Tag: excellence (page 1 of 2)

Avoiding Teacher Burnout

It is estimated that 15.7 percent of teachers leave their jobs every year. Burnout is one of the top reasons that people quit their jobs. Fortunately, teacher burnout is something that can be prevented.

 

Take Care Of Your Health

Being a teacher can be physically and emotionally demanding. Fortunately, you can prepare your body for these demands by taking care of your health. Make sure that you eat a nutritious breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. Try to sleep for seven to eight hours every night. Additionally, you should schedule at least 30 minutes of exercise in your day.

 

Maintain Your Social Life

Many people completely devote themselves to teaching. They spend all day in the classroom. When they go home, they spend all of their time planning for the next day. While teaching will take up a lot of your time, it is important for you to maintain your social life. Devoting all of your time to teaching will eventually lead to burnout.

Hang out with your family members and friends. Plan a weekend trip every now and then. Spending time with the people you love will help you recharge and focus.

 

Have Fun With Your Class

Teachers do not have to be serious all of the time. Making learning fun will make things better for you and your students. Sharing stories, brain teasers and puzzles are great ways for students to have fun while they are learning. In fact, many students get more out of stories, puzzles and brain teasers than they do out of long lectures.

 

Find Support

Sometimes, all you need is the support of your co-workers, family members and friends. They can help guide you and tell you about what you need to do to alleviate your stress. Your support team can also help you complete some of your daily tasks.

 

Set Limits

As a teacher, you may feel as though you have to complete everything on your to-do list. However, it is okay to say no sometimes. Do not feel obligated to take on additional tasks that you know that you do not have the time to do. If you have too much on your plate, then tell someone. Setting limits is one of the best ways to avoid burnout.

 

Teachers have a time-consuming and demanding profession. That is why teacher burnout may seem inevitable. Fortunately, taking the time to properly plan and care for yourself will help you avoid burnout.

Don’t Give Up on Our Catholic Schools

Superintendents and the National Catholic Educational Association respond to “Reinventing Catholic Schools”

Note: This post is originally from America Magazine.

“Reinventing Catholic Schools,” by Charles Zech (8/29), is accompanied by a photo of the entrance to a large, run down building with broken windows. The picture reflects the bleak message of the entire piece, which fails to mention the incredible work being done in Catholic schools across the country today. As the superintendents of Catholic schools and members of the National Catholic Educational Association, we work each and every day in schools that look nothing like what the author describes.

Are there challenges in Catholic schools today? Of course. But there were also challenges 50 years ago. The religious who built and served Catholic schools for generations were heroes and saints, and we are honored to stand on their shoulders working with these hallowed institutions. And as people of faith, we believe that God has chosen us and those who work hard every day in Catholic schools across the country to serve at this time.

Professor Zech writes, “It is no longer good stewardship on the part of Catholic dioceses and parishes to continue supporting the old model of Catholic parochial schools.” This implies that those dedicated servants who sacrifice and work daily in these institutions, along with students and families, are wasting church resources. We see funds spent on Catholic schools as an investment in children and the future of the church. The idea of stewardship is to return with increase to the Lord, and research consistently demonstrates that graduates of Catholic schools are among the most academically prepared, generous and civically engaged.

Professor Zech writes that “over time the Catholic population has migrated to the suburbs and increasingly to the South and West…. But the parishes and parochial school buildings still tend to be located in urban areas in the Northeast and Midwest.” In fact, there are already many thriving Catholic schools and parishes in the South and West. Their growth is driven by young, mostly immigrant families who desire a Catholic school education. To give up on these vital institutions would be akin to eliminating Catholic schools in the Northeast 100 years ago when they provided the foundation that allowed Irish, Italian, Polish and other immigrant populations to work their way up in U.S. society. The same work, with the same goal, continues today.

We encourage Professor Zech to visit Catholic schools across the country to see the incredible innovations taking place. These include dual-language immersion, an increase in services to students with special needs, work-study schools like the Cristo Rey Network and ever-increasing support from the community—not only the Catholic community but local communities that understand the value of Catholic schools.

The true story of Catholic schools in the United States is their continued success despite difficulties and their ability to overcome challenges. Catholic schools continue to outperform public and private schools and do a particularly effective job with low-income, minority students. Professor Zech writes that “many urban parochial schools find themselves serving a population that struggles to afford parochial school tuition. Many of these students are not Catholic.” This again indicates a lack of understanding of Catholic schools, especially in the West, where the urban population is largely Catholic. Shuttering schools that serve low-income populations, preserving only those that serve the suburban well-off, contradicts our vital mission to provide a “preferential option for the poor.” Affordability of our schools is a substantial challenge, even while our schools attempt to maintain a relatively low cost of tuition. The momentum of the school choice movement has greatly assisted our families; to date, 27 states and the District of Columbia have some form of parental choice program, and the trend is toward greater levels of public funding support.

To further provide assistance to those low-income families, there is tremendous philanthropic support and great partnerships, from the Catholic Education Foundation in Los Angeles to the Catholic Schools Foundation in Boston and so many more. The value of our schools is perhaps most evident in weekly giving from our Catholic parishioners, many of whom do not have school-age children of their own, who give selflessly to their local parishes knowing that they are supporting Catholic school education, which brings life and vitality to our parishes.

If, as Professor Zech states, the issue of a lack of Catholic giving is such a significant limitation, we should focus on that cause rather than the effect of reduced funds for ministries. Catholic schools are a ministry and continue to be one of the church’s most effective instruments for passing on the faith from one generation to the next.

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That might be the best argument against what Professor Zech proposes. Converting Catholic schools, which infuse the faith throughout the curriculum and the school day, to charter schools would change the essential character of the institutions. There is no such thing as a Catholic charter school. Surely, public charter schools try to mimic Catholic schools with character education and uniforms, but there is not a character education program or a values-based curriculum that compares to teaching the faith. If Catholic schools disappear in great numbers, parishes will not be far behind.

Catholic schools should be seen by all the faithful as a vital component to passing on the faith. Yes, there is a need to investigate alternative structures and models, but it is certainly not the time to give up or propose simplistic one-size-fits-all solutions. While there are problems, there are also real solutions—solutions that are being implemented across the country and that reflect a focus on growth, not resignation to decline. We are moving away from the hospice mentality to a growth mindset that is optimistic in its approach to growth. We are entering a genuine renaissance period in Catholic education, as evidenced by innovative programming, a surge of enrollment in certain regions and renewed confidence for the future.

Every day the 150,000 Catholic school educators in the country, supported by pastors, superintendents, bishops and the National Catholic Educational Association, teach and form students because they believe in Catholic education. We welcome Professor Zech and his colleagues from the Villanova Church Leadership Roundtable to visit with us and any of our Catholic schools to see the great work being done.

Kevin Baxter, Ed.D.
Senior Director and Superintendent of Catholic Schools
Archdiocese of Los Angeles

Debra Brillante
Superintendent for Elementary Schools
Archdiocese of Philadelphia

Thomas W. Burnford, D.Min.
President/CEO
National Catholic Educational Association

Susan M. Gibbons
Director of Educational Services, Superintendent of Catholic Schools
Archdiocese of Cincinnati

Christopher Knight
Secretary for Catechetical Formation and Education/Superintendent of Schools
Diocese of Cleveland

Dr. Jan Daniel Lancaster
Superintendent of Catholic Schools
Archdiocese of New Orleans

Dr. Timothy J. McNiff
Superintendent of Schools
Archdiocese of New York

Christopher Mominey
Chief Operating Officer and Secretary for Education
Archdiocese of Philadelphia

Kurt Nelson, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Catholic Education
Archdiocese of St. Louis

Jim Rigg, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Catholic Schools
Archdiocese of Chicago

Keeping Kids Healthy in the New School Year

It’s that time again, with summer’s days dwindling and back-to-school items stocked on the shelves. As an educator, keep in mind the health of you and your students as you plan for the upcoming school year. As a parent, you prepare for fall clothes and school supplies to send your child into the new school year prepared, it’s vital to remember your child’s health as part of the complete package, along with faith and education.

 

Not only should parents schedule the child for their annual physical before the start of the new school year, it is important to remember that health education is equally taught and implemented at home, and should start before sending your kids out to classrooms full of germs. And for teachers and faculty, you know how often you can get sick or have children out with illness during the fall and winter months. So for both parents and educators, here are some health tips to start out the new school year:

 

Parents and Teachers: Stay positive. When cold and flu season is upon us, so are shorter days, cooler weather, and the potential onset of the winter blues and cabin fever. A good attitude is important for mental and physical health. A gratitude journal can be a great idea, and keep godliness in mind as well as thankfulness for the blessings around you. This is a practice that teachers, parents, and children can benefit from. From wnycatholicschools.org: “To stay positive, try keeping a gratitude journal. It’s a place where you and your family can write down five things each day that you’re grateful for that day. This is great to keep students of Christian schools humble and thankful during the holidays as well!”

 

Parents and Teachers: Hand-washing is vital. Talk about it whenever you can. Teach younger children to sing “The Happy Birthday Song” while they wash their hands to ensure they wash for an adequate amount of time. Teach good technique. This is important to encourage at home as often as it is encouraged at school. Education on germs and the spread of disease should happen in both places as well.

 

Parents: When conducting an annual physical for your child, make sure that questions about vaccines and immunizations are answered, and scheduled to take place if needed. Ask about emotional or physical warning signs that you should be monitoring for in your children. Make sure that you understand your child’s BMI in conjunction with weight and age, and if your kids fall into a healthy spectrum there. If you child is an athlete, make sure the pediatrician knows, and that you have all appropriate care/questions/protective gear covered in the checkup.

 

Teachers: Keep a baseline healthfulness in your curriculum. Can you incorporate activity into your classroom activities, even if it’s just kids standing up from their desks while answering questions? Perhaps a 2 minute yoga break to keep minds and bodies active? One quick relay race to perk up student energy? The more you can keep them active, the healthier their minds and bodies can be. If your budget does not include room for items like tissues, sanitary wipes or hand sanitizer, you may want to consider petitioning parents at the start of the school year for small objects to help keep the entire class healthy.

 

Parents: Make sure your kids eat nutritionally. A healthy immune system comes from a consistent diet of the right nutrients and vitamins. If you are concerned your child is lacking adequate vitamin intake, consider chewable (or even gummy) vitamins that kids may view as a treat.

 

Teachers: Ensure your classroom stays clean. Desks, door handles, and other heavily-touched surfaces need extra care from you or janitorial staff. Eat nutritionally and consume plenty of vitamins yourself, so as to not take cold and flu germs home with you. Educators are a role model for our children not just in moral and intellectual ways, so make sure that your habits match those you wish to see in the children in your classroom.

 

Parents and Teachers: Children should not be in the classroom while ill. Communicable diseases spread fast in closed environments, and a compromised immune system from a common cold might not seem like a big deal, but could mean a child contracts something even more serious if exposed. Parents need to manage care and stay-at-home options for children and not send them to school ill. Teachers need to send children home, or to the nurse’s office, at the first signs of illness, and make sure that parents know the rules of your classroom are firm.

 

Parents: Children need plenty of sleep. Ensure all throughout the school year that your children get enough rest. They need this for brain development and physical growth as well as a healthy immune system. The SleepFoundation.org lists child needs as:

 

Age Recommended May be appropriate
Toddlers 1-2 years 11 to 14 hours 9 to 10 hours/15 to 16 hours
Preschoolers 3-5 years 10 to 13 hours 8 to 9 hours/14 hours
School-aged Children 6-13 years 9 to 11 hours 7 to 8 hours/12 hours
Teenagers 14-17 years 8 to 10 hours 7 hours/11 hours

 

Teachers: You need plenty of rest as well. Stress and sleeplessness can wear you down emotionally and spiritually and make you more vulnerable to illness yourself. Take care of your physical needs of sleep and rest.

14 Tips To Help Teachers Maintain The Beauty And Luster of  a Vocation as a Catholic School Teacher.

For the next month teachers and school leaders will be preparing to welcome young scholars and saints in formation at Catholic Schools throughout the country. Forming Saints and Scholars is hard work, I hope and pray that our Catholic school leaders and teachers will be rewarded greatly for the days and nights they spend toiling in the ministry I like to call Our Father’s Business.

 

Last week I had the opportunity to welcome new teachers to the to their ministry in a Catholic school  – many of them will be first time teachers. I spoke to them about the Trinitarian aspects of a Catholic School and how successful Catholic schools are about relationships – relationships – relationships.  By the time the day was done, the cohort of new teachers adopted a  mantra of “Not Under my Watch.” Imagine several hundred new Catholic school teachers being asked:

 

  • Will it be said that in your classroom children were denied an opportunity to encounter the Risen Christ?

 

  • Will it be said that the test scores of your children declined during the 2015-2016 school year?

 

  • Will students in your classroom withdraw from school because parents are dissatisfied with your willingness to partner with them on behalf of their child’s education?

 

And all responding with an unequivocal – “Not Under My Watch.”

 

Teaching is a noble profession! Nobility includes in its meaning the very notion of beautiful. Therefore, noble work is beautiful work. But what is beautiful can be sullied. While working at the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education Program I was often presented with opportunities to talk to new Catholic school teachers. Below are some of the thoughts I would share with them in an attempt to help each new teacher maintain the beauty and luster of his/her own vocation as a Catholic school teacher. I share them here today so that Catholic school leaders across the country can use as appropriate and share with new teachers.  Some of the thoughts might be good for veteran teachers to hear again as well.

 

  1. Stay close to the Lord. Throughout your career, you will experience crises of confidence, exasperation, frustration, unreasonable parents, troubled students, bad classes, poor liturgies. You will be misquoted, misrepresented and for some periods of time, mistrusted. But you will also get the unparalleled gift to see the world with wonder again, through the eyes of young people. You will be made a confidante by a young person seeking advice, feel the joy of a weak student who does well on an assignment, cheer for your students in athletic contests, beam with a near parents’ pride as your students graduate. To keep yourself rooted, to keep your ideas fresh, to be the kind of faithful person our young people need to see firsthand, stay close to the Lord, both in your daily prayer and in the reception of the sacraments. If you do, the Lord will bless you in your work and you will go to bed each night exhausted, but with a smile on your face. 
  2. Be yourself. If you’re young, you’ve probably never been called Mister Jones or Miss Smith, and that will take some getting used to.  But you can be yourself within this role. I have never agreed with the maxim “Don’t let them see you smile until Thanksgiving.”  The fact is, students respond better to authenticity. It’s OK to laugh at something the students say which is amusing—in fact, it’s quite disarming to them. It’s OK to let the students see you having fun. 
  3. Admit your mistakes and learn from them. Zero in on your strengths, not your weaknesses. (Remember — nobody’s perfect!) Principals also suffer from human frailty and need time to learn. School leaders need to be supported not weakened by behavior which is destructive to the Catholic School community.
  4. Remember, it’s not about you; it’s about the students. So learn how to spell the word “concupiscence”. Concupiscence is a tendency to put yourself first. Only divine grace enables us to rise above it. But unless you declare war on it, you are bound to succumb to the illusion that teaching is all about you.
  5. Be professional. Model desired attitudes and behavior. Make sure you dress in professional attire. Remember that you teach students first, and then you teach whatever academic discipline you learned. You are a role model for the children and partner with the parents in the formation of each child.  
  6. Empower your students and engage them in the teaching/learning process.  Listen — both to what the kids are saying and to what they’re not saying. Make sure  that assessments are frequent and fair, that work is graded in a timely fashion, and that classes are well prepared and taught from beginning to end  – every minute matters!
  7. Don’t “go it alone.” Get to know all the teachers in your school and make friends with the cooks, custodians, aides, and secretaries. We are all formators of children, just each with a different role to play. Volunteer to share projects and ideas, and don’t be afraid to ask others to share their ideas with you. Understand that the learning process involves everyone — teachers, students, colleagues, and parents — and get everyone involved. Seek the advice of your colleagues, share your frustrations with them, and ask questions. Remember we are promised that whenever two or more are gathered in His name that he will be with us to enlighten and guide us.
  8. Dive in! Don’t be a person who clocks in at 7:30 and clocks out at 4 each day. Come to afterschool activities. Nothing connects you with your students faster than to be able to say “Nice hit,” or “great singing,” or “I was impressed with your artwork at the show.” You can’t be at everything; but make a point some days to just stop in at after school care to say hello.  You’ll see kids in a whole new light, and I think you’ll enjoy it, too.
  9. Consider your roll book a prayer book – Pray for your students and their families. Your most important work is to bring a piece of heaven into the classroom with you.
  10. Think before you speak; if you do, you won’t speak very often, for there is a great deal to think about in education. Have the courage to try something else if what you’re doing isn’t working.
  11. Thirty plus years from now, your students will not remember all that you taught them, but they will remember who you were and how you treated them You have a choice to become a minister of justice or an angel of peace. Be an angel of peace.
  12. All the knowledge we give our students is in vain if they receive it without knowing they are good and loved by God. Each day is an opportunity to channel the divine love. Don’t waste an opportunity to do so. Every minute counts!
  13. Keep a journal and take pictures. Some highly regarded Catholic school teachers share excerpts from their journal and images from the week with parents in a weekly email blast.
  14. Remember that a good day is not necessarily smooth, painless and hassle free.

 

Spotlight on Holy Angel University in the Philippines

I went into this school last month in an overview of Picking A Catholic College, but wanted to get you a more in-depth insight into the colleges mentioned:

Holy Angel University is an incredible Catholic University located in Angeles City in the Philippines. The history of Holy Angel University is one that is brimming with the dedication to the Catholic faith. It was the first Catholic university in the Philippines founded by laity. Located about two hours north of Manila in the historic district of Angeles City, the University is in a modern city that still has some of the Spanish colonial aspects of Catholicism.

Included in daily life at the University are public prayer, processions and presentations of the life of Christ. There are over 15,500 undergraduate students at this American-style institution. This is by far the largest Catholic University in this year’s edition of The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College. Almost 70 percent of this university’s faculty and an even larger portion of its students are practicing Catholics.

The university’s main language of instruction is English, which is also the official tongue of the Philippines. Americans will likely want to pick up some of the native languages, including Tagalog and Kapampangan. International students have the option of enrolling as full degree-seeking students or on a temporary study-abroad basis.

This University differs from American universities in a few ways. Students are required to stay out of hallways during class time, wear uniforms, behave in class, and take physical education classes. While the campus is modern, there is not much air conditioning, and fans and open windows are typically used instead.

Holy Angel University has a large variety of majors from hospitality and tourism to engineering. Every student is required to take four courses that teach knowledge and practice of the Catholic faith. Students are also required to help the local communities through charitable activities, to attend Mass together, and to lead the class in prayer.

The majority of students live in homes located off campus, but classes go as late as 9 pm, and a lot of students stay on campus for evening activities. The campus has two small dorms that accommodate predominantly international students. The university is also constructing a new residence on its upcoming satellite campus. The satellite campus, located in Porac, will be very welcoming to international students.

Holy Angel has a close relationship with the local diocese. At the start of each academic year, the Oath of Fidelity is administered to the president and administrators by the Archbishop of San Fernando, Pampanga. The archbishop emeritus holds the position of vice-chairman on the board of trustees.

According to university president Luis Calingo, the primary attraction for American students is the ability to to attend a faithfully Catholic university while being immersed in an Asian context. Holy Angel is in the process of establishing articulation agreements with American colleges, but it is important that students make sure their credits from Holy Angel will transfer.

The combined tuition and room response are significantly lower than those of most American universities, totaling at an equivalent of $2,200 US dollars. With a convenient cost, a wide variety of academic opportunities, and a dedication to the Catholic faith, Holy Angel University is a great place to send any Catholic student is eager to learn.

 

Picking a Catholic College

The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College started in 2007. It is a guide published once a year by the Cardinal Newman Society to aid students and parents in choosing the right Catholic college or university based on several different categories. It seeks to include only schools which comport to the principles set forth in Ex Corde Ecclesiae.

 

They break down everything from on-campus housing rules to curriculum to tuition. In fact, they found in 2009 that the colleges and universities most faithful to the Catholic teaching were often the most affordable in tuition. The selected schools also provided more financial aid (39%) than the average private institution (29%).

 

This year shows two new universities recommended for the first time ever: The University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain, and the Holy Angel University in Angeles City, Philippines. These two universities offer courses to students who only speak English, and are faithfully Catholic in their teachings and curriculum, as well a being a fantastic opportunity for students who want an international college experience.

 

The University of Navarra is founded by a Saint, Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer (also the founder of Opus Dei), and places huge emphasis on providing a personalised education. In 2008 is had a ratio of one teach for every five students. With 42 undergraduate programs and 25 master’s programs, it allows for non-native speakers to take classes entirely in English for the first two years of study. After the first two years you can continue but will need to have learned the language. That is actually one of the perks of the school. Not only can you graduate from the Higher Institute of Business Studies, one of the most respected programs, but you can come out with fluency in a second language as well. In Spring of 2016 they only had 25 American students, but are looking to expand that number in the coming years.

 

The Holy Angel University teaches entirely in English, and has been in operation since 1933 in the old convent of the Holy Rosary Parish Church. Aside from the major and professional subjects of study, all students are required to take 12 units of Catholic Theology classes, and are required to attend 8 units of PE, with a choice afterward between ROTC and civil service training.  Considered one of the most beautiful campuses in the country, HAU is “a universe within a university” where thousands of students, faculty, staff and visitors from diverse backgrounds converge every single day for intellectual, creative and social interaction.

If you are a student looking for a great Catholic education, or a parent looking to provide a larger world-view in addition to a quality faith-based education, these colleges make great options!

Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman

This month would have been the 215th birthday Of Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman. One of the first teachers to tackle the modern and utilitarian problems facing Catholic Education, Cardinal Newman was originally an evangelical Oxford University academic and priest in the Church of England. He became later drawn to the high-church of Anglicanism. “Newman provides a much-needed educational vision today as an attractive alternative to the shapeless, relativistic and uninspiring alternatives of so many contemporary universities,” said Paul Shrimpton, who teaches at Magdalen College School, Oxford, and specializes in the history of education. “His practice and example will appeal to those who value the idea of a liberal [arts] education, those interested in the education of the whole person and those with an interest in the idea of a faith-based college or university.”

 

While it may be hyperbole to say that he foresaw most of the problems that are facing Catholic colleges and universities today, there is a reason and insight in Newman’s writing that is still applicable to this day. While there are many who are aware of his writings, not as many know about the true devotion he had to the vision of an authentic Catholic education.  He was instrumental in the founding of the Catholic University of Ireland, which has evolved into the University College of Dublin, the largest university in Ireland.

 

Anti-Catholicism was central to British culture at the time, ever since the Protestant Reformation. In order to educated the public, Newman took the initiative and booked the Birmingham Corn Exchange for a series of public lectures. He decided to make their tone popular and provide cheap off-prints to those who attended. These lectures were his Lectures on the Present Position of Catholics in England and they were delivered weekly, beginning on 30 June and finishing on 1 September 1851.

 

In total there were nine lectures:

 

  • Protestant view of the Catholic Church
  • Tradition the sustaining power of the Protestant view
  • Fable the basis of the Protestant view
  • True testimony insufficient for the Protestant view
  • Logical inconsistency of the Protestant view
  • Prejudice the life of the Protestant view
  • Assumed principles of the intellectual ground of the Protestant view
  • Ignorance concerning Catholics the protection of the Protestant view
  • Duties of Catholics towards the Protestant view

 

-which form the nine chapters of the published book.

 

Andrew Nash describes the Lectures as: “an analysis of this [anti-Catholic] ideology, satirising it, demonstrating the false traditions on which it was based and advising Catholics how they should respond to it. They were the first of their kind in English literature.”

 

John Wolffe assesses the Lectures as: “an interesting treatment of the problem of anti-Catholicism from an observer whose partisan commitment did not cause him to slide into mere polemic and who had the advantage of viewing the religious battlefield from both sides of the tortured no man’s land of Littlemore.”

 

The poet Aubrey de Vere was, at the time, another lecturer appointed by Newman. De Vere stated, “I was pained by the very humble labours to which Newman seemed so willingly to subject himself. It appeared strange that he should carve for thirty hungry youths, or sit listening to the eloquent visitors. Such work should have fallen on subordinates, but their salaries it was impossible to provide.”

 

Much of his work focused on the importance of Catholic education and the importance it plays on the health of the Church itself. Many Catholic institutions today owe their practices to Newman, as do the Popes, and how they guide education throughout the years.

 

Will Next Generation of Catholic Teachers Last?

Will the next generation of Catholic education staff member last? Ian Hughes is concerned that they won’t, under the current workload and wages that exist in the Catholic education sector. Ian Hughes is a full time audiovisual technician for Lourdes Hill College in Queensland, and is one of thousands of teachers who took a day of protest against work conditions in Catholic schools last week.

 

We know that there has been concern about enrollment in Catholic schools causing cutbacks which add to the workload for the remaining teachers. And while there is data to say that trend may be turning back in favor of higher enrollment, which would loosen some tension in the budgets of Catholic institutions, the low wages and extra workload in some Catholic schools is taking a toll on teachers and other faculty.

 

Hughes represented hundreds of Catholic teachers and support staff at meetings between the Queensland Catholic Education Commission and the state’s union for teachers for a year. But the problem isn’t specific to Australia or Queensland, this debate may be relevant and reach worldwide. They are scared about what the future will look like for religious education faculty worldwide. The workload is large, and with pay increases fewer and further between, the fear is that this work environment discourages young educators from seeking a lifetime career before they are even five years into their teaching pursuits. “If we stop now and don’t do what I’m doing, it will be worse for teachers in the future. Most support officers are not full-time, and work in school term times at 40 weeks a year,” Mr Hughes said. “They are on a lower-tier pay scale, with reduced holiday pay. Why are they penalised for not having a full-time job?” He said teachers and support staff were working weekends, stayed back late in schools, and during lunches “abandoning staff rooms”. “Time expectancy hasn’t changed but teachers are doing their jobs outside of time,” he said.

 

While this day off in protest happened In Australia, and Queensland, this is a concern for many local institutions as well. For those who are called to teaching, and to educating children and young adults in a holy, reverent way of living, we have to also nurture our faculty, and care for them as we do the children. While there is no debate that the faculty is providing a great service and are valued, Catholic educators and service staff all over the country are also feeling the pinch. Careful thought must be given to how much we are reducing wages/preventing increase, and when cutbacks are adding more workload onto those who already have a difficult job to do.

 

Those who care for and teach children in Catholic education are just as precious as the children and young adults they shape. Let’s make sure that we are doing everything in our power to develop and care for them, as well.

 

Catholic Education Available to All

From Vatican City, the Pope spoke on the current state of education. According to His Holiness, there is a current failure of the system in the way that schools interact with families and states that leads to a selective education of the wealthy or intelligent. He used the word “supermen” to describe the children that are lucky enough to come from the privileged background that allows for a non-secular education.

 

“Behind this, there is always the ghost of money. Always.” Pope Francis said of education. “It has become too selective and elitist. It seems that only those people or persons who are at a certain level or have a certain capacity have the right to an education.” (According to this article from US News, a year at the average Catholic primary school typically runs about $5,330. That number goes up to $9,790 for middle and high school. The average cost for one year of tuition at a Catholic college averages $26,300. The average Christian school, on average, cost $7,960 a year for an elementary student and $16,520 for a secondary student)

 

This statement took place in a conference marking the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Christian Education and the 25th anniversary of “Ex Corde Ecclesiae,” St. John Paul II’s apostolic constitution on Catholic universities and was followed up with an off-the-cuff question and answer session taking questions from administrators and faculty

 

When asked what makes a school “truly Christian”, the pope responded saying that Christian education is not  just about providing catechesis, but also requires education in “human values”, especially the value of transcendence. Education that favors the tangible like test scores and profitability and ignores the spiritual dimension of existence is “the biggest crisis” in education. “We must prepare hearts so the Lord can manifest himself,” which requires an education that strives to reflect “the fullness of humanity that has this dimension of transcendence,” he said. Educators must work to restore the broken “educational alliance” that has a tendency to put profits before people. “This is a shameful global reality,” the Pope said. “It is a reality that leads us toward a human selectivity that, instead of bringing people together, it distances them; it distances the rich from the poor; it distances one culture from another.”

Educators, he continued, “are among the worst-paid workers: what does this mean? It means that the state simply has no interest. If it did, things wouldn’t go that way. The educational alliance is broken. And this is our job, to find new paths.”

 

The Pope called for people to educated the poor and the marginalized, even if that meant cutting staff or other expenses at some of their schools in wealthier neighborhoods. “They have something that youth from rich neighborhoods do not through no fault of their own, but it is a sociological reality: they have the experience of survival, of cruelty, of hunger, of injustice. They have a wounded humanity. And I think about the fact that our salvation comes from the wounds of a man injured on the cross.”

 

And the Pope isn’t wrong. Many college-prep Catholic high schools boast records of 99% of their students go on to college, which is an astounding fact that could change the future for a kid from an under-served community. The wealth of U.S. Catholics is documented by sociologists as rising all the time, and a lot of that affluence has been attributed to -at least in part- to Catholic education.

 

And this is not a new refrain that we are hearing, either. During an April 2008 visit to Washington, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged people to make schools accessible to all by opening our wallets and getting creative in how we finance schools: “It provides a highly commendable opportunity for the entire Catholic community to contribute generously to the financial needs of our institutions. Their long-term sustainability must be assured. Indeed, everything possible must be done in cooperation with the wider community to ensure that Catholic schools are accessible to people of all social and economic strata. No child should be denied his or her right to an education in faith, which in turn nurtures the soul of a nation.”

 

Secular Criteria for Colleges Can’t Tell the Whole Story

With a recent article published by Newsmax on the top 40 Traditional Catholic and Jesuit Colleges in America, some debate has been raised on the topic of secular college standards versus faith being the defining factor in choosing a school. Managing editor of the Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College, Adam Wilson, argues that a college’s Catholic identity should be of paramount concern.

 

“Students must weigh all options, including a school’s selection of majors, its location, post-graduation job success rate, class size, and student-to-faculty ratio.” Says Newmax, but then it also goes on to say that legacy and influence are subjective criteria compared to statistics like student retention rates. While these factors are great to take into consideration, do they accurately portray the Catholic structure of the college and the ideals that it espouses?

 

A Newsmax rep spoke with The Cardinal Newman Society to explain “that special consideration was given to “institutions that allow students to give back or care for others while growing spiritually,” but that they ultimately “wanted the list to feature exceptional institutions that ‘strike the perfect balance between integrating faith and reason with a rigorous academic education.’” Only one of the universities in the Newsmax ratings is recommended by the Newman Society for its commitment to a faithful Catholic education. Georgetown University, on the Newsmax list as the number two top Catholic college has actually had a canon law petition filed against it due to the numerous Catholic identity abuses, demanding that the university either remove it’s Catholic affiliation or take significant steps to restore the Catholic identity it once held.

 

So where should you look to for a college that is based in spirituality but also hits the academic criteria desired for success of the students? Keeping in mind that it is not just a college of faith that is important, and if they adhere to what the Church envisions for Catholic universities, but also that the students will enroll in institutions that aim to strike the perfect balance between integrating faith and reason with a rigorous academic education. The legwork here mainly falls to you. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has compiled a list of Catholic Colleges and Universities in the United States that gives you a base to jump of from, and everyone looking into a Catholic institution should read the apostolic constitution on Catholic universities, Ex corde Ecclesiae. It is important that the institutions and bishops in the United States are understanding and using the application of that document to bring their identity in line with the Church’s vision. The only way you can know if the needs of the college are aligned with the needs of your family and your faith is to ask the important questions yourself. Class size and student retention, while important factors to consider, simply are not representative of the ideals of a college or it’s ability to nourish a student’s faith. Campus ministry and residence life, as well as the faculty and percentage of Catholic students in attendance are all integral to the process.

 

As Pope Benedict XVI addressed to Catholic educators in 2008 where the Holy Father stated that “Catholic identity is not dependent upon statistics.” Instead, Catholic identity “demands and inspires much more: namely that each and every aspect of your learning communities reverberates within the ecclesial life of faith. In this way, our institutions make a vital contribution to the mission of the Church and truly serve society,” he continued. “They become places in which God’s active presence in human affairs is recognized and in which every young person discovers the joy of entering into Christ’s ‘being for others.’”