Communal living encourages each ExCEL teacher along his/her journey of faith by creating spaces and relationships for members to practice shared prayer, express their joys/ doubts/ fears, and find inspiration in the spiritual practices of others.
Moreover, we believe that communal living holds the potential to make us more fully human; that is, living in community necessitates that members practice dispositions—beneficence, awareness, empathy, humility, and honesty—that are the hallmarks of Christ-centered humanity. Perhaps more directly, sharing meals and spaces, sharing time and existence, sharing moments of love and of struggle pulls members into tighter relationships with one another, and the Catholic Church holds that being in relationship with one another is what makes us more fully human and is what Christ calls us to at all times. In turn, by living out community with ExCEL members, each teacher is more prepared for the communal life in the classroom, where dispositions like beneficence, awareness, empathy, humility, and honesty are essential for good teaching.
Although experienced teachers who have been in the profession for many years will openly acknowledge that good teaching is a collaborative “team sport,” often times new teachers in traditional teacher education programs experience a profound sense of loneliness and isolation in their first few years in the classroom. They teach by themselves, lesson-plan by themselves, grade by themselves, and then are left to face the struggles and frustrations of classroom life by themselves, without any support network outside the faculty lounge (if that even is a supportive space). On the other hand, ExCEL teachers—because they live with other teacher—have a built-in pedagogical support system. After coming home from a challenging day of teaching, ExCEL members can vent to one another, help each other with ideas for lesson planning, assist in grading enormous projects, and give advice about classroom management or dealing with parents. In this way, ExCEL teachers have continual opportunities to learn about the work of teaching, a major advantage over more traditional approaches to teacher education.
ExCEL houses pairs of members in two-bedroom apartments operated by Santa Clara University graduate housing. Additionally, each ExCEL teacher belongs to a “small community” made up of 3-4 members, who gather twice each month for community and spirituality activities. Members from the entire program also gather two additional times each month to partake in activities that help build cohesion, sustain community, and develop spirituality across the small communities.
"Having a supportive community allowed me to deal with the difficult moments that come with being teacher. It gave me the ability to run ideas by peers and to share the wonderful moments that I experienced in the classroom."