The Family Educator supports the principal in leading and implementing the Family & Faith program within the school. The Family Educator role supports the evangelising mission of the Church and also assists in promoting the distinctive identity of Catholic schools.
The role plays a key part in responding to the New Evangelisation agenda and in the continuous improvement of our Catholic school system by supporting faith formation, evangelisation, and wellbeing of parents/families. The role of the Family Educator plays a crucial part in building and maintaining welcoming school environments and building sound, respectful relationships between school, parents/families and the parish. The myriad of quality initiatives, events and activities created and implemented by the Family Educator contribute to vibrant faith communities within our system of Catholic schools. These initiatives are planned in the following domains:
- Developing/Enhancing the faith life of parents.
- Connecting/Reconnecting/Enhancing family engagement in the faith life of the school.
- Connecting/Reconnecting/Enhancing family engagement in the faith life of the Parish.
- Supporting family wellbeing
In each school/parish community, a variety of initiatives/events/activities are planned in each of the four domains. Some of these initiatives include:
SPaR – an acronym for Stop, Pray and Reflect – is a ten to fifteen minute break for parents to take time after the rush of getting the family ready for school and off to work, to reflect upon the presence of God in their lives. The content presented and shared invites the participants to draw parallels between the message of the Gospel and their own life experiences, discovering the relevance of our faith in daily life. Faith and life are not separate, but one. SPaR has the capacity to move, to change and to inspire. It raises an awareness of the grace and presence of our creator God, through Christ’s presence in the Spirit.
Opportunities for Outreach – Providing opportunities for parents and children to become involved in outreach activities. This may be through, Mini Vinnies activities such as Knit Wih Love – knitting scarves or squares which are then sewn together to make blankets for the homeless (delivered by parents or high school students during Night Patrols with St Vincent de Paul) or raising money through ‘Project Runway’ – parents and children involved in parading second hand clothes of which are then sold and bought by the members of the community.
The Bake and Share initiative involved the school community being invited to bake a container of biscuits for Easter, using the provided recipe booklet or their own traditional recipes, with the emphasis being on parent and child baking together. The boxes of biscuits were then distributed to the Cana Community, an inner-city organisation working with the addicted, mentally ill and homeless. To further develop the new relationship between the two communities the families from the school, parish members and school staff were invited to lend a hand and do some work on the Cana Community farm, leased at Orchard Hills, to teach its’ members valuable skills and give them a sense of achievement and share a day with the people from this community. Mass celebrated in the farm shed is always a beautiful shared experience.
Based on the findings of current research, the school community participated in a number of opportunities to raise awareness of the importance and benefits of having an attitude of Gratitude. The Gospel story of the Ten Lepers was the foundation of the focus. Members of the community were encouraged to Be The One – be like the one leper who said thank you! This initiative included personal Gratitude Journals for each student, optional Family Journals, a Gratitude Wall in the playground and a Gratitude Blog on the school website. A Gratitude SPaR was presented to the parents and staff at the beginning of the term. The current follow up to the Gratitude project is the, Do Unto Others – The Kindness Project. The purpose of the project is to focus on the way Jesus lived his life, giving love, kindness and his presence to those around him and that we can do the same! We are all familiar with Jesus’ repeated acts of kindness and generosity- he fed the hungry, spoke to outcasts and helped the sick and injured. What a role model!
Parent/Parishioner Excursions to Mary MacKillop Place and St Mary’s Cathedral have been another successful way in linking parish/school relationships.
Parent Art Sessions for the Sacraments have provided opportunities for parents to release their inner artist and make a special memento for their child who is to receive a Sacrament. Each session begins with a reflection and prayer. Mementos included making scented candles in a jar and personally decorating them, photo frames including relevant scripture passages, handmade Rosary Beads, Rosary bracelets or leather bands with a stone cross.
The Family Educator is based in the primary school, is responsible to the Principal and works closely with the Parish Priest. Effective communication is maintained with the school leadership team, school and parish staff and parents. Family Educator positions are part-time appointments – 5 days/38 hours per fortnight. The position is tenured for three years and an individual is required to enter a contract of employment on appointment to a Family Educator position. Following a successful contract renewal process, this contract may be renewed for a further period of three years.
The ideal Family Educator is…
- A person of faith
- An evangelizer
- An active Parish member
- An adult faith formator
- An adult learning facilitator
- A creative, resilient, flexible, well organised, risk taker who
has a good sense of humour
- Someone with excellent interpersonal and communication skills
- Someone who has an appreciation of how parishes and
schools operate and relate
- Someone who has the political acumen to navigate the territory!
There are currently 70 Family Educators employed in Catholic primary systemic schools across the Archdiocese of Sydney. Recruitment for Family Educators takes place around July-August, with positions being advertised in the Employment section of the Catholic Education Office Sydney’s website (Click on Category:CEO Sydney), teachers.on.net and in parish bulletins. Family Educators participate in training orientation days and an ongoing formation program. For more information, please firstname.lastname@example.org.