5 Things Every Catholic Teacher Needs To Know

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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.

1.      Vocare                                                                                                                                                      tired teacher

 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.


4.      Self-Care                                                                                                                                                           happyTeacher

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.

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  • Maria L

    Beautiful and truthful. Just what I needed after my first few weeks into the profession!

    • Jonathan Doyle

      Great to have committed new teachers like you on board Maria. Great to see you serving young people.

  • Very good article. would add a #6

    Teachares are there to assist parents in their duty of fostering within their children growth in the theological, intellectual, and moral virtues.

    • Jonathan Doyle

      Thanks JP…good point.

  • St. John Baptist CS

    As the new principal last year we instituted changes. One was weekly Mass and Confession for children and staff. This would be a challenge for me…”So many Catholic schools don’t even provide a quiet Mass for staff one day per week.” Any ideas would be welcomed.

    • jonathandoyle

      HI and thanks for your post. I think the thing is to let great liturgy do the work for you. The first thing is to find a priest who understands what you want to accomplish and this kind of priest needs to be a holy man who loves the Church and loves the liturgy. Great liturgy will have a power in itself to slowly change hearts and minds. Also, introducing the sacrament of reconciliation is a wonderful initiative. Silence and stillness have such power to change people. They are such rare commodities. Be encouraged! You are doing really important work. Also make sure you check out our online staff formation program at https://beingcatholic.com.au/going-deeper/

  • Hildegarde

    Vocare does not mean “to draw out” or “to draw forth” it means “to call”. Any wonder Catholic education is in a mess when its teachers lack basic knowledge.

    • jonathandoyle

      Any wonder the Catholic Church is so misunderstood when people post comments so trivial and mean spirited.

      • Hildegarde

        With respect, Jonathan Doyle, my comment was not intended to be mean spirited. It made an objective and clear point: Vocare means “to call”. It is the Greek for “to educate” that means to draw out. I would suggest that it is in fact your own comment that is trivial and mean-spirited. Instead of attacking me, why not attack the logical point I raised ?.Happy Christmas from a Catholic Teacher..

    • jonathandoyle

      The etymology of vocare means to use the voice to call forth or to use the voice to call out. Seriously, if you don’t have anything better to do than point out semantic points of irrelevance then go and find another blog.

      • Hildegarde

        I beg your pardon ? I read your blog because I take a professional interest in Catholic education. I’m beginning to wonder exactly where you are coming from. I make a reasonable point a bout the misunderstanding of the word “vocare” ( which I notice instead of acknowledging, you are trying to justify), then you accuse me of making the Church misunderstood and, finally you tell me to go away. Please take the time to read back, prayerfully over the way you have responded to my point and ask yourself if you are actually representing Christ here.

        I am sorry if you think my point was irrelevant. I don’t think it was. Happy Christmas, again and peace be with you.

        • jonathandoyle

          I don’t claim to represent Christ. I will leave that to the Pope. The entire website is dedicate to encouraging and edifying Catholic teachers and yet of all the content on the site you decide to post a criticism of a tiny etymological point and somehow construe that there is little hope for Catholic education because I phrased it that way. Read the other comments…a lot of positive people. I just don’t know why you bother pointing out the speck in the metaphorical eye of the website? We don’t need more critics we need some positive people who want to encourage.

          • Hildegarde

            As baptised Catholics, we are all called to represent Christ. I will leave you in peace now as, for some reason I have upset you. This was not my intention. I only pointed out one small correction in what was otherwise a very interesting blog. I hope no-one ever criticises you ever again, Jonathan. Boy, do you take yourself very seriously….

            again, Peace. I notice you wish me only harm in all your comments

  • Brian Starling

    The Mass is utterly central to the adventure of Catholic education? Why is it then that as a practising Catholic myself, heavily involved in the parish, who completed a teaching degree and is R.E trained, was unable to even get a look in while my two Muslim female friends, who know not a single thing about mass or Catholicism, who still had a semester to go on their Master of Teaching, had the same subject qualifications as me (although they were still in the process of studying) besides missing R.E, were called in for casual teaching work at not one, but three Catholic schools, yet we all contacted the schools in the same manner? The school and the church is not necessarily associated as well as this article makes out. And I thought when a Catholic teacher friend of mine said I have to have nice assets down my front top, smile and giggle if want to get casual work in her school, that she was just joking.

  • Lorraine Campbell

    I’ve been teaching for almost 30 years – only 14 years of it in a Catholic school – and I still need to be reminded of this: Thank you,

    • Dear Lorraine…thanks for that lovely comment. I always like the scripture that there is nothing new under the sun! The old ways and core principles have always sustained us.

  • Teaching is an Apostolate.

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Going Deeper is a weekly online staff formation formation program in Catholic identity and Catholic teaching on education. It inspires, educates and challenges every Catholic teacher to deepen in their personal faith and knowledge of Catholic teaching so they can fulfil their noble vocation within the great mission of Catholic education.