WHEN Zach Woodward made the transition from Catholic youth ministry to school teacher, he stumbled on the question of how to pass on the faith to his students without losing them on the first day.
The primary school teacher realised by trial and error that his youth ministry experience meant nothing in the classroom if he wasn’t working hard on becoming a good teacher.
“I think lots of passionate Catholic teachers out there want to be really effective religious educators; they first need to get those basic teaching skills,” Mr Woodward said.
It’s what he calls “step one” for evangelising students.
“I have a youth ministry background and I love the fact that as a teacher I can share that but that’s step two,” Mr Woodward said.
“Step one is becoming a good teacher with good behaviour management, and then we can use our youth ministry experience to evangelise our students.
“But if we don’t have the good behaviour management, and the good pedagogy, and the good knowledge of diverse learner needs first, then we’re not going to be able to effectively teach religion or evangelise our students because we’ll lose them and they’ll be talking over the top of us.”
For his own self-education, the Marist College, Ashgrove Year 6 teacher has been tuning into podcasts.
But in April he took his method one step further, creating his own podcast in the comfort of his garage.
Mr Woodward said a professional development day in 2017 run by a teacher from Western Australia inspired him to produce a podcast that helped teachers “to master their craft”.
“He ran this really good PD day for early-career teachers and he gave so many stories, and he had videos of other beginner teachers telling their stories,” he said.
“That’s when I realised that there’s lots of people out there who are beginner teachers or at uni wanting to be teachers, who have so much to learn from people like myself and like others who are pretty new in the roles.
“If I could interview beginner teachers and experienced teachers and release an episode each fortnight, then people could listen to people’s stories and learn something about the profession from others.
“So I figured a podcast would be a good platform to do that.”
The Teacher’s Guide podcast includes interviews with experienced and beginner educators, as well as the host’s own experiences from the past four years of teaching, to help others progress in their career.
Mr Woodward said he still considered himself a beginner teacher, even turning down an opportunity to support a university prac student this year.
“I still feel like a bit of a prac student myself,” he said.
“I’m four years in but I definitely still consider myself a beginner teacher.”
The first episode of the Teacher’s Guide was released in April when remote learning was being established in schools across the nation, including his own classroom.
Mr Woodward said he spent time establishing virtual alternatives to their classroom routines, like how to say morning prayer.
“I teach Year 6 and they’re 12-year-olds, so we still sit on the floor … we sit on the floor and we say a prayer, but during home learning we had the headphones in and there were boys with barking dogs in the background; one kid clearly just got out of bed so he was doing his hair while we were saying prayer,” he said.
“Being together is definitely a lot easier for that.”
Other episodes include a guide to self-care, pastoral care of students during online learning, relief teaching, and how to write report cards.
As a passionate Catholic teacher, Mr Woodward is also planning on releasing a specific Catholic education series next year that will include interviews with Religious Education teachers.
He said Religious Education was an important subject for students who would eventually be put in situations where they needed to exercise their knowledge of religion.
“I even heard our deputy say a while ago, whenever you go to a party, the conversation either ends up in politics or religion, so we’re just trying to prepare our students to not look stupid around their friends,” Mr Woodward said.
“If they can be knowledgeable about religion, it’s a really important thing to learn.”
Now in his fourth year of teaching, Mr Woodward is slowly making his way through step two of his approach to evangelising students, which is being a “constant witness”.
“I told my boys (the other day) that my parish Mass is booked out for the next two weeks, so I can’t go to Mass (but) I really want to,” he said.
“Even little things like that, sharing those anecdotal stories with the boys, I think it’s important just to be a constant witness.”
While he encourages more males to enter the profession – both for the salary and the personal rewards of teaching – he said the world didn’t necessarily need more male teachers.
“We don’t need more male teachers, we need more good teachers,” he said.
“I think that’s really important because I don’t think that gender quotas are really a good idea in any industry and I don’t think we need to push for more males in school; I think we need more good teachers.
“But I don’t know why more males don’t go into it; I think it’s a wonderful job.”
Listen to full episodes of The Teacher’s Guide podcast at https://theteachersguide.com.au/.