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Preventive System of Education
In the Salesian Schools of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, the FMA (Salesian Sisters), teachers and staff, the parents and the students form the Educating Community whose primary role is indispensable in forming the young to become builders of the society , women of conscience, commitment and competence.
The faculty and the staff of the school are trained to carry out the educative work using the Preventive System which is the hallmark of all our institutions.
In education, prevention means, ‘taking away those negative experiences which could seriously harm the youth's growth and to equip the young person with the means to independently encounter what life offers;' ‘prevention in a sense of creating an ambient in which the young person grows in making choices and imbibing values spontaneously because of the models that he/she sees in his/her educators and companions, who are like forerunners.
For Don Bosco, education is a sacrifice. The educator has to be ready to lay down his life for the young person so that his uniqueness and innate positive goodness would shine forth for the building of God's kingdom. He formulated his programme for boys in simple but meaningful statements. He spoke of forming “good Christians and upright citizens”; he set his sights on the “health, wisdom and holiness” of his boys, and proposed a lifestyle comprising “cheerfulness, study and piety.” What Don Bosco did for his boys, he desire to do for the girls, through Maria Domenica Mazzarello.
Don Bosco recognized the great educational abilities of Mary Domenica, welcoming in her the woman who, guided by the Spirit, can realize for young women what the Salesian were already accomplishing for young men.
Mary Domenica became the person, together with Don Bosco, through whom the Spirit gave birth to the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, which is the feminine expression of the spirituality and mission of the Salesian Congregation.
In Don Bosco's own words, “this system is based entirely on Reason, Religion and Loving – Kindness”.
Reason stands for a wise and progressive enlightenment of the minds of the young, opening them to the world, to culture, to the realities of life and the appeal of values. Reason also implies a clear enlightenment of the mind on the truths concerning God and moral behavior by a sound and systematic teaching of moral conscience.
In dealing with the young, reason also signifies reasonableness, good sense, simplicity, and avoidance of anything artificial. The rules of good behavior to be inculcated must be reasonable and essential; they must be clearly explained, and their necessity and value must be patiently explained, and their necessity and value must be patiently brought home to the young. Reason in this context also means persuasiveness and dialogue, and formation of the conscience to personal responsibility and freedom.
Religion provides the motivation, the ultimate meaning, significance and orientation of a project of life governed by Reason. For Don Bosco, the will – educated mature person is one who places at the apex of all his knowledge, the knowledge of God; at the summit of his life – project, his eternal happiness with God; and at the center of his personal conscience, submission to the will of God.
Loving Kindness is rooted in the charity of the Good Shepherd. It is the key that gives access to the heart of every young person. There are very few people who rebel in the face of genuine goodness. One gets discipline with a blend of kindness and firmness, and by never asking what is above the strength of the child. If the educators acts differently she/he frustrates the child instead of helping her/him find the freedom of the children of God. Loving - kindness in order to have a true educational value must be based on a healthy equilibrium, which, while surrounding the child with a genuine and heart – felt love, avoids every form of false affection, and renders the teacher – pupil relationship a shared search for true values. Don Bosco's philosophy of education is summarized in this principle, which explains, justifies and actuates it: “Education is matter of the heart.”
Salesian Assistance : Peculiarity of the Salesian Educative Method
In the fulfillment of the school's vision and mission, the members of the Educating Community must be willing to imbibe the Salesian Educative Pedagogy. Salesian Education demands from the teacher certain demands not found in other educational institutions such as Salesian Assistance. Salesian Assistance requires a teacher to devote time outside class hours to stay with the young during their free time as a friendly educative presence. This involves embracing the Salesian Paradigm of ‘Presence', which is one of the central features of Salesian Education.
The spirit that inspired this continual ‘assistance and vigilance' in Don Bosco was ‘ love, esteem and trust.' It has nothing to do with acting like a policeman, but rather it is an effective educative presence, which does not coerce. It is dedication, help, a sharing of life, which stimulates and leads to the maturation of the young people.
Don Bosco's conception of the educator – student rapport demands such an atmosphere of reciprocal trust, of complete confidence, of spontaneous dialogue, of genuine sharing in the life of the young people, and constant and concrete collaboration of common interests, that it constitutes a very delicate and vulnerable complex of interventions on the part of the educator. Indeed the mission can be accomplished successfully only by the total dedication to one's students that Don Bosco demanded of his educators.
THE KEY TO EDUCATIONAL ACTIVITY: Dialogue
According to Leon Barbey, “Education is an encounter.” Education demands a personal self – giving of the educator to the student. Without this encounter there can be no education. Encounter forms the catalyst of every educative action because it provides the right springboard: understanding.
It is therefore dialogue that establishes contact. Dialogue holds the key to the hearts of the young, to gain admission to hearts that always close itself to harshness. Dialogue if really authentic penetrates the soul, investigates its secrets, wins it over and leads it to truth.
Education for Don Bosco is a dialogue, not a monologue. It is not generic interpersonal rapport but a rapport of persons in active and factual collaboration. In this latter form the voices of companions or of the whole school staff can play a part. Because of this Don Bosco's pedagogy is the ‘pedagogy of the heart' because only in genuine love fed by sentiments illumined and purified by reason and religion, is there true communication.
The Atmosphere of Dialogue – The Family spirit: Salesian Organizational Climate
“Loving kindness demands family spirit, joy, spontaneity and cheerfulness. There can be no concrete loving – kindness if a family environment and atmosphere is not created. There must be cordial and affectionate interpersonal trust and confidence. The dominant note in this has to be joy which is the enemy of every form of ‘being just colleagues' of ‘theorizing from an armchair' or of acting officially.
This was because Don Bosco really believed that the educational environment should reflect as much as possible the natural environment of the family with its atmosphere of spontaneous relationships, its warm, trusting, and confidence – filled affection, its free relaxing atmosphere.
Without friendliness it is not possible to show affection, and unless affection is shown there will be no confidence. The person who wants to be love must show that he knows how to love. The teacher who is seen only on his desk is nothing more than a teacher, but if he joins the boys at recreations, he is seen as a brother … anyone who is loved, loves. The one who loves can obtain all that he desires especially from young people.
The Preventive System, experienced in a family atmosphere of deep and open relationship, presents values and creates formative experiences, which lead to commitment and social responsibility.
THE WAY OF LIFE: Salesian Youth Spirituality
Spirituality is about living each day immersed in the mystery of God. The Spirit of God is at work within the very fiber of our humaneness, our actions, our words and our life experiences. Truly spiritual women and men those who choose to allow the mysterious and all pervading presence of a living choices and their optimism. This is the gift Don Bosco left us, a spirituality of life and daily living.
“Salesian Youth Spirituality” is a “Spirituality of daily living”. “In order to understand and love life as a new reality in which God works as a loving Father, we need to assume the ordinariness of daily living, accepting life's challenges, life's questions and the tensions that growing brings. We need to seek to integrate life's fragments into the kind of wholeness. We need to work towards overcoming the ambiguity present in day to day experience and make love the basis of all the choices we make.”