Our excellent discussion on standardized tests and evaluating educational systems in foreign countries got me to thinking about the quality of teaching, both in the United States in general and in our Catholic school systems in particular. In the U.S.A., George Bush has been left behind and now we are engaged, like St.Paul, in a race, one called The Race To The Top. The White House offers us the hopes of President Obama regarding improved education for 2011:
"America will not succeed in the 21st century unless we do a far better job of educating our sons and daughters… And the race starts today. I am issuing a challenge to our nation’s governors and school boards, principals and teachers, businesses and non-profits, parents and students: if you set and enforce rigorous and challenging standards and assessments; if you put outstanding teachers at the front of the classroom; if you turn around failing schools, your state can win a Race to the Top grant that will not only help students outcompete workers around the world, but let them fulfill their God-given potential.”
I don't think President Obama's words on rigor and standards get enough press, and I am happy to put them up here for everyone to see. He is also not quoted enough on how he believes that more must be expected of the students themselves in the inner city. Students and parents there—not just the educational system itself—need to be called to responsibility, and President Obama has included this in his messages on education.
While for education as a whole we can and will argue about "rigorous and challenging standards and assessment," how does one encourage and evaluate those qualities of teachers in Catholic elementary and high schools, colleges and universities—the qualities that go beyond skills and teaching a subject but are important in getting Christ's message across? I know a bit about rigorous and challenging standards of assessments in general, but wonder what kind of approaches can be used to identify, nurture, and reward those teachers in Catholic schools who not only teach their primary subject well but are examplars of the Catholic message?
I am going to ask our readers here to offer their thoughts about what makes a teacher in a Catholic school an outstanding Catholic school teacher—and how do we recognize these qualities in teachers who possess and demonstrate them? What are some of the qualities needed to teach those young children in the primary grades about the faith? (We can also add to the discussion important qualities in CCD teachers.) What qualities are needed to communicate the faith as well as subject mastery in those middle school years?
Many parents who are not Catholic place their children in Catholic schools for the excellence in achievement in subject matter. In this time of thinking about Cardinal Newman, how important is it for a teacher in a Catholic high school or college to communicate his or her faith if teaching subjects such as American History, Chemistry, or Calculus?
I look forward to reading your thoughts on this important topic. These questions have made me aware that it may be a much greater challenge to teach a subject with one's faith as something that needs to be interwoven effectively with an academic subject, so thanks and gratitude are offered to all who have chosen to work as Catholic educators.