Professional development also needs to be designed for the purpose of the school. For Catholic schools, there is an even greater challenge. Schools need to meet the professional growth of teachers and their spiritual growth. How do Catholic schools meet this need? What methods can schools use to expand the spiritual strength that teachers need?
The spiritual growth of Catholic school teachers is essential for the success of schools. Catholic school teachers are entrusted with not only the academic knowledge that students learn, but also the faith formation of their students. Teachers are called by the Holy Spirit to develop the knowledge of their students in subjects both secular and sacred. Catholic school teachers take on this additional role with pride and passion, but it is critical that schools aid their teachers in developing their faith and strengthen their desire to teach the faith to students
Opportunities for faith formation are available in the same way professional development opportunities are available. They are not seized upon as much as I would like them to. There are lecture series available, webinars, classes, and informal meetings that teachers can attend. By the way my my favourite is Going Deeper.
Next question is this, “how many teachers know these opportunities are available?” How are we as SLT focused primarily on the academic content and not focused enough on the spiritual needs of their staff? This lack of attention is where schools start to separate themselves.
Schools need to inform teachers of ways to grow their faith as we are a faith community. Connecting the faith to the daily lives of our students in Catholic schools helps schools reach students where they are and pushes them to where they need to be as Christian leaders. Teachers need to find new ways to model the faith and connect the faith to students.
Teachers need to be willing to share what they see as opportunities. Teachers need to find their PLN and attend events together. Teachers need to be willing to step up and do their part. Teachers also need to take an active role in developing new professional development.
Another important aspect of professional development, especially in the realm of spirituality, is what we can do to best serve our students. How can we display our faith more to show what Catholicism means to us? We need to provide a safe environment where students feel safe to ask a question about where their faith is going. We need to learn ways that encourage students to strive to love Christ more deeply. I hope working on the Bishops Document will help us grow in this area.
Values are pretty important in schools and thing we as educators have, or should have as educators. In Catholic schools we do this well: “don’t steal” or “treat others the way you want to be treated.” Our values are who we are, at our core, right here, right now. They guide us. In my own in environment gospel values and the values of Manawa Mission (PB4L) does this for our community.
I have learned that leaders benefit from identifying and clarifying their values because—consciously or unconsciously—they serve as a motivating force, both professionally and personally. We’ve also learned that if leaders are willing to bravely share their values with their team, it not only allows people to better understand what makes the leader tick, but also bonds the whole group closer together.
How might you identify and clarify your own values? Experience has done this for me. An internet search will uncover various lists of identified values. I do an exercise like this with my students every year but the real challenge come when they are put to the test.
In the secular world teachers are often promoted as role models for their students. In the sphere of catholic education it is essential that a teacher go beyond being this and lives his/her life as a witness to Christ and to the living out of gospel values. It is the duty of an educator in a catholic school to instill in his/her students the values of respect, forgiveness, openness and joy and to cherish each student and to be sensitive to the diverse talents, abilities and needs of each one. In doing so we seek to create unity through diversity. This may sound complicated but it is exemplified every minute of every day by the way our staff in catholic schools interact with the students in their care. All the best to all teachers as you begin your year.
The task of Director of Religious Studies in a Catholic school now is clearly a leadership position in the Church’s faith community. I believe the role goes further than just curriculum leadership. It is a vocation of ministry where your faith is outwardly expressed. This role as one as witness, leadership and service and it seems imperative that the person taking on the role has strong gospel values. With all this in mind it is as the manager of curriculum that takes up the greatest amount of time. There is a huge amount of work that needs to be covered with so many year levels and modules within those levels. If the Director of Religious Studies does not have a fine eye for detail and finesse things will go astray. A teacher needs to find the trigger inside each student that will release his or her best work. Some students need to be pushed while others need space. Some need every detail explained, others work best on instinct. Teachers are much same. Being a Director of Religious Studies you need to have the management skills to recognize which is which. While I have stated it is important to manage curriculum well. It must be recognized schools with perfect programmes but those departments with motivated are those with effective teachers.
This week I have been reflecting on the many positions I have had in schools. None stands out more than the position of Director of Religious Studies. This is an important role in Catholic schools in New Zealand. The position requires a need to be all things to all staff members. In this role at school we must create an atmosphere where we have best possible outcome for the school. In this job I saw myself as a manager of curriculum, the driving force of things spiritual and manager of people. Being able to cope with these three issues are my problems.
The Director of Religious Studies needs to motivate staff and students. They need to have complex knowledge of all sorts of areas. They need to have a knowledge of all that is current in Religious Education. They also must have the ability to work with a wide variety of teaching staff most of whom do not see it as there major teaching subject. . These people all have a wide range of skills and abilities. They may also be teaching this subject under some protest. These staff members need to be appeased and given extra affirmation.
It has been a couple of weeks but I thought it would be remiss of me not to mention the appointment of Pope Francis. Many people have said to me that with the appointment of Pope Francis they have noticed a change in the attitudes of many Catholics. I know in my own Religious Questions team and Religious Studies classes we have discussed this. I was astonished by the many people that said to me “we have a new Pope.” People are saying he has challenged many norms and has been far more ‘real’ in his involvement with the common man. Some—and not all of these were necessarily Church going people—also commented to me that there seemed to be a lot more people attending the various Easter ceremonies this year. It may be that Pope Francis’ approach to being Pope is giving people confidence again in the Church.
While there is still much healing and soul searching for many Catholics, to see people during Easter break feel this confidence in their Church, inspired perhaps by the appointment of Pope Francis, gives hope that the Church is looking to being renewed.
During the Easter break, I do hope you had the opportunity to ask your daughter about the Easter liturgies held at the College. These liturgies contained material that would have challenged them and then caused them to reflect deeply within their hearts on Christian values such as loyalty, acceptance, nurture, joy, truth, healing, dignity, service and life.
A question parents could ask their daughters is: ‘What do you remember most from the Easter liturgies held at Sacred Heart Girls College?’