Tag Archives: Catholic

Tui Motu article: As a teacher….

6 Jul

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I teach in a Catholic school because I love being part of the authentic community that is Catholic schools. We are called to teach with Christ. This passion was formed after eleven years of Catholic education under two religious orders. The Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, (“Brown Joes”) and the De la Salle Brothers. In 1994 I began my teacher career in Catholic schools at Francis Douglas College four years after I had been Head Boy.

Our schools are a tight-knit community of teachers, students, whānau , and parish.  Some could say that it is because we all have that one thing that binds us together-faith, but I think it is more towards the fact that we truly care about each other.  Over the years, I have had students who return after graduation talking of how much they loved the sense of belonging while attending our schools and the role we played in their faith journey.

I teach in a Catholic school because we are whānau. We are linked together over students we have watched grow over the years.  We get to know each child on an individual level.  Staff, students, and parents all come together and pray for those who are sick, celebrate a new baby, or even provide a special gift to a family in need.

Being a teacher in a Catholic school encourages me in my faith. All teachers are being watched daily by their students and parents.  Eyes are always watching to see how to react and how we should structure our behaviours.  Parents are personally making sure teachers are meeting their child’s needs.  In our schools, students are also watching my own responses to faith.  My students can smell the difference between real and fake, so this encourages me to constantly keep myself in check and be authentic in my relationship with my students and God. This can be a real challenge. While a DRS and coach of a crack Under 16 rugby team the boys would often look at my reaction to referees call. I constantly reminded myself I was “in the presence of my God!”

Everything is geared towards Christ. In the Catholic school, I am able to complement, discuss, and even explain my beliefs without worry of offending my students.  I can commend a student or thank a student for their help during Mass.  Students can openly discuss their faith and our daily lessons are often linked to our charism.

No matter where you work, obstacles are always encountered.  Working in a Catholic school, you can seek help from a higher authority.  Our staff begins each week in prayer.  We gather together in our staffroom, and thank God for our abilities and blessings, and ask for his help.  Throughout the school year, we support each other in highs and lows.  We celebrate the small victories and pray over difficult times.  We are assured through our faith that no matter what happens, God’s love for us will be there forever. I teach in a Catholic school because I feel I am, we are, all living the Christs mission.

 

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The Family

20 Jun

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A key note speaker at Catholic Convention and his quote from the Holy Father has got me thinking.

 “families are not a problem, they are first and foremost an opportunity”. The opportunity for the Church is to “care for, protect and support them”. “Once you begin to see the family as a problem, you get bogged down, because you are caught up in yourself.”

The importance of good schooling and parenting is well recognised, but the importance of how schools and families relate is much less understood. The impact of the relationship between schools and families reaches far and wide; affecting wellbeing, behaviour and attainment to name a few. If we are to harness the potential of this relationship, much more must be done to overcome the barriers that exist between teachers and parents today.

Studies have convincingly shown that parental engagement in a child’s learning, rather than simple involvement in school activities, is the most effective way for parents to improve their child’s attainment, behaviour and attendance. Sadly poor parental engagement is having an adverse effect; also taking its toll on pupil, parent and teacher wellbeing.

Many parents say that they have felt patronised, sidelined or ignored by their child’s school, and an equally worrying number of teachers said they had been verbally or physically abused by a pupil’s parent.

Parents and teachers must work as a team to enable parents to connect where it is most important – beyond the school gate, as active agents in the learning of their children in the home. Taking an interest in their child’s education, helping with homework, backing school disciplinary practice in the home and being a source of moral, motivational support are all ways in which parents can effectively engage in education, but such engagement is much easier said than done.

The benefits include:

  • Improved attainment
  • Increased attendance
  • Better behaviour

What are the barriers to effective parental engagement?

Parental experience

The differences between a parent’s level of engagement with their child’s education can be partly attributed to their own experience while at school.

If learning was confined to the school environment, with little engagement from home, they are likely to replicate this pattern with their own children.

In addition to this, some parents may have had a poor school experience themselves, with lower levels of educational attainment. This may mean they lack the skills and confidence needed to positively engage with their child’s schooling.

A chaotic or disordered home environment

When children display behavioural problems in school, disrupting the class and making it difficult for the teacher to teach, there is often an underlying problem in the child’s family life.

If there is nowhere at home for them to study, and no one to help them with that, it will be difficult for children to show that discipline at school.

Parenting support programmes have been shown to be very helpful in engaging the family and boosting achievement, behaviour and attendance.

Family structures

Families in Britain are becoming more diverse, with marriage rates falling and blended families and kinship carers becoming more visible. Schools are challenged to take this into account, ensuring that they are not inadvertently preventing family engagement in education.

Some parents may face barriers to engaging in their child’s education, including disabled parents, fathers, grandparents or other carers, non- resident parents and parents for whom English is a second language.

Family breakdown can have an enormous impact on a child’s well-being. Their attendance, behaviour, and ability to concentrate in class may all be affected by disruption at home. In particularly acrimonious family break-ups, where custody is an issue, schools may be faced with difficulties in engaging both parents. Keeping non-resident parents engaged and active in their child’s life can improve the outcomes for that child.

What are your barriers and how can you solve them?

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Spiritual PLD

23 Apr

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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

Faith Formation

20 Apr

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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.

Establishing Your Values

23 Apr

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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.

Catholic Schools

16 Jan


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.

My Jobs Part Two

12 Feb

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.

My Jobs

11 Feb

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.

Easter Reflection

20 Apr

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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?’

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