What is Ignatian teacher formation? How do you find the time in a busy school schedule for continuous formation? What is the inspiration of the Magis in this context? A former student and now the Community Facilitator at Educate Magis, Ciara Beuster interviewed Frank Canavan, retired principal at Coláiste Iognáid, a bilingual (Irish – English) secondary school in Galway, Ireland about his experience of teacher formation.

In the interview, Frank talks about both his personal and professional experiences of formation from his years as a young teacher up to becoming a principal.

I would say that my formation personally, had very direct influences from reading documentation, history, … but also from face-to-face meetings with, cooperation with Jesuits and their collaborators so that the formation is direct but it’s also indirect.”

Jesuit School Galway
Coláiste Iognáid, Galway, Ireland

As the discussion progresses Frank highlights important themes in staff formation, like motivation for continuous formation, finding the time for this, the role of the administration in encouraging and empowering teachers to reflect and learn as they deepen their understanding of Ignatian pedagogy and spirituality. Teacher formation and student formation are closely interlinked. When speaking about students having a sense of self-esteem and a sense of curiosity about the world, Frank emphasizes that they pick this up from their teachers without being told.

“It’s the Jesuit way of doing things, it communicates itself. It’s modeled by fellow teachers, by the administration, by the Board of Management in the kinds of things that they propose to new teachers and by giving them opportunities to do these things.”  

A well-rounded formation

Teacher development happens throughout the school year in different shapes and forms and often spontaneously, however, intentional planning, having a set of co-curricular activities and providing diverse opportunities can lead to a very fruitful formation path.

“For instance, ensuring that they have the inter-Jesuit communications, which brings them into touch with what’s happening in South America, what’s happening in the Far East, what’s happening in North America, at all levels of education in which the Jesuits are involved”.

 Other such opportunities include:

  • attending conferences
  • visiting other schools
  • being given the opportunity for discussion and questioning
  • being given the opportunity to deepen their knowledge of mission and identity

It was with a deep conviction that Frank emphasized the importance of the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm (IPP). Here are Frank’s words:

“I think the continuing encouragement towards reflection on what’s going on is very important. So that people are given time to reflect on their experience from time to time so that that reflection can lead to further action and enhanced experience. Now, it’s the job of the administration to see that this is an ongoing process…”

The MAGIS as a lifestyle

We often speak of a Jesuit ethos or Mission and Identity in Jesuit schools and the concept of Magis is frequently highlighted in this context, understood in the sense of doing more, getting busier, covering more territory. Here Frank, with great wisdom warns us saying that “the MAGIS is sometimes misunderstood but when properly grasped (…) it’s a great incentive to giving more and more depth to one’s own life and by implication indeed then to the work that one is doing. So everybody benefits.”

In this sense, continuous formation “is not an extra, it’s not an add-on”. It fits in with both professional and personal development. “In the case of teacher formation, this concept of wanting to be better is at the core. It’s something that comes from within and is a permanent part of one’s outlook on the world”. The Magis, therefore, is perceived as an interior motivation that can become a way of life, and perhaps the lifestyle of a Jesuit educator rather than simply a “nagging” voice to try to do more.

Furthermore: “If teachers were given a full deep realization of the influence which they have and of the importance of what they do then I think that they would not just be willing to undergo continuing formation, I think they would be very keen to do so.”

The interview is available in full (17 minutes) here and there is a shorter, summary version of about 5 minutes here (English) and here (Spanish). Please feel free to add your questions or comments to the conversation area below this blog or below the individual videos.