From a series of newsletters: Head teacher John Boyce explores his vision of Catholic education.
As we start our work turning a collection of well-designed buildings into a real Catholic community – and Nelson’s first Catholic secondary school for 20 years – I ask myself why I am teaching in a Catholic School – and what parents get when they choose to send their children to a Catholic school.
I have found the thoughts of our own Bishop Peter Cullinane and the American Tom Groome very much in tune with what I want from Catholic education, and you will find their thoughts echoed here.
Jesus’ favourite title was “teacher” – and when he gave his friends their final instructions, he told them to “Go and teach.” So, I feel privileged to be a teacher and when I finish my letters I am proud to sign myself as “Head Teacher”.
But to be a teacher in a Catholic school?
I have chosen to work in the Catholic tradition because of the culture that is the foundation of any Catholic school. If we are doing our job of being a truly Catholic school, then the philosophy behind the school, the ethos we should have, the way we do things – should be distinctive.
The Catholic Church has a powerful philosophy of education based on 2000 years of teaching and thinking – in schools and universities – but also through the Church itself, from the pulpit, through our teaching Orders, and through our liturgies, sacraments and mission work.
It seems to me that this teaching is based on a special understanding of who we are. Education in a Catholic school is based on the belief that our Creator made each one of us with all our gifts and talents and abilities – and parents and teachers work with each child to discover and develop those God-given aptitudes. This understanding of who we are is an incredibly powerful and positive foundation for our schools.
There is a whole genre of film from Blackboard Jungle and To Sir With Love, through to modern films like Dangerous Minds and Music of the Heart where audiences enjoy seeing confirmed that it doesn’t matter how outwardly bad or disadvantaged some young people may be, they are saveable – and given the chance, they are lovable.
In a Catholic school this positive attitude to children is based on a belief that each one of us is created in the image of God – on a belief that God gave us life to be embraced and enjoyed – on a belief that people are essentially good – on a belief that God created us, and works through us to build the kingdom, and that with God’s help we can improve our own and others’ lives.
Some of the things that make our schools special for me are the ways we encourage the development of the whole person, the philosophy of life behind a Catholic school, and our emphasis on social justice in a Catholic setting. But I also believe in our philosophy of helping students to think for themselves, and our schools’ role in preparing young people for life.
In the newsletter articles on a Catholic Education (see the menu on the right), I look at some of these themes.