Teaching Today: More than Just Reading, Writing and Arithmetic

By Kelly Bradley, middle school teacher at St. Catherine’s School

My name is Mr. Kelly Bradley, and I am a middle school math instructor at Saint Catherine School. Additionally, I coach high school football, and assist with basketball and track and field.

In my experience teaching across two dioceses and two different religious order schools, I’ve found that Catholic schools are places of close community, where those who seek a Catholic education are welcomed regardless of their faith or family’s circumstances.

Being a teacher at St. Catherine’s means that I am a member of a vitally important community, one where we sharpen each other through service, just like the Bible passage from Proverbs 27:17:  As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

As Catholic school teachers today, we are teaching more than essential academic skills and concepts; we nurture curiosity; we cultivate abilities and interests and give our students a sense of purpose. In this vocation, we are called to complete God’s work sharing in the work of Jesus to reach out to others and spread the good news about life and its purpose. Moreover, we are for some, that safe place between normalcy and chaos.

Middle school means new beginnings, experiences and challenges. And while these changes can be exciting, they also can be a bit unnerving for middle schoolers. These transitional years come with their own set of challenges, but for students who come from economically disadvantaged homes, middle school can be even more difficult. Many neighborhoods surrounding our school are affected by poverty. Sometimes students may not get to school on time because they’re helping to get their siblings ready for school or students may come every day just to be able to eat two meals a day. This is where engagement comes in. I begin building relationships with students and parents right away, to provide support where I can.

Many students bring these life challenges to school because they are not equipped with the ability to cope. Some children develop low self-esteem and feel that their needs are not important. This is another important reason that I do this work.

Teaching can be overwhelming and tedious at times but when we get it right, we do our scholars a great service for life. Sometimes this may manifest itself in soft skills, such as organizational skills, how to treat people in a professional manner, or simply just providing a listening ear to students. Sometimes these small things can make all the difference.

Recently I was given the opportunity to represent our school in a leadership project called Vocare which is Latin for “call”. I was “called” to serve and I am here for that purpose.  I have grown so much as a teacher and a leader at Seton because of the coaching and professional development that I’ve received, and the opportunity to participate in the Vocare Leadership program and various school committees. Most of all, I have been blessed to work with so many brilliant minds that I get to shape and mold into productive members of society. I am truly grateful to be a part of this network.

I conclude that the work we do isn’t for everyone, but I assure you that it will be fulfilling if you cherish God’s work. No two days are the same, but I leave work every day knowing I’ve done something to enrich a child’s life for the better.