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Assessment Task One: Role of the Teacher, Catholic Social Teaching and Catholic Worldview
Today’s Catholic educator, is an educator that stands above the rest. For being a Catholic educator comes with great responsibility – proclaiming and living the faith and sharing this with others. A person who not only teaches the curriculum, but enhances the curriculum by evangelising, bringing God to their students and the wider community, where Christ us central to all that is undertaken. Throughout this assignment I will explore the primary role of the Catholic educator and examine three principles of Catholic social teaching that help promote a Catholic approach to the curriculum – The common good, Dignity of the human person and Preferential option for the Poor.
The role of the Catholic Educator
Catholic educators have many roles to fulfill and these roles are proclaimed through a Catholic lens. Educators need to “liberate the mind and spirit of those whom they teach, guiding them to maturity in faith, knowledge and understanding” (Pope John Paul II, 1984, para 4). “Educators fulfil a specific Christian vocation and share an equally specific participation in the mission of the Church” (Congregation for Catholic Education, 1997, # 19). They “recognize that each person has an eternal destiny and is created in the image of God, illuminated by the Holy Trinity and lives a life of spiritual unity and harmony in relationship with others ” (Groome, 2015, p.2).
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“In the Catholic school, the prime responsibility for creating the unique Christian school climate rests with the teachers, as individuals and as a community” (Congregation for Catholic Education, 1997, # 19). It is through their actions and behaviours that portray the vision and the mission. “The mission and privilege of Catholic schools is to build a community where authentic relationships based on love, provide the means and support for all students to flourish and grow into the fullness of life” (Catholic Education Melbourne, 2019). This community incorporates the students, parents, parish and beyond and where support is shown for all those in need. The “goal of Catholic schools in all their forms, is to live in fidelity to their educational mission, which has Christ as its foundation” (Congregation for Catholic Education, 2013, # 63), teachers within the school make this happen. Where “all members of a school community have a role to play in strengthening the many ways the whole of school life is enlivened by Catholic faith” (Costelloe, & Curtin, 2017, p.12).
“The spiritual and faith development of young people is a primary goal of the Catholic school” (Pope John Paul II, 1997), and therefore those that work in the school must fulfil this requirement. “The Catholic educator must be a source of spiritual inspiration” (Congregation for Catholic Education, 1977, #17), where by their very presence they energize their students to be like Jesus. “By their witness and their behaviours teachers are of the first importance to impart a distinctive character to Catholic schools”(Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, 1977, # 78). Living the faith through their values and morals, and living an example of a Christ filled person. Their behaviours showcase commitment, dependability, dignity, honesty, responsibility, and these values permeate in everything that they do. “Every true educator knows that a further step is necessary: values must lead to action; they are the motivation for action” (Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, 1988, #108).
“The teachers’ attitudes and behaviours should be those of one preparing the soil. They then add their own spiritual lives, and the prayers they offer for the students entrusted to them” (Congregation for Catholic Education, 1988, # 71). Catholic educators “are required to be witnesses of Jesus Christ and to demonstrate Christian life as bearing light and meaning for everyone” (Congregation for Catholic Education, 2007, # 15). The role is to bring Jesus to the community and lead by example. “The educator is seen and desired as a welcoming and prepared interlocutor, able to motivate the young to a complete formation, to encourage and direct their greatest energy and skills towards a positive construction of themselves and their lives” (Congregation for Catholic Education, 2007, # 22). Under Cannon Law, “teachers are to be outstanding in correct doctrine and integrity of life” (Canon #803 §2.). Knowledge of Catholic sacred traditions, beliefs and understandings are integral components of the Catholic educator, who use their personal beliefs and understandings to enhance their promotion of the Catholic faith. “Your profession as teachers involves tasks that are linked to your baptism and to your own commitment in faith” (Pope John Paul II, 1986).
“One of the fundamental requirements for an educator in a Catholic school is his or her possession of a solid professional formation, this includes competency in a wide range of cultural, psychological and pedagogical areas” (Congregation for Catholic Education, 2007, # 21). Having great knowledge and expertise is essential. “The educator is required to constantly update the contents of the subjects he teaches and the pedagogical methods he uses. The educator’s vocation demands a ready and constant ability for renewal and adaptation” (Congregation for Catholic Education, 2007, # 23). Educators require a great deal of “personal strength to repeatedly seek out and remove barriers to the optimal performance of others” (Moore, 2018). Teaching has an extraordinary moral depth, educators need to commit to be lifelong learners wanting to be knowledgeable and willing to change and adapt.
Catholic educators are people who want the very best for each and every one of their students. “Teachers will pray for each of them, that the grace present in the Catholic school’s milieu may permeate their whole person, enlightening them and helping them to respond adequately to all that is demanded of them in order to live Christian lives” (Congregation for Catholic Education, 1988, # 71). “Thus educators must dedicate themselves to others with heartfelt concern, enabling them to experience the richness of their humanity” (Congregation for Catholic Education, 2007, # 24). They take advantage of “every opportunity to encourage and strengthen students in those areas which will help to achieve the goals of the educational process” (Congregation for Catholic Education, 1988, # 110).
Teachers in the catholic school bring forth their faith and their beliefs. It is through teachers, that “students must come to see and know the richness and joy of a life lived in accordance with Christ’s teaching, in response to his challenging demands” (Pope John Paul II, 1984). It becomes part Catholic educator’s responsibility to lead their students “more fully into the mystery of Christ and the living tradition of the Church” (Pope John Paul II, 1986). “The teachers are the ones who fill a school with the Christian spirit and make it truly a Catholic school” (Giersch, 2009).
The Common Good
Catholic educators have a responsibility to promote Catholicism to the wider community, whereby working in partnership with students, parents/caregivers and the wider community becomes the norm of what Catholic educators do. “When schools and families work together, children do better, schools improve and communities flourish” (“Family school partnerships – A guide for schools and families”, 2018, p. 4). “Educators are called to build relationships at professional, personal and spiritual levels, according to the logic of communion. This involves being open, welcoming, disposed to a deep exchange of ideas, convivial and living a fraternal life within the educational community itself” (Congregation for Catholic Education, 2007, # 35). This ideal is a fundamental Catholic Social teaching principle – The Common Good. “Catholic Social Teaching (CST) offers a way of thinking, being and seeing the world. It provides a vision for a just society in which the dignity of all people is recognised, and those who are vulnerable are cared for” (“Catholic Social Teaching — Catholic Social Services Australia”, 2019). This principle “is reached when we work together to improve the wellbeing of people in our society and the wider world” (Caritas, 2019).
“Teachers, both religious and lay, together with parents and school-board members, are to work as a team for the school’s common good” (Miller, 2006), and the common good of all, utilizing and developing human and social capital. “Social capital is when “networks together with shared norms, values and understandings that facilitate co-operation within or among groups” (OECD, 2001, p.42), work together for the greater good, by shaping our human behaviour. This allows people who share the same values and norms to work with each other to resolve problems, that will influcnece and affect the lives of those in need.
By its very nature, the Catholic school requires the presence and involvement of educators that are not only culturally and spiritually formed, but also intentionally directed at developing their community educational commitment in an authentic spirit of ecclesial communion” (Congregation for Catholic Education, 2007, # 37). Working together, supporting each other allows for everyone to be included. Educators “advocate for a just society in which all people, particularly the vulnerable and marginalised, are able to flourish and meet their needs” (“Catholic Social Teaching – Catholic Social Services Australia”, 2019).
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“The ‘good’ is ‘common’ because it can only be created together in relationship, it cannot be achieved by individuals isolated from each other” (Cockrill, 2018). Therefore educators need to ensure that are creating conditions where everyone in the wider community has the opportunity to flourish and is supported in doing so. Where the responsibility is collective. God calls all people of catholic faith and goodwill to join in his mission to bless and adore the world. Educators provide opportunities for their students to experience personal encounters with God and through these encounters lead to actions. These actions include creating social interactions and ensuring that everyone’s needs are met. Students are provided with opportunities to fulfil this Catholic Social principle through working together to create conditions for society to thrive together, helping the underprivileged, building strong societies through social justice initiatives. “No individual is excluded from the common good” (Catholic social teaching”, 2019), as Catholic educators ensure that the students understand what this entails is essential in Christ’s mission.
Goal 2 of the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians, states that “all young Australians become successful learners, confident and creative individuals, and active and informed citizens” (MCEETYA, 2008, p. 8). This commitment ensures that schools “work for the common good, in particular sustaining and improving natural and social environments and are responsible global and local citizens” (MCEETYA, 2008, p. 9). Thus indicating the teachers will ensure that the students they teach are enacting ways to promote the common good, this could be through volunteering and developing a student’s social capital or sharing values.
Dignity of the Human Person
“The Catholic Church teaches that all human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation for all the social teachings” (Cabrini University, 2019). Educators ensure that all students in their care are treated equally and teach this to their students as part of their everyday practice. The curriculum needs to include teaching students how to learn how to “act in ways that respect the dignity of each human person, the intrinsic value of the person, incorporating human agency, human freedom, and the ability to make choices that enable human excellence” (“Human Dignity Curriculum”, 2019, p. 5).
Educators have a responsibility “to prepare their students for professional life, and to encourage the friendly interchange among students of diverse cultures and backgrounds that will lead to mutual understanding” (Congregation for Catholic Education, # 12). Fundamental questions arise when trying to prepare students about the diversity of others including, do we recognise the precious gifts that others offer and are we respecting different backgrounds and diversity of opinions?
Goal 1 of the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians, states that “Australian schooling promotes equity and excellence” (MCEETYA, 2008, p. 6). This commitment ensures that schools commit to promoting equity and fairness and by doing so “reduce the effect of other sources of disadvantage, such as disability, homelessness, refugee status and remoteness” (MCEETYA, 2008, p. 7). Catholic educators must always attain that “education is not limited to the imparting of knowledge; it promotes human dignity and genuine human relationships, and prepares the way for opening oneself to the Truth that is Christ” (Congregation for Catholic Education, 1982, # 55). Reinforcing “that every person is precious, that people are more important than things, and that the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person” (Schnurr, 1998). As educators what can we continue to do to uphold the dignity of others and what actions are we promoting to our students about the inherent dignity of all persons?
Catholic teachers “animate a faith-infused curriculum by fostering love for wisdom and truth, and integration of faith, culture, and life and by teaching that truth is the fundamental value that is critical in the protection of freedom, justice and human dignity” (Groome, 2015, p.4). Thus, they will form human beings who will make human society more peaceful, fraternal, and communitarian. (Congregation for Catholic Education, 1982, # 19). Through the curriculum, development of the whole child is fundamental – spiritually, physically, emotionally and academically. By seeking growth in all of these areas allows students to embrace the dignity of the human person, by understanding their roles and responsibilities, respecting the notion that we all are children and are a precious gift of God and growing their faith.
Preferential Option for the Poor
“Today’s world has tremendous problems: hunger, illiteracy and human exploitation; sharp contrasts in the standard of living of individuals and of countries; aggression and violence” (Congregation for Catholic Education, 1982, # 19). As educators what are we doing to ensure that our students are taking actions to support those who are vulnerable, poor and marginalized? We are called to help those in need. “Faith-filled individuals who take up Christ’s call to love one another, and who use their unique gifts and talents to serve their neighbours” (“Back to School on Catholic Social Teaching”, 2019), are the types of students that educators strive to educate.
Through many social justice initiative students are able to actively advocate for all of those in need. This could be done through fundraising opportunities, promoting awareness to the wider community, understanding and empathizing with the less fortunate, donating possessions and advocating. Many programs exist in schools to educate and try to help those in need. Mini Vinnies is a program that “empowers primary school students to become advocates within their school and local community by putting their values into action” (“Mini Vinnies – St Vincent de Paul Society – Good Works”, 2019). Students have the opportunity to meet with likeminded students, learn about social justice issues, engage with the St Vincent de Paul Society and put this knowledge and understandings into doable actions that help, support and give light to people in the wider community who are facing social injustice. This principle of Catholic social teaching encompasses the Catholic world view of service, where by as Catholics we are called to live out catholic values through our words and actions. Evangelizing Christ’s mission by ensuring that we explore deep issues and act upon them.
A Catholic Worldview has its foundation in Scripture and Tradition. Utilizing scripture to teach students about this Catholic social principle allows students to gain a Catholic world view and perspective. Scripture that promotes this includes – Exodus 22:20-26 “You shall not oppress the poor or vulnerable, God will hear their cry”, Proverbs 31:8-9 “Speak out in defense of the poor”, Isaiah 58:5-7 “True worship is to work for justice and care for the poor and oppressed”, Luke 4:16-21 “Jesus proclaims his mission: to bring good news to the poor and oppressed”. Students need to unpack scripture to get a sense of what God wants us to do and how to go about doing this.
Enabling a Catholic community where the students are striving to be more like Christ and undertaking what he wanted for us to be can only strengthen the Catholic identity in a school. This can enable the Catholic Social Principles to be enacted and lived. Catholic educators have a profound role. What they take on goes above and beyond any professional in any other field. Educators “are called to be faith-inspired collaborators in the heart of the Christian community” (Pope John Paul II, 1986). Their outlook is different - “to leave this earth somehow better than we found it.”(“Evangelii Gaudium: Apostolic Exhortation on the Proclamation of the Gospel in Today’s World (24 November 2013)”, 2015).
- Back to School on Catholic Social Teaching. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.catholiceducation.org/en/education/catholic-contributions/back-to-school-on-catholic-social-teaching.html
- Cabrini University. (2019). Principles of catholic social teaching. Retrieved from https://www.cabrini.edu/about/departments/wolfington-center/principles-of-catholic-social-teaching
- Caritas. (2019). The Common Good. Retrieved from https://www.caritas.org.au/learn/cst/the-common-good
- CST – Faith in Life. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.catholicsocialteaching.org.uk/principles/glossary/#Common
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