In Tasmania, under the Professional Teaching Standards, teachers are to identify and support students’ physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, environmental and cultural needs. There are multiple demands on a teacher and many responsibilities. The disintegration of the family structure in our society shows that there are more pastoral care issues: teachers don’t have the time to attend to these issues, nor for any one-on-one talks. In 2009, the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed 120,118 marriages and 49,448 divorces. 41% of marriages became divorces. Of the 5.0 million children aged 0 to 17 years in 2009-10, just over 1 million (21%) had a natural parent living elsewhere. It’s too great an expectation of teachers to effectively contribute to pastoral care: they can try, but chaplains are dedicated to it. Chaplains aren’t social workers, but they are there for emotional support if a student wants that support. Teachers do what they can realistically, but they aren’t necessarily there one-on-one for each and every one of their students.
I spoke to a chaplain about his job and he described what he does and looks out for. During recess and lunch breaks, he’ll look out for kids who aren’t involved: especially in the primary school area. He attends to the spiritual needs of the students as a Christian, but does not push his beliefs on them. If a chaplain were to be pushing their beliefs on a student, then they shouldn’t be a chaplain. Chaplains should be living and working with their Christian principles, but also following their job description in doing so. When approaching students, he aims to connect with them: by doing this, he relates to them with understanding and he doesn’t judge them for who they are. No matter the background, the student is the same as any other.
If chaplains were to be removed from schools, it would be devastating for some students. A chaplain is able to devote time to students who they feel are out of the loop. Breaking down social barriers is something I feel chaplains accomplish well. Removing these barriers will open students up to people their age who wouldn’t notice their social problems. Removing chaplains is denying a lonely student a friend: a sense of love and compassion in a place they might least expect it. I feel that parents who want chaplains removed should consider other children as well as their own. If they feel their child is doing well with everything then that’s fine, but not all children are like theirs. Some students also need what this child is getting. I feel the chaplain is a loving character in the school community who is able to show students loving qualities and encouragement that they may not receive at home. For those dead against chaplains, I think you should re-evaluate your thinking on them. What harm could they possibly be causing?
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