Boston Latin School was America’s first public school. It was founded in part by Reverend John Cotton and Puritan schoolmaster Philemon Pormontin in what would later become Boston, Massachusetts. The year was 1635. The all-male institution produced some of America’s greatest Founding Fathers including Samuel Adams and John Hancock. Early in the school’s history, students learned Latin and Greek and were admitted on the basis of how well they could read Bible verses. Year-round attendance ran from seven or eight in the morning, depending on the season until students were dismissed at five. There was a one hour break in the middle which many students used to attend writing sessions.
Public Schools Today
To say public schooling today is vastly different is a tremendous understatement. Today’s students attend school for approximately six hours a day with summers off. They generally receive a 40-minute lunch and recess period as well as special classes where they learn art and music and participate in physical education. Latin and Greek have been replaced with social studies and project-based learning. Bibles are not used in entrance exams and have been eliminated from most public schools altogether in favor of “character education.”
Suicide rates have skyrocketed. Planned Parenthood has established itself in even early elementary classrooms. It has established credibility among young children so, as those children grow, it can push its biggest moneymaker, abortion. Abortion, often in the guise of personal freedom and women’s rights, has become part of the health, social studies, and other curriculums while discussions on the sanctity of life is considered faith-based and outlawed in most public schools. Planned Parenthood and the LGBTQ agenda have redefined Marriage and pushed students to experiment with different sexual experiences until they find what works for them in a guess-and-check method most elementary school maths lessons would acknowledge as one of the least effective and/or most time-consuming methods of problem-solving.
Do I need to say again that suicide rates have skyrocketed?
For a devout Catholic, teaching in a public school today can feel disheartening sometimes. Our faith is at odds with almost every aspect of the curriculum and agenda. Attempts to socialize in a left-wing dominated profession can leave minority Catholics feeling isolated. Fear of repercussions can make Catholics and other faith-filled employees reluctant to speak up for their beliefs.
On the other hand, there are both coping strategies and many positives a faithful Catholic can discover when working in a public school.
Ideas for Catholic Teachers in Public School
- Use the Commute – Your commute, whether you walk, ride, or drive, is the perfect time to begin praying for your school family. Turn off the radio. Empty the car of noise and distraction and ask the Trinity and the Blessed Mother to fill your car with messages they want you to hear each day. A 20-minute commute is plenty of time to fit in five full decades of the Rosary while shorter commutes can. be used to pray to the Guardian Angels of struggling students. Don’t forget to pray for student families, other faculty and staff members and of course your admins too!
- Stop by a Chapel – If you have a chapel that is open early in the morning, stop by and spend five or ten minutes asking the Lord to bless your day, your students, and all those you meet. Sit in silence and let Him run through your heart and mind and show you how to Love those you meet better. Read one Psalm or a small chapter of the Bible or other spiritual reading while sitting in silence. Blow Jesus in the Tabernacle a kiss as you leave and promise Him you will return the next day.
- Seeing the Flag – Most schools have the national flag flying in front of the main door. Use that entrance and pray for our country as you pass it. Pray for our president and other leaders. Pray to be brave and courageous in recognizing, upholding, and defending the Blessings the country has given even while others attempt to knock those Blessings down. Of course, pray for the men and women who risk life and limb to defend your ability to attend school and so many other things. Ask the Lord to help you live in gratitude for their service and in honor of their sacrifice.
- Holy Water Blessings – Before students enter the room, sprinkle Holy Water about and ask for protection and Blessings over your students. Pray to Saint Micheal or another saint you admire as you do.
- After the Pledge – I taught high school math in a Catholic school a while ago, and one of the things that I will take with me forever is the prayer that was said after we all said the Pledge of Allegiance. Every day, we ended by together praying, “for those who have no one to pray for them.” That phrase always struck me hard. I can’t imagine having a child and not praying for them. It brings up images of children clad in rags scavenging for food in garbage dumps, but even our most affluent children are seldom prayed for today. We may be the only one praying for that student who is always on the detention list, who is silent and barely makes eye contact, the super popular jock who breaks the hearts of so many girls, or the transgender boy who is trying to find himself and receiving affirmation from well-meaning but harmful sources.
- See the Face of Jesus – The other best practice I picked up from teaching in the Catholic school was to see the face of Jesus in every student. Regardless of class rank, skin color, nationality, religion, income, talent, sexual orientation, or other factors so many today use to classify each other, each student was created in the image and likeness of God. He is special. She has hopes and dreams – or she should! Look for opportunities to see the good in each child despite what others see in them. Remember, the face of Jesus is also in every faculty member, custodian, cafeteria worker, bus driver, and difficult parent too. Love them all!
- Pray as You Walk the Halls – Pray silently as you walk through the halls of the building. In busy high schools, pray for students who jostle you as they rush from class to class. Pray as you walk by silent classrooms with students testing intently. Pray as you walk by the choir room where voices are uplifted in talents God gives to a select few.
- Display Reminders of Your Faith – In public schools, one cannot display or influence a student’s faith yet visual reminders of why we get into teaching and what Christ calls us to do are very helpful in difficult moments. Not promoting one faith in public school is a good thing since we do not like when other agendas try to influence our children’s faith, but it also makes displaying your faith difficult. One must be creative. Fortunately, most teachers can get pretty creative! You might make a permanent t-chart on the wall that displays something permanent and useful for your students, but also serves as a Cross for you. You might put a letter and a set of numbers signifying your favorite Bible verse on a back wall. You may just hang a red sheet of paper somewhere as a reminder of the Blood Christ spilled for your students.
- Pray to Saints Who Loved Education – Saints are not substituted or false gods. These holy men and women show the Catholic belief in the afterlife. We know these people live on in Heaven just as much or more than they did on earth. We go to them and ask them to join our pitiful prayers in petitioning God for Blessings on our students and school family. Here is a couple to add to your list. Saint Marcellin Champagnat who is the patron saint of struggling students and whose educational philosophy was, “To educate children you must love them all and love them all equally.” Saint Don Bosco whose heart went out to children who had no one to love and care for them. Unlike so many who feel bad for the less fortunate, Saint Don Bosco put these feelings into action and opened an orphanage for boys and later founded the Salesians. Saint Dymphna is the patron saint of those suffering from mental illness, anxiety, and other nervous effects of life today. Pray for students who are considering suicide, those acting out aggressively or promiscuously and those experiencing depression due to familial divorce as well as those blinded by the LGBTQ agenda and more.
- Stand for Your Faith – Jesus said each of us must take up our crosses and follow Him. He said it is harder for a rich man to get to Heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. He said many similar things, yet we make excuses for diminishing our faith. We put rainbow flags on our doors because everyone else does. We give our money to political action committees that promote anti-faith policies. We do not gently question colleagues who tout values that go against ours despite DASA and other polices that should protect us. We think if things get bad we will stand up, but the devil seldom acts blatantly. He prefers to move the bar slowly, the way we would boil a frog by gradually increasing the temperature of the water, so we don’t realize we are in hellish hot water until it is too late. This is the time. We cannot wait for things to get worse. Souls are at risk, and we must take a stand even if that means risking our jobs too.
The tenth point is particularly difficult, especially if you are like me and have a family to single-handedly support, yet it is so important. The Lord is not asking you to have a good job. He is asking you to be a good Saint! The path to sainthood begins with standing for the little things and acting in Wisdom and in Love. Acting in Wisdom means you are not rubbing your faith in the face of others, but humbly following laws, praying quietly and out of sight when possible and speaking bravely only when necessary.
Remember, faith is powerful. It should never be used as a weapon or in an underhanded way. Acting in Love means recognizing that even the teacher who is most opposite you on the faith or political spectrum probably got into education because of a love for students and a desire to help them build better lives. Although they may not recognize it as such, this is God working in their lives. Appreciate and give thanks. Acting in Love means letting go of your need to control and or know results. It means letting God do the work to convert souls rather than your trying to do it for Him.
Public schools offer much good to children and families who would not be able to afford education otherwise. There is so much hope in our beautiful youth and in our dedicated colleagues. They are good people and if we cannot find that in them or begin to feel great negativity, we need to look inside ourselves and see where we can love better! When we do that, we will become closer to the image God had in mind when He created us, and that is what we, despite religious and philosophical differences, are all longing for.