Because of the pandemic, remote learning is our new way forward in the Jesuit high school where I teach. Initially this change produced fear and was disappointing. Almost immediately, we replaced our frameworks for creating and future thinking with mechanisms to sustain us during this crisis. We immediately postponed our professional development day that would have challenged us to create new curriculum possibilities and dream about future facilities. We replaced it with a remote learning PD day. We immediately postponed community faith-building activities and other school committees/teams that focused on the future, allowing all of our resources and teachers to be present in the moment for the new reality of remote learning.
Although obviously the remote learning framework was a reactionary build and looks different from our “at school” model, I have feelings of consolation as we continue with a new rhythm and momentum today. We problem solve and literally forge a new path in education. Remote learning allows us to reimagine school and in doing so approach conversations, decisions, actions, and relationships through a distinctly reflective Ignatian lens and way of proceeding we call the magis.
As Marc Andresseen suggests, in It’s Time to Build, perhaps our challenge at this time is in our failure to imagine. But, this pandemic has forced De Smet Jesuit High School faculty and staff to concretely practice what we theoretically know: students’ and their families’ experiences are more important than teaching content and skills. And, while doing so, live in the magis.
For me, Magis means living in an ongoing process of continuous quality improvement – building . . . working to be in better friendship with Jesus on the path toward knowing we are loved unconditionally by God – always being a reflective practitioner, being flexible and fluid, to be better. Bart Geger, SJ, suggests, the magis is “the more universal good.” And Andy Otto, Ignatian blogger and spiritual director, weighs in on defining magis, when he writes:
Magis is this desire to do more for Christ, more for the glory of God, more to grow into ourselves. The future for many of us can be daunting and frightening. It’s unknown and
uncertain. But when you look at your future in the spirit of magis it becomes exciting. Magis
carries with it the spirit of restless desire for greater things, a deeper attentiveness, a deeper
spiritual life, and more meaningful relations. Sure, my future may be uncertain, but knowing
that I have the chance to shape it in relation to my desires for greater things brings God into
Otto’s magis reflection, set in the context of today, is exciting. Today, we live even more in the magis – perhaps by necessity – and we are better for it. Our remote learning framework is the thoughtful reaction to a world that has changed and will continue to change. Gone are the days of assumptions about where we learn and teach; replaced with days of meaningful conversations, thoughtful reflections, creativity, and teamwork – all done in the spirit of the magis – continuous quality improvement. Here are concrete ways in which we are thoughtfully and faithfully responding and changing to be better at De Smet Jesuit High School (St. Louis, MO):
During productive and supportive Microsoft Team Meetings, Zoom Meetings, email exchanges, and brainstorming sessions, I have often found myself returning to The First Principle and Foundation, as a centering reflection almost daily. In particular, I use as a guide, “For everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in God.” Everything. As we consider continuous quality improvement into an unknown future, here are some reflections for remote learning that will guide us toward continuous quality improvement.
Teaching & Instruction
PD & Faith Formation