This past week I spent a great deal of time with Jodee Blanco, the anti-bullying speaker. She came to Montana to present at 5 of our schools and to all of our teachers as part of our Catholic Teacher Days. I served as her chaperone driving her around our great state. She gives a powerful testimony and she shared with me the feedback she received from one of the students last week: “I just wanted to say that your speech spoke to me and probably saved my life, thank you.” She’s doing important work and I highly recommend bringing her in.
In the process of listening to her presentations and conversing with her, I found myself reflecting on community and belongingness. I’ve included a lot of articles below dealing with belongingness and community:
- “Strategies to foster a sense of belonging in your classroom” from Mind/Shift
- “7 Ways to Build Trust in Your School” from Thomas Murray
- “Why Schools Should be Organized to Prioritize Relationships” from Mind/Shift
- “Turning Classrooms into Communities” from Edutopia
- “How to Make Friends, Build a Community, and Create the Community You Want” from Quartz
Community is something Catholic schools do well. As we search for ways to improve and to increase enrollment, it’s worth considering doubling down on what we do well. Our mission should be to create a community where every person is known and loved. This echoes what the Vatican established in 1977’s The Catholic School, that the Catholic school is a “community whose values are communicated through relationships.” (32) This idea was echoed in the Vatican document Educating to Fraternal Humanism: “Humanizing education  means putting the person at the centre [sic] of education, in a framework of relationships that make up a living community, which is interdependent and bound to a common destiny. This is fraternal humanism.” (8)
This emphasis on belonging should shape your programming, your schedule, your hiring, as well as your marketing. Here’s an example from Providence High in LA.
The paradigm of a Catholic school as a faith community rather than an institution originated in Vatican II’s emphasis on engagement with the world. We have embraced community as the model of a great school and the relationships between students and teachers as fundamental to community development. Innovations such as inclusion (two articles included below) and house systems (read more here) are recent emphases that support community. Certainly Jodee’s message of kindness and bullying prevention serve as bulwarks as well.
Here’s an example of a student who found community at a Catholic school. Notice she was not known at her larger school and turned to the community of a Catholic school and found that she could flourish. Or consider CrossFit which believes its power lies in building community. They don’t view themselves as gyms, health clubs, but a movement toward creating community where people are known and loved.
I explore these issues this week in the Catholic School Matters podcast. Fr. Eric Ramirez, SJ, the director of Pastoral Ministry for the boys division at Regis Jesuit HS, discusses what students need and how he believes his calling is meeting their needs. Tony Ferraro from Dynamic Catholic and Floyd Consulting, discusses their Dream Manager program which challenges teachers to get in touch with their personal hopes and dreams in hopes of creating a more engaged school. Here’s an article about how difficult it is for adults to find and cultivate their passions.
In the newsletter blog, I discuss the importance of belongingness in our Catholic schools. The Top 5 all center on this theme:
- In the blog, I share an article about a bullied student in Billings who found a new home at Billings Central Catholic HS.
- When discussing the podcast with Fr. Eric Ramirez, SJ of Regis Jesuit in Denver and Tony Ferraro from Dynamic Catholic, I share an article about how difficult it is for adults to find and cultivate their passions.
- In the American Catholic News section, there are two articles about inclusion, one about the SPICE program in Columbus and another about the FIRE Foundation in Kansas City. Inclusion is about creating a space of belongingness for all students.
- In the Teaching & Learning section, Mind/Shift offer suggestions to teachers for creating community in your classroom and Edutopia offers strategies for turning classrooms into communities.
- In the Miscellany section, the first article from Quartz offers suggestions on how to make friends, build a community, and create the life you want. I’m not sure we’re teaching adults how to build community.
Have a great week!
I explore belongingness and community this week in the Catholic School Matters podcast. Fr. Eric Ramirez, SJ, the director of Pastoral Ministry for the boys division at Regis Jesuit HS, discusses what students need and how he believes his calling is meeting their needs. Tony Ferraro from Dynamic Catholic and Floyd Consulting, discusses their Dream Manager program which challenges teachers to get in touch with their personal hopes and dreams in hopes of creating a more engaged school.