by Debie Lohe, Director, Reinert Center
As we prepare to (re)engage students at the start of this new academic year, I’ve been thinking a lot about teaching as accompaniment.
Earlier this summer, Fr. Arturo Sosa, the Superior General of the Society of Jesus (a.k.a., “the Jesuits” for those new to Jesuit education), articulated four key “preferences” for Jesuit work over the next decade. It’s probably easier to think of these as “priorities,” which they are, but Fr. Sosa intentionally chose to call them “preferences” as a way to underscore that they are not mandates or commandments but invitations (DeFeo, 2019). Those of us working in Jesuit higher education can choose to accept these invitations or not. All four of the 2019-2029 Universal Apostolic Preferences have relevance for Jesuit higher education, but one is particularly poignant for our mission: We are invited “to accompany young people in the creation of a hope-filled future” (Sosa, 2019).
Sosa’s invitation has me reflecting on what we do and how we act as educators. As you enter into a new academic year, I encourage you to reflect on these questions with me:
- What does it mean to “accompany” our students?
- How might our teaching change if we reframe is as “accompaniment”?
- What do our students need to know — and know how to do — if they are to “create” a “hope-filled future”?
- What habits of mind do we need to foster to help them in that creation?
- As you put the finishing touches on your syllabi, what subtle changes could you make that would begin to show students that you are a companion along their journey, not just an arbiter of grades? (Here’s one example: consider including a Basic Needs Security syllabus statement, if you don’t already.)
As we get back to our already-busier schedules this fall, I hope you’ll keep thinking about what it means to “accompany” students — perhaps even sharing your ideas about that in the comments section of this blog post.
DeFeo, J. (2019). Opening remarks at the Ignatian Colleagues Program Summer Workshop. August 6, 2019. Chicago, Illinois.
Sosa, S.J., A. (2019). Universal Apostolic Preferences for the Society of Jesus, 2019-2029.