Teachers have a huge responsibility

Editorial, Normal

The National, Wednesday February 26th, 2014

 TEACHERS in Catholic schools in Papua New Guinea face another mammoth task this year – to serve the church and country through Christian education.  

And this should not be a challenge only for Catholic schoolteachers but for teachers in other church and government schools as well.

In his message to teachers in Catholic schools in Port Moresby during the Commissioning of Teachers and Catechists, Bishop of Alotau-Sideia Rolando C Santos reminded them about the teachings of the church that parents are the first educators of their children. 

Santos, who is the deputy bishop for education, said parents had the original, primary and inalienable right to educate them in conformity with the family’s moral and religious convictions. 

They are educators precisely because they are pa­rents. At the same time, the vast majority of parents share their educational responsibilities with other individuals and/or institutions, primarily the school.

Elementary education is “an extension of parental education; it is extended and cooperative home schooling”. In a real sense, schools are extensions of the home. 

Parents, not schools, not the State, and not the church, have the primary moral responsibility of educating children to adulthood. The principle of subsidiarity must always govern relations between families and the church and State in this regard.

As Santos stated, elementary schools should try to create a community school climate that reproduces, as far as possible, the warm and intimate atmosphere of family life. Those responsible for these schools will, therefore, do everything they can to promote a common spirit of trust and spontaneity.

This means that all involved should develop a real willingness to collaborate among themselves.

Who is responsible for the education of children?  “This responsibility belongs primarily to the parents. We have to make sure that parents understand this so that they begin the education of their children in the family home when their children are still small. You teachers should remind parents of this when you gather them for meetings and when you have other occasions to speak to parents,” Santos said.

What huge responsibility teachers take upon themselves? During those hours when the child is in the classroom teachers are almost like parents to them.  

Santos said teachers can do so much good but if they are not dedicated, competent, patient and hardworking they can do much harm.

Most of the teachers are parents so they can set a good example for the parents of students by the way they live their family lives. 

Santos added: “You should teach your children how to behave properly, what is right and wrong, how to respect and treat others in a good, loving and honest way.”  It is the clear teaching of the church that parents are the first educators of their children. Parents have the original, primary and inalienable right to educate them in conformity with the family’s moral and religious convictions. 

Teachers, religious and lay, together with parents and trustees, should work together as a team for the school’s common good and their right to be involved in its responsibilities. 

More than in the past, teachers and administrators must often encourage parental participation. 

Theirs is a partnership directed not just to dealing with academic problems but to planning and evaluating the effectiveness of the school’s mission. 

A Catholic philosophy of education has always paid special attention to the interpersonal relations within the educational community of the school, especially those between teachers and students. 

During childhood and adolescence a student needs to experience personal relations with outstanding educators, and what is taught has greater influence on the student’s formation when placed in a context of personal involvement, genuine reciprocity, coherence of attitudes, lifestyle and day to day behaviour. 

Direct and personal contact between teachers and students is a hallmark of Catholic schools. 

A learning atmosphere which encourages the befriending of students is far removed from the caricature of the remote disciplinarian so cherished by the media.