“I hate reading! It is so boring. Why do we have to use this stupid book?” Welcome to the world of a seventh and eighth grade teacher. Yet, I understand where they are coming from – I get the message. Books weren’t always a passion for me either, but what a beautiful world text offers. Reading helps make us who we are by promoting creativity, facilitating our well-being, and assisting us to become more moral.
Literature allows for one’s imagination and creativity by exposing the reader to its vast world of selection. “Reading broadens our imagination by stimulating the right side of our brain. It opens our minds to new possibilities and new ideas, helping us experience and analyze the world through others’ lives.” (Literary Works, Mary 20, 2015 Paul Heavenridge). Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist, conducted a study using MRI imaging to observe the brain while subjects were reading. The images showed heightened connectivity in several parts of the brain. The neurological research concluded the improved brain function was similar to muscle memory, thus reading fiction was found to develop imagination. (Brain Connectivity, 2013) (Birkerts, 2012). Young and old can leave their troubles behind and escape into different worlds, and, of this, I am guilty. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a perfect example of a text that stimulates imagination and creativity. As a matter of fact, during a Friday silent reading class, one of the 8th-grade girls threw her Red Queen series book on the floor and shouted, “That’s it! I quit! I won’t be a witness to Mare’s (the main character) stupid decisions!” Everyone looked up from their books, shook their heads, and then went right back to their silent reading world. The young lady’s face turned red, she took several deep breaths, and then retrieved her book and turned the page. Visualizing and interpreting text triggers our creative side. “The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” ~ Dr. Seuss
Written works are an application of language that can improve our well-being personally and professionally. The use of reading materials for help in solving personal problems or for psychiatric therapy is called bibliotherapy and dates back to 1916. It received widespread attention after the World Wars when it was prescribed to treat combat stress, depression, mild alcohol abuse, and many other illnesses. Literature can help readers gain insight into personal challenges and help develop coping strategies. In other words, stories provide perspective.
Reading is more than decoding and comprehension. The Atlantic states that it makes us more moral. Stories allow us to empathize with characters and situations. Through the written word, we can evaluate circumstances and witness the experiences of others, not to mention, establish the foundation for our religion. “Literature explains human values. The works of Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle (the most famous Greek philosophers) contain virtues that promote perfection to a society.” One of my most heartfelt moments as a promoter of books occurred three years ago when I witnessed an eighth-grade boy quietly wiping tears off his face as he was reading Crossover by Kwame Alexander. Of course, I did the silent victory dance, it had taken four months to get him hooked, but there it was – a connection – empathy! “Literature is one of the most interesting and significant expressions of humanity.” ~ P.T. Barnum
Let’s take care of ourselves – read a book!
The seasons of advent and Christmas are perfect times for us to reflect on where God is in our lives and how we respond to his call of love. Without God we are nothing. We receive everything from He who created all that is good. As St. Maximilian Kolbe puts it, “Man is a being called into existence from nothingness, total nothingness. Whatever he possesses and is he has received from God.” We can either view things in our lives as something we are entitled to, or we can view our time and talent as something entrusted to us by God. Every breath we take is truly a gift from God.
If everything then stems from Christ, should we not in turn love and serve him to the best of our ability? I find that the problem is not in finding this desire to keep Christ at the center, but our inability to live it out. We are human and we fall short. We continually get discouraged and bury ourselves in other things; family, activities, or our work. The struggle is that these are not usually bad things in themselves, but can often take our time away from God. However, God continues to call us closer to him. Just as you schedule other aspects of your day, work, meetings, study time and others, we should also schedule time for Jesus. On top of this we can invite God into our daily activities through simple prayers throughout the day or an ongoing conversation with Him. Take time to talk and pray with others, whether it is boldly witnessing to someone or praying with your family in the car or before bed. Invite God into your daily life.
So as Christmas quickly approaches and we are rushing to make preparations, let us remember to keep Christ at the center through prayer and thanksgiving.
People tell me all the time I’m the most organized person they know. So, when I was asked to contribute a blog on being well-ordered, I thought this would be easy. After all, ordered and organized mean the same thing, right? I’ve got this! Yet, I’ve thrown several wadded up drafts on the floor and have guided the backspace key to leave skid marks across line after line of what I decided not to say. I’ve poured over research and found some great quotes. I’ve prayed about it; and, frankly, anguished about it. Truth is, this is turning out to be way harder than I expected it to be. I’m overthinking it. When a computer glitch (ugh) at our house gobbled up, without so much as a burp, the hours of rough draft over which I had labored, my anxiety heightened to a less than well-ordered state, leaving this a less polished version of the assignment.
Despite every effort to think intellectually about orderliness, my mind kept going back to one of my favorite and most valued college classes back in the day. The required class was rumored to be “easy”; so, most of my peers, myself included, saved it until the semester before student teaching. The reality is, my college years would have gone more smoothly had this completed course appeared earlier on my transcript. The syllabus for "Principles of Organization", under Gloria Saxon’s watchful eye, marched through a lengthy parade of lessons building on simple, organizational strategies, progressing through complex assignments, incorporating practical applications of the value of being well-ordered. The foundation for the well-organized person I have grown to be may well have been in "Principals of Organization"; however, life is the laboratory in which habits are formed by repetition and self-discipline.
“For a man to conquer himself is the first and noblest of all victories”, said Plato. Conquering oneself through habitual self-discipline is at the very core of being well-ordered. The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines well-ordered - adj., having an orderly procedure or arrangement. Other sources cite synonyms: carefully planned, customary procedure, established method, strategic and disciplined.
To be well-organized, one must determine what works and what doesn’t work… for them. Miss Saxon would say, “if you use it there, keep it there. Effort and time spent on any action should be efficient.” My mother, a common sense smart, farm woman, would say, “you’ve got to use your head, or you’ll have to use your feet!” What I always heard in Mom’s words was: make a plan – think it through - be prepared – get to work.
The daily attendance sheet – a lone piece of paper systematically collects all the vital data about the comings and goings of the scholars of whom I am held in charge each day. That single, piece of paper, so methodically arranged, paces my day with the reported Absent kids appearing at the top followed by the Where Are They? kids. Members of the Tardy Party strategically take their places mid-page recorded by earliest to latest arriving. The Late Arrivals/Leaving Earlys/ Out and Backs hold their routine place at the bottom of the page. There’s a method to my madness that all comes together as I submit my daily report as a piece of the diocesan records. I have learned, by habitual routine, to tame the chaos that can easily result if I do not follow a disciplined and customary procedure with this and many other routine tasks. Being well-ordered is a very good thing. At the end of the day, when everything is in its place, I am confident the next morning will go smoothly because I have purposefully planned for it to be. Yes, being well-ordered is a good thing!
An ordinary day in the Academy office includes the shuffling of untold numbers of pieces of paper. The most basic and universally known tool to assist in organizing paper is the English alphabet. Those twenty-six letters take command when it comes to organizing the Academy records and resources. Of what use would it be to throw all of it in file cabinet drawers without arranging things alphabetically and categorically? The alphabet is truly our friend when it comes to being well-ordered.
Past the walls of the office, it is with great pride I witness the SCBA scholars navigate the hallways in ordered lines and go about their daily, classroom routines adhering to procedures as established by the administration and reinforced by the staff. It is by habitual training and repetition, the scholars are learning to meet and exceed the expectations made of them and to develop self-discipline. It gives me even greater pride to observe our scholars demonstrating self-discipline in their behavior toward each other and toward our frequent guests. These well-ordered habits and behaviors will serve our young people well, long after they are scholars of SCBA.
Peace and all good things,
Links to articles on benefits of memorization:
No pressure as parents or teachers, but we are always training in habit. When we allow, correct, or ignore behavior we are training habit. We are constructing the “rails” on which the scholar’s life will run. We want to train them to ultimately end up living full and meaningful lives because they have become disciples of Jesus. We want them to be active members of His Church, we want them to serve the world by living out their vocation and sharing their unique gifts. In order to do this we must begin with the training of their habits for the true, good, and beautiful.
The training of habit can be exhausting for the adult in charge because we must be consistent with our message. Developing good habits take practice and redirecting. The brain is an amazing organ and it forms neuronal connections based on what we repeatedly do—both good and bad. “Repetitio mater memoriae,” is a Latin phrase that translates as “repetition is the mother of memory.” Therefore, we want to put down the “rails” in the correct directions to begin with, so we do not have to do a lot of digging up and relaying later. The virtuous life we want for our scholars is developed thoughtfully and carefully over time. At school we use the four Cardinal Virtues and the habits associated with them to aid in our understanding, guide our thinking, and teach the scholars. Together, we can train the children to become what God has called each of them by name to become, people in deep, loving relationship with Him.
This is a link to the Charlotte Mason website about training of habit if you are interesting in learning more. https://www.thecharlottemasonway.com/8-charlotte-mason-habits-teach-children/
My name is Nichole Finzer and I am pleased to be teaching Latin at Borromeo Academy this year! I graduated from Sewanee: The University of the South with a degree in Classical Languages and History. Despite loving Latin, Medieval history has always been my first love. Latin and Greek allowed me to explore the era I most loved in depth, to read primary sources in the original language, and to work towards graduate school. Towards the end of my time at Sewanee, I encountered Christ in a real way for the first time. Casting aside dreams of secular academic pursuits, I turned towards the interior life and personal experience of living a liturgical tradition founded in the ancient Christian ways. My liberal arts education led me to the true, the good, and the beautiful - Christ.
I am very pleased to have joined the faculty at Borromeo Academy- striving to entice students towards the exploration of the good, the true, and the beautiful through our lessons and classrooms. The liberal arts encourage scholars to explore the truth and invigorate their quest for excellence, a quest which can lead right to the open door of the Church.
The Teacher's Salvation
By: Nichole Finzer
I have 300 people,
where most have only a few.
People to rub against,
who sand off my rough edges,
refining and purifying for the sake of my salvation.
As they sand down the ragged edges of me,
I sand down the ragged edges of them,
and slowly, as water flowing a course over rocks rounds those rocks,
we become rounded, peaceful, and saved by each other.
I have 300 faces,
each is a blessing, sent by God for my salvation.
Sobornost we have- working our salvation out in our own community.
I have 300 guardian angels present,
one comes with each student.
My own is with me praying I don't tie a millstone to my neck.
My 300 push me, to sanctify and purify myself.
They adorn my soul-
pushing aside anger, frustration, and haste,
clothing me in joy, hope, and patience.
Explaining away at declensions and conjugations we form each other,
some days we purify ourselves, growing towards Christ.
A few days we besmirch ourselves, staining the garments of our souls.
Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on us sinners.
Love me so I love them.
Allow me to embrace your divine grace,
that fire that incites me to cleanse my soul,
to shine forth free from the burdens of myself,
to teach. You gave this to me-
grading as my monastic obedience,
parents for my practice of charity,
lesson planning my diligent vow to place others above myself,
assigned duties my silent, interior prayer.
I have 300 students,
they are the teacher's purifying fire,
the greatest blessing from the Lord.
The teacher's salvation.
Students meant for us,
not we for them.
By: Lisa Corley
Image: Allegory of Prudence by Titian, c. 1570 [National Gallery, London] A barely visible inscription reads: EX PRAETERITO/PRAESENS PRUDENTER AGIT/NE FUTURA ACTIONẼ DETURPET (“From the experience of the past, the present acts prudently, lest it spoil future actions”). Historians suspect that the faces (three ages of man) are, left to right: Titian himself (Tiziano Vecelli) as the past; his son, Orazio, as the present; and a young cousin, Marco Vecelli, as the future. Likewise, the wolf represents the past, the lion the present, and the dog the future.
The goal of Catholic classical education is the cultivation of wisdom and virtue. This year, Borromeo Academy is intentionally focusing on teaching virtue to our young scholars. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines virtue as “…a habitual and firm disposition to do good. It allows a person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself.” The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God. This takes intentional practice and effort.
The Latin word for virtue is virtus, which means courage. We all have the potential for acquiring virtue within us and through God’s grace. The acquisition of virtue demands education, training, and perseverance. We need to know what is right (good) to be able to choose to do what is right (good). It then needs to become a habit so that our virtuous life becomes easy and automatic. “Daily experience shows that the repetition of actions or reactions produces, if not always an inclination, at least an aptitude to act or react in the same manner. To say that a man is accustomed to a certain diet, climate, or exercise, that he is an habitual smoker or early-riser, that he can dance, fence, or play the piano, that he is used to certain points of view, modes of thinking, feeling, and willing, etc., signifies that owing to past experience he can do now that which formerly was impossible, do easily that which was difficult, or dispense with the effort and attention which were at first necessary.” We cannot accomplish this on our own. We NEED God’s grace. John 15:5 “…without me you can do nothing.”
The students and teachers at Borromeo Academy will be studying the seven Christian virtues of the Church. There are four primary moral virtues, which are called the cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance. The word cardinal derives from the Latin cardo, meaning "hinge." These four virtues are called "cardinal" because all other virtues are categorized under them and hinge upon them. The Old Testament states, "For [wisdom] teaches temperance and prudence, justice and fortitude, and nothing in life is more useful for men than these" (Wisdom 8:7). There are three theological virtues, which are faith, hope and charity. These are infused along with sanctifying grace into the soul of a person at baptism. They are supernatural. The Seven Virtues are the stepping stones to the glorification of the soul. The purpose of the Seven Virtues is to guide you on the path of righteousness, and keep you away from sins.
The first quarter of the year our focus with be on the cardinal virtue of prudence. Prudence is about having sound judgement and making sound choices. It is about being thoughtful. This virtue is sometimes called “the mother of all virtues” because prudence is the virtue that helps us to decide how to act. We are prudent when we seek to know what the right thing is and then choose to do the right thing. Sometimes this means getting advice from other people or praying to God to help you decide. Prudence helps us to know how to develop all the other virtues. For example, courage means doing the right thing when we are afraid, but we need prudence to know what is right in the first place.
Prudence is developed through the following habits:
How are you developing prudence in yourself and your child? Virtue is taught most powerfully through example. Do you teach only through a host of rules and reasons for the rules? That would be like teaching them the rules of basketball without putting them on the court to play the game. This approach produces confusion and an attitude of not caring. To be effective, teaching prudence requires experience and failure. Once we have developed the foundational virtue of prudence, the next three quarters will focus on justice, fortitude and temperance.
We encourage you, as your child’s primary educator, to study and practice the virtues along with your young scholar. The vocabulary of the virtues should become part of your daily life. “The arduous task of growing in virtue is worth it because a virtuous person is a person whose life is characterized by a sense of vitality, purpose, and joy regardless of circumstances.”
Are you up to this task? The teachers will be using a program called Virtues in practice. You can find out more about it here:
Resources for further reading:
On behalf of faculty/staff, we would like to extend a very warm welcome to new and returning families on our first day of school for the 2019-2020 school year! The sun is up and shining and perfectly reflects how blessed we feel to begin this school year with such a great start. We are excited about our growth in enrollment for the 3rd year in a row and we are anticipating even more students as the year goes on.
My name is Courtney Savageau (pronounced savage-oh, it’s French!) and I am so happy to be the Communications Coordinator for Borromeo Academy. I am a graduate from Benedictine College (go Ravens!) with degrees in Mass Communications and Theatre Arts. So what does a Communications Coordinator actually do? Glad you asked! It’ll be my job this year to clearly and effectively communicate for the school both internally and externally. So that means all emails, newsletters, the website, social media, etc. is coming from me! You will also be seeing blogs every once and a while from our faculty and staff about what they’re doing in the classroom. I will be stationed in the main office this year, roommate to your favorite school secretary, Linda Krickle! We are here to make your life a little easier- and we are having too much fun sharing a space together. I am so excited to be in this position and to be in this amazing Academy. I can’t wait to see where the year takes us!
Happy Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary! Mother Mary, pray for us.
“Latin? Really? Does anybody teach Latin any more?”
That may be the most common response I have received over the thirty years I have studied and taught Latin and Greek. Almost everyone thinks the language is dead, and few understand the benefits of studying an ancient language. Generally I begin by responding that Latin is not really dead. Yes, Latin is not the official language of any country except Vatican City, and few people who are not Classicists ever speak it to one another. However, Latin is very much alive in the world. I continue to explain the many practical aspects of studying Latin – “bigger” English vocabulary, since approximately 60% of English words (90% of words over two syllables) are derived from Latin; students who study Latin typically score higher on SAT and ACT exams; colleges often prefer students who have studied Latin over equally qualified students who studied other languages; students who learn Latin have better understanding and usage of English grammar; studying Latin makes learning Spanish, French, or Italian much easier since these languages came directly from Latin. The list goes on an on.
While there certainly are numerous measureable benefits to studying Latin (and Greek) and I share those with parents and students all the time, Latin is not beneficial solely for improving test scores or preparing for a career in law or medicine. There are intrinsic benefits. Studying the classical languages exposes students to the culture, history, art, mythology, and literature of the ancient Romans and Greeks and of the early writers and thinkers of the Catholic Church. Students make connections to other subjects they study and can feed their natural curiosity to explore other subjects. There is also the feeling of success when one has wrestled with a challenging passage and finally translated it well or the benefit of learning to think in ways which are different than the first glance.
In a world in which we seem to value only “practical” or “useful” things, we need more than ever to develop a student’s understanding of that which is true, good, and beautiful. We need to help them appreciate ars gratia artis – Art for the sake of art. We need to help children to understand that a well-trained mind which is able to explore, memorize, analyze, and synthesize information may be the most important tool for success. One does not have to be headed off to law school, medical school, or plan to teach Classical languages to benefit from the study of Latin. Every child, no matter the intended career path, can benefit from the study of Latin
Pax et bonum,
Middle School Latin and religion teacher
Imitation as a method of teaching was passed down by the Greeks and was highly respected among scholars and educators. Aristotle viewed imitation as a “part of human nature.” A natural process inherent in all learning, Andrew Kern says, “You become what you behold.” Our Borromeo Academy staff must model what we want our students to become, which are life-long learners, lovers of wisdom and truth and watchers of beauty.
You can define teaching as the art of being imitated because children are natural imitators. This is a humbling reality when you become a parent and when you work with children. As a staff, we are paying attention to this important art of teaching. Borromeo Academy is being intentional. Intentional in our curriculum choices for the classrooms, in the way we teach and in the formation of our teachers. We want to model for our students whom we want them to become. We are spending more time cultivating our faith and intellectual habits in order to inspire the students to imitate what they encounter in the classroom. We are doing this in many ways, but here are a few examples: we have started a staff book club that meets every month to expand our intellectual life and increase our thirst for knowledge. The four books we are reading this year are: The Holy See’s Teaching on Catholic Schools Archbishop J. Michael Miller, C.S.B., Tools and Fuels: How Catholic Teachers Can Become Saints, Beat Burnout and Save the World by Jonathon E. Doyle, Praying Scripture for a Change: An Introduction to Lectio Divina by Tim Gray, and Beauty in the Word by Stratford Caldecott. We pray together and encourage each other in our faith walk. Mass, Adoration, and Lectio Divina have also been a central focus for the staff this year.
As Father Joe Cisetti says, “We need to live lives of intentional faith.” This is not an easy way to live. It makes you counter-cultural in almost every way. Catholic classical education should be an aid and encouragement to this type of intentional living.
Have you ever observed a child imitating your tone of voice, mimicking your gestures or treating others in a manner that resembles your interactions with them? Our children will become like us whether we like it or not. Regardless of the teaching method or approach you use, the only way a child will become truly virtuous is if you, as your child’s primary teacher, embody truth and become a living example. If we want our children to love what is beautiful and good, then we need to show them how to behold Christ, behold truth and beauty, and invite them into your lived life. What are you reading? How do you treat others? Where are you in your faith journey? What movies and TV shows are you consuming? How do you spend your time? Where and whom are you serving? Each of these decisions shows your children what you value most.
Education through imitation is an essential part of God’s design for growing in wisdom. We are created as images of God, therefore, it is when we are imitating the true, good and beautiful that we are becoming what we should be, that we are truly learning. Our faith calls us to be imitators of Jesus. The more we keep our gaze on Him and learn who He is, the stronger our example will be. We need to cultivate moral, physical and intellectual virtues in children. What will that look like for you this coming year? In your home? In the classroom? About what are you being intentional?
“So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrifice offering to God for a fragrant aroma.”
“No disciple is superior to the teacher; but when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher.”
Dean of Academics Borromeo Academy
Additional resources for further reading: