Dr. Sean Schat has made education his life’s work. Along with several years as a teacher, principal, vice principal and director of staff development at various Christian high schools in Ontario, he earned a PhD in education, cognition and learning from Brock University. He now teaches full time at Redeemer, the place where he received his undergraduate degree and developed a perspective that would tremendously impact his career.
“My interactions with my professors and classmates [at Redeemer] played a profound role in shaping my worldview and helping me recognize the importance of moving past worldview-in-theory and into worldview-in- action,” he says. “I was also given the ability to ask tough questions and wade into messy territory.”
Schat always had a passion for working with youth and young adults, which was further strengthened by his work as a counsellor at various summer camps. He also drew inspiration from his parents, both highly respected teachers in his hometown Christian elementary and secondary schools. As his career progressed, Schat dedicated his time to the crucial study of educational care, an area which he feels is not receiving enough consideration in many classrooms.
“Educational care occurs when a student recognizes that the teacher cares for him or her as a person, a learner and a member of the classroom community. I describe these as the three dimensions of educational care: personal, pedagogical and interpersonal. Almost all teachers intend to communicate care and demonstrate caring actions toward their students, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that the students perceive or experience care.”
In particular, Schat’s research distinguishes between the offering of care, presented in caring intentions and actions, and the successful communication of care, which factors in the response of the cared-for.
“According to the research literature, educational care positively influences student engagement and motivation as well as a sense of belonging and preparedness, which then correlates to improved student achievement. The successful communication of educational care can also transform the student-teacher relationship, which allows the teacher to be a trusted sounding board and influence.”
“My interactions with my professors and classmates played a profound role in shaping my worldview.”
Schat’s dedication to educational care has led to countless hours of research, which he has presented to individual Christian schools and Christian school administrators. In 2018, he presented his findings at the International Christian Community of Teacher Educators (ICCTE) conference and wrote an article titled ‘Exploring Care in Education’ for the ICCTE Journal. Most recently, he collaborated with fellow education professors PaulShotsberg and Cathy Freytag to co-author the first chapter of the book How Shall We Then Care?: A Christian Educator’s Guide to Caring for Self, Learners, Colleagues and Community. Despite these achievements, what Schat finds most rewarding is his interactions with students and colleagues.
“I’ve experienced my entire career as a calling. Although it hasn’t always been easy, I’ve seen this in small moments, where I’ve blessed and been blessed by students and colleagues. I’ve also experienced it in larger moments, such as when I’m designing and implementing effective, influential curriculums and seeing my research bear fruit for teachers and students.”
When it comes to his faith, Schat believes that it is inextricably intertwined with his career. “I believe that the communication of care is directly related to the ‘love mandate.’ Christians are called to love God and love others. Indeed, loving others is one of the ways we communicate our love for God. We also reflect God’s image in doing so.”
In keeping with this, Schat strives to advocate educational care as not just an idea, but a tangible expression of Christ’s love. He explains that, in some cases, even the noblest Christians can unwittingly cause harm due to improper execution of their intentions.
“Too often, there is a disconnect between our intentions and our impact. I believe that a greater awareness of the distinction between the offering of care and its successful communication will help Christians successfully demonstrate God’s love, therefore allowing more people to meet Christ in and through us and hear the message of his call.”