Concerns of the Graduate Teacher
Anxieties, insecurities and concerns in any teaching area can arise in a graduate's first year of entering the profession. Religious Education has been known to be an area where graduates feel less confident in their abilities. However, it does not need to be this way! The following considerations, address the potential concerns of graduate teachers or some issues one may face when teaching in this area. It is hoped that awareness of these may give teachers a boost of confidence and inspiration for teaching effectively in the religious education program. It is also advised that the graduate teacher works alongside other colleagues and the Religious Education Coordinator to gain support and advice throughout their first year of teaching.
As Religious Education focusses on the educational goals of teaching about the Catholic faith, it is vital that teachers have a sound understanding of the content they intend to teach. According to Hyde and Rymarz (2008), it is important that teachers study the content they intend to teach, so that when they make statements about our Catholic faith they are valid in what they are saying. When looking at curriculum documents such as Coming to Know, Worship and Love (2008), each unit provides reflection for teachers, explanations and connections to the doctrinal focus. Alike this resource package, there is a section that introduces a background understanding of the Sacraments.
Addressing Difficult Questions from Students
Students are more than likely to ask difficult questions. However, Hyde and Rymarz (2008) state, we should take this as a compliment as research supports that students do this when they have faith in your content knowledge and "abilities as a teacher" (p. 82). As we develop, our innate response as humans is to search for the answers of life's questions. Hence, it is more than likely that our students will also do so. Hyde and Rymarz (2008), confirm this but also acknowledge that we do not have the answers to all of these questions. Therefore, it is okay to come back to students at a later time. You may choice to research their questions or ask the Religious Education Coordinator. However, as we gain experience it is likely that we will be able to provide more credible answers. We must also remember to answer questions in light of the teaching of the Church and the school ethos and to ensure that these questions do not impose on our time devoted to classroom learning (Hyde & Rymarz, 2008).
The contemporary Catholic primary school has developed a diverse, multi-cultural, multi-denominational population and it is vital that teachers are aware of and sensitive to the backgrounds of each individual student. When conducting a religious education lesson, be sure to address matters of religion in a broadly inclusive manner; that is, do not assume all members of your class are from the Catholic faith. This means our religious education lessons should take an educational approach rather than purely catechetical (Hyde & Rymarz, 2009). Our lessons should focus on building up student's knowledge of the Catholic Tradition "in a way that is educationally sound and sophisticated" (Hyde & Rymarz, 2009, p. 16). Therefore, when preparing students for the sacraments, those who are not celebrating Holy Communion may receive a special blessing to still feel involved in the process. In our lessons, we should also use inclusive language such as "in the Catholic faith/tradition" rather than "we catholics", to ensure students feel welcomed and acknowledged. We must also scaffold learning to ensure students can enter learning from multiple ability levels. This means that we cannot assume all students have the same faith experiences, yet we can assume all have the content knowledge of previous teaching. We may also explore the traditions and rituals of other faith denominations, to show support and involvement of those individuals in our classroom.