In recent times, there has much highlighted in the media and professional circles about the shortage of teachers in NSW and beyond. This made me ponder upon the special and unique role teachers play in the lives of our youth. In particular, it made me reflect upon the notion of “Teaching as a Vocation” within a Catholic school context.
In my experience, people have entered into the teaching profession primarily because they wish to make a real and deep difference in the lives of our youth. Providing a sense of awakening and nurturing of student learning, character development and faith formation is an altruistic element that is certainly evident in the teaching profession at large. Interestingly, these motives for entering the profession are becoming even more pronounced with Generations Y (27-41) and Z (12-26).
Teaching may be viewed as a calling. It is more than being an expert teacher in a learning space at school. In a Catholic school context, teachers are intrinsically connected with their students as disciples. From a holistic education viewpoint, teachers intertwine Catholic values in everything they undertake on campus – in and out of the classroom. Teachers strive to work in partnership with students and families in order for graduates to leave the school gates as the best version of themselves and be who God is calling them to be. Some ways that this is achieved by teachers is by their great sense of generosity by attending retreats, reflection days and Faith In Action (service learning) projects. A critical element is also to genuinely know their students and partner with them on their school journey.
I reflect upon my own experience as a school student at a local Catholic secondary school and I’m most grateful for the many teachers who nurtured me. In particular, I think of my Year 12 Homeroom and English Teacher, Mr. Olsen. I remember him to be a caring, nurturing, funny and intellectual Catholic man. A man who connected well with me and knew what levers to use in order to get the best out of me as I graduated from school. Recently, I was privileged to meet up with Mr. Olsen at a Catholic school gathering. This was a real honour for me and my conversation with him was most memorable. Mr. Olsen’s approach to holistic teaching contributed much to who I am today.
As a leader in a Catholic school, it excites me to welcome colleagues who are new to the teaching profession. Many arrive fresh out of university and some from a career change. New colleagues commence with a sense of energy, enthusiasm, joy and wish to be in a place where the Beatitudes are not only taught, but actively lived. Above all else – they generally have a strong desire to make a difference to their kids, even if they have not met them yet. Intrinsically, they get the fact that they will need to not only be a good teacher, but also be the face of God to our kids too.
The ministry of Catholic school teaching is truly special and life-giving. Teachers understand and value their partnership with parents and carers in nurturing the education of the heart and mind of students. As such, our Catholic schools remain authentic places of learning and formation, where our teachers are real beacons of hope and evangelisation.
Frank Chiment is the Principal Leader at Patrician Brothers’ College, Blacktown.