A Call to Catholic Teachers

I just finished reading Jonathan Doyle’s new book Tools & Fuels last night. IMG_1083It is a truly inspirational book with simple advice for anyone involved in Catholic education. Doyle takes the reader on a journey of discovery. From viewing Catholic schools as a mission, “(That) they exist as an integral part of the mission that is the Catholic Church” to his mantra of, “you can’t do a supernatural task with only natural resources” Jonathan expertly narrows the focus of Catholic schools down to simply putting Christ at the center. It’s something so simple and so easy to put into action but many in Catholic education make it much more difficult than it needs to be.

I have seen first-hand how many Catholic schools focus more on college prep, test scores, and analyzing data than they do on putting Jesus at the center of all that they do. Mr. Doyle issues a clarion call to step back and put our total dependence on God, only then can we become Saints, beat burnout, and save the world.

Weaving personal experiences, stories of saints, and quotes from Popes and theologians IMG_1087into the narrative seamlessly makes for a captivating read. I can identify with the life experiences Jonathan shares on a very personal level. This man pours every fiber of his being into showing how the Catholic teacher is called by God to a vocation that is so important (helping form Saints) that only a total dependence on His help can we accomplish what He wants us to do.

I applaud Mr. Doyle for his energy, zeal, and willingness to be countercultural in a very disturbing point in our history. If you are a Catholic teacher, you MUST read this book. If there is one book you read this summer (other than the Bible) read this book! I’m just a high school teacher from Iowa but I truly think that if you teach, administrate, counsel, or work in a Catholic school that this book will change your life.

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The Most Difficult Teaching

For the past three years I have had the pleasure and the honor of teaching at a Catholic Jr/Sr High School. Many people have said that teaching in Catholic education is easy. Less discipline issues, smaller class sizes, greater support of parents, etc. While sometimes these things are true, being a teacher in a Catholic school definitely has its challenges.

The most challenging course I teach is religion. I have three sections of ninth grade theology. In this course I want to draw my students into a closer relationship with Jesus Christ. This is the perfect class for putting faith into action. However, I’m constantly amazed at how ninth grade students can know the difference between what’s right and what’s wrong yet consistently choose to do what’s wrong!

This past week we had an all school mass on the feast of the Archangels. Father gave a wonderful homily that focused on Jesus’s core teaching to love one another (Matthew 22:35-40). He talked about being Catholic by living a Christian life in word and deed. This is not the first time my ninth grade students have heard this message, but it’s like it goes in their heads for about 30 seconds and then it’s completely forgotten.http://commons.wikimedia.com The three Archangels[/caption]

I am certain that this message gets reinforced daily but they keep forgetting or regressing. It is even the primary lesson I want my students to be able to understand and put into action when they are both inside and outside of my classroom. If I can’t help my kids to love one another and their neighbors as themselves have I failed? 

I believe that theology is the most difficult teaching we do in Catholic schools because we have to model Jesus in our thoughts, actions, and deeds as well as teach a curriculum that is literally endless. Putting others especially God first is so counter cultural. When our culture dictates that we need personal branding, that we need to use social media to keep up to date and talk with our friends, and that being a leader and an extrovert is far superior to being a reflective thinker and introvert we will struggle to put faith into action. While our culture reveres the athlete, the movie star, and the accumulation of things over living the Gospel message, our teaching and modeling will continue to fall on deaf ears. What can we do to get our kids to become counter cultural and seek to do God’s will?