How to survive working in a Catholic school: a guide for teachers and support staff

Authors:  Sister Judith Russi SSMN and Raymond Friel
Publisher: Redemptorist Publications (30 Sep 2013)
ISBN-10: 0852314043
ISBN-13: 978-0852314043
88 pages
RRP: £6.95

It is the start of the new school year. Have you just begun to work in a Catholic school and are you perhaps wondering how you are going to survive, perhaps until the end of the term, never mind to the end of the academic year? Are you a Head Teacher or Head of Department, with a very new member of staff whom you want to support in the best way possible? Are you a class teacher with a new assistant and, as you would like to work well together, want to start off ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’, so to speak?

How to survive working in a Catholic school: a guide for teachers and support staff will be a godsend to many people! I can readily visualise head teachers making sure that at least one copy of this book will be readily available for all staff, whether Catholic or non-Catholic and whether in a teaching or an ancillary position.

Catholic schools today rarely have an entirely practising Catholic staff. Even some ‘cradle Catholics’ can feel daunted if called upon to explain terms which are, perhaps, sometimes used without explanation. People of all faiths and none will ask why and how a Catholic school is different from any other and what is meant by its need for a ‘Catholic ethos’? What is the ‘Catholic social teaching’ which they are meant to hand on to their pupils?

How to survive working in a Catholic school answers some of the most commonly asked questions in a manner which is simple, clear and non-patronising. This much-needed resource is inexpensive, simply-written, colourful, attractive and convenient. With a foreword by Bishop Malcolm McMahon OP, it explains, each within the space of a couple of pages, such important topics as the Catholic ethos of a school, the importance of Religious Education within the curriculum and Catholic social teaching. It is non-threatening, its short chapters with clear headings and conversational language making it easy reading between lessons or over a quiet cup of coffee.

The authors of this book are experienced teachers, practised in helping teachers and catechists to come to grips with the vast treasury of wisdom available to religious educators, a treasury which is sometimes buried in obscurity. They know that teachers with a pressurised timetable do not have time to read and digest (m)any academic treatises on Catholic education. Thus How to survive working in a Catholic school offers useful and, importantly, brief, explanations of a wide range of topics. It then goes one step further and acts as a resource for individual and group reflection amongst staff members, posing valuable and challenging questions which invite further reflection.

How to survive working in a Catholic school also acts as a personal and very practical teaching aid, with short stories, prayers and quotations which might be easily included in assemblies or newsletters. Many teachers will be glad of the check-list of items which might be useful when preparing assemblies or paraliturgies. Every chapter has ‘points to remember’ which summarise its contents and adds a few consoling words for the panic-stricken in new surroundings.

Anybody who has ever wondered how to address a priest, bishop, archbishop, cardinal – and, yes, the Pope – either in a face-to-face encounter or in writing, will be happy to discover the enlightening appendix which goes through the list of titles. An equally valuable appendix is the A-Z of Catholic terms.

How to survive working in a Catholic school: a guide for teachers and support staff is a delightful little book which is a ‘must’ for any and every staff room. Someone once remarked that a good teacher is someone who gives their pupils ‘something to take home to think about besides homework’. This book aims to do just that!

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