- Listen without interrupting. (Proverbs 18)
- Speak without accusing (James 1:19)
- Give without sparing. (Proverbs 21:26)
- Answer without arguing. (Proverbs 17:1)
- Pray without ceasing. (Colossians 1:9)
- Share without pretending. (Ephesians 4:15)
- Enjoy without complaint. (Philippians 2:14)
- Trust without wavering. (Corinthians 13:7)
- Forgive without punishing. (Colossians 3:13)
- Promise without forgetting. (Proverbs 13:12)
Not too long ago I did a summary of some resources found around the web for Catholic educators. One of the resources linked to was Pinterest, but I felt as though the brief summary didn’t get it’s due for how useful Pinterest can be to teachers and faculty in classrooms of all ages.
What is Pinterest? Think of your home corkboard, a place where you pin up recipes found in magazines, pictures, to-do lists, and inspiration. Pinterest is a digital, collaborative version of that board. It is an incredible wealth of creative and inspiring projects, insights, and wisdom. Pinterest consists of visual bookmarks, called “pins”, as links to websites, blogs, and articles, attached with a picture. You can sort “pins” into “boards” that you create and label. You can have boards for different grades, different holidays, different lesson plans, and more. Visual, easy, and intuitive to use, it is an excellent resource that you are sure to pick up quickly.
Technology in the classroom is a constant discussion in all schools, and Pinterest is a great example of ways to utilize it. This blog from Kelly Kraus on the National Catholic Educators Association webpage even talks of creating an account on Pinterest that the entire class has access to, in order for students to share ideas and resources for projects together in one place.
With the success of C3 (Catholic Communication Collaboration – a conference for Catholic teachers, parish staff, and educators about technology and it’s uses in a Catholic education) growing every year in attendance and in offerings, this conversation is becoming ever more relevant.
Pinterest has become an important venue for professional development for thousands of teachers. Teaching tips, lesson plans, craft projects, source material research, and even classroom decoration can be found on Pinterest. There are tips for teaching math to dyslexic or visual learners, to middle school science lessons, to ways to teach math concepts through dance moves.
When professional development training varies drastically based on school, and may be too rigorous on classical teaching while leaving creative ideas behind, or focus too much on inclusivity of the children’s learning styles while not focusing on concrete lesson plans, Pinterest is a great “There when you need it” well to draw from for just about any kind of teaching issue. It is by no means a replacement for lack of teacher education and development, but as an educator, Pinterest might just be the most inspiration available in one place.
Back to Kelly Kraus, who says: “Another thing I love about Pinterest is the material provided when searching for specific lesson ideas. A quick search for a lesson subject, such as “Good Samaritan,” showcases lessons for Catholic classrooms, as well as lessons from other faith traditions. These activities and lesson plans can serve as guides for catechists to create lessons that are specific to their classrooms and their lesson plan objectives.”
“Not on my watch” is the mantra of the new Catholic School Principals mentored under Steven Virgadamo.
Test scores and enrollment will not decline, nor will the Catholic identity be curtailed in Catholic schools across the Archdiocese of New York, assure the 21 new elementary school principals as they embark on building up the Church through the schools and pupils entrusted to their care…”
According to Virgadamo, the homework has been done to adequately prepare for the inevitable generational shift in leadership that has become a reality. Nearly seven years ago, with the help of benefactors, the Curran Catholic School Leadership Academy was established. Virgadamo, the executive director, describes the academy as the equivalent of a naval war college for school leaders.
Fifty years ago, a sense of mission and identity in Catholic schools was taken for granted because the teachers came from the same religious community, Virgadamo noted. Thirty years ago, as the number of religious in the schools diminished, a new generation of lay school leaders emerged who were mentored and formed by members of the religious community who staffed the school. Today, programs such as the Curran Catholic School Leadership Academy are needed, he said, to prepare school leaders to create the same kind of unified school culture that ultimately becomes the charisma of the school.
More than 200 individuals from across the country applied for the 21 Catholic school principal positions in the archdiocese for this year, Virgadamo noted. Many cited the opportunity to be part of the team history will remember as those who rewrote the script of Catholic schools from a declining system to one which is growing and flourishing, he added.”
Bullying in schools is as much a problem today as it has ever been. Perhaps even moreso than it used to be. But how do Catholic schools handle the problem? How do you teach and reprimand in the Catholic way? In the last few years, there has been an increase in a technique called Virtue-Based Restorative Discipline. “This faith-filled approach to addressing bullying and other disruptive behaviors stands as an exemplary model for our parishes, homes and schools.” says Reverend Robert J. Carlson, Archbishop of St. Louis
Designed to minimize the anti-social behaviors that can so often cause problems in schools, while simultaneously increase faith practices. Developed in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, it focuses on the root cause of bullying and other harmful behaviors, rather than punitive repercussions after the fact. It focuses on inspiring children to perform acts of kindness, lay a foundation of spirituality in children and parents alike, helping teachers to recognize and understand warning signs, and create accountability and responsibility for preventing and solving conflicts with the children themselves.
And rather than just focusing on addressing the issues of bullying, it focuses instead on leading a life in the way of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, a better, kinder way of living. By asking children “How do you see the God in others?” you take them out of their own mindset and immediate circumstances and lead them towards a more forgiving and generous way of thinking.
The Catholic Education Office offers training in this program now, and over 200 educators from the Archdiocese of St. Louis and seven other surrounding states can attend comprehensive training in VBRD, School teams will be trained to prevent and reduce antisocial behaviors through virtue education and restorative practices, resulting in a consistent message that upholds the dignity of the human person. “This is our fourth year for this unique training,” said Lynne Lang, director of School Climate at the Catholic Education Office. “Our returning schools are a testimony to the success of this work and reflective of the archdiocesan beONE initiative goals.”
For a full list of resources on this program, visit VirtueBase.org for books and press that can help you bring this into your own classrooms and schools. You can also look there for information on keynote presentations for diocesan retreats, workshops, training services, or presentations for faculty, parents, or students at that same website.
Much has transpired since we opened this school year. Some great days, some challenging days and we have even witnessed some days of minor miracles. And yet for most Catholic school leaders, especially those who have already given everything they have, these last few months or weeks of school can seem like an eternity. No matter how hard you try to pace yourself, a Catholic school leader who is dedicated to giving teachers, students and parents their all, sometimes doesn’t have much left when May and June roll around. Every Catholic school leader needs to approach the end of the year in a way that works best for him or her. But then again, every Catholic school leader needs to remind themselves in May/June to not “spike the ball on the 5 yard line”. Every Catholic school leader will feel better about summer vacation if they know that they have left it all on the field as they cross the finish line of another academic year.
The following strategies are important all year round but even more important to help Catholic school leaders be more effective and focused on myriad professional demands during the last lap of the academic year:
Find Time for Yourself
Doing something that allows you to get away from education-related stuff is important. It’s great to have this hobby as a regular part of your life to keep your stress levels down over the course of the year. This hobby doesn’t have to be a solo activity. It could be something that you do with your spouse, friends, children, or whomever you want. The idea is devoting time to something (other than be a school administrator and minister) that makes you happy.
Partner with Another Catholic School Leader
It’s always good to have someone whom you can count on to be there for you when things get stressful. It’s even better if this someone is also a Catholic school leader, because he or she will have a better understanding of what you’re dealing with at the moment.. He or she can walk you through problems that would have been easy to deal with in September, but seem to be impossible by May. The other side of finding a teammate is being a teammate in return. As much as you receive, you’ll need to give as well. This might sound like more of the stress that’s been leading you to burnout, but helping others can actually make you feel great. It can also help you understand other problems that you deal with at school. Having a partner with whom you can share stressful situations helps prevent you from “crashing and burning.”.
Writing on a regular basis is a wonderful way to keep the fire burning throughout the school year. This can be in a private journal or on a blog for the world to see. Writing helps get ideas out of the head and safely memorialized. I often require new school leaders to journal in their first year of service and have even encouraged some to do so with a spouse as serving as a Catholic school leader is a family commitment. The writing process can be very powerful for people dealing with high levels of stress. Writing can sometimes provide a different perspective.
As the Jimmy Buffet song says, “if we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.” Find the things that make you laugh and do them. The Mayo Clinic lists many of the positives of laughter when it comes to stress. The short-term benefit of laughter can “stimulate many organs, activate and relieve your stress response, and soothe tension.” The long-term impact of laughter can “improve your immune system, relieve pain, increase personal satisfaction, and improve your mood.”
Catholic School Leaders have way too many demands on their time. Recent research suggests that a Catholic school Principal performs myriad tasks during the day, but none for longer than 15 minutes. It is no wonder some say….”the Catholic School Principal – Will Jesus do?”
Yet, there are some Catholic school leaders that always mange to meet the challenges of the job. What each of these school leaders have in common are:
- Have a clear understanding of deliverables and a vision of what success will look like
o Each school leader has a job description and an idea of the appraisal process, but high performing school leaders understand the key deliverables and what they will ultimately be measured on.
- Understand how they spend their time
o Effective school leaders regularly analyze how they are spending their time and ask themselves am I spending my time to achieve my key deliverables. These leaders identify the mismatches between their activities and desired deliverables and then take action to align time on task with achieving the desired deliverables.
- Monitor results
o Focusing on deliverables delivers results. Successful Catholic school leaders measure their own performance against goals on a quarterly basis and are willing to realign objectives to achieve the results desir