2017 marked a significant anniversary for those of us who educate young people in the Marist tradition. On the 2nd of January 1817 a young priest named Marcellin Champagnat rented a small house in a village on a hill in France called La Valla. Champagnat recruited two young men, who became the first Marist Brothers, to assist him in spreading the Good News of Jesus to young people in the way of Mary. Thus, the Marist Institute was born. Fast forward 200 years and here in Bulleen a group of similarly committed Marists (the staff of Marcellin College) continue the traditions and methods of evangelisation and education promulgated by Champagnat all those year ago.
To say that education is a dynamic and ever evolving environment is both obvious and an understatement. Schools therefore are by extension places where reflection, review and change are vital threads in the fabric of our faith/learning community. As a Catholic Marist school we are acutely aware of the challenge of harmonising faith, culture and life through an approach to education which is authentic, socially and culturally relevant. It is therefore part of the moral imperative of Marcelin College that we constantly analyse and evaluate our approach to supporting the young men to grow to become that which Saint Marcellin Champagnat himself would describe, as Good Christians and Good Citizens.
One of the reasons for the long term success of any school is its ability to find the right balance between evidence based innovation in teaching and learning, and preservation of the values that underpin it. How is this best done? Perhaps we could use the metaphor of the supermarket. When we scan the shelves of our local supermarket, we are sometimes looking for the loyal and trusted products and brands that we know are good value and have always served us well. But at other times we are looking for the latest and best products – the ones that can potentially have the greatest impact on our lives. In the same way, it is crucial for schools to visit the educational supermarket of ideas regularly and pay particular attention to the ‘Top Shelf’. What is the latest research and data telling us about how to have the biggest impact on learning growth and the overall development of each young person in our care? Then pick from the top shelf and adapt it to your local environment. That is exactly what Marcellin College has done.