Remarks by the Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., at the DePaul Counseling and Special Education Poster Contest
May 19, 2012
It is wonderful to be here. This is one of those moments when it just makes one proud to be associated with the work that happens at a university.
There is the professional life that you all know. It is the hard work that you do every single day to try to make a difference in a child’s life, in a school’s life, or in a school system’s life. You dive in and you work hard. You meet the challenges and you try to be creative. You do whatever it takes. The professional life is something to be admired, especially when people give themselves over to it over time.
There is also something called the academic life. At its best, of course, that’s learning and demonstrating that learning. At times, it is reduced to succeeding in the classroom. For all of you who have developed those skills over the years, you know how to “do school.” You spend lots of your time now professionally trying to transfer those skills to other young people so they can learn to do it well. The academic life is a wonderful life. It is not real life, but it is a wonderful life. Certainly those of us who are educators must look back and remember our school days fondly, or at least some part of them.
But there is a third life. There is the intellectual life, which is not to be confused with the academic life. Your faculty are bringing you into that intellectual life today.
You have an extraordinary faculty. I hope you know that. This is a faculty of education that practices what they teach. When they talk to you about changing practice because today’s students have new needs, and when they show you the latest research in this regard, they do exactly the same thing you do here today. This is a faculty that rethought a few years ago what counseling education should be, and more specifically, what the best research shows about the best counselors and how they should be trained. Just recently, the Chronicle of Higher Education did an extraordinary story praising your faculty for taking a leadership position to prepare educational professionals in the United States. The Chronicle even talked about some of you who are students in the program. The truth is you are all represented in the article, for you all benefit from your faculty’s reflective educational practice.
The intellectual life is the life of reflective practice when you are in a professional field. It is the moment when you step back and ask, “Is what I’m doing every day actually working or is it not?” It is reflecting on your experience. It is then looking beyond your own experience to the experience of others by talking to colleagues in the broadest possible way through the research literature, conferences and, yes, even poster sessions to find the best ideas you can. And to make sure we simply aren’t kidding ourselves, or somehow assuming that our limited experience is true of the larger world around us, we subject our ideas and reflections to those honesty-indicators called appropriate methodology, statistical analysis and interpretative theory. But it all begins with a question, “Is what I’m doing every day actually working?”
This intellectual life is what your faculty is offering you today, and I hope it will become a pattern for you all throughout your professional lives. We hope you will not only be involved in the professional activities of your day. We hope you will not only remember that once upon a time you went to school, and you learned everything that hopefully would serve you the rest of your life. Instead, we hope you will become involved in reflective practice – the intellectual life itself – where informed and knowledgeable people share well-grounded and thoughtful ideas with one another. Where they challenge one another and are humble enough to say, “That’s a better idea.” In this reflective practice, practitioners and scholars come together and try to understand what works best for the professional situations that we encounter.
And so I congratulate you today for your hard work on these research projects, summarized on these poster presentations. And I encourage you to continue what you have begun – this experience of the intellectual life. Hopefully, each of you will walk out of this room with a new idea to try out in your work and also an interior promise to always engage in some form of reflective practice.
If you do that, you will be enormously blessed. You will find your spirits a little more alive when they encounter the inevitable challenges of educating young people. There will be something for your hearts and your motivation, and just as important, there will be something for the young people who come to you looking for help.
Congratulations for what you have accomplished today. Your faculty and I are proud of you and we look forward to being proud of you for a very, very long time.