Father Louis Phillips teaches “The Reflective Educator” online for the M.S. in Education degree. This summer, he taught it on campus as well. He is the rector of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland, Maine, and administrator of the Portland and island parishes. A former Catholic school teacher and principal, he holds a Ph.D. from Boston College in Curriculum, Instruction and Administration.
“Teaching is an act of hope.”
Why is a course like The Reflective Educator important to offer?
It provides a way for educators to reflect on the meaning of teaching and their personal vocation as teachers. Most education courses deal with the how and the what – the instruction and curriculum. Less frequently, they raise the why and who questions. For example, who is the self that teaches? This course talks about the identity and integrity of the teacher.
Why do so many teachers leave the profession?
Teachers lose heart. They need to maintain their vision and develop strategies to deal with the frustrations. There are more institutional barriers than ever, more cutbacks, less involvement with families and more complex issues facing kids. We need to be in touch with our inner teacher. You can’t give what you don’t have. If you’re in a mentoring role, you have to be able to nurture yourself.
What strategies do you suggest in class that help teachers nurture themselves?
I provide readings, approaches and topics on the spiritual and moral dimensions of teaching. The students come up with their own strategies when they reflect on the materials.
Is a good teacher born or made?
I think good teachers have something outside of themselves that guides them and calls them to it. You can acquire skills, but the essence of teaching is the individual. Good teachers are in tune with their sense of purpose.
How do you teach the course?
I use a lot of metaphors, symbols and stories. That opens students to experiencing the course in a more personal way. I encourage inner silence and journaling for teachers, because we live in such a noisy world. I encourage them to develop a story of their stories that asks, “What purpose does my life or vocation serve?”
Your course is highly rated. Why do you think students rate it so highly?
More so than other courses, it has a personal and spiritual nature. They can adapt and interpret it for their own lives.
Have you ever lost heart as a teacher?
All the time. That’s why it’s so important to get in touch with that original sense of vocation. Sometimes we find heart again through our students.