I have been in Catholic education since 1996– actually since 1977, when I started first grade at St. Mary’s Catholic School and continued to graduate from high school and then back again in graduate school. I taught elementary school one year – first grade: I can teach anything to anyone now, middle school for one year– sixth through eighth: I shaved years off Purgatory, and the remainder of my time has been spent teaching high school. I definitely found my fit and I feel blessed with the students with whom I have been entrusted. The highlight of my job is my students, and I love teaching literature, so I feel I have been even further blessed. There are great things about teaching on a Catholic school and these far outweigh the difficulties.
The best things about my job are:
- I get to express my Faith openly. I pray with my students and going to work involves Mass and Adoration. What could be better?
- My students are well-mannered, mostly, and kind and really want to learn. They have been raised with values, mostly, and I get to not only teach them, but I get to love them too.
However, there are many trials that we Catholic school teachers face, and I think it is important for others to understand these challenges:
- I am one, so I fully understand the position. Parents are generally cooperative and supportive, but there are those few that make it difficult. The hyper-vigilant, helicopter parent is always going to exist and as long as you have their child’s best interests at heart, those parents will support you. The “more Catholic than the Pope” parents pose a challenge. I teach everything from a faithful Catholic perspective, even the questionable stuff; I find it my duty to help my students navigate the waters of life and anything they might encounter along the way armed with morality. These teens are not sheltered and they need to know how to deal with the harsh amorality of the world using their Faith.
- A frustration also lies in the parents who do not reinforce the Catholic Faith we are teaching. They do not facilitate or encourage their children to go to Mass on Sundays, nor do they attend Mass regularly themselves. We are expected to fully catechize these students with no support at home. There are those parents who outright defy what we are trying to get across to the students. I had a graduate tell me her mom said, “Well, I don’t really believe all that stuff. It was a good education for you and a nice environment.” This discussion was all in the context of her mother encouraging her to abort her unborn child at the age of nineteen, which sadly she did. There are also those parents who profess Evangelicalism and do not take their kids to Mass, but rather they attend “praise and worship services” where they hear rock bands and play at the skate park at their church instead of receiving the Sacraments. These are difficult pills to swallow for someone who is trying her very best to convey the Truth to those in her care.
- These students nowadays so belong to the world instead of to God. Issues such as same sex relationships, premarital sex, and divorce, among others, affect these students who are innately loving and accepting of people. Society has convinced them that in order to love people, they must accept their sinful behavior. If they do not condone or encourage “happiness” for others they feel badly. It is a difficult thing to comprehend the Spiritual Works of Mercy. The tangible, concrete Corporal Works make sense to them and they perform these willingly with a joyful heart. The Spiritual are most perplexing because they involve taking a moral stand that they do not have the courage to do, up against a society that tells them not to be “haters.” As well, these kids have people in their lives, whom they love, whose lives or behavior do not reflect Catholic moral teaching. This makes it extra difficult and they are internally conflicted.
The other challenges inherent of the teaching profession fade in comparison to the benefits of being a teacher at a school that encourages community and service and goodness. I truly feel God is at the center of everything I do. It is also a great responsibility. I must strive to be extra moral and maintain a virtuous lifestyle. Eyes are always watching and taking in my example.
I love Catholic education; that is why I have devoted my life to this vocation. I truly believe God has called me to strive to be not “of this world, but in this world” in this way. I am afforded an opportunity to strive for holiness every day.
Charla is a life-long Catholic, married since 1995. She has three children who attend Catholic school and university. Charla has been teaching high school English literature at the same Catholic high school she attended for over 15 years. She has Bachelor of Arts degrees in English, Latin American Studies, and Secondary Education, as well as a Masters degree in Education. Charla has served as a lector and Eucharistic minister at her parish and school. She enjoys reading, cooking, running, and all activities involving her children. Her special devotions are to the Blessed Mother, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Catherine of Alexandria, and the Holy Rosary.