The mission of Fr John Therry is to educate children in the faith, values and traditions of the Catholic Church. Our core aim is to provide each child with the utmost teaching and learning opportunities to meet his or her individual needs. FJT’s school philosophy is based on the three key principles: Faith, Justice and Trust, with “students, staff and parents working together in partnership as we work, learn and pray” (FJT, 2016). Our mission statement is strongly supported through FJT’s school-wide vision for learning: ‘Empower Every Student.’ The vision of EMPOWERMENT is the keystone to FJT’s learning success. In our school community, we ensure that our educators reflect this vision in their teaching practices as “empowered learners” are motivated to aim higher and strive further to achieve; this enables each child to make connections that are relational, diverse, contemporary and adaptive, linking their learning to the real world. FJT empowers every student through these educational principles.
Touchstone 1: Relational, focuses on empowering relationships; this allows students to feel confident when interacting with others and in their ability to participate in learning experiences.
Touchstone 2: Diverse, focuses on empowering individuals; this is where educators create a learning environment that is inclusive and builds upon the individual strengths for student growth and development.
Touchstone 3: Contemporary, focuses on empowering learners; teaching practices need to integrate modern approaches to the curriculum to deepen and enrich the learning of all students.
Touchstone 4: Adaptive, focuses on the core principle of empowerment; students will develop resilience and be able to adapt and apply their learning across all Key Learning Areas.
Pope St John Paul II, states that Religious Education is the “core of the core curriculum in a Catholic school” (1992). This means that by placing Religion as the centre of the curriculum, Catholic schools are able to fulfil their mission in educating their students in understanding the meaning of their existence. This is supported by (Sandwell Council, 2002), as they believe Religious Education is “concerned with the deep meaning that individuals make of their experiences and how this helps them give purpose to their lives.” In a classroom setting, this involves creating learning experiences that allows each child in developing skills, values and attitudes that help them in becoming active members of their faith community. In order to create such a learning experience, we must draw upon the knowledge of both the teacher and the students and effectively integrate scripture and parables so that one is able to make sense of what they learn
In the Bible, the word ‘Christianity’ is defined as someone who is a follower of Jesus Christ. There are differing denominations within Christianity, that all worship in their own ways and believe in different parts of the Bible than those of other denominations. D’Orsa (2010) best describes Christianity as “what people, individually or collectively, know and believe, feel and value.” In having this knowledge – that Christianity varies for each individual and/or community, the teaching of Religious Education must reflect and integrate these ideas and beliefs. The Congregation for Catholic Education (1988) has carried out extensive research around this concept of “the religious condition in the world today,” focusing explicit attention to the situation of young people. This identified a significant shift in Catholic schools as there was a formal recognition that each student may come from different ideological backgrounds. This encourages Catholic schools to adapt its religious programs to suit the needs of all students (Congregation for Catholic Education, 1988). Regardless of any adaptation or differentiation to the teaching of religious education, one thing remains the same and that is the goal in which allows individuals in realising their membership of the Catholic Church through showing “love, compassion, hope, reconciliation, transformation, prayer, respect for life and a desire to bring about justice for all” (Bishop David Walker, 2013 p.11)
Fr John Therry follows the Sydney Archdiocese syllabus. In this, there are five content strands in which we teach. These include “The Liturgical Year; Self; Others; Church; and Creation” (Archdiocese of Sydney, 2006). In each of these five strands, teachers strive to help students meet the required objectives
The Liturgical Year presents a timeline of where and when a significant event occurred. It helps in our understanding about the life of Jesus Christ. In teaching this content strand, we are enabling students to explore the relationship between the Liturgy, the Christian story and their lives. As it is the season of Lent, we have set up a prayer table at the front of each classroom with signs and symbols that represents the Lent season. These symbols may vary but include a purple cloth, palm branches (this marks the triumphant entrance of the Lord in Jerusalem), a bowl filled with sand and rocks (symbolic of the desert) and a picture of Jesus in the desert. In our Religion lessons, the students are examining the season of Lent as a time to reflect on ways they can change and follow Jesus more closely through prayer, fasting and charity (Sydney Archdiocese, 2006). This is greatly supported through Gospel readings (John 12:12-15 & Isaiah 58:1-12) as well as the ‘To Know Worship and Love’ textbook, where they have been learning about how Jesus gave himself to others.
FJT is also participating in Project Compassion during the season of Lent. Project Compassion is an annual fundraising appeal that demonstrates the “faith, love and generosity of the Catholic community to help end poverty and promote justice” (Caritas Australia, 2018). The FJT school community, has actively contributed to this appeal through Jersey Day as well as wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day in which a $2 donation was made by every student. The students of FJT have also taken initiative in organising their own bake sale to help make even a little bit of difference to the lives of the less fortunate.
The FJT school is a warm and welcoming community that centers Jesus Christ as the heart of the school. Our aim is to provide all students with the best opportunities for learning. We believe that to successfully do so, a strong bond must be established between the school, Parish and wider community in which includes families.
FJT encourages parental engagement and involvement in all aspects of their child’s school life. This is crucial as a partnership is built between parents, their children and teachers thus establishing a “family atmosphere” (FJT, 2016), in which works to ensure that the child receives the best education possible. This concept of a “family atmosphere” is reinforced as parents are regularly welcomed into classrooms and to assist with excursions, sporting events and whole school activities. Parents are also welcomed to worship in various liturgical celebrations throughout the year with staff members and students. Throughout the year, there are various parent-teacher interviews, information sessions and workshops held, to allow families in understanding what their child is being taught, how their learning is progressing throughout the school year and how they are able to support their child at home.
Several parent representative groups have been formed to foster and build a sense of community between the school, parish and families. These include:
1. Principal’s Advisory Council – a forum that consults, listens and seeks feedback from local school and parish communities so that their common goals are achieved.
2. Parents and Friends Association – strengthens partnerships between family, school, parish and wider community to benefit the overall development and learning of each child. This is accomplished through building a friendly and welcoming community that involves all members of the school and also provides parental perspective when assisting the school principal in the decision-making process of raising funds to provide resources and opportunities for all.
3. Balmain Arts and Crafts Show Committee – fundraiser run by parents
4. Class Parents – Responsible for organising social activities that allow parents and students to get to know one another both in and out of the school setting.
As the FJT school community has a strong bond with parents and families, they also have a well-built relationship with the local Parishes of St. Augustine’s Balmain and St. Joseph’s Rozelle. As a Catholic school, we regularly invite students and their families to come attend and celebrate Sunday Mass with us at either Parish. We do this to provide opportunities to families who are not part of our local Parish in connecting with the wider community that the school is part of. FJT students regularly participate in liturgical celebrations and prayer services. At the beginning of every school year, an Opening and Commissioning Mass is held for the whole school community. Throughout the school year, whole school masses are organized to celebrate feast and holy days. Classes of the same grade attend mass and reconciliation at least once every term. Towards the year of the school year, a Graduation and End of Year Mass is held commemorating the successes of our students
FJT supports the Parish Sacramental Program and students are invited through the local Parish to participate. Students of FJT receive the sacraments in the following order:
– Reconciliation – Year 2
– Holy Communion – Year 3
– Confirmation – Year 6
Professional development is defined by (TALIS, 2009) as “activities that develop an individual’s skills, knowledge and expertise as a teacher.” It is crucial that all educators whom transition into the profession of teaching Religious Education, are fully supported by the school and its religious culture to deepen and instruct their faith. It is often seen that students emerge out of school with insufficient knowledge of the Catholic faith and with no interest whatsoever in practicing this faith. The reason behind this may be due to the fact that some educators have “received limited faith formation themselves” (Bishops of NSW and ACT, 2007) and therefore have not been able to teach the students to their full potential. At FJT, we strongly promote and encourage all our educators in seeking professional development in all Key Learning Areas, especially Religious Education, “as a means of ensuring the best learning opportunities for all students” (FJT, 2016). This professional development can take many forms including whole school staff days, subject specific in-services, meetings and conferences as well as a range of professional learning programs provided by Sydney Catholic Schools. We believe that educators who undertake these courses are not committed only in developing their faith and knowledge but also in succeeding to pass on the Catholic faith to the next generation; our students.
It is evident, that religious education is important in developing one’s faith and should not only be implemented in the classroom setting but also in the home environment (Congregation for Catholic Education, 1988, p. 87). This is greatly influenced by the relationship the Catholic school has with both families and the Parish. In having a strong relation with one another, many opportunities are presented to the child so that they have a better understanding of their existence and purpose in life.