BY ERWIN CABUCOS
Contrary to the idea that it is the most boring and difficult subject to teach, Religious Education has in fact unlimited opportunities for teachers to engage students in learning in a way that can also be be fun.
The subject has two dimensions: teaching students about religion and teaching them to be religious. It is also worth considering that it is strongly supported by the school, and that it has special and intrinsic value, offering an exciting world to engage students with countless activities and programs.
First, Religious Education is a strongly supported curriculum in Catholic and Christian schools. In fact it lies within the heart of Catholic Education, underpinning the Christian Catholic identity of the schools within the diocese and Religious Congregations.
From the Papal Congregation for Catholic Education in Rome to the respective diocese within different regions in our country, foundational, curricular and religious support for the subject is immense. Consequently, it is a subject that will always be in demand, committed to providing continuing professional development and prepared to always support significant programs for teachers and for teaching the subject.
The subject area is embedded within the institution in itself: the appointment of the Principal for Religious Education (APRE), the celebration of the mass, sacraments and other liturgies within the school calendar, the holding of retreats, the establishment of the chapel, the display of the crucifix and other material representations, and other religious manifestations in people, activities and structures concretise the specialisation that is Religious Education. It can also be said that the spirit RE teachers bring helps form the catholic ethos and charism of the school.
Furthermore, RE is a subject that has intrinsic value for the teacher. It can open the door to a meaningful world for a child, perhaps a world of spirituality where he or she might find peace amidst the perplexing trend of confusion and bewilderment.
This taste of the transcendental in achieving the holistic development of a child it is an auspicious niche in our perennial and universal human journey to experience peace and happiness. Having the role to contribute to this intangible yet mostly prized possession in our materialistic world is indeed special.
Nurturing the child’s experience of the inner value of meditation and prayer may help to develop a sense of being calm and resolute in the midst of personal chaos. Letting the child see the growth of a plant from a seed, lead him or her to wonder on the beauty and miracle of creation and (for growing years) make him or her reflect on the beginning of the universe and the destiny of the human being is an important role.
These are just some of the examples of participating in transforming an individual into a human person. It is about turning a citizen into an effective and ethical member of society with deeper sense of being human.
Moreover, the pessimistic view that RE is becomingly irrelevant to contemporary lives of people is in fact a productive thought from which teachers could begin to devise exciting programs and classroom activities for the subject.
Discovering the unfamiliar, investigating a ritual, researching for an alternative view, conducting a survey on community beliefs, evaluating a particular ethical action, acting towards a more sustainable response, caring for the environment, providing hope for the poor and the vulnerable, connecting with the Supreme Being, finding ways to a happier life, among others.
It is a subject that you can draw inter-curricular learning and application from other subjects, such as humanities, history, science, English, geography, music, visual arts, languages and manual arts.
Erwin Cabucos is a migrant from the Philippines, an ethnic radio broadcaster and a teacher of Senior English and Religion at Carmel College, Brisbane. Image from Mary MacKillop CRC, South Gippsland.
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