Fifteen Points to Remember for the New Catholic TeacherDOUGLAS MCMANAMAN
The following are points that might help the young teacher maintain the beauty and luster of his own vocation as a Catholic teacher.
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
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.
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.
- 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).
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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?
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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
- Remember that
a good day is not necessarily a smooth, painless, and hassle free day. Those are
often fruitless days.
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.
Douglas. "Fifteen Points to Remember for the New Catholic Teacher." (October
Reprinted with permission of Douglas McManaman.
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