This academic year I am sharing examples of how educational pedagogy can inform evangelization efforts. On my office wall, I have collages of my girls engaging in different forms of reading and writing over the years paired with quotes that capture different aspects of my beliefs related to how we can nurture and support readers and writers. One of them states a saying that some teachers in Mexico mentioned when I was attending a summer for educators exchange, “El niño aprende a leer leyendo y a escribir escribiendo,” which translates to, “The child learns to read by reading and to write by writing.” I loved that the teachers were capturing the importance of learning by doing, a concept that John Dewey emphasized and that aligned with my own teaching philosophy.
Recognizing the importance of active learning, learn by doing means that teachers serve as facilitators of the learning process in order to allow opportunities for students to practice. It recognizes that we cannot just learn about something, we need to actually apply that knowledge in practical use. That experience can support depth of knowledge.
In order to be effective facilitators of this type of learning experience, teachers need to be what they teach. For example, a teacher of reading needs to be a reader and a teacher of writing needs to be a writer in order to authentically guide students through the process of growing and developing as readers and writers. By engaging in the same type of work themselves, teachers can reflect on their own development over time in order to consider implications for students.
Though John Dewey is the name within educational circles that is often associated with the concept of learning by doing, around 300 years prior St. Francis de Sales was making statements, such as,
You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working, and just so, you learn to love by loving. All those who think to learn in any other way deceive themselves.
Children learn to speak by hearing their mother talk, and stammering forth their childish sounds in imitation; and so if we cleave to the Savior in meditation, listening to His words, watching His actions and intentions, we shall learn in time, through His Grace, to speak, act, and will like Himself. (Introduction to a Devout Life, p. 53)
The second quote from St. Francis de Sales captures well that in an evangelization context, the concept of learning by doing applies to conforming our lives to Christ and supporting others in doing the same. We do not just want to know about God. We want to know God and have our lives transformed as a result. In other words, in order to support each other in our walk towards becoming saints, we need to be intentional about developing and nurturing the dispositions of disciples.
In light of the value of mentors being more effective with supporting when they are actively engaged in the same work themselves, those in roles to support others in their faith formation can reflect on and discuss questions such as the following:
- What are examples of dispositions of disciples? What does it look like or sound like to be a follower of Jesus?
- What is a strength that I have related to dispositions of a disciple? How might I use that to consider implications for teaching/supporting others in their growth?
- What is an example of an area where I can grow? How might I grow? How might that experience of an intentional attempt at growth help me to support others in their own efforts?
Throughout the Gospels Jesus taught the disciples and allowed them with space to practice. For example,
The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.” (Mark 6:30-32)
Time and again Jesus modeled the importance of time in prayer, and in this account, He nurtured the apostles by calling them away to do the same. He demonstrated that it is critical to balance active work and rest. Jesus provided opportunities to learn by doing and continually engaged in the same type of work He was calling his disciples to practice.
Loving Lord, Help us to foster faith filled friendships and to mentor others in order to grow in heroic virtue alongside each other. Remind us that in order to support others, we need to be intentional about our own progress and application in our daily lives. Illuminate areas for growth. Transform us by Your grace and then use us as instruments to reflect your love in the world.
Copyright 2019 Amanda Villagómez