Teachers and staff in the catholic sector do a wonderful job of providing genuinely holistic education for our children. Catholic schools are happy places with an atmosphere of love and joy. They are real communities with environments that are most certainly conducive for learning!
Whilst been proud of the success and our wonderful catholic schools it is imperative that at the same time we recognize that it is essential that schools articulate their philosophy of catholic education correctly and in accordance with the teachings of the Church. This is a duty of all members of a faculty and administration. It is the Catholic ethos and identity that makes our schools distinctive. It is what catholic schools iare all about. It is our history, our tradition, our culture.
Sister John Mary Fleming, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Catholic Education, said “A Catholic philosophy of education deals with the essence of the human person as a child of God who is made in the image of God. One of the ends or goals of Catholic education is to teach children to live well here and now so that they can live with God in eternity. That means engaging culture and society in a specifically Christian way that contributes to the general welfare of society.”
In our catholic schools we have some truly inspiring teachers. As is oft said in educational circles children may well forget what they were taught in school but they never forget who taught them. Many teachers in catholic education, and certainly at Secondary level, come from communities of faith. Many are themselves Catholic, but many others are Christians of other denominations, some of other world faiths and occasionally even others who deem themselves of no religious affiliation. This is not uncommon in a catholic school in Europe or North America and in many ways can be a positive feature of a school serving the needs of a diverse community, many of whom come from a religious background other than Catholic or even Christian. The essential point is that all our staff in catholic schools must have an understanding of the philosophy that underpins the nature and purpose of a catholic school. This is essential for all members of a faculty and not just those who teach Religion to our children. It is for this reason that an important priority for the professional development of our staff is to ensure that all have an understanding of the nature and purpose of Catholic schools and of the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.
In the secular world teachers are often feted as role models for their students but 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 sounds complicated but it is exemplified every minute of every day by the way staff members interact with the children in their care. Perhaps above all else that we do in catholic schools it is the love that exists in our community that makes us so distinctive?