Trees of Transition

Planting seeds of hope throughout our world through sharing photography and thoughts on teaching, cooking, and life transitions.

Tips on Teaching at a Catholic or Private School (You are entering a new culture…)


After student teaching at a public school, I found I fit better into teaching at private schools, so over the last seven years I have worked at five different private schools; two Catholic schools and three private Christian schools — one international, one urban, and one suburban. Private schools have a different culture than public school that that takes time to learn.

Have you started teaching at a private school? Want some tips on how to transition even more strongly into that school’s culture? Here you go:

–Realize that you are in a new culture, and what you did during student teaching or at your last position might not work. My first job after student teaching (which was large classroom teaching with 25-28 students) was at a small school in Costa Rica with classes of 6-15 students; I didn’t know that large and small class teaching were different, so I learned it the hard way of trying my large classroom methods on the small classes. Some of those methods weren’t necessary and didn’t help me connect with the students.

–Try to embrace the new culture by connecting professionally and personally with the students and their families. If a lot of the students are into sports, try to go to some of their games. I didn’t do this during my last teaching job, and I wished I had because getting a personal connection with students as fast as possible helps with classroom management.

–Be who YOU are, even if you are a different type of teacher than the students are used to. The Catholic school cultures I’ve been part of have teachers who are loud, who shout when they mean something, and the kids are used to that. I came into my last school as a quieter teacher who wouldn’t hardly yell at them, and I would just give the students consequences. My way took a lot of energy and students received many negative consequences, but they did listen overall. I learned that in large Catholic school classes there is a method of scaring the students into submission by quickly punishing the whole class if one or two students choose to act out; I didn’t do this, but if I teach in a Catholic school again, I might do it. After the whole class receives the harsh consequence, then they push each other to not act out again. I tried the opposite way: punish the individual, and that took more time and energy. Looking back, I’m glad I did it the way I did, but I see the efficiency of the other way because it made the class as a group “afraid” of disobeying the teacher. I’m happy I introduced those students to a non-yelling teacher because as they move through school and into the workforce, they will have all sorts of teachers and bosses, and some of the best bosses never yell.

–Realize that entering into and being accepted by a new culture just takes time. Building relationships takes trust, and if the students have had many teachers come and go, it takes them a long time to trust and connect with you. If you are consistent, you eventually will connect with at least some of the students; especially with junior high students, they might not let you know they appreciated your teaching until after you leave. For example, the eighth grade class I had last year took so much energy—especially the guys—and who are following me on Instagram now that they are in high school? Some of the guys that I gave consequences to the most! You never know how you influence the students you are given—just know that you are, and never give up on them.

~Mary Hope

Copyright 2017

Here’s some of the love I received at the end of the school year–for me and baby:

P.S. Thank you for stopping by! I insert affiliate links, such as Amazon, into my posts to share interesting books and products. If you buy something or start a registry, I receive income, for which I am thankful. So…

— shop on  Amazon

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Thank you again, and peace to you and your family!

~Mary Hope


Author: mary.campbell.schuh

Hello Friends, A curious, kind, practical, and energetic writer, wife, mother, and teacher is one way to describe me. I enjoy thinking about transitions--in schools, churches, families, relationships, and even countries. I'm passionate about learning, and I love working with people. Stop by often to see which kind of transition I'm thinking about, and I would appreciate hearing your thoughts. Peace! ~Mary Hope

4 thoughts on “Tips on Teaching at a Catholic or Private School (You are entering a new culture…)

  1. Congrats on your baby!
    I have a six month old daughter and it’s been such a fun adventure so far!
    As a teacher, and now mother, where will you send your child to school? I know that’s a bit down the road but if I can’t help but think about it just as a mother I would imagine you’ve given it at least a little thought…
    I grew up homeschooled and loved it. I socialized through the neighborhood and sports and loved learning at home (turning me into an eternal lover of learning still today despite attaining a master’s and being done with school).
    My husband was in catholic school for the most part and hated how much he was bullied (which I find it hard to imagine as all I see is a handsome strong tall stud! but it must be true!). He doesn’t want our daughter going to public school and I’m with him because I’m afraid that will squash her own natural love of learning I suspect she’ll have, knowing her parents.
    We will be raising her with Christian values but don’t think our school has to have them in particular.
    Montessori? Christian? Other private school?
    I’m very interested in your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Krystin, Thank you for taking the time to read my post and write to me! I apologize for taking so long to reply, but partly I had to think about your questions… Thank you for the congratulations on the baby! I hope your little one is doing well. 🙂
      I had a similar experience as you with being homeschooled (I might have been more isolated, but I worked throught that), and that is partly why I became a teacher — because I love to learn, and as a teacher, you always get to learn! I’m sorry to hear that your husband was bullied at the Catholic school…especially with the large classes, I can see how it can happen.
      Right now we are thinking of homeschooling our little guy at least for elementary school, but we also want to see who he is because if he is really social, we might change that plan. In our area there is a homeschool co-op that could be a good fit where students learn how to function with others in a class, but it is only once a week. If we would do private school, it would be Christian, but right now we don’t have room for that in our budget. A wise friend told me recently: “You just need to evaulate each child’s education one year at a time; you don’t have to have it all figured out for all the kids and for their whole school career.” Hearing this advice takes a lot of pressure off the decision, and reminds me I want to do what is best for each of the children that God entrusts to my care. It will be an exciting journey!
      What do you think of that opinion? I hope it helps. Peace!

      Liked by 1 person

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