By Abby Zimmer
As many students know, Dr. Joseph Tadie has a unique teaching style, but what most students don’t know is how he came to adopt this style. Tadie, assistant professor of philosophy, credits his style to Dr. Jeff Highland, provost and vice president; Dr. Jane Rodeheffer, professor of philosophy, and Brother Finbar McMullen, FSC, a retired Christian Brother. Each, in their own unique way, has instilled in him the preference for learning over teaching.
“Initially, I worry less about the memorization of concepts than I do about engaging students, wherever they happen to be coming from,” said Tadie.
Tadie tries to avoid lecture and tries to focus on group discussion or shared inquiry.
“It can feel very frustrating at times in a seminar setting. Some feel that there’s apparently no point to any of it because there’s no explicit disciplinary point of view being defended, there’s no lecture to memorize and spit back, so it can seem to lack rigor,” said Tadie. “It’s not [like that] for those who come to trust it, but that trust takes time to build. By starting where students are, I preference relevance over rigor.”
While Dr. Highland pressed upon Tadie the importance of learning over teaching and Dr. Rodeheffer helped Tadie realize the usefulness of shared inquiry over lecturing, still Tadie’s biggest mentor at SMU has been Brother Finbar.
Brother Finbar was a close mentor to both Tadie and his good friend Chris Lunn ’91 during their undergraduate days. Tadie says that Finbar was a good example of the emphasis that the Brothers put on touching hearts (learning) as a means toward teaching minds. Tadie has a memory that involves a tipi that Lunn designed, built, and kept in the bluffs behind St. Yon’s Hall while they were students.
After seeing Lunn’s tipi, Tadie recalls Finbar telling Lunn, “If this is what you are going to do (make tipis), then you should do it with excellence.” Tadie elaborated, “I think Finbar touched Lunn’s heart. Now, 20 years later, Lunn is kind of an ‘advisor’ to the Crow, the Blackfeet, [and] the Dakota people, and not just on tipi-related matters, but also in many other areas of their material culture, including quilling, tanning of hides, beadwork, [and the] manufacturing of other culturally-specific items. I see Lunn as an exemplary life-long learner.”
“As I see it, Finbar could have cared less about tipis, but he cared a lot about Chris. Chris cared about tipis and felt supported by Finbar. In some way then, Finbar has been essential to Lunn’s success.”
Brother Finbar didn’t lecture Lunn’s mind or head on how to make tipis. Tadie believes that Finbar touched Lunn’s heart.
Tadie also claimed that there are two other major contributors to his unique approach to learning. Their names are Arthur Spring and Jean Vanier. “I first read Jean Vanier with Arthur and Rosamond Spring in the Lasallian Institute. I was impressed with both the Springs and Vanier. After graduation, I entered the L’Arche community in Clinton, Iowa.” According to their website, L’Arche aims to “bring together people, some with developmental disabilities and some without, who choose to share their lives by living together in faith-based communities.”
“At L’Arche, I learned to meet people where they are, even if where they are is quite revolting to me and my biases,” Tadie said. “I hope my approach to learning can somehow bring this same spirit to life for those who are in my courses here at Saint Mary’s.”
1968: Born on May 6, 1968.
1968: Adopted by Larry and Donna Tadie and moved to Chillicothe, IL. The Tadies were strong Catholics who lived out their faith through direct action.
1980’s: Tutored friends’ siblings from a young age.
1986: Went to University of Illinois on a full-ride scholarship from the U.S. Marines.
1987: Dropped out of U of I and “started looking for God”; directed by a bishop and deacon to the Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary here at SMU.
1991: Majored in philosophy out of a love for the subject and eventually discerned not to continue path toward priesthood.
1991-92: Lived at the L’Arche Community in Iowa, a program founded by Jean Vanier in France in 1964 that brings together people with and without developmental disabilities.
1993-96: Came back to SMU to teach in the De LaSalle Language Institute.
1996: Got a scholarship to Boston College and mastered in philosophy; started PhD.
2000: Stated teaching philosophy at SMU.
2006: Finished doctorate.
Joseph Francis (10 years old)
Finbar Henry (8 years old)
Auguste Seraph (5 years old)