Be listeners, teachers are urged

More than 2000 education professionals from the Archdiocese packed out Canberra’s National Convention Centre for the Yearn to Learn Conference. Picture: Loui Seselja.


CATHOLIC Education in the Archdiocese kick-started the 2017 school year with a Students Yearn to Learn Conference at the National Convention Centre in Canberra.

More than 2000 people attended the conference which featured internationally recognised speakers including Alfie Kohn, Kath Murdoch, Prof Tom Lowrie and Erin Erceg.

The gathering of education professionals from 56 Archdiocesan schools opened the new academic year, and signalled the beginning of a new era under Ross Fox who replaced Moira Najdecki as director of Catholic Education.

Jeff McMullen was master of ceremonies for the conference which had ‘Engaging the Hearts and Minds of 21st Century Learners’ as its theme.

In his welcoming address to attendees, Mr Fox thanked all for attending especially those who travelled from as far away as Pambula and Lake Cargelligo.

He focused mainly on the conference title, speaking about yearning to learn as something which should be “an intense feeling of longing.”

He said that schools could be places that killed curiosity and learning and he raised some concern about the gulf between schools and the world beyond.

“When was the last time you really yearned to learn?” he said encouraging teachers to set aside time in the week for their students to learn about their passions.

And he challenged the teacher cohort encouraging them to ask their students rather than tell them and to be listeners more than talkers.

“We are the inquirer,” he said.

Mr Fox also talked about inquiry based learning and encouraged attendees to learn from the experts presenting on the day.

Archbishop Christopher Prowse followed Mr Fox in giving an address. “Let us remember what the Latin word is in its meaning. The Latin word to educate is ‘educare’,” he said.

“This literally means ‘to draw out’.”

“Education is to draw out from the depths of another person that which is lying deep within, but dormant.”

Archbishop Prowse used as an example, the story of Michelangelo, the great medieval artist who always created his masterpieces from shapeless blocks of marble.

He also focused on the word “yearn” drawing a Scripture parallel to the conference title, citing a passage from Psalm 42 which reads “like the deer that yearns for running streams, so my soul yearns for you, my God.”

He discussed Australia’s secular society describing the “sidelining” of religious sentiment as “absolute nonsense”.

“Religious yearning and longing is part of our human life and we have a deep inner yearning for God within us,” he said.

“The longing for the transcendent in the human life is something we are born with. We can’t run away from it, indeed, it runs towards us. “We were created to be in union with God (and) for Christians this union is expressed in our encounter with Jesus Christ, the fullness of God made present in our world.”