Thriving or surviving
No amount of curriculum drafting, standardized testing, or technological aids are sufficient to make a good school. A school is only as good as its participants – students, parents, auxiliary staff, leaders, and of course, teachers. Teachers teach for life – perhaps decreasingly the duration of a professional lifetime, but for the very life of the school and the lives of those who participate in it. So much depends on the spirit of the teacher and therefore on what is likely to sustain their spirits. Fostering the spiritual lives of teachers is crucial; healthy spirituality can be a sustaining force, helping teachers to thrive rather than simply survive in our schools today. In this dissertation I address the need for intentionally engaging and nurturing the spirituality of teachers. I see spirituality as central to every teacher (indeed, every person), no matter who they are, where they work, or who or what they teach. It does not assume any particular religious tradition or religious faith at all. But it does account for the search for what is meaningful in life, and places this search within a transcendent horizon. The issue is important both for the personal and vocational development of teachers themselves and because their spiritual lives dynamically affect the educational life and experience of the whole school community. The dissertation goes on to suggest a spiritually inspired pedagogy drawn primarily but not exclusively from the Ignatian tradition. Chapter 1 sets out to describe the lived reality for teachers today, and lifts up the desire to serve and relationality as two great motivators in the decisions to enter and stay in the teaching profession. Chapter 2 re-frames these motivators as age-old and honored spiritual themes. In order to help craft a spiritual pedagogy to sustain teachers, Chapter 3 turns to the rich tradition of Ignatian spirituality. I hold up the Ignatian tradition as just one example of how the spiritual potential of education can be appropriated by any school and the teachers therein. Chapter 4 proposes five dynamic and overlapping configurations of a spiritual pedagogy. The idea is that when certain spiritual commitments in the form of these five configurations become operative for educators, they cannot but become realized in their teaching. Chapter 5 names and describes some general practices that can support the five configurations of a spiritual pedagogy. It follows with some specific suggestions, first for the teacher, and finally for the leadership of the school community.