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Teachers share resources, network at convention

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

By David Eck

ARCHDIOESE — Sometimes a simple, more natural approach to a task works just as easily and as successfully as one that is structured and more regimented. But regardless of style, some elements must be maintained.

That was the message Michael Carotta shared during his keynote address Oct 9 at the Ohio Catholic Education Association convention in Cincinnati. Carotta is a former classroom teacher and former executive director of the National Cath­olic Educational Association (NCEA).

Mike Carotta was the keynote speaker at the OCEA convention. (CT/Tony Tribble)

An avid angler, Carotta used a fishing analogy to buttress his message. He told of two groups of people fishing in a river. One group fished from a sandbar using specific equipment and exact lures, while a young child and her grandfather fished from the bank using natural bait and a simple rod and reel.

Both ended up being successful, but the girl caught fish more quickly. What made the techniques work is that both groups were students of the river.

“The truth is, each of us has a preferred style of fishing the river. It’s OK to take a stand for yourself,” Carotta said. Still, “If you fish the river and are not a student of it, I don’t think you’re going to be very successful.

It also important for teachers and ministers to maintain their passion and their vocation, he said.

“You fish on the sacred land of people’s lives,” he said. “Accepting mediocrity can ruin the fishing.”

He reminded the teachers they fish for the simple moments of teaching success: when a student grasps a concept, for example, or when a former student remembers them. He urged attendees to hold on to such instances.

“There are things that you love about fishing your river,” he said. “Try to collect the moments of grace that come with that.”

Before his address, Carotta said he hoped attendees would leave with something that will help them maintain their commitment to their own ministry.

“What we do in Catholic education is formative to the spiritual life of these kids. Teachers in Catholic schools, regardless of what they are teaching, are part of that process,” Carotta said. “There’s power in the formative experiences we provide kids from the first 10 years of their lives up to 14.”

About 4,000 people from throughout Ohio and neighboring states attended the Oct. 8-9 convention.

“These are mostly Catholic school teachers who are here and we’re trying to provide them with some more educational background so that they can serve their students well and indirectly serve parents,” said Ken Gleason, director of the archdiocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis. “It’s also intended to help them with, not only the secular subjects, but also the religious subjects.”

The convention, held bi-annually, featured about 300 workshops covering such diverse topics as tablet computers in the school, to using picture books across the elementary curriculum, to the future of Catholic schools.

More than 150 exhibitors promoted a wide range of resources including books, college courses, clothing and web-based administrative services.

Mary Rudd, an English teacher at McNicholas High School, said the convention gives her an opportunity to see new resources and techniques.

“I like to learn new ideas and I like to hear the keynote speakers,” she said. “It gives me some reenergizing.”

David Eck can be reached at [email protected].

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