Fifteen Points to Remember for the New Catholic Teacher

DOUGLAS MCMANAMAN

The following are points that might help the young teacher maintain the beauty and luster of his own vocation as a Catholic teacher.

We've all heard that teaching is a noble profession, and it certainly is. Nobility includes in its meaning the very notion of the beautiful. The Kalon, from the Greek word kaleo (attractive), is the morally noble. Noble work is beautiful work. But what is beautiful can always be sullied. So how does one protect the integrity of that which is beautiful? The following are points that might help the young teacher maintain the beauty and luster of his own vocation as a Catholic teacher.

To begin, you must take every precaution not to fall into some very real traps that lie in wait at every corner of the hallways of your school. They are very difficult to detect — which is why many have been caught.

  1. In schools you'll find truth seekers, peacemakers, givers, takers, leaders, saints, minimalists, followers, cynics, know it alls, and more. Be careful of whom you allow yourself to be influenced by. This will probably be the most important task of your early years. So pick and choose your role models wisely. Remember, cynics are dogs (from the Greek: kunikos, dog). Do not allow yourself to be taken under the wing of a cynic. If you make a mistake here, you will pay, and the cost will be dear.

  2. Think before you speak; if you do, you won't speak very often, for there is a great deal to think about in education. In fact, there is so much to learn that when you can say that you have finally learned something, you will probably have only a few years left before you are forced to retire. So start listening early. Nothing is more unbecoming than a young teacher ready and willing to instruct an administration on how to run the school. Beware of the arrogance of youth; for the Lord looks upon the arrogant from afar (Ps. 138, 6).

  3. You have the choice to become a minister of justice or an angel of peace. Be an angel of peace. The former like to write grievance letters, the latter are ready to give till it hurts.

  4. If you desire to commit to justice, bear in mind that catering to the self-centred whining of the chronic bellyachers is nothing more than selfishness under the guise of social activism.

  5. Remember, it's not about you; it's about the kids. So learn how to spell the word "concupiscence". What is it? It is a wound of original sin. If it will destroy your marriage, imagine what it can do to you as a teacher. Concupiscence is a tendency within us to put the self 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.

  6. Principals and vice principals, like everyone else, need time to learn through experience. A weak administration needs to be strengthened by support, not weakened further by rebellion. A strong one should be thanked often. So commit yourself to supporting your administration unconditionally, that is, even when you disagree with what they are doing or not doing; after all, isn't that what you expect from them in your first few years?

  7. Refuse to gossip about your administration on your lunch. Better to find the courage to meet with your principal behind the door of his office and tell him what you disagree with. What you will probably discover is that there is a much larger picture that is simply outside of the limited purview of the classroom teacher. If not, it is still true that only cowards gossip, and gossip is a cancer that slowly destroys the school environment. And remember, fundamentalists are right: the Lord punishes ingratitude. If you think your admin team is bad now, wait till you get the one you deserve. Only then will you begin to see how lucky you were and how good you had it.

  8. Remember too that so much of your character is revealed in your eyes. You can fool yourself for a long time, and you can even fool some for a while, but one careless glance is all it takes for you to expose your façade. If you are a phony, sooner or later you're going to slip.

  9. Every school has its fraud squad, those who hide behind the "happy go lucky, shake your hand, how ya doing, wonderful day, great to be a teacher until I have my permanent contract" façade. If you choose to join the ranks of the frauds, you will be found out — although perhaps not soon enough. And if you perpetuate the lie, remember that the brain will eventually take its revenge on you, and then it's payback. This can take the form of depression and profound dissatisfaction in your retirement years. Just don't expect to live as long as the School Sisters of Notre Dame.

  10. Pray for your students. Your most important work for them is to bring a piece of heaven into the classroom with you. Stay in bed if you are not up to the task. Your students suffer enough. They don't need the added misery of having to behold your cheerless gaze. Pray for supernatural charity every morning while in the shower or on the road to school. Only grace will enable you to overcome the selfishness that colours a poisonous outlook.

  11. All the knowledge we give our students is useless and possibly even dangerous if they receive it without knowing that they are good and loved by God. Ultimately, what good is education if it does not serve their salvation? Each day is nothing more than an opportunity to channel the divine love. Try not to waste them.

  12. Your students may not remember much of what you taught them. But they will never forget who you were and how you related to them.

  13. Try not to eat your lunch with a clique, segregated from the rest of your colleagues, unless of course you are highly introverted and need to be alone to recollect yourself. In fact, avoid cliques like a disease

  14. Remember that a good day is not necessarily a smooth, painless, and hassle free day. Those are often fruitless days.

  15. Finally, take seriously the IEPs that you receive in your mailbox, and take special care not to lose the enthusiasm and the youthful openness that you bring to your first year. We have young teachers who are old, and old teachers who are young. We need more of the latter.

 


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

McManaman, Douglas. "Fifteen Points to Remember for the New Catholic Teacher." (October 2004).

Reprinted with permission of Douglas McManaman.

THE AUTHOR

Douglas McManaman is a high school religion teacher with the York Catholic District School Board in Ontario. He is currently teaching at Father Michael McGivney Catholic Academy in Markham, Ontario and maintains a web site, A Catholic Philosophy and Theology Resource Page, in support of his students. He studied Philosophy at St. Jerome's College in Waterloo, and Theology at the University of Montreal. Mr. McManaman is currently the President of the Canadian Chapter of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars.

Copyright © 2004 Douglas McManaman




Subscribe to CERC's Weekly E-Letter

 

 

Not all articles published on CERC are the objects of official Church teaching, but these are supplied to provide supplementary information.