Catholick Schools: Part 1
I Blame the Teacher
It's my turn to have a meander through the murky waters of Catholic Education and the vexed question of "what is the point?".
Every time I've found myself teaching at a Catholic school I've said to myself "never again". They leave me very uncomfortable because they all lie and do not live up to their mission statements. At root, they are embarrassed by the Second Person of the Trinity and turn Him into some good guy who gave us a good example. Basically they are heretical. Normally I wouldn't care if a school lived up to its mission statement or not, but if that mission concerns Christ, then it ought to be taken very seriously indeed.
In the end I've spent all but 5 of my years as a teacher in Catholic establishments, and I don't know why I go back. Perhaps it is the ease of employment, you can hear the interview panel's collective brain swing into action: wow you can teach Physics and "double wow" you are a practising Catholic who on the face of it doesn't look like a complete nutter, that must be a good thing, I'm sure you will be very useful to us....!
Blessed John Henry Newman said that the conversion of this country will be achieved through an educated laity. That's us, all my non-clerical readers! Are our schools set up to foster an educated laity? Are our schools staffed by an educated laity? The answer to both these questions is a resounding no. I will not go into the reasons why, as they are self-evident to anyone who has been near a Catholic school in recent years. You see, I really don't think Bl JHN had adults with certificates from Heythrop or ever Maryvale in mind when he talked about an educated laity. It isn't about pieces of paper, it isn't about qualifications in "professional catholicism" *bleurgh*. It IS about being confident in one's faith, it is about being known to be a Catholic and it is about being a convincing witness to that faith.
I am reminded of a very good sermon I heard a few months back about us being "the salt of the earth". I do think us Catholic teachers should be just that. Too intense and we are an emetic and a complete turn-off. Too little and we have no effect. Just enough and we enhance what is happening with a clarity that is uniform (salt always tastes the same) and leave the appetite craving a bit more. The schools themselves can't do this. It is not something an establishment can achieve. It is a small but significant body of individuals within the organisation which will determine the true experience of Catholicism for the rest of the school. And I'll put money on them not being part of the senior management and rarely within the RE department.
So, what I'm trying to say is that if you find yourself as a Catholic teaching in any school, live like you are one, be known as one. It is amazing the number of pupils who'll pop their heads round your door during lunch time as say something like "Miss, you're a Catholic, what's your view on....", the success of your response is that they go away saying "Hmm, that does make sense...". You see our faith IS the most sensible thing they will ever hear, don't be frightened by it. The Truth is irresistible, they many not desire to follow it, but it will get them thinking.
To me there is just one golden rule to teaching, and if one endeavours to live by it and at the same time be known for who you are, then it will do nothing but enhance your enjoyment and fulflment within the job because it is a way of living out your faith in the job. My golden rule is this: never tread on a child's sense of justice or you've lost them. A child may not be searching for God, but all children have an inbuilt sense of what is fair and just; work with this, you may be the only adult in their lives who does. That you are a Catholic will then give them a good experience of how Catholics are and that is so important.
If I had children, would I send them to a Catholic school? No. I would be too anxious about heretical assemblies, bad experiences of the Mass, a curriculum that purports to be Catholic and is anything but. I would hope that my children would experience the company of enough well adjusted, happy Catholic adults who are my friends to give them good role models and some excitement about taking their faith into the adult world. As a parent I'd see it as my duty to instruct them in the faith and to do this with joy and enthusiasm.
Are Catholic schools needed? I think the answer is, yes, though I'm not quite sure why... hang on for part 2, when I've completed my coursework marking.....
Apologies for spelling mistakes, I never said I was a good teacher.