Academic journal article Journal of Catholic Education

The Relationship between the Catholic Teacher's Faith and Commitment in the Catholic High School

Academic journal article Journal of Catholic Education

The Relationship between the Catholic Teacher's Faith and Commitment in the Catholic High School

Article excerpt

A teacher's commitment to a school and its members is a very important subject in terms of a school's success and students' academic achievement (Dannetta, 2002; Day, Sammons, Stobart, Kington, & Gu, 2007; Firestone, 1996; Louis, 1998). Teacher commitment has been recognized as a crucial factor influencing the effectiveness of the Catholic high school (Bempechat, Boulay, Piergross, & Wenk, 2008; Bryk, Lee, & Holland, 1993; Convey, 1992; Guerra, Donahue, & Benson, 1990; Schaub, 2000). Research suggests that teachers in effective Catholic high schools exhibit a strong commitment to their school, to teaching, and to their students (Bryk et al., 1993; Guerra et al., 1990; Irvine & Foster, 1996; Schaub, 2000). Guerra et al. (1990) stated that the commitment of teachers in Catholic high schools "strengthened by their perception of a shared religious mission" (p. 17) has a positive and powerful influence on student academic achievement. After detailed observation of teachers and students in Catholic high schools, Bryk et al. (1993) concluded that teachers in Catholic high schools are committed to high standards in class room work, show themselves as role models for their students, and are positive about their work despite low salaries compared to their public school counterparts (see also Schaub, 2000). Students, moreover, recognize their teachers as patient, respectful, and happy with their teaching. Such positive reports on teachers' commitment to their school, to teaching, and to their students in Catholic high schools raise the following question: Why do Catholic teachers generally devote themselves to their school?

Even though empirical studies on teacher commitment in the Catholic high school are few in number, studies that have dealt with Catholic high schools have indicated significant relationships among teacher commitment and constructs such as a sense of vocation, goal and value consensus among school members, a strong sense of community, and religiosity (Benson & Guerra, 1985; Bryk et al., 1993; Coleman & Hoffer, 1987; Convey, 1992; Tarr, 1992; Tiernan, 2000). The essential synthesizing element among these characteristics is Catholic faith. Church documents have consistently emphasized that the Catholic teacher's faith is the most essential factor that guarantees the success of the Catholic school (Congregation for Catholic Education, 1977, 1982, 1997, 2002, 2007). Indeed, Ciriello (1987), Tarr (1992), and Tiernan (2000) infer that there is strong connection between Catholic teachers' faith and their school commitment in the Catholic high school.

The Catholic high school is fundamentally defined as an educational institution of the Catholic Church actualizing the identity and values of the Church rooted in Jesus Christ (Congregation for Catholic Education, 1977). Thus, the Catholic high school in the United States has been acknowledged as a faith community as well as an education community (Benson & Guerra, 1985; Moore, 2000). As a consequence, the Catholic Church's dogmatic and educational values have consistently had a great impact on not only the identity and values of the Catholic high school but also attitude and behaviors of teachers (Groome, 1996; Jacobs, 2005). This is an important driver of Catholic high schools' dual purposes for schooling--the academic and faith development of students (Congregation for Catholic Education, 1977, 1982, 1997, 2007). Also, the climate of the Catholic high school has typically attracted Catholic teachers who have faith (Benson & Guerra, 1985; Convey, 1992), and the teachers' faith has been recognized as an important motive for teacher commitment to school activities, including the evangelizing mission of the Church (Convey, 1992; McLaughlin, 1996; Moore, 2000; Tarr, 1992). However, until now, there has not been research that focused specifically on the relationship between Catholic teachers' faith and their commitment within the context of the Catholic high school. …

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