The Liturgical Classroom, Virtue and Renewal of Education

Can the liturgical tradition of the church, and associated practices help revitalize teaching?  That was the contention of James K. A. Smith’s book Desiring The Kingdom and also the book he co-edited entitled Teaching and Christian Practices.  Educator Jenny Rallens (The Ambrose School, Boise ID) has spent the past three years working to employ the insights of these books in her teaching of 5th and 8th graders, and has indeed revitalized her classrooms.  One way I know this, is by means of the five minute clip (in the video below) of her 5th graders discussing Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring.  Another way I know this is by watching her teach other teachers, and by numerous conversations that confirm that she is wise beyond her years.  Jenny was classically educated throughout her life, from grammar school to high school to college.  Now she is pursuing a master’s at Oxford University where she is studying the classical concept of memory in education.  If you are a teacher, you will be richly repaid for watching and contemplating the presentation below.  This presentation was given at the recent Alcuin Retreat for educators sponsored by the Society for Classical Learning.

3 Responses to “The Liturgical Classroom, Virtue and Renewal of Education”

  • LauraB:

    That was so inspiring. It helped me see how to put into practice these things I’ve been hearing and reading about. Thank you for posting this!!

  • I have eaten, digested, and been transformed. My soul thanks you Mrs. Rallens! I’d like to drop everything and join your class. Unfortunately, being 46 and responsible for a school of 87 students myself, I’m not going to be able to join your 5th grade class. God willing, I will be able to embody and re-present (compositio) what I learned her at Aquinas Learning!

  • SusanV.:

    This was certainly a worthy topic for presentation; however, I am concerned that viewers will step away from this lecture with a simplified understanding of a classical methodology that could be almost as dangerous to the students as the traditional “worksheet” drill which was shown to be inadequate. 1, The lecture used primarily traditional teaching techniques to “teach” a methodology with which most viewers are only nominally familiar. 2. The lecture emphasized the final steps in the students education process in which they were able to synthesize and evaluate the material (Lord of the Rings/ confessions). 3. The presentation omitted the steps (modeling) which the instructor must have taken to ensure that the students took the time to read the material (in class?), learned the types of questions which were most appropriate for analysis, learned the proper manner in which to respond to other students questions and comments and learned how to back up analysis of the material with quotations and/or events from the source material.

    I am confident based on the sampling of classroom results shared during the presentation that Ms. Rallens did in fact model/demonstrate and teach these important skills to her students. I suspect that they were taught over the course of time by the manner in which she facilitated the student discussions. Unfortunately, I do not feel that this presentation/lecture made the entire methodology available for the educators who might be watching this video.

    Unfortunately, I have witnessed to many “classical” educators encouraging students to discuss material that has not been read or “act out” material which is not understood. I have also witnessed teachers either allowing students to make unfounded comments about literature or history without challenging the basis of the discussion points, or stopping student discussion to pontificate upon a point about which the teacher feels strongly.

    The follow on to this lecture, should be a demonstration of how students can be best taught/encouraged to read the material, guided in their analysis of the material, trained in their ability to discuss the material logically, politely and using sound evidence from the original source, and finally led to the final product in which students can synthesize their own experiences, the shared experiences of others, and the source material into a dramatic production or special event. Too often, well intentioned educators “jump” to the “fun” product without guiding the students through the steps which will prepare them for this final project/presentation. When challenged as to how to prepare the students, many teachers are lost if they cannot use the worksheet method by which they themselves were taught.

    I know it is difficult in a short period of time to “use the method” in order to “teach the method,” but this is the only way any educator can really understand what he or she needs to do.

    Thank you.

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