You are on page 1of 5


The Three R’s of Pastoral Care:

Relationships, Respect and Responsibility
MICHAEL GROVE, Faculty of Regional Professional Studies, ECU, Australia

group that this paper will focus. It is this area of

The author argues that over the last twenty pastoral care that has received the least amount of
years we have witnessed an evolution in attention in the past and, in which there is the least
pastoral care that is unparalleled in any other information to be found in the current literature
field of education. There has been controversy (Lodge, McLaughlin and Best, 1992).
over the definition and these different views
are discussed. The paucity of research and
literature in the field and particularly in
relation to the pastoral needs of teachers
and staff is emphasized.
In this paper it is suggested that the needs
of school staff in respect of pastoral care are
relatively neglected in the literature. Using the
three R’s of pastoral care – relationships,
respect and responsibility – this paper focuses
attention on teachers and their needs in the
workplace. It is argued that attention to Diagram 1.1. Grove 2003
relationships, respect and responsibility
enables a proactive collaborative approach in
For the purpose of this paper pastoral care will be
which all members of the school community
defined as, all measures to assist an individual person
play a crucial role in the pastoral care of
or a community reach their full potential, success and
students. happiness in coming to a deeper understanding of
their own humanness.

Keywords: pastoral care; staff needs; respect, Relationships

responsibility and relationships.
The first of the ‘R’s’ refers to that of relationships, these
being the basis for all human interactions. To have a
Introduction relationship that is functional and positive there is the
need for open and honest communication. Feelings
In this paper, the ‘Three R’s of Pastoral Care’, refer to need to be shared freely while respecting the rights of
the fundamentals of the sound practice of pastoral care. the other. For this to occur it is necessary to have a
More importantly, it could be argued that for students high level of trust so that there is the strength within
to achieve success in the basics of education they also the relationship to weather the ‘storms’ that are part
need to experience success in the ‘Three R’s of Pastoral and parcel of human interaction.
Care’, namely, relationships, respect and responsibility.
This paper aims to go beyond the success of the Covey (1999) uses the analogy of the ‘Emotional Bank
students alone and investigate the essentials for Account’. In all our interactions with others we are
developing a positive and healthy community. Whilst either making ‘emotional deposits’ or ‘emotional
this paper is written for the context of an educator in withdrawals’. Where there is a high ‘emotional bank
the Catholic system in Western Australia, it is the balance’ there is enough trust within the relationship
opinion of this researcher that the concepts and to ride out a few storms with the relationship more or
principles addressed could be equally applicable in less remaining intact. However, in the reverse situation
other educational systems. where there have been continual ‘emotional with-
drawals’, trust is low, communication becomes difficult
There is entwined among the complexities of pastoral and fragmented where misunderstandings are likely as
care the needs of school staff and it is on this particular each person is ‘walking on eggshells’. Covey takes


r NAPCE 2004. Published by Blackwell Publishing, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden MA 02148, USA.
relationships one step further, suggesting that in a we come to a common understanding of what it means
positive relationship where there is a high level of to belong to that particular group. It may also mean
‘interdependence’ rather than ‘independence’; that that there is likely to be some form of consensus as to
‘one add one equals three’. the meaning associated with the term ‘pastoral care’.

By this Covey means that when we work together Sergiovanni (1994), Hunter (1994) and Treston (1989)
in a relationship we can achieve greater total success suggest that at the broadest level we need to have a
and personal happiness than the sum of what two sense of belonging to a community and that the values
individuals could attain independently. In addition, he of all communities should be modelled on those of the
emphasizes the need for individuals and the commu- positive, functional family. In the ‘ideal’ family there is
nity, as a whole, to have a mission at both the unconditional love, consideration of the needs of
community and the personal level. The community others and this sometimes means putting the needs
mission needs to be one that is shared by all members of the family as a whole unit before individual needs.
of the community, promoting a sense of ownership Compassion, understanding and empathy are just
and belonging. Success and personal happiness require some of the characteristics of a family that school
a sense of purpose and direction to give individuals communities might aim to emulate.
and communities goals to strive for and the unity to
work collaboratively to achieve them. Therefore, One must acknowledge that in using the ‘family’ as a
according to Covey (1999), within the context of the model upon which schools are to base themselves it
school setting, it is also necessary to work interdepend- must be realized that this is an ideal, that it does not
ently, to set and achieve goals collaboratively and to exist in perfect form in reality. Naturally enough, in
promote a harmonious community environment. The schools there is large variety in relationships among
relationships are not stratified or inhibited by patri- the students, parents, teachers and the wider commu-
archal hierarchies and therefore all persons being equal nity. The aim of the family, the school and the
are free to contribute to the school (community) in community is to strive to achieve the best possible
their own particular way. For this to happen a truly relationships in the circumstances in which they find
collaborative approach is required in practice, not themselves.
merely a rhetoric espousing collaboration when the
reality is actually dictatorial. Treston (1989, p. 5) suggests that:

At the theoretical level, the view of ‘Symbolic Inter- Pastoral care is developing empathetic relationships
actionism’ is that we derive our understanding and so that the people in the school community are
associate meanings through our interactions with nurtured into wholesome maturity. Pastoral care is
others. These meanings and our understandings are an expression of the philosophy and vision of the
learned from birth and are instilled in us as we develop school.
within the surrounds of our culture (Cohen, 1985). This
theoretical perspective proposes that we develop and According to Bolton (1987) there are three main
express these common meanings linguistically. It is principles of any relationship in any situation, which
necessary for schools to understand pastoral care at the need to be considered. The first he suggests is, open
theoretical level before implementing changes at the and honest communication and for this to be possible,
practical level. it could be argued that, there needs to be a high degree
of trust and integrity so that each person is able to
The danger inherent in implementing change without learn to become more relaxed and reduce anxiety.
thorough understanding of the theory behind the Having more of one’s personal and professional needs
change is to leave oneself open to faddism (Sergio- met is going to result in a more effective relationship.
vanni, 1994). One such example of educational Learning social skills that form closer interpersonal
‘faddism’ occurred in Western Australia in the early relationships is also essential. This first principle would
1990s with the introduction of ‘First Steps’, a pro- also be supported by Covey’s notion of ‘character ethic’
gramme designed to identify the educational needs of (1999).
students at risk. This was adopted on an ad hoc basis
across the board by educational bodies both govern- By this he means being able to communicate one’s
ment and private. Teachers were forced to implement positive and negative feelings, thoughts and emotions
the developmental continuum without having a solid without experiencing undue amounts of anxiety or
understanding of the original theoretical background. guilt and without violating the dignity of others. The
The result was a dramatic and unnecessary increase in second principle is taking responsibility for what
the workload of teachers, which in some cases saw the happens to one in life. This involves making more
abandonment of sound teaching pedagogy. decisions and free choices, being a friend to oneself
and maintaining one’s own dignity and self-respect.
Relationships occur at a multitude of levels and meet The third is recognizing that one has certain rights and
the basic human desire for a sense of belonging. a value system that need not be sacrificed, that one is
Through our interactions within the school community able to protect oneself from being victimized and taken

PASTORAL CARE – JUNE 2004 r NAPCE 2004. 35

advantage of by others. This involves learning to dis- relationships. We could all tell tales of schools where
criminate as to when assertive behaviours may lead to we have worked in an environment where there is little
negative as well as positive consequences (1987, p. 117). or no respect. These workplaces are destructive at both
the professional and personal level. Little is achieved
In the Catholic school, the notion of the collective life in this type of environment where there is a dominance
also encompasses the parish community, due to the of individualism, with classes, teachers and parents
history of Catholic schools originally being started, striving to attain their personal goals, often at the
staffed and funded totally by individual parishes. This overall expense of the needs of the whole community.
link is still an intrinsic part of the Catholic school
community. The Gospel values, which in turn are One of the common signs of such school communities
derived from the Holy family, are central to the is the high turnover of staff and students and the
Catholic school. The role of the Catholic school is to difficulty of attracting staff to the school in the first
emulate these same values for all the members of its place. This is not to say that all schools experiencing
community. I deliberately choose the word ‘emulate’ difficulty in finding staff are the ones with poor
over instil as it has for this author connotations of early pastoral care, as the reasons for these phenomena
days of Catholic education where students were are more complex than that.
indoctrinated rather than educated in the values of
the Catholic faith. It does, however, recognize that However, good pastoral care is often associated with
there is a spiritual dimension to pastoral care. Some schools where people are respected and valued and the
authors, such as Cadmore (1997), go to some lengths community is dynamic, enthusiastic and vibrant. One
to distinguish between religious education and the of the common characteristics of such schools is the
spiritual element of the human person that must be respect accorded to all persons within that community.
acknowledged and catered for in the pastoral care Whether the person is the school cleaner, single parent
plans of the school community. or student with an intellectual disability is of no
significance in such schools. They are not hierarchical
The focus centres more on what it means to be human. systems, but communities where all persons are
This entails addressing some of the eternal questions welcomed and valued for the contribution that they
such as by whom or by what process were we created? bring in their own giftedness as a person. In many
I would argue that there is a difference between schools the hierarchy of roles can confuse or inhibit the
spiritual development and religious education in levels of respect accorded to various individuals.
secular and denominational contexts. However, it
could be argued that in our quest to come to an One might argue that where the difference is
understanding of our humanity and creation we have significant there is a lack of respect given to a person
to accept that we are all struggling to come to grips within the school community based purely upon the
with how we construct our knowledge and perhaps role they play within the community, then there is the
experience a dimension of humanity that is beyond potential for divisive grouping with a strong likelihood
logical reasoning. It could be argued that at the end of of acrimony between groups. As Chittenden (1993,
the day we are talking about how the human person p. 30) notes, ‘in so called effective school and schools
experiences God. One may not use the term God or in known for their excellence there is a shared culture that
fact any deity, but are acknowledging the paranormal cuts across groups.’
dimension of our existence.
Regardless of a person’s role in the school, it is
Although the relationships of students and teachers important to acknowledge that they can contribute
were specifically targeted in the opening paragraph to the community beyond the scope of their duty
it is essential to understand that all members of the statement. A staff member’s value should not be
community need to develop positive relationships for a directly related to the job they perform. Respect should
pastorally caring and functional community. The lack be directed to any human person, for their intrinsic
of literature relating to the pastoral care of teachers is value as a person rather than the task they may be able
notable and as Tomlinson (1995) contends, whilst the to perform or the financial or other kind of tangible
pastoral care of students is of great importance, so too reward they may be able to offer.
is the need of teachers and school staff. Therefore,
in the context of the school all members need to feel A similar point is made by Covey (1999, p. 2) when he
that they belong and are valued, not only for the role describes a culture of ‘character ethic’ as one:
that they play in the school community but also for
who they are as a person (Lodge et al., 1992). where the traits of temperance, courage, humility,
sincerity, integrity, honesty, industry and thrift are
prominent within the community. The character
Respect ethic taught that there are certain basic principles of
effective living and that people can only experience
The second ‘R’, is the notion of respect, which is a vital true success and enduring happiness as they
ingredient in the development of positive, nurturing integrate these principles into their basic character.

36 r NAPCE 2004. PASTORAL CARE – JUNE 2004

Therefore, in a community that respects a person for through a strong pastoral curriculum and in-service
their character rather than their job title or position in training is of vital importance.
the socio-economic ladder, there is a far greater chance
of obtaining an effective community that is functional, There will always be those who do not embrace
successful and happy. It is important to note that change, are resistant to it and face extreme crises in
Covey (1999) does not equate success with monetary trying to deal with it. Therefore, at any one given point
wealth; rather the achievement of one’s personal goals. in time there are going to be any number of students,
teachers or parents who are having difficulty in
In the context of the Catholic school community, such managing some aspect of their life. For one person to
an attitude is underpinned by the gospel value that ‘all attempt to deal with the multitude of issues presenting
persons are created in the image and likeness of God’ at any given time is neither practical nor desirable.
and therefore are persons worthy of respect because Every person within the school community or asso-
we are all God’s children. ciated with the school has responsibility in some form.
Teachers have a duty to attempt to meet the pastoral
needs of their students, that extends well beyond them
Responsibility achieving academic success for that year, even though
it is an important part of their role. The difficulty lies in
The third aspect of Pastoral Care is that of Responsi- the fact that many teachers have had little or no
bility and is often one of the more problematic aspects training in meeting the pastoral needs of the students
of developing a strong, effective pastorally caring in their class and in fact also those outside of their
community. class. In this respect schools and institutions providing
preservice training have a responsibility to prepare staff
The nature of society and schools is such that it is for their pastoral roles. However, some may have no
impossible for any one person to take full responsibility interest in this vital aspect of education, feeling ill
for the pastoral care of any school community. Given equipped to deal with the issues of students in our
that teachers often receive little or no formal training in contemporary society. A collaborative approach with
the pastoral roles that will be an integral part of their all members of the community taking on some role is
school day, it is understandable that some are reluctant the model recommended by this researcher. Not only
to accept responsibility for the pastoral care of their does involving others in the pastoral care of the
students or other staff members. High schools often community ease the workload of those responsible for
have year leaders, school social workers, school coordinating the pastoral care programme but also
chaplains and counsellors and are often able to offer gives each member of the community a sense of
a degree of pastoral care to students and staff that are belonging and self worth. This extends to bringing in
not so readily available in the primary school. This is outside agencies when the issues at hand are beyond
not to say that high schools, by any stretch of the the level of expertise within the immediate staff and
imagination, have the ideal situation and are not faced community.
by different but equally challenging dilemmas. Neither
should this be understood as a claim in any way that
high schools are more successful in caring for the
members of their community. However, one might Summary
argue that the nature and structure of the high school
is more conducive to facilitating the staff to assist in the The difficulty for many schools is the vacuum between
development of pastoral care procedures. The primary the pastoral care needs of the school and the
school on the other hand is not as specialized in its theoretical and practical knowledge of how to fill that
staffing arrangements. Its advantage, in most in- void. For schools to effectively meet the needs of all the
stances, is the fact that primary school students for persons in their community they need to think with a
the most part have the same teacher, the schools are community mindset. Sergiovanni (1994), in particular,
generally smaller than their high school counterparts writes of the need to develop a ‘we’ rather than ‘I’
and so there is arguably a more intimate connection mentality. He bases this assumption on the work of the
between staff, students and parents. German sociologist, Ferdinand Tonnies (1887) who
suggested that a community that is predominantly a
Schools are forever changing and at the same time are ‘gemeinschaft’ consists of like-minded people who
reflective of societal changes. The only constant in the place the greater needs of the community before
world is change and for many this can be a point of personal goals. Hunter (1994) and Treston (1997)
stress. Lodge et al. (1992) suggests that schools need to adopt a similar stance. If schools are to keep up with
take a more proactive approach to pastoral care rather the plethora of demands being placed upon them in
than the reactive methods employed in the past. There the twenty-first century, then the collaborative build-
is a place for individual casework in dealing with ing of communities is essential. Within these commu-
unexpected crises as they arise. However, presenting nities relationships need to be built upon mutual
students and teachers with the social and emotional respect with responsibility shared across all groups
skills needed to cope with challenging life situations associated with the school.

PASTORAL CARE – JUNE 2004 r NAPCE 2004. 37

It is the opinion of this researcher that further research HUNTER, I. (1994) Rethinking the School; Subjectivity, Bureaucracy,
into the pastoral care of staff is needed to give the Criticism. St Leonard’s, NSW: Allen & Unwin.
theoretical support school communities need in LODGE, C., McLAUGHLIN, C. and BEST, R. (1992) ‘Organizing
Pastoral Support for Teachers: Some Comments and a Model’,
their endeavours to meet the future positively and Pastoral Care in Education, 10 (2), pp. 7–12.
proactively. SERGIOVANNI, T. (1994) Building Community in Schools (1st edn). San
Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
TOMLINSON, H. D. (1995) ‘The Effective and Caring Rural School’,
paper presented at the Fifth National Conference of the Australian
References Association for Pastoral Care in Education, Perth, Western
BOLTON, R. (1987) People Skills: How to Assert Yourself, Listen to TRESTON, K. (1989) Pastoral Care for Schools. Brisbane: Creation
Others, and Resolve Conflicts. East Roseville, NSW, Australia: Simon Enterprises.
& Schuster. TRESTON, K. (1997) Choosing Life: Pastoral Care for School Commu-
CADMORE, B. (1997) ‘Developing and Implementing a Whole-School nities. Brisbane: Creation Enterprises.
Policy for Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural Development’,
Pastoral Care in Education, 15 (4), pp. 8–13. Correspondence
CHITTENDEN, A. (1993) ‘How Can a Pastoral Care Programme Michael Grove
Improve a School Culture?’, Pastoral Care in Education, 11 (3), Faculty of Regional Professional Studies
pp. 29–35. ECU South West Campus
COHEN, A. (1985) The Symbolic Construction of Community (1st edn). Robertson Drive
Chichester: Ellis Horwood Ltd. Bunbury, WA 6230
COVEY, S. (1999) The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People – Manual. AUSTRALIA
Salt Lake City, Utah: Covey Leadership Centre. E-mail address:

38 r NAPCE 2004. PASTORAL CARE – JUNE 2004