Teachers and staff in the catholic sector do a wonderful job 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 has 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 following 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 are 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 to 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 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 the Secondary level, come from communities of faith. Many are Catholic, but many others are Christians of other denominations, some of the 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 understand the philosophy that underpins the nature and purpose of a catholic school. This is essential for all faculty members and not just those who teach Religion to our children. For this reason, 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. Still, in the sphere of Catholic education, it is essential that a teacher goes beyond being this and lives his/her life as a witness to Christ and living out of gospel values. It is the duty of an educator in a catholic school to instil in his/her students the values of respect, forgiveness, openness and joy, cherish each student, and 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 how staff members interact with the children in their care. Perhaps above all else that we do in catholic schools, the love that exists in our community makes us so distinctive?