FAQ: Do I need to plan if my School has existing units of work?

planning not optional

Do I need to plan if my School has existing units of work?

There seems to be a growing trend in education, that prepackaged units of work, set by the relevant Educational Authority, are available for teachers to use in their classrooms.

Whilst on the surface this seems to be an important time saving resource for teachers, there are obvious dangers of adopting resources, especially those in the shape of lesson plans and units of work, without first reviewing and selecting material, using discretion and prudence.

There is naturally a greater danger in non-Catholic schools in this regard than there is in Catholic Schools. Nevertheless all Catholic teachers have to be alert for material that does not align with sound Catholic teaching.

Here are several reasons why Catholic Teachers should always plan their units of work.

Know what you are Teaching

Lifting units of work, straight off the shelf, hardly predisposes teachers to engage with the material and truly understand how the unit works. Often these units of work come with an overabundance of material that overloads students.

Pruning and material selection is therefore an important consideration and takes some planning to get the correct pitch for the students that only you know best.

Don’t deskill yourself

Many younger teachers are joining schools and are finding that they do not have to plan units of work. This is a recipe for disaster. I have previously written about planning units of work: One great strategy for planning a unit of work.

A new generation of teachers are in danger of missing out on a fundamental part of professional practice, whilst existing teachers are encouraged to deskill and accept canned lessons and support materials.

Avoid scandalising

As a Catholic Teacher your duty is to ensure that the material you present to your students does not in anyway lead them towards evil, temptation, falsehood and the like. Canon Law explains that scandal becomes a grave matter when given by those those entrusted to teach and educate others.

For example in relation to novels that may form part of a school’s syllabus for English, do they in any way undermine the teachings of the Catholic Faith or do they encourage students to fall into error? See Affari VosEncyclical of Pope Leo XIII on this matter.

You can see where I’m going with this. Unless you unpick a unit of work; examine the content and the resources, understand the goals and educational outcomes it is trying to achieve, you risk missing something that might cause harm.

It is prudent to speak to a priest if you have concerns in this area.

Avoid falsehood by selecting class texts

Much of what is written is history books, especially modern curriculum styled textbooks, if not fully suspect, promote a retelling of history that is anti-Catholic and undermines the authority of the Church. (see Leo XIII Letter Saepenumero Considerantes on the dangers in school textbooks – use google translate with link)

For instance in one popular Shakespeare series that I have come across and is widely used in schools, each volume has an identical ‘Background’ appendix. Here’s what it says about religion in England at the time of Shakespeare…

RELIGION. At this time, England was a Christian country. All children were baptized, soon after they were born, into the Church of England; they were taught the essentials of the Christian faith, and instructed in their duty to God and to humankind. Attending divine service was compulsory; absences ( without a good medical reason) could be punished by fines. By such means, the authorities were able to keep some control over the population- recording births, marriages, and deaths. Being alert to anyone who refused to accept standard religious practices, who could be politically dangerous… (and later in the same section) …The Christian religion had never been so well taught before.

It’s only my opinion, but I were to do a Book Review on such texts, I could not but help point out the shortcomings of such commentary.

Any Catholic teacher should be able to see the dangers to young minds when reading such ‘facts’ in these texts: will the youth consider that the essential of Christian Faith is accessible through Protestantism?

Will they consider a Protestant Country to be a ‘Christian’ country, in the true meaning of the word? Is a Protestant service ‘divine’? Is the Catholic Faith politically dangerous?

More than that, did anyone read anything about the bloody suppression of the Catholic Faith, the martyrdom of countless Jesuits like St Edmund Campion? Did you read anything about the weighty body of evidence that points to Shakespeare being a Catholic?

It is important then for Catholic teachers, wherever possible to avoid using texts in their planning that may promote confusion or sow doubt. If no such option is available, you would be duty bound to point out the bias in such writing, and at least give a balanced perspective.

So when planning in literature in a non-Catholic school, for example, you might change to a text without commentary. If teaching in a Catholic school, go for a an explicitly Catholic text: Ignatian Press are publishing excellent texts that are safe to use.

In all of our subjects, and in every school, there are ways, that with proper planning and discernment of material, we can present to our students education that does not undermine the Faith.

To conclude

It should be clear that planning remains and should be a cornerstone of a Catholic Teacher’s practice.

Apart from the professional concerns around serving up one-size-fits-all material to our students, and a general relaxation in our teaching skills, we run the danger of presenting material that is unsuitable, and unfit for the education of our youth.

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