Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
February 8, 2010
Schools called to create a climate of justice
Facilitator tells Faith Development Day of the need for empathy
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - Catholic schools must educate for justice. To do that, they must become communities of trust, communities of joy and intergenerational communities that operate on values such as compassion and courtesy.
That's part of the message Jerry Goebel brought to more than 3,000 members of the staff of Edmonton Catholic Schools who participated in the district's Faith Development Day Feb. 2.
"The mission statement of Jesus Christ was, 'I have come to become good news to the poor,'" Goebel said at the beginning of his hour-long presentation at Shaw Conference Centre. "As followers of Christ, that should be our mission statement."
Goebel is a facilitator, presenter and musician from Washington state who has dedicated most of his life to bringing the Gospel to youth and adults across North America.
He has worked with youth and young adults for over 30 years. Twenty of those years he has focused primarily on bringing the Gospel to at-risk youth on the streets or in the juvenile court system. He developed ONEFamily Outreach, which trains mentors to work with disconnected youth - incarcerated youth, youth in recovery and youth who are expelled from school.
In his presentation, Goebel spoke about educating people for justice. "To do that we must create a climate of justice in the schools and we have to articulate the goal of justice to all participants," including staff members, administration, students and parents.
Schools that embark on justice education must also make sure "you have a community around you that embraces your values."
CREATED IN GOD'S IMAGE
Society values people for what they have and for what they do. Catholic schools must value them because they are human beings created in the image and likeness of God. Instead of asking them what they want to be, educators and parents should ask them "what's the deepest longing in your heart."
The key to just teaching lies in Jesus Christ, who, instead of preaching to his followers, asked them, "What do you seek, where does your heart break?"
"You have to ask that empathetic question," Goebel told his audience. "That's the core of justice. That's the centre of empathy, that's the heart of compassion. That's how Jesus begins, not by preaching. The greatest teacher in history begins with a question: Where does your heart break?"
How do you break someone's heart? By acting kindly and compassionately. "By seeing a compassionate act, they'll engage in a compassionate act," Goebel said, urging teachers in the audience to model the behaviour they want to see.
Students learn values by watching how teachers treat each other. "Watching adults treat each other justly is how they learn justice."
He pointed to a 10-year study of 400 schools. The most highly achieving schools were those that had high relational trust among adults.
When students are asked how they want to be treated, they generally say they want to be treated fairly, Goebel said. They also want to feel safe in their schools - safe in the sense they feel at home in the classroom.
SMELL OF SOUP
In one school a student said she felt like learning every time she smelled chicken soup. Probably that is because the smell reminded her of home. So her teacher brought soup to the classroom. "Isn't that a great teacher?"
Courtesy is big in justice education. "When courtesy dies, relationships die," he said, relating the story of a little girl who couldn't cross a busy street because cars refused to stop for her.
"Every car that passes by tells her you are not seen, you are not visible, you are not worth stopping for," he said. "When courtesy dies, communities die. When courtesy dies, nations die. The fundamental rule of justice is courtesy, simple courtesy, intentional courtesy."
Courtesy, he said, must first be given to the least accepted, to the most rejected.
Sarcasm has replaced physical punishment in schools, Goebel said. It must end because it does great damage to children. There should be no place for sarcasm in any school because sarcasm hurts kids emotionally and destroys their spirit.
"We need communities of trust, communities of joy and intergenerational communities," Goebel said.
He called for the consistent presence of caring adults and suggested having retired people from the community greet students in schools and strive to hold meaningful conversations with them.
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