Professional Development in Catholic Schools

The ever-changing world of education requires teachers to attend many sessions of professional development. Professional development can be seen as a waste of time by some teachers, while others see it as a great opportunity to expand their knowledge and skills. No matter what school you are in, there is most likely that teacher or group of teachers that will say, “Why do we need this? What I’m doing is working!” Sure, it works for you, but that’s not what education is about!

Professional development comes in many shapes and sizes. These are some different methods:

  • The “sit and listen”- an “expert” in the field comes and discusses a new theory or concept and teachers are supposed to listen and learn it
  • The “one size fits all”- Professional development planners simply assume that all teachers need the same skills to be developed so professional development is designed for all teachers
  • The “fix-it” method- Schools look at what is going wrong and attempt to put a bandage on it to correct what is going on for the short-term
  • The “student-centered” approach- The skills and techniques that are being discussed are being led by the needs of the students. Teachers gain knowledge of how students are learning and what teachers can do to meet their needs.
  • The “teacher led” method- Teachers discuss with their Professional Learning Network (PLN) to build sessions that best meet their desired needs.
  • The “hands-on” method- Teachers are actively engaged in the professional development by becoming active participants in the method rather than listeners and non-doers.
  • The “Collaborative Teacher” method- Rather than going to sessions designed strictly for your subject matter, teachers attend sessions that blend multiple subject areas and promote collaboration.

Teachers are called to make their classrooms inviting, engaging, and a place where students want to come in and learn. Teachers are supposed to make learning “fun”! On the other side of learning, professional development is many times seen as boring and a pain to go to. This should not be the feeling! Professional development needs to be designed the same way we are called to run a classroom…engaging, inviting, a place where teachers want to be, and “fun”!

Professional development also needs to be designed for the purpose of the school. For Catholic schools, there is an even greater challenge. Schools need to meet the professional growth of teachers and their spiritual growth. How do Catholic schools meet this need? What methods can schools use to expand the spiritual strength that teachers need?

The spiritual growth of Catholic school teachers is essential for the success of schools. Catholic school teachers are entrusted with not only the academic knowledge that students learn, but also the faith formation of their students. Teachers are called by the Holy Spirit to develop the knowledge of their students in subjects both secular and sacred. Catholic school teachers take on this additional role with pride and passion, but it is critical that schools aid their teachers in developing their faith and strengthen their desire to teach the faith to students.

Teachers in Catholic schools need to build an additional PLN in their life to assist with the religious education aspect of their job. Teachers need to find those that challenge their faith and help them grow in it as well. Teachers need to be provided with spiritual directors that will provide them guidance to find their place in education that they need to be and the best method to get there. Schools often times believe that the one retreat a year is enough for faith formation of their teachers, but this truly is not enough. School administrators need to provide continuing faith formation activities throughout the year. They need to provide opportunities for teachers to develop their faith.

Faith formation opportunities are available in the same way professional development opportunities are available. There are lecture series available, webinars, classes, and informal meetings that teachers can attend! Next question is this, “how many teachers know these opportunities are available?” How many administrators are focused primarily on the academic content and not focused enough on the spiritual needs of their staff? This lack of attention is where schools start to separate themselves.

Schools need to inform teachers of ways to grow their faith. Connecting the faith to the daily lives of our students in Catholic schools helps schools reach students where they are and pushes them to where they need to be as Christian leaders. Teachers need to find new ways to model the faith and connect the faith to students.

Now, does the lack of attention fall only on the administrators of many schools? Absolutely not. Teachers also need to be willing to share what they see as opportunities. Teachers need to find their PLN and attend events together. Teachers need to be willing to step up and do their part. Teachers also need to take an active role in developing new professional development.

One professional development method that I would like to see is the growth of EdCamps for Catholic teachers. Catholic school teachers have different situations and challenges that public schools don’t face. We have scenarios and subjects that may need to be discussed in different ways than in other schools. We need to gather as Catholic school teachers and learn and share the methods and skills that we have gained as Catholic school teachers. We also need to discuss the different ways we share our faith with students.

EdCamps are unique ways to share and learn. The events are educator led and encourage discussion in a non-lecture manner. Maybe this style is what some schools need to openly discuss ideas. There are many times when teachers don’t know what other teachers are doing. An EdCamp style could open up discussions on what can be done to collaborate.

Another important aspect of professional development, especially in the realm of spirituality, is what can we do to best serve our students. How can we display our faith more to show what Catholicism means to us? We need to provide a safe environment where students feel safe to ask a question about where their faith is going. We need to learn ways that encourage students to strive to love Christ more deeply. What I do in class is good and I feel students do grow closer in their relationship with God, but what can I do that makes their love grow even more deeper? I do not have all the answers or methods, but learning from each other is what we need. We need a community that wants to grow each of our faiths so we can follow God more nearly.

Here are some of my goals:

  • Be more vocal and passionate in the professional development of my colleagues and to offer ideas of areas that need attention and methods that we can use to learn from each other
  • Build a spirituality program for my school. Strengthen the faith of teachers through prayer groups, faith discussions, and share techniques that improvement the faith of our students.
  • Create an EdCamp for Catholic school teachers in the area. I have already spoken to some teachers who want the same thing. Teachers find EdCamps a great way to share and discover new connections and methods of teaching. Teachers have so many resources and want to share them with others, so we should do this in a faith based method!

While these ideas seem large, they are doable. Just finding the right manner and connections to make them happen is the big part. I plan on making these ideas happen. I want to see the faith of our schools and students grow even larger. We are all doing a great job, but there is more to be done! We can’t stop!

God bless!


Author: acottos

I'm a 4/5 social Studies teacher who is passionate about education and working for what is best for students. I am an aspiring educational leader who is looking forward to working as a principal or school leader to help further the education of my students and staff.

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