Prioritising the core work of teaching

In Lighting The Way we have taken the strategic position that improvement in student faith, learning and wellbeing is found in, and driven by, the school. We have introduced new processes, new structures, and new technologies to support this position. But it will ultimately come to nothing if it doesn’t have an impact through the classroom door, into the hearts, minds and souls of the 20,000 young people we serve each year.

That’s why one of this plan’s five focus areas is System support for the core work of teaching. If we are to achieve our strategy, realise our mission, and share the liberating gift of Catholic education, the core work of teaching must be protected, prioritised and privileged.

But we’re not naive to the barriers and distractions that can prevent us from keeping the main thing the main thing. Not least among these is the uncertainty that can exist regarding just what we mean by “the core work of teaching”.

To resolve this uncertainty, one of our principals (Michelle Rolfe, Mary Immaculate Eagle Vale), volunteered a term of 2023 to engage with teachers and school staff to collaboratively develop a shared understanding of what the core work of teaching involves in a contemporary Catholic school context.

VIDEO: Watch our Director of Schools introduce our shared understanding of the core work of teaching

Building on the work of other agencies and research, and in light of foundational statements like Bearers of Christ’s Love: Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Wollongong, we have identified five elements that together contain the nature and substance of the core work of teaching in our systemic Catholic schools:

  • Encounter: Enabling students to know Jesus Christ, the rich tradition of our Catholic faith, and their share in God’s love.
  • Teaching: Planning, delivering, assessing, reporting and evaluating learning experiences and achievement, considering student needs in light of the syllabus and relevant data.
  • Setting: Providing the structures, relationships and support necessary to ensure student safety, wellbeing and learning in accordance with Church and legislative requirements.
  • Collaborating: Collaborating with colleagues to measure impact and strive for excellent pedagogy, and working alongside parents, clergy and the community to best meet the holistic needs of students.
  • Improving: Continuously improving their own practice, student outcomes, and the overall performance of their school and the system, in line with the Continuous Catholic School Improvement framework.

View the full Core Work of Teaching statement

We believe in teaching and we believe in teachers. Our challenge now, and in the years ahead, is to embrace this shared understanding, seeing these five elements not as limitations, but as the cornerstone for our work. 

Practices in schools and the Catholic Education Office (CEO) will be regularly evaluated against this collaborative understanding of the core work of teaching. This will ensure practices do not unnecessarily contribute to demands on teachers and that the most essential work of teaching is prioritised, protected and privileged.

Each school’s context will differ, but one principle remains the same: teachers’ focus on carrying out the core work of teaching before engaging in other less essential activities. This is not to say that the core work of teaching is all that teachers can do—only that everything else must necessarily take lower priority. 

Wherever possible, the system—including schools and the CEO—will coordinate our activities and leverage economies of scale to ensure teachers have the time and space to focus on the core work of learning, teaching and the holistic faith formation of students.

This is how we will ensure every teacher can find joy in this noble vocation. This is how we will rediscover the wonder of writing “on the very spirits of human beings”. This is how we will light the way.