For Catholics, July 31 marks the feast day celebrating the life and contributions of St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus whose members are more commonly known as Jesuits. Educators in the United States of various arenas, public and non-public, are likely familiar with the many Jesuit institutions, including 60 high schools and 30 colleges and universities that stretch across the country, from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles to Georgetown University in Washington D.C.
All institutions, public and nonpublic, could benefit from a diligent analysis of the Jesuit instructional model. The Jesuits and those who staff Jesuit institutions are well-known for running schools of excellence; this form of excellence goes beyond academic achievement to holistically form students who are prepared to face the next phase of their lives.
Educators in Jesuit high schools bear a unique responsibility in the four-year preparation of their students such that over the course of four years, students are embracing and evolving according to the Grad at Grad profile. These five characteristics include:
- Open to Growth
- Intellectually Competent
- Committed to Doing Justice
The Grad at Grad profile is available at www.jsea.org. Each characteristic is defined, and specific descriptors are offered for attributes that students should possess as they exit high school.
My hope in writing this blog for both public and non-public educators is twofold:
1. Educators will consider these five characteristics in light of the expected outcomes for students in their own institution and,
2. Educators will consider their role in shaping these characteristics in young people.
How Even Public School Educators Can Benefit from Grad at Grad
Within the preface to the document, the Jesuit Secondary Education Association (JSEA) states, “The Graduate at Graduation remains a broad template that each school needs to adapt and tailor by its own careful reflection on its own context and experience.”
This simple directive is one that could be embraced by all educators, whether public or non-public. The question driving this reflection: what characteristics do we want students to possess when they graduate from… 5th grade, 8th grade, 12th grade? These characteristics go beyond academic excellence and speak to the holistic formation of students over time.
How to Shape Grad at Grad Characteristics in Students
Once crafted, all educators need to consider their role in shaping these outcomes in the students they serve. The question driving this reflection: what is my role in developing students to achieve these outcomes?
The answer to this question is complex; in order for students’ cumulative school experience to reach the outcome, all educators in the building must embrace and make intentional efforts to form their students. Embracing means ongoing clarification of the outcomes and application to every student and the intentional efforts must be well defined and consistently implemented.
In addition to the Grad at Grad document, other Jesuit education documents may be of interest to readers who are considering revisiting and/or re-imagining their institution’s vision; these include: The Characteristics of Jesuit Education, “Ignatian Pedagogy: A Practical Approach,” and “What Makes a Jesuit School Jesuit?”