Thoughts from the Humanities Department

A few years ago a student in his junior year remarked in US History class that he really liked history and was thinking about becoming a teacher when he graduated from college. “Wow! That is so awesome, Jesse!” I replied. The next year, the same student, now a senior, and I were having a conversation about his college plans, “I would really like to come back to Verb” he said, “and teach US history.” “So, what you’re saying is that you want my job?!?” I replied jokingly. “Oh, No! Nothing like that, Ms. McDonald” Jesse responded. Well, I am happy to share with you that Jesse Jovel was successful in his plan to return to Verbum Dei as Mr. Jovel; our new US History teacher! And, I am happy to add, that I still have a job as well.

It seems inadequate to call what I do here at “the Verb” a job. It is so much more than that; it is a passion, a mission, a source of fulfillment and joy every single day. Verbum Dei is a dynamic community where we are challenged to innovate within our sphere of influence, whether that is in our departments, classrooms or extracurricular activities. As such, I am very excited about the establishment of the new Humanities Department. We have combined the English and Social Science Departments and instituted policies designed to integrate curriculum and increase student achievement.

Tech Insight and Men for Others

Fr. Muller has often mentioned in his liturgies the idea of “I’ll see it when I believe it.” Beyond its powerful spiritual message, that framework equally resonates with me when I think of the relationship I see with our young men of Verb and technology. I’ve professed to anyone who’s asked me – with sometimes astonished looks – and believed it to be true; our students are exposed to the latest trends in technology more than we think, and have high expectations for the interaction of technology and education in the classroom.

So, recently in our new school year orientation, my assertion was to be put on public trial. Gathered in front of me was our entire student body. The purpose of our meeting was to inform them on some new policies involving tech this coming year. I also wanted to introduce to our boys our latest addition to the technological arsenal at Verbum Dei: Ipads. I knew they would be excited to hear the Ipads were ready to be used in the classroom — Their eyes certainly widened and many edged up in their seats when the word came. I felt compelled however – and completely off my script – to ask the boys: “How many of you have ever worked with and used an Ipad before?” So here was a moment of truth – would my contention hold true. How many hands were going to rise? I believed it, but will I see it? Well, there wasn’t much hesitation – and the result was clearly pronounced – as dozens and dozens of hands shot to the air. I formed a wry smile, and blurted on the microphone the first reaction in my head, “Right on!”

Later, I was meeting with a fellow staff member. She told me she appreciated me asking that question during the orientation. What she liked most about the poll – and its visceral results – was the reaction it produced with some of the faculty members present. You see, there are some teachers and staff members interacting closely with our students on a daily basis – who know much about their lives outside of academics, who may not fully realize how technologically savvy Verb students actually are. It belies what many of us may think socioeconomically – but our young men know and follow the latest tech trends and reach out to them wherever possible. My interaction with our students has proved to me that they have a thirsty desire to utilize technology and recognize how tech can be used educationally. I know this most simply by the questions they ask our IT group. I can tell they follow the newest developments in the tech world.

What we need to appreciate is that the Men of Verb have been surrounded by tech their whole lives; hence, the classroom should be no different. As IT Director, my mission must take this fact in consideration. Not only must IT provide the means for educators and students to access information and assimilate it in a timely and efficient manner, we must in parallel prepare our young men – in all aspects – to become tomorrow’s meaningful contributors to humanity. Thus, they must be exposed to and comfortable using all the tools – tech included – that in turn form Men for Others.