As an Associate of the Sisters of the Presentation, Wahlert Catholic English Teacher Barb Ressler ’74 was invited to contribute the following article about Radical Hospitality for the Presentation Sisters’ newsletter.
Where to begin?
Greeting, smiling, asking, listening, watching, inviting, caring, challenging and affirming. “To teach is to create that space… that allows the spirit to come home: to self, to community, and to the revelations of reality.” writes Mary Rose O’Reilly in Radical Presence: Teaching as a Contemplative Practice. In 1998, this thin purple volume of a mere 48 pages powerfully challenged me to think about how I taught–not about a particular teaching strategy or specific subject area content that reflected a standard shelved in some pedagogical universe far, far away. No. I could feel that education needed to evolve, the need was calling loudly. Then, it did.
We call it Personalized Learning.
At the heart, yes the heart, of teaching today resides the imperative to create a hospitable space for students, whose emotional and psychological needs are greater than ever: stress, anxiety, depression, family challenges, and alienation among a plethora of other concerns.
In 2018-2019 I began to teach in Wahlert’s personalized learning program. It required a shift in pedagogy to a more person-centered, project-based approach. Strong emphasis on mentoring, formative assessment and habits of learning alter the traditional delivery of the content and curriculum. I welcomed the change and the challenges it entailed. It is demanding and meaning-full. Students and support for their learning are essential in this model.
The best part?
Marina, Marco, Megan, Andrea, John, Michael, Jamie, Olivia, Wanti, Katie, and Hannah. These 11 sophomores are my mentees. I see them daily, talk with each of them one-on-one at least once a week. I listen, laugh, encourage, cajole, push, lift up, call out, see, hear and know them. Each of these unique and wonderful sophomores possesses incredible and diverse skills, talents and interests, making them the most diverse group in the school of which they are most proud. Via the daily seminar, a sense of encouragement prevails. We are like family. Students don’t hesitate to express what they appreciate about the mentoring dimension of personalized learning: a great environment, personal care, support, interest, having someone to talk with, shared wisdom, relaxation and fun. This is radical hospitality as experienced through personalized learning!
Contributed by Barb Ressler ’74
Wahlert Catholic High School