In the daily battle of Catholic education it’s easy to get lost in the grind. Assessments, assemblies, deadlines and detentions can quickly conspire to make you wonder why you turned down that job in the circus! As you make your way through each day here are five simple ideas to keep you going.
You did not choose teaching it chose you. Or rather, God knew from all eternity that you would have certain skills, talents and passions for service of young people and the world. The idea of vocation can often be a worn out mantra in Catholic education so we need to re-connect with it. Vocation comes from the Latin, vocare, which means to ‘draw out’ or ‘draw forth’. It’s like the idea of a bucket being lowered into a deep cool well. Your vocation draws out of you the skills and talents that God wants you to use. It also allows you to ‘draw forth’ the goodness and possibilities inside your students. When you’re tired and disillusioned remember something bigger is happening. Your vocation is an integral part of how God is redeeming the world. One lesson plan or school yard conversation at a time.
2. Missio Dei
You have been chosen to be sent forth. Your vocare leads to another Latin term called missio dei which translates as, ‘the sending of God.” God has given you these special talents and abilities and this desire to care for young people because he wants to send you to them as a missionary. You are being sent as a missionary into the very core of young peoples lives at a very formative time in their journey. You have good news for them about who they are, where they’re from and where they’re heading. You are part of a much bigger plan.
3. The Human Person
The great battleground of the late 20th century and early 21st century is fought around the value and dignity of the human person. In my staff seminars I talk about the fact that 10 million people died in the Holocaust because of a diabolical understanding of who was a person and who wasn’t. The great Catholic message for the new millennium is that each human person is made in the image and likeness of God. Their value, worth and dignity derives from that truth and from the truth that Christ elevated our human nature by taking its form and by dying for us. At the heart of your mission is the call to see in every student and every colleague in your staff room the person of Christ. Think of the student or colleague you like the least. Christ died for them. God willed them into existence. Your teaching will be as effective as your ability to see God in each person and every student.
Love your neighbour as yourself! You can’t love others if you don’t care for you. Jesus took time out to be on his own basically every day and he also loved a party and a good meal. Be committed to restoration, recovery, downtime, disengagement and self-care. Don’t check email at night. Switch off. Teaching is just about the most rewarding but also exhausting, demanding and challenging vocations in existence and most teachers are terrible at self-care. Do not leave your desk without seriously planning a few steps, routines, hobbies, sports, or interests that will frequently restore your soul. Do it for yourself. Do it for your own family, who have to live with you and do it for the students and the staff that get stuck in an office with you when you’re exhausted. Make time to be with family and just enjoy a good meal or walk with those you love. If you don’t schedule it, it won’t happen.
5. The School and the Church
Catholic education does not exist outside the Church. Wherever you are in your relationship with the Church you need to know this. The Church, at least the one with humans in it as opposed to Christ’s mystical body that we also call the Church, is not perfect. Anything with people in it will never be perfect. So let’s all grow up and stop expecting perfection from people. That said, your ability to really become the teacher God created you to be will be dependent upon your drawing on deep sources beyond yourself. Silence, prayer and the Mass are utterly central to the adventure of Catholic education. So many Catholic schools don’t even provide a quiet Mass for staff one day per week. That has to change. Be uncommon. Don’t wait for everyone else to change around you. Go to silence, go to quiet moments of prayer in the school chapel and desperately, urgently seek God’s supernatural nurturing of your vocation via the Eucharist. We are Catholic for crying out loud and the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith.
You did not choose teaching. It chose you. May God bless your remarkable ministry in the days ahead.