He or she will not let a student go astray, will not let a young person “fall through the cracks,” will not ever “write a student off” even when that young person consistently shows his or her worst qualities and acts irresponsibly. Failure or lack of development is simply not an acceptable option. In the expectations set for students and in daily interaction with them, the successful teacher in this tradition actualizes the spirit of Fr. André Coindre, the founder of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, who wrote about the young boys with whom he worked:
These young prisoners are worthy of personal attention. Guilty at an age when one is more careless than bad, more reckless than incorrigible, above all we could not give up hope of their changing. We had to surround them with help to form them to good. (André Coindre, Prospectus of 1818)
At the core of daily expectations we set for students must be our rock-solid belief in them and their essential goodness. Our expectations of students and every aspect of our interaction with them should express this belief and be tangible expressions of surrounding students with help to form them to good.
Clearly, then, education in the tradition of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart goes beyond instructional methodology. It is solidly founded in the personal commitment of competent, caring, and faith-filled teachers who surround students with help to form them to good through daily instruction, formation, and witness.
Beyond Methodology, Chapter 7, pages 71-75
“We Expect Ourselves to Advocate Gospel Values Unequivocally.”
The tradition within which we work calls us to be no less than ministers of the Gospel — men and women whose every interaction with young people spreads the Good News of God’s presence in this world and his promise of eternal life. This spiritual dimension is such a constitutive element of the work of educating young people in this tradition that it rightfully can be considered a calling, a vocation. Br. Brian Curry speaks to this aspect of teachers’ role:
A teacher has to be well grounded in the role he or she plays in the life of the student. If you think about it, the teacher is one of the most important people in the life of the student. And, the relationship, if it works, has probably the most long-range effects in the life of the student.
So, I think a teacher really has to see himself or herself as a minister who helps the person and who has been given the privilege of helping a person develop their educational qualities and potential.
– Br. Brian Curry, S.C.
When we say that we expect ourselves to advocate Gospel values unequivocally, here are some practical examples of what we mean.
Advocating Gospel Values—Praying: Praying with students in the classroom environment provides teachers with frequent and influential opportunities to advocate Gospel values. Whether traditional, teacher-composed, student-composed or spontaneous, daily classroom prayer provides an opportunity for the teacher to witness to the Gospel in such a way that it becomes routine, begun from day one — in a sense, like the air students breathe — and thus it nurtures and forms them. Effective teachers unequivocally advocate Gospel values through prayer by:
- Using daily class prayer to help establish an atmosphere of caring and respect
- Including a variety of prayer forms in the class prayer experience such as offering personal intentions, opportunities for brief guided reflection, as well as traditional prayers and teacher – and student – composed prayers
- Deliberately emphasizing prayers of praise and thanksgiving so that students’ experience is not limited to prayers of supplication
- Setting a tone at the beginning of each class period to communicate that God holds us in his loving sight and is present to us in our families, colleagues, and especially in our students
- Structuring daily prayer experiences that help students confront their own limits and transcend themselves and their social conditioning
- Allowing and inviting students to take an active role, with direction and assistance from the teacher, in shaping and leading class prayer
- Including events from the school and community in classroom prayer.
Mutual respect, teacher to student and student to student, is necessary for a prayerful atmosphere.
– Br. Clifford King, S.C.
Advocating Gospel Values—Referring to the Gospel: Acquiring the habit of making explicit references to the Gospel is another powerful way of promoting Gospel values. Doing so can subtly form students, making them more receptive to the Gospel in their future lives by showing them that the Gospel is a source of insight and wisdom that can be of practical assistance in guiding life decisions. Teachers can advocate Gospel values intentionally by:
- Becoming personally familiar with specific Gospel passages that speak to basic values such as the dignity of each individual and solidarity with those who are poor
- Carefully selecting certain current events of interest or importance to the students to discuss briefly and prayerfully in class
- Encouraging students to critically examine our culture and secular values in light of the Gospel
- Explicitly sharing our conviction as Christians that the Gospel is a source of insight and wisdom that challenges us to be counter-cultural and even to examine our individual values, attitudes, and actions.
Advocating Gospel Values—Promoting Catholic Social Teaching: The Catholic Church has a strong tradition of social teaching that is grounded solidly in the Gospel. Unfortunately, Catholic social teaching is not widely known in our culture. One important way of advocating Gospel values is to know and consciously support Catholic social teaching as a part of instructing, forming, and witnessing to young people.
Catholic social teaching is much too extensive to be covered fully in this text. However, it is possible to articulate in a succinct form the major themes of Catholic social teaching. These major themes include the following seven: 1) Respect for Life and the Dignity of the Human Person; 2) Recognition of the Rights and Responsibilities of All Persons; 3) Promotion of Family, Community, and the Common Good; 4) Respect for the Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers; 5) Preferential Care for the Poor and Vulnerable; 6) A Call to Peacemaking and Recognition of Solidarity of All Humans; and 7) Respect and Care for God’s Creation.
Teachers can intentionally advocate Gospel values through a focus on Catholic social teaching by:
- Explicitly referring to the sacredness of each person as made in the image and likeness of God
- Emphasizing the importance of people over material things and the priority of “being” over “having”
- Applying that priority to the care for those who are weakest and most vulnerable
- Explaining the Catholic position that human life is sacred from the moment of conception to the moment of death
- Discussing abortion, euthanasia, war, torture, poverty, capital punishment, and hunger as evils that deprive people of their sacred lives
- Promoting the good of family life and the stability of families
- Explaining the social and communal nature of human life and the responsibilities to others in community that we all share
- Acknowledging that private property is a right, but asserting the higher right that all humans have to life, food, shelter, and health care
- Recognizing the right that all people have to participate in decisions that affect their lives
- Recognizing the right of all people to a means of support through productive work, fair wages, ownership of property, and opportunity for economic advancement
- Praying for and working for peace and justice in our local communities, country, and world.
- Suggesting alternatives to violence and conflict as means of handling disagreements and conflicts
- Exploring ways that we can individually and communally be better stewards of the resources of God’s creation
- Witnessing to students through full and constructive participation in service opportunities directed toward those who are materially poor or otherwise in great need.
The Brothers of the Sacred Heart were founded in a compassionate response to the needs of young people in Lyons, France in 1821. This compassion, a preference for those who are poor and vulnerable and a spirituality centered on the Heart of Jesus and thus on those who are suffering, has always been a part of this tradition. As teachers in this tradition, we must remain faithful to advocating Gospel values through a firm commitment to Catholic social teachings.
Beyond Methodology, Chapter 11, pages 100-103
“We Expect Ourselves to Hold Strong Convictions Founded in the Gospel.”
You have to want to teach, enjoy what you’re doing and care about kids, have a sense of humor about both yourself and the kids. Know your material.
– Ms. Denise Turcotte
Love your work and love your mission and get to enjoy it. In like manner, be a community man. Be part of the class, be part of the students. Help the community you are in.
– Br. Regis Moccia, S.C.
There is room for a vast diversity of opinions and even convictions among those who work faithfully in the educational tradition of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart. After all, we are individuals willingly coming together for a shared mission, not clones of one another. Yet, shared convictions in two areas are critical to our success. These must be held firmly by all those who claim a part of the tradition of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart. Both are founded and firmly rooted in the Gospel. The first concerns our deepest conviction about ourselves. The second concerns our deepest conviction about our students.
Strong Convictions—Teaching is Ministry: One of the essential convictions founded in the Gospel that we must share is that our work and all of our efforts go beyond professionalism and methodology. Professionalism is not sufficient to achieve the greatness of the mission to which we are called. The work that we are about is nothing less than the evangelization of young people. It is the work of the church to share the fullness of life offered by Jesus in ways that young people relate to, understand, and accept. It is a work in which we share through our baptism and it is, in the truest sense, ministry.
The ideal teacher in our tradition is not looking first to financial gain. Rather, his or her first concern is dedication to education — to the feeling that as a teacher he or she is contributing in a great way to the formation of these young people and inculcating into them things that are going to be so useful in their later lives. Dedication is even more important than education.
– Br. Martin Hernandez, S.C.
Effective teachers in this tradition, therefore, hold to the conviction that teaching is ministry by:
Ø Believing passionately in basic Gospel values such as the dignity and sanctity of each individual
Ø Being willing to make personal sacrifice (possibly of convenience or time) in order to witness respect for others
Ø Being dedicated to the formation and education of young people
Ø Recognizing the serious responsibility to make the Good News of Jesus recognizable and credible to young people
Ø Actively embracing the role of one responsible for spreading the Gospel.
Teaching is a vocation, not just a profession. It is going to demand the whole self and not just whether or not you are going to get so many hours in and you are paid to cover this material and that it is all you do. But it is more of a calling,… to be a teacher involves your whole person. It is all your gifts intertwined on a daily basis in a personal way.
– Mr. Don Hogue
Strong Convictions—Adopting a Pedagogy of Trust: A second and most important conviction that we must share as ministers in the tradition of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart is an unflinching belief in the goodness of each individual. As a basic tenet of our faith, we believe that each person is loved and redeemed by God.
Of course, daily life offers many examples of people who choose to do wrong and even embrace evil in one form or another. Such experience, whether in the form of crime statistics read in the newspaper or direct experience of student misbehavior in a classroom, can easily lead us to a jaded perspective. We may be tempted to hedge our belief in the goodness of each individual by acting in ways that subtly compromise that belief.
Ministers in the tradition of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, however, are called upon to maintain the firm conviction in the basic goodness of each person and to adopt classroom policies, actions, and a personal style that effectively reinforce that conviction and communicate it to their students. Such a conviction in the goodness of students need not naively ignore the possibility of wrongdoing. Rather, a consistent conviction in the goodness of students is a creative and redemptive intervention that makes their lives fuller and the realization of their potential more probable. It is an approach to teaching and forming students that can truly be called a “pedagogy of trust.” Ministers in the tradition of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart practice a pedagogy of trust by:
Ø Believing in the goodness and potential of each student
Ø Maintaining hope and belief in the potential of each student to grow and develop despite past failures or lack of cooperation
Ø Actively seeking opportunities to re-establish a friendly rapport with students following any correction
Ø Preferring to miss the opportunity to correct a student for wrongdoing rather than unjustly accusing a student
Ø Designing classroom rules and procedures that maintain control and order but also communicate a sense of trust and respect for the dignity of each student
Ø Always protecting students from any form of peer or adult harassment
Ø Reaching out to those who are less attractive, those who feel alienated, and those who are experiencing educational or behavioral difficulties.