As I noted in last week’s (March 14) article, I am encouraged to see that the L.A. Archdiocese includes the following in its Catholic schools’ mission statement:

“Understand Their Gifts: We encourage all students towards excellence, but most importantly to use their gifts and talents in service to others.”

The question is how to do this — what will it take?

It will take shifting away from the “rigorous” mindset to a “body of Christ” mindset. We are all different and we have different gifts. It is our Creator who designed us that way.

So why are we not honoring that and helping each child to truly discover the gifts God put inside him or her? Perhaps it’s art, or humor, or building things, or working with animals, or sky diving!

At this point, someone always says, “Well, they have to learn to read and write and do math!” Of course, they do. But they are not all going to be tops in every skill or subject. We can teach them the basic skills through their learning styles as each child is developmentally ready, so all students will become competent in these areas.

Beyond that, let’s show our students that all gifts are valuable by giving them equal weight, because God himself put them inside of us.

This is what I believe would truly set Catholic schools apart. If the word was out that Catholic schools embrace all children and teach them according to how God made each one, there would be no enrollment problem — the lines waiting to get in would be miles long.

One of my favorite lines in Scripture is from St. James (3:1): “Not many of you should be teachers, my brothers, for you will be held to the stricter account.”

What is the stricter account? Does it have to do with “rigorous” academics, or higher test scores? Probably not. I believe it has to do with the number of Catholic school students who grow up truly knowing who they are in God’s eyes, who practice their faith by contributing their God-given gifts to the world. I don’t think any Catholic educator can take this lightly.

Lent has begun. Most people have thought of what they will “give up.” I propose that Catholic parents and Catholic educators consider giving up the traditional, secular way of viewing education that is so damaging to students, and replace it with a vision that truly focuses on “understanding their gifts — encouraging all students towards excellence, but most importantly to use their gifts and talents in service to others.”

Mariaemma Pelullo-Willis is a California credentialed teacher and holds a Master’s Degree in Special Education. Write to her at: [email protected].