Catholic educators have a host of ways to bring faith into school life
By Jean Virant
Teachers affect the lives of their students into the future. For a teacher in a Catholic school setting, this statement has a deeper and more profound meaning.
The immeasurable value of each human being dictates that each student’s intellect and character must be developed to its fullest potential. Consequently, a student has a right to an education that not only stimulates and develops the mind and intellect but develops the character as well.
A Catholic school setting gives the perfect opportunity to develop these attributes not just through a secular curriculum but also through the added dimension of an educational environment that supports this development in relationship with our creator.
Taking this call seriously, our staff has compiled some strategies that provide helpful ideas for Catholic educators. These also inform parents of the many ways students are provided a Catholic world view that integrates religious doctrine, prayer and moral development into content curriculum outside of religion class per se.
These suggestions range from simple to complex but are reflective of the mindset that Catholic educators acquire in order to effectively carry out the mission of the Catholic school. Some of these are:
* Incorporate biblical names into daily oral language instruction;
* Create spelling lists based on the liturgical seasons;
* Offer students Bible/Catholic doctrine examples and sentences for vocabulary words;
* Place all science content in terms of the beauty and majesty of creation, citing examples of God’s miraculous power in and over nature;
* Relate social studies and societal problems to Catholic Social Teaching and how we as Catholics should appropriately respond to human needs and injustices in our society and the world;
* Write to legislators and have students write to legislators about important social justice issues like the dignity and respect for all life, equal educational opportunities for students, issues of immigration and unemployment, etc.;
* Utilize writing projects as an opportunity to investigate aspects of Catholic teaching, church history and civic responsibility;
* Incorporate into world history studies the background and location of biblical sites and their significance relating to our Catholic anthropology; * Use the Bible not only for religion but also for literature and history;
* Become familiar with other reliable Catholic resources and be able to reference them in their studies;
* Carry religion discussions and activities into other reading and writing activities such as journals and letters;
* Through the teaching of the art of debate, use church concerns as an opportunity to discuss the pros and cons of an issue;
* Use art and oral presentations as a means of teaching historical and religious concepts. One example would be a presentation on the meaning of the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” in both words and illustrations;
* Integrate technology as a tool to research reading and writing projects on the lives of the saints and other content-related activities;
* Utilize the Catholic lens in order to resolve conflicts and to build an atmosphere of respect within the classroom and beyond; and
* Introduce prayer throughout our school day including extra-curricular activities.
A goal for every Catholic educator is a commitment to ongoing personal faith formation, which leads to the development of a Catholic culture that permeates all aspects of school life and instruction.
In this way the advice of St. Peter will come to fruition, when he says in 1 Peter 3:15 to “always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.”
Jean Virant is principal of Marquette Catholic School in Virginia.