17 March 2016

|

Tags: Educators, Parents, Students

|

Categories: Reflections, Saints

Born in Roman Britain on 17 March 387AD, St Patrick is one of the world’s most popular saints. Despite being born in a Christian family, Patrick didn’t really believe in God. It was only after a turn of events that led him to seek out a relationship with the Lord. Let us look at the life journey of St Patrick, and how God eventually used him to bring the Gospel to Ireland.

 

At the age of 16, Patrick was abducted and taken as a slave to Ireland. There, he worked as a shepherd for six years until the end of his captivity, when he escaped after having a dream from God. In his vision, he was told to leave Ireland by going to the coast, and he did so in total trust. Upon reuniting with his family in Britain, a few years later, St Patrick received another vision from God calling him to return to his land of captivity to preach the Gospel. As written in St Patrick’s Confession, he saw in the night the vision of a man named Victoricus, coming from Ireland with countless letters. The opening words of the letter read, ‘The voice of the Irish’. Convicted of his mission to bring the Gospel to the Irish people, St Patrick then began his ministry in Ireland. The journey to serving God was not an easy one, as he had to suffer insult from unbelievers and hear reproaches of his returning to where he was enslaved.

The years of enslavement in Ireland was a trying time for St Patrick, yet it was also in those moments which led him to draw closer to God. As shared in his Confessions, he prayed fervently during his captivity, and as he does so, the love and fear of God came to him and strengthened his faith. While we are unlikely to be captured and held to slavery in a faraway country, we are bound to face difficulties and trials in our vocation. In such moments, we should not be discouraged or intimidated, but turn to the Lord in prayer instead. After all, our Lord reminds us: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (Jn 15:7).

Patrick’s trust in God is a shining example for us to learn from. With the love of God burning in his heart, Patrick was not deterred by hardships, nor did he harbour any bitterness toward his captors. Rather, he prayed unceasingly for his enemies. With thanksgiving, he shared of how God made him fit through the tribulations so that he can care and labour for the salvation of others where he once could not.

Putting our trust in the Lord not only allows us to find comfort, but it also open the way for Him to work in and through our lives, just like how St Patrick first got his personal breakthrough before ministering to the people of Ireland. This is especially important for teachers, as we spend much time with students in schools, who are in the stage of physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual development. Do we trust God enough? Have we had that personal experience with the Lord?

10 March 2016

|

Tags: Educators

|

Categories: Reflections

We catch up with newly appointed principal of Maris Stella High School, Mrs Woo Soo Min (second from left in picture).

 

What are your new roles and responsibilities in Maris Stella? In what way is this new position different from your previous role?
My role and responsibilities as a principal at Maris Stella High do not differ from my previous appointment as principal of another school in that as principal, I lead my colleagues in nurturing our students to become all-round students realising their potential and to be ready to be a contributing member of society. What is different is that the school context has changed. Maris Stella High has a few key characteristics that makes it a unique school. It is a Catholic, all-boys, SAP (Special Assistance Plan), full school, offering both the primary and secondary education, founded by the Marist Brothers. We are in a privileged position to nurture Marists in the tradition of the Marist Brothers, anchored on the Catholic faith, as well as biculturalism for a large part of their formative years and see them through those years, using strategies that are suited to educating boys. I am energised by the many possibilities that I see in Maris Stella High School.

What first made you desire to work in the education sector?
I love History and am deeply driven by my passion in the subject to become a History teacher. Over the years, I am energised by the “Aha” look on my students’ faces as they grasp a concept or understand a historical development.

What are the difficulties you face working in education?
The main difficulty is something that everyone faces – the issue of time or rather, the limited amount of it. There are so many things that we want to do but time is limited and therefore, sound decision making must guide our prudent use of time.

How does your faith influence your approach to your current role and responsibilities as a principal?
There are things that are within my control and then, there are things that are in His control. For the former, I carry out my role and responsibilities in the best interest of my charges to the best of my abilities, and for the latter, I pray and pray for divine intervention.

What do you think are the main challenges that Catholic educators face today?
The challenges that educators face are common and regardless of their faith/religion. As educators, our primary role is to nurture students to be of good character and grounded in values as well as to realise their potential. I believe Catholic educators see all their students as their students regardless of the individuals’ faith and would seek to do their best for all of them. Catholic educators who wish to be involved in faith formation of Catholic students know that they can apply to join Catholic schools to be part of the Religious Education/Chaplaincy team.

What are some of the encouraging trends you see in the education scene?
There is a renewed emphasis placed on character development and values inculcation. Also, there is a many-hands approach to helping students that is beginning to take root with the forging of partnerships between school and parents, as well as that between various government agencies like MSF, HPB and MOE, among others.

How does the work of the Marist Brothers in Catholic education inspire you?
St Marcellin Champagnat wrote: “Be with the children, love them, lead them to Jesus”. Indeed, the work of the founding principal, Br Chanel Soon, and his Marist Brothers colleagues have lived out the words of St Champagnat when with their bare hands, they built Maris Stella High School, offering to boys in the eastern part of Singapore, regardless of family economic status, race and religion, a chance to be educated. From testimonies shared by pioneer Marists, Br Chanel was involved in the daily educating of students, his deeds exemplified his love for them and in being a nurturing educator, he brought them to Jesus.

How do the teachers and students you work with inspire you?
My colleagues are tireless in doing their best for Marist and that inspires me to work harder with them. I see great potential in my students to become leaders of their chosen field in future. They are intelligent, willing to learn and with a fine sense of humour. It is always interesting to dialogue with them and hear their views. I am inspired to help them fulfil their aspirations.

How do you keep close to God?
I try to hear God’s promptings and don’t be too clever. As a person who is fairly determined in completing what I set out to do well, I have always believed that I have full control over things. As such I have always made thorough plans to ensure that things happen according to my wishes. Over time, I find that that is of course not true and that God has the final say and things always turns out according to His plans for reasons not always apparent at the start but eventually understood by me. I need to quieten down my heart and hear his promptings.

What is your favourite Scripture passage?
This verse in the Letter to the Hebrews resonates with me: “Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of realities that are unseen” (11:1). As a History graduate, I study world developments and trends and make sense of them. It is a case of seeing first before knowing or believing. As a Catholic, it is the reverse. I struggled with this during my RCIA days as I needed to see to believe. Over time I’ve come to accept that only with faith can I believe in things that I have not seen and that faith keeps me anchored in my journey with God. I realise that when I keep faith, the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life is also stronger.

What brings you joy as an educator?
When my students as well as my colleagues achieve success after putting in effort to learn and persevere until the end. In the course of my journey as a school leader, I see students struggling with their studies as well as growing-up issues.  I have also met colleagues who struggled with work and principles as they embark on their journey as teachers. While it is very tempting for me to jump in and help them, I find that they taste the sweetest success when they have put in their share of effort and persevere to the end. They realise then that there are many things that they can do on their own and this builds their sense of self-worth, dignity and confidence. Their struggles and perseverance also brings out their self-belief and human spirit in them.

What is one advice you would give to Catholic educators today?
Give your best in the best interest of all your students and God will take care of the rest.

19 February 2016

|

Tags: Educators

|

Categories: Reflections, Saints

St Peter was an imperfect man, bestowed with a holy mission to be a shepherd of God’s people. How can educators be shepherds to those under their charge?

 

In Jewish oral tradition, as Jesus noted in the gospel of Matthew (23:2-3), the Chair of Moses is the symbol of the authority which the scribes and Pharisees have by virtue of their office. The Catholic Church, which Jesus built on the Rock that was Peter (Mt 16:18), the ‘Chair of Peter’ represents the supreme authority vested in the Pope by God, through the line of visible apostolic succession that traces all the way back to Peter. Therefore, when a pope teaches “ex cathedra” or “from the chair”, his pronouncements on matters of faith and morals are infallible, since they are given with the authority of God and the assistance of the Holy Spirit (cf Jn 14:16). The word ‘cathedral’ refers to the church of the bishop’s seat.

The office of St Peter is the highest position in the Church. St Peter was tasked to spearhead the first steps of Christian evangelisation, during a tumultuous period of anti-Christian sentiments in Rome. Yet, like most of us, he was far from perfect, and had fallen short of God’s grace at several points in his life. We can take comfort in lessons we can learn from St Peter’s journey as head of God’s people.

St Peter’s journey
St Peter, originally named Simon, was a fisherman who lived in Bethsaida with his brother Andrew. Shortly after Christ began His ministry, He came to Lake Gennesaret, where Simon and other fishermen were fishing. Jesus told him to put out his net. Despite not having caught any fish the night before, Simon obeyed. His obedience to Christ earned him not just the largest catch of fish he ever had, but an invitation from the Lord to be a “fisher of men” (Lk 5: 1-11). Peter left everything to follow Him.

During the course of Jesus’ ministry, Simon was the first Apostle to recognise Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the Living God (Matt 16: 16-19). Christ gave Simon the name Peter, declaring him as the rock of His Church, and the holder of the keys of the kingdom of heaven.

Peter became chief spokesman amongst the Apostles, representing the cause of the Christian faith when speaking to authorities. For 30 years, he led the efforts in spreading the message of Christ and establishing the Christian Church, until he was martyred by Roman authorities.

Lesson for educators
Like St Peter and his successors after him, educators are called to be shepherds to God’s children – specifically students. The mission of educators is primarily to tutor the young people under their charge in academic knowledge. Equally important is the formation of students as mature and responsible people.

As mentors and figures of authority whom students come into contact with every day, teachers are in a position to guide students in their maturation process. Apart from teaching course material, teachers are called to mentor students in a way which encourages the formation of upright character and values in them.

Being at a highly malleable phase of their personal formation, it is through education where students will learn what it means to be good people, and the importance of contributing to their communities. Just as Christ beckoned St Peter to shepherd His people, teachers are shepherds to students, caring for their spiritual and emotional growth.

Principals are also shepherds in the education mission. They are shepherds not just to students, but to teachers and school staff under their care. In their work to impart knowledge and right values to students, teachers can come under immense physical and intellectual strain. They also need shepherds to guide them – their peers, heads of department and fellow principals. Being the head of the school, principals need to recognise the difficulties that each person is going through and be able to empathise with them, in order to help every member fulfill their role in the mission.

Growing from mistakes
Throughout his life and mission, St Peter had moments of weaknesses. He had been reprimanded by Jesus for prioritising his will over God’s (Matt 16: 21-22) and for falling asleep while keeping watch (Mt 26: 40-41). Most significantly, he denounced Christ after His arrest, for fear of his own life (Mt 26: 69-75).

Like St Peter, we may face moments of temptations and make mistakes. But when educators support each other, it makes learning from mistakes much easier and more efficient. Teachers should share their knowledge and experiences with their colleagues, and allow everyone to learn from each other.

A school can only function at its best when it becomes a community where everyone is supporting each other, just like the Church. No one is perfect within a group, but when educators work together to guide students towards values of truth and justice, the work of God can be done more easily.

18 February 2016

|

Tags: Educators

|

Categories: Reflections

The liturgical season of Lent is upon us again. Beginning on Ash Wednesday, Lent is a 40-day period during which we remember Christ’s resilience and faithfulness in the desert. We are called to renew our faith and once again strengthen our relationship with God through prayer. This time presents opportunity for us to examine the parts of our lives that need to be changed or improved.

In particular, Lent marks a time when we are called to remember the poor and those with fewer opportunities. This calling is closely linked to the education mission. In many ways, the journey of an educator parallels Christ’s challenging ministry to God’s people. Teaching is a demanding vocation, requiring patience on the part of educators. And just like how Jesus Himself was rejected by many, teachers too, can face disappointment when students fail to heed their advice.

It can be especially difficult when defiant and rebellious students don’t appreciate the importance of learning, and the difference a good education can make to their lives. Yet this mission to impart knowledge and values to young people remains a critically important task.

Those who need help the most
During Lent, we are presented with an opportunity to live in spirit and solidarity with the poor in the world. In his homily during the Commissioning Mass for three new principals in January, Archbishop William Goh pointed out different kinds of poor whom Christ mentioned in Luke’s Gospel. Apart from the financially poor, there are the emotionally and spiritually poor.

Some students are emotionally and spiritually poor because they come from broken families, and do not experience the warmth and joy of familial love. This may affect their discipline, schoolwork, and relationships with their peers.

We often shun those whom we do not understand and label them as problematic. Difficult students test the patience and resolve of Catholic educators, because of their negative behaviour and attitudes. But these are also the same students who need our attention the most, because they are too clouded by their problems to experience God’s love and graces.

An opportunity in Lent
The season of Lent gives us a platform to remember the sufferings that our less fortunate brothers and sisters go through. During this period, fasting and abstinence form the symbols of our repentance, and the care for our fellow children of God form the core of our Christian calling. We must not forget those among us who most need a listening ear or a guiding hand.

The call for Catholic educators is to listen to the students who need support, recognising their pains and struggles. This will not only bring a ray of hope to broken and wounded young people, but will also help teachers themselves see the purpose behind their mission as shepherds of God’s beloved children.

29 January 2016

|

Tags: Educators

|

Categories: Reflections

Ignatius Lee has been a teacher for over five years, and handles English, Maths, Science, Social Studies and Religious Education at Montfort Junior School.

 

Why did you want to be a teacher?
My late father was a teacher. I was also influenced when I joined a mission group, Acts29, back in 2004. The works of a lady, Tita Leticia Reyes, who set up the Paaralang Pantao, a free school for underprivileged children in the Payatas dump site in Manila, as well as my friend, Sherlyn Khong, the founder of acts29, inspired me to desire to make a difference in the lives of children.

What would you say is the biggest challenge you face as a Catholic educator?
Having to juggle the many demands expected as an educator by MOE and trying to live out the faith as a Catholic in school can be challenging. As a Religious Education coordinator, the demands are great and I try to live out the values as best as I can.

How do you overcome these challenges?
I am thankful to have supportive colleagues and friends who offer suggestions or lend me a listening ear. Parent volunteers have been also very supportive and they have contributed much. Prayer is also essential and I try to spend some quiet time reading scriptures where possible.

If you weren’t a teacher today, how different would your life have been?
Perhaps I might be working as an accountant, since I did accounting back in Temasek Polytechnic. This changed when I became more involved in a mission group called Acts29, which is involved in mission work in the Philippines. At that time, acts29 was involved with the work of Paaralang Pantao at the Payatas dumpsite. This was a school set up by Leticia Reyes, Filipino lady who dedicated her life to providing informal education for children whose parents couldn’t afford proper schooling. During my encounters with the children, I was very touched by their simplicity and joy in their daily living. They were so happy even though they didn’t have much. Some barely had food to eat except during the feeding programme in the school. However, they were so hungry to study and learn. This changed my perception that perhaps, I should do something in my life to try and make a difference in the lives of children, just as they did for me. So I became a teacher, hoping to make at least some difference in the lives of children.

What is your fondest memory/experience as a teacher?
On teachers’ day, especially when my pupils write special notes of thank you. I even received a superhero comic strip last year which was really cute.

What do you like most about being a Catholic?
When I am challenged constantly in my faith, there is always the Eucharist to turn to. Mother Mary has also been my constant intercessor.

What do you like most about being a teacher?
To try and educate and impart values is most rewarding. Hopefully, I have set enough good examples.

Has your faith affected you in your role as a teacher in any way?
Since I am involved in Religious Education, I also have to read up on the Catechism of the Catholic Church and to turn to bible scriptures more often. Also, I get to pray every day and that is a constant reminder to prepare for the day ahead, which is challenging at times.

What are some of your key priorities as a teacher?
While teaching the subject knowledge and content is important, the need to spend time with each pupil can be challenging. There are many pupils who are desperately seeking attention and sometimes they do it the worst way possible—by disrupting the lessons. When I get the chance to, I try to talk to them or speak about the Christian values the school promotes; Compassion, Humility, Respect, Integrity, Service, Team Spirit, and Excellence.

What is one way you try to inspire your students?
Perhaps to encourage them not to give up when they don’t perform well in their studies. Small rewards can also be beneficial to boost their morale.

Do you try to share your faith with students? How so?
Teaching Religious Education is one way I do so. Sometimes, when I do speak on stage during sharings every Monday, I will try bringing in bible stories to relate to the everyday lives of students.

How do you keep close to God?
I do struggle to pray consistently during the week, especially during days when there is a lot of marking or other administrative work, which can pile up during the term. I was lucky to be put in charge of my school’s Catholic students society a few years ago. In a way, it forced me to re-examine my own spiritual growth because I had to start inculcating Catholic ethos into these pupils by teaching Religious Education. With my lack of experience as a parish catechist, I had to read other spiritual growth books and attend ACCS or other related faith formation courses so I could be more in tune with my spiritual growth. I try to read the Gospels daily, to help me be quiet for a moment and offer my challenges to God.

What brings you joy in life?
If I can make a difference, even in small ways. I was pleasantly surprised to see that three of my pupils recently joined the altar servers at Nativity church. It was great to see them continue their own faith journeys. Two of my non-Catholic pupils are also willing to serve during the school’s Friday Mass, so I’m happy to see them willing to contribute too.

What is your favourite scripture passage?
My favourite bible verse is Matthew 11:28-29, “Come to me all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

I always find the strength to carry on when I’m tired and weary through this verse. It also helps me realise that I can’t always depend on myself, I need to let go and let God take charge.

8 January 2016

|

Tags: Educators

|

Categories: Reflections

At the start of every new year, people come up with resolutions in order to improve their habits and the way they do things. But as time goes by, we often give up because they are too difficult or unrealistic to keep to. It is useful to reflect on the past year and pinpoint the areas in our lives that require change, so that we can make more focused goals. This can also serve as a time when we look back and examine our spiritual lives, and think about how to grow closer to God in the coming year. Here are a few simple steps to reflecting on the past year:

1. Make a timeline of the past year
Teachers are often very busy throughout the academic year, and lack the time to reflect on their own thoughts and actions. Putting words on paper is the fastest and most visual method for putting one’s ideas into perspective. Draw a timeline for the past year and ensure that every month in your timeline has enough space for note-taking.

2. Write down the major responsibilities you have undertaken each month
Teachers know that there are many different dimensions to teaching. Lesson planning, marking papers and disciplining students are all different parts of the same responsibility. Note down the things that required your attention. If you helped to plan an event in school, headed student programmes, or chaired a committee, note these down as well.

3. Write down what you have done well, and what can be improved
List down the things that you have done well. If your lessons are engaging students effectively or if their grades are improving – these are results that you want to repeat for the following year. Trace the methodology you used, and include it in your lesson plans and teaching strategy for the new year.

Next, consider the areas you think need extra attention. Are there disciplinary issues? Did students have difficulty learning? Teachers devote a lot of time and energy into making students learn, but different students learn at different paces. Consider the ways in which you can make your pedagogy more encompassing and effective.

Also, think about how you have carried God’s message in your teaching. Apart from teaching academic content, did you also impart correct values to your students? Did you promote any principles opposed to the faith or the Church’s teachings? Reflect on ways to better incorporate your spiritual mission into your professional calling.

4. Write down the most encouraging (and most discouraging) feedback you’ve received from students
At the heart of a teacher’s mission is her students. Recall the most encouraging feedback you received from your students. They may be comments that are seemingly trivial, like how nice you are to them, or how funny your lessons are. But these words give meaning to a teacher’s career, and make her know that her students care. Write them down as a reminder of the rewards of teaching!

On the other hand, teachers can become hurt and discouraged by negative words. In the bid to become role models for students, educators often forget that they are just as human as anyone. Reflect on comments from students that discouraged you. What were their motivations? Perhaps they do not fully understand your intentions? Or perhaps they have deeper issues affecting them? Putting their words into context will make you more aware of their needs, and make you feel less upset at them.

5. Remember your calling
Take this time to reflect on your calling as a Christian teacher. Your profession is a noble one – to nurture the minds and morals of the young. This journey contains both joys and struggles, and an educator may become disheartened along the way. Remind yourself how this calling serves a critical role of God’s plan in providing the best for His children.

6. Write down your resolutions for the New Year
Now that you are more aware of your strengths and shortcomings as a teacher, you can incorporate this newfound wisdom into your New Year’s resolutions! What are the practices that make you a good Catholic educator? What are the bad ones that bring you further from the Church, and from God? And lastly, what are some new ideas that you can try out this year? Include these into your planning for the new year.

7. (Bonus) Try this out with your students
If you feel that this exercise has helped you, try it with your students! Give them the opportunity to think back on the positive and negative things that have influenced them in the past year, and put these things into perspective. (You can make it a private exercise, so that they don’t have to share it with others, if they don’t wish to.)

Regardless of the different challenges that all teachers have faced in the past year, the new year brings even greater opportunities and trials for everyone. It is important to both reflect on the past to assess where we are in our relationship with God, and to look ahead to new hopes and dreams.

Got a great tip? Share with us in the comments section below how you made your new year resolutions.

20 November 2015

|

Tags: Educators

|

Categories: Events, Reflections

On 17 November, the chaplains and Religious Education (RE) coordinators of Catholic schools gathered at the Catholic Archdiocesan Education Centre (CAEC) for a time of fellowship with fellow educators. An engaging session was conducted by former RE educator, Mrs Patricia Lee. The teachers were also briefed about various events ACCS has planned for 2016.

They were also introduced to the programmes to be conducted by the Brisbane Catholic Education Office, namely the ‘Catching Fire’ Faith Formation programme for principals, vice-principals and RE coordinators due to take place in August, as well as the Religious Education Access Programme (REAP) workshops in November 2016.

An engaging session was conducted by former RE educator, Mrs Patricia Lee.

Ms Geraldine Krishnasamy, who attended the event, shares with us about her reflections on the gathering.

What was the focus of the event, and how did you find yourself relating to it, from your own experience in the classroom?
The event was a gathering of all RE Coordinators. The facilitation was very well conducted. It gave me an opportunity to interact with other RE Coordinators and learn how they ensure the Catholic ethos in the school is maintained. The session helped me reflect on the activities, events, programmes I had initiated in my school and the importance of having such programmes. The session also made me realise that it is from the little activities I do in my own classroom that I make the faith come alive in small ways.

How did you feel while reviewing the highlights of the year? How does it help you plan ahead?
Firstly, I have to thank God for providing me with the time to attend the meeting this year. I was previously unable to attend the gathering because I was in the afternoon session and usually the sessions were held in the afternoons. This is actually my first attendance because my school had gone single session starting this year.

Through the interaction with the RE Coordinators from other schools, I learnt how some activities that I thought were impossible can indeed be done in my school. How my school manages Catholic Values Education with Values Education (for non-Catholics) was well-received by the RE Coordinator from another school.

The opportunity to plan for our future and writing down our wish list was awesome. It gave me a direction and concrete goals I can look forward to.

What was your main takeaway from the session?
RE activities are just as important as the other subjects taught in school. I learned that as the RE Coordinator, I am actually very important in school because I serve to ensure that the Catholic ethos of the school is firmly upheld. It is of paramount importance to bring the faith evident in all programmes in the school.

I also learnt that it is important to have the support of the Catholic community in the school even though the number of Catholic staff may be small. It is quite sad to see that the number of Catholic teachers in my school is much lower compared to some other schools.

An RE coordinator present at the session gave pragmatic advice in saying that ultimately, we have to answer to the Ministry. As much as I see the significance of being an MOE staff, I also value and respect my role as an RE Coordinator.

6 November 2015

|

Tags: Educators

|

Categories: Reflections

Many students over past decades still remember the impact Sr Agatha Tan IJ made in their lives. From feeding and clothing poor students, to offering a hug to a student in her desparate moments, Sr Agatha has truly been more than a teacher. She shares more about her life and work as an educator.

 

What are your roles and responsibilities as a religious involved in education?
A teacher, counsellor, adviser, friend, nurse – all in one! My main responsibility is to mould and help pupils to grow in grace and wisdom. To instil in them the important values like integrity, freedom and love. To help them accept themselves and others as they are. To enable them to be people of dignity and love.

What are some of the difficulties in your area of work with schools and education?
More time is allotted to teaching of academic subjects as society nowadays aim for academic excellence rather than values in life and faith formation.

How do you overcome them?
With the constant help of God and faith conviction, together with RE lessons and daily reflection in the morning. Of course, not forgetting prayer and communication with the pupils and staff.

What is the fondest memory of your time working in the education sector?
To meet past pupils who bring back such pleasant memories like, “Sister, what you taught us have a great impact in our lives”. Others remember captions like “self last, others first”, “think before you speak”.

When you are faced with difficult students, what is one thing you tell yourself?
I always treat these students with love and tender care as they are God’s gift to me. As such, I treat each one of these students with patience, showing them great care and concern. The more difficult they are, the more I love them.

What does being a Catholic educator mean to you?
It means a lot to and for me. As far as possible, I have tried my best to create a Christ-like environment, making Jesus known and loved to those I live and work with.

Why is education an important aspect of the IJ Sisters?
It is the charism of our founder, Blessed Nicholas Barre. He started educating the poor girls in his time. He was the one who founded the Infant Jesus congregation. Our order is a teaching order. Blessed Barre’s dedication and commitment inspires me. I feel deep within me that I ought to emulate his example.

Has a student or a teacher ever inspired you or taught you something valuable?
Yes, one student inspired me by the way she accepted suffering cheerfully and yet still studied conscientiously to make the grade. There is also one particular teacher who is really admirable. She is very calm. She is talented and never says “no” to anyone who needs help. She is a true “person for others”.

What is one aspect or character of a Catholic school that you appreciate the most?
That God is our number one. We always begin the day with a prayer and morning reflection. A Catholic treats every student with love. A Catholic school not only sees to the academic studies of students but instills in them moral values that will prepare them for society living.

What is one advice you would give to teachers today?
Teaching is a noble profession. We must embrace it with dedication and love because we are moulding and preparing the young of tomorrow.

9 October 2015

|

Tags: Educators

|

Categories: Reflections

Br Nicholas Seet, a Lasallian brother for nearly 30 years, is a Subject Head for Citizenship and Character Education, and also teaches History, Social Studies, and Religious Citizenship and Character Education at St Patrick’s Secondary School. He shares more about his life and calling to be a religious educator.

 

What are some difficulties in your area of work with schools and education?
The challenge is in guiding our students to develop their character based on values as well as help our Catholic students to centre their lives on the Lord Jesus. Being in their growing years, some students may test the boundaries of behaviour and try or experiment with at-risk activities and easily succumb to negative peer pressure.

How do you overcome them?
Through developing a rapport with the students so that they will trust us as teachers. It is by building a reservoir of goodwill or social capital such that the students will feel comfortable with you, share with you their difficulties and challenges in school, in their family and in their personal lives.

What is the fondest memory of your time working in the education sector?
It is to meet former students who have done well in life, are still single or married and having children. To do well does not mean having a high paying job but that they have grown into responsible men and fathers.

When you are faced with difficult students, what is one thing you tell yourself?
The students are confided to our care by the Lord and being young, they are still learning and growing. I must give them the leeway to make mistakes, and more importantly, to help them to learn from their mistakes. I cannot condemn them just because of the mistakes they make. They are still growing and need to be helped to earn to become more responsible to their families and themselves.

What does being a Catholic educator mean to you?
I am a religious Brother and Catholic education is my calling in life. The Lord has called me to this mission. Being Catholic means that I must help to strengthen and deepen the students’ relationships with the Lord through various means in the school, such as public prayer, Catholic CCAs like the Legion of Mary, our RCCE lessons, and Catholic programmes.

Being Catholic also means that I do not neglect the other non-Catholic students in my school. On the contrary, it means that I must be a brother also to the non-Catholics that the Lord has sent to our schools. I must help them too to become better human beings, respectful of their religious traditions and beliefs. I am reminded that the Church is here to serve everyone, both Catholic and non-Catholic. In this way, the Church can be a service to our society and nation. I think that when we help build a harmonious society of diverse races and religions, then we help to build the Kingdom of God on earth.

Why is education an important aspect of the La Salle Brothers?
Our holy founder, St John Baptist de La Salle, founded the Brothers to look after the education of the poor children in Reims, France more than 350 years ago. We continue our founder’s vision and mission in our schools and educational centres in Singapore. We seek to groom students whose lives are based on values and who can live out those values in society.

What is one thing about St John Baptist de La Salle that inspires you?
For my founder, it is that the Lord led him one step at a time. St La Salle had mentioned that if he had known what the Lord had in mind for him near the end of his life, he would have thought twice about it. Rather, he acknowledged that the Lord led him from one commitment to another, and in spite of the challenges, the result was that the poor children of France had an education—a privilege reserved for the rich and upper class during his time. At the end of his life, my founder said “I adore in all things, the Will of God, in my regard.”

Has a student ever inspired you or taught you something valuable?
I learn from the students much more than I can ever teach them. There are too many stories to share. Perhaps, it is of the students whom we judge that they cannot cope academically. Yet these are the ones who will come back to school, to thank the teachers and to be able to hear their stories of how they have done well.

I am reminded of a student who did not do well academically, had great difficulties in his family but who eventually came back to the practice of the Faith. He is married and has started his own business. I would not have thought then when he was a student that he could be so successful today. Of course, these are the successful stories. There are still former students who have made good after some grave mistakes in their lives. I think it is a matter of time when the Lord will lead them in the right path. After all, they had studied in our Lasallian schools which will remind them of the love and care that the teachers had tried to shower on them, though for some, it will be tough love.

How about your teacher colleagues? Has a teacher ever inspired you or taught you something valuable?
I admire the many past teachers and Brothers who taught me when I was a child. I studied at the then St Michael’s School, St Joseph’s Institution at Bras Basah Road and at Catholic Junior College. Looking back, each teacher is unique and they taught me what it is that makes a person more human. I cannot remember exactly what they taught me academically but I remember their sense of commitment and their dedication to their work. For the Brothers, I saw them as men of prayer and men who gave their lives to the Lord. That is why I became a Brother, because of the good example of these Brothers whom I saw in school.

What is one aspect or character of a Catholic school that you appreciate the most?
It is the many daily reminders of the Lord. Here at St Patrick’s School where I teach, we have Morning Prayers with about 35 boys each morning. Then we have our Morning Assembly Prayers, the praying of the Angelus at noon, the school Prayer services and Masses as well as the Catholic societies like the St Vincent de Paul Society to help the less fortunate children and the Legion of Mary.

What difference would it make if a parent (especially a Catholic parent) enrolled his children in a Catholic school?
In a Catholic school, the child is constantly reminded that there is a spiritual dimension in life and the Catholic environment and ambience will help to strengthen his or her relationship with the Lord.

What is one advice you would give to teachers today?
Our vocation is a God-given one and we are privileged that the Lord has called us to this task or mission. I am sure many teachers feel the same way.

8 September 2015

|

Tags: Educators

|

Categories: Reflections, Saints

Why is the birthday of our Lady so special, and what can educators learn from this special event?

 

In a single liturgical year in the Catholic Church, there are feasts for nearly every aspect of Mary’s life; her Queenship, her Immaculate Heart, her Assumption, the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Immaculate Conception. And on 8 September, the Church once again commemorates the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

But what makes the earthly birthday of the Blessed Virgin so special? In fact, there are only three persons whose birthdays are commemorated in the Catholic Church; St John the Baptist, Mother Mary, and Jesus Christ.

While there are many reasons to commemorate Mary’s birthday, each stemming from Sacred Scripture and Tradition, there may perhaps be one simple, yet endearing significance which educators might find helpful.

Temple of the Lord
The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin was the day that God had constructed His temple; the day on which a creature became the preferred dwelling place of God. In remembering her, we remember that God, in His grace, mystery, and love, has chosen to concern Himself with mankind so intimately as to “come to them and make our home with them” (John 14:23).

A reflection on the birth of Mary pulls the mystery and wonder of God’s love into focus. How is it that this indescribable God of all creation, has not only chosen a little girl to be His temple, but also chose to become incarnate through her, “so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16). It is such an understanding of God—a God who is so intimately concerned with mankind—that forms the distinguishing mark of the Christian faith.

Commemorating the Nativity of Mary leads us to ponder on the divine nature of Jesus Christ, and in pondering His divinity, we come to acknowledge the immensity and humility of God’s love that is offered to every person.

While Blessed Mary had the special privilege to be the temple of the Lord both physically and spiritually, we are reminded that God also calls everyone to the same grace of being the dwelling place of God.

St John affirms in his letters to the early Church, “By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because he has given us of his Spirit” (1 John 4:13). On another occasion, St Paul tells the Corinthians, “we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will live in them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people’.” (2 Cor 6:16).

Beloved children
For educators, reflecting on this special importance of the Nativity of our Mother helps to put into perspective that truly, every student is a precious child of God, a temple of the Holy Spirit. There is a holy and immense love that exists between every child and their Creator, and educators share in the sacred duty of helping them discover this.

When birthdays are celebrated, we celebrate the gift of a person, the life that he or she has, and the joy that they have brought to their loved ones. But as we celebrate the birthday of Mary, we discover that there is also a bigger reason we can rejoice—God’s dwells in this person.

In the Catholic devotion to Mary, we see that it is because of God that she is remembered, it is the grace of God that she was made holy. Her nativity is remembered because it is the dawn that points to the coming light of Christ. In a similar way, we see that every child is called to holiness in Christ, to be the light and salt of the earth. As we celebrate the earthly birthday of Blessed Mary, let us also celebrate the joy of our identity as the dwelling place of God, His chosen people.