July-August 2022: Editorial

Teaching Challenges

uring my eleven years as a teacher in St Patrick’s Grammar School, Armagh, it was sometimes said that the two best reasons for becoming a teacher were – July and August! While additional work might eat into both ends of the two-month break there was still sufficient time to enjoy a lengthy respite from the daily grind and to garner new experiences and fresh energy for the school year ahead.

     In the area of catechetics it was taught that family, parish and school made up the three-legged stool on which faith formation rested but as families increasingly distanced themselves from regular interaction with the parish teachers in Catholic schools frequently found themselves with a more challenging role trying to impart basic religious instruction and maintaining traditions based on weaker foundations which had once been laid within the family. Teachers generally rose to the challenge and as a one-time diocesan adviser visiting schools over three years I found myself inspired by the energy and enthusiasm brought by many new young teachers to their task of preparing their young charges for the sacraments as well as their non-exam religion classes.

     On 1 July we celebrate the feast day of the martyred St Oliver Plunkett who had a passion for education both of young people and of his priests. He once wrote; ‘I regarded nothing as important as that I should set about the reformation of the clergy in the province of Armagh in order that they should be deeply involved with learning.’ And in talking about young people after Drogheda’s Catholic schools were razed to the ground in 1673 he lamented; ‘What will the Catholic youth do, who are so numerous and full of talent?’

     In a rapidly changing world where ‘influencers’ who dominate social media seek to shape the minds, tastes and values of a new generation mostly for commercial ends, the critical awareness of such influence taught in Catholic schools remains crucial for the well being of the young. May teachers and students enjoy their summer break.