Steve Bergen, Mayfield Senior School, Pasadena, CaKatie Hager
4th Grade Teacher
Connelly Middle School
Cornelia Connelly Center
for Education
NYC, NY

As an educator, I often find myself reflecting on how to help my students develop a love of learning. Not only is this a vital component of life as a student, but also life as a human being. Regardless of age, we as humans are constantly learning and growing. While at times helping my students develop a love of learning feels like a difficult task, I remind myself how blessed I am to be a Holy Child educator. As a Holy Child teacher, I see this as a foundational tenet of my job description. After giving myself this reminder, the weight of this task feels much lighter. Contrary to many other schools, Holy Child schools make the development of a love of learning a priority. It is of the utmost importance to help children develop this, as outlined in the Holy Child Goals.

We live in a world where data is seen as the end all be all. It has become the norm to evaluate a student’s success solely on her testing data. Teachers in many schools are evaluated on the data produced by the students in her class. In a world where high stakes testing and numbers dictate the success of students and teachers, or lack thereof, the livelihood of goal 3 in all Holy Child schools is essential. It is the responsibility of the faculty and staff to live this goal out in the classrooms, offices, and halls.

I began teaching at the Cornelia Connelly Center in 2013. In my 5+ years at the Center, I have reflected on what a love of learning looks like in a classroom and I have established my own beliefs about what the goal really means. As the fourth grade teacher, when my students first enter my classroom they have an immense amount of curiosity. They are new community members and are coming in with various school and life experiences. These experiences have played an important role in the identity of the student and the mindset of the student. For example, if a student was bullied at her previous school, she may not trust the children in her class. As a result, she may struggle with cultivating friendships. Another example might be that a student was labeled as a struggling reader at her previous educational setting. She then might lack confidence in her reading skills and choose to disengage in reading to avoid failure. Without the Holy Child goals, students may hold onto these experiences and allow them to negatively impact their future experiences. However, in a setting where the Holy Child goals are undoubtedly alive, students are able to grow from these experiences. Teachers and staff at CCC give students tools to help them view these experiences as ones that can grow them as individuals, rather than hold them back.

In order for this to happen, there must be trust established. This trust takes time to build and at the heart of it is love. The adults at CCC are the most caring individuals I have seen in a school. Examples of where this is evident at CCC is in the thoughtful lesson planning and implementation, the difficult conversations with students, and the relationships with families of our students. Love is at the heart of every decision. The love and compassion that the staff displays from the very beginning of a student’s time at the Center has a domino effect. It is the love that makes all that we do possible.

It is important that the students and families understand the mission of our Center and the role we as teachers play in carrying out this mission. With the understanding of this comes the feeling of being loved and cared for. Through this understanding, trust begins to develop and students and families grow more comfortable in their role at the Center. This allows for learning to be at the forefront of a child’s daily experience here at the Center. The love and trust that is felt enables a student to feel comfortable in her classroom and take ownership in the overall goal of reaching her full potential.

In my years of thinking about how I can best live out goal 3, love remains the at the center of this task. Cornelia herself said, “lead by love.” As a Holy Child educator, I strive to achieve this each day. This is the guiding principle that keeps me coming back to CCC year after year. Jesus reminds us to love. With love comes trust and with both love and trust, individuals are more apt to learn. .