Category Archives: Lead

Play Like A Champion: Following the Vatican’s Lead to Elevate the Culture of American Sport

The following blog was contributed by Kristin Komyatte Sheehan, Program Director, Pete Piscitello, Manager of Outreach and Operation Support, and Dr. Clark Power, Founder & Director of Play Like a Champion Today in Notre Dame, Indiana.

In the midst of an ordinary spring, those of us involved in youth and high school sports would be excited for the beginning of our children’s spring sports season. In our imagination, we can still hear the crack of the baseball bat, the swish of a lacrosse stick flinging a ball, and the chatter of teammates cheering from a bench. In a perfect world, our children would still be running, laughing and playing together. In light of COVID-19, our new reality is something altogether different, one that none of us would have ever conceived.

While our fields and stadiums are quiet, we do not have to break completely from sports. We are thrilled to announce the release of a new book that can provide a sport “fix” while the playing fields await our return. Play Like a Champion: Following the Vatican’s Lead to Elevate the Culture of American Sport provides a “Call to Action” for our American Church, with details on how to elevate the culture of Catholic-sponsored sports programs and increase the availability of sports for children across our country.

The book exists to invoke action, yet we can use this “pause” in play as an opportunity to evaluate and imagine how we can improve sports for children; both individually and collectively, in our own community as well as across our country. Pope Francis has called on the faithful during this time to consider “what is necessary from what is not” while asking us to “rediscover the life that awaits us, to look towards those who look to us, to strengthen, recognize and foster the grace that lives within us” (Urbi et Orbi, March 27, 2020). This book presents a vision for realizing the Pope’s call in the context of sports. Gaining inspiration from the Vatican’s 2018 release of Giving the Best of Yourself: a Document on the Christian Perspective on Sport and the Human Person, the book provides commentary on the Church’s unique calling in sports while inviting the reader to reflect on how he or she can apply concepts within teams and organizations.

Individual chapters discuss the theology and value of Play; how coaches and athletes can build the virtues of a Champion; the role of Coaching as Ministry; the spirituality of sports; how to build positive partnerships with sport parents; and a Pastoral Action Plan for implementing the Vatican’s vision of a thriving sport culture in your own diocese. Readers will gain a thorough understanding of the overall value of sport in supporting the integral development of people and how sports can be, as Pope Francis suggests, “an instrument of encounter, formation, mission and sanctification” (Pope Francis Letter on Giving the Best of Yourself, June 1, 2018).

Additionally, this book contains a number of exciting, tangible resources that coaches, parents and administrators can use to encourage character development and faith formation through sports. These include:

  • A “10 Commandments for Sport Parents”
  • Codes of Conduct for Sports Parents, Coaches, Athletes, Officials
  • A Guide to “Leading Moral Discussions with your Team”
  • Sport-themed Stations of the Cross
  • Mysteries of the Rosary with Reflections for Athletes and Teams
  • A Novena to St. Sebastian, the Patron Saint of Athletes & Sports
  • Sport Prayers: Categorized by Topic for Athletes, Teams, Coaches and Parents
  • The 5 Minute Game Plan, a series of lesson plans for practices based on age-appropriate catechesis and prayer.

This book is an invitation to all those who believe in the power of sport to serve the human person. To our bishops and priests, coaches at youth, high school and collegiate levels, to sport parents, athletic directors, school administrators and administrators of sports leagues… to athletes and all sport enthusiasts. As we weather this current storm of COVID-19 together and await a return to the parishes, schools and athletic fields that bring us closer to God, may we work diligently to assure that the world of sports to which we return echoes the call of Pope Francis to “revive our Easter faith.” We invite you to order a copy of this book today and join us in a national discussion on how we can elevate the culture of sports, creating an environment in which young athletes can grow and develop physically, mentally and spiritually.

Cultivating Faith: A Guide to Building Catholic High School Campus Ministry

The following blog was contributed by Dan Masterton, Assistant Vocations Minister, The Clerics of St. Viator, in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

In spring 2018, my principal emailed our school staff with a plug from NCEA. Its national convention was coming to Chicago in 2019, and they were inviting submissions for presentations.

I’ll admit I hadn’t done much campus ministry professional development besides grad school for my master’s degree. And the bit I had done with other campus ministers was more about building relationships and making connections. I hadn’t seen much in my several years that was well geared toward developing stronger ministry on high school campuses.

We had a strong culture of professional development at that school, and my principal consistently encouraged us to take part in things on and off campus. I decided to open the application and saw the huge list of specialties under which presentations could fall — and campus ministry was one of them!

In my role as campus minister, I had designed and implemented a program through which students could imagine, design, lead, and direct a brand new retreat from scratch. I decided to adapt my system into a presentation and submit it to NCEA. As I learned more about how many people attend the conference from so many different roles in Catholic education, I was glad I threw my hat in the ring. Sure enough, I was accepted to present.

On that April afternoon at NCEA 2019, I had the very enjoyable opportunity to talk to a modest sized but deeply engaged group of people. Even more enjoyably, the attendees followed my input with excellent questions, and a few remained after the session ended to talk even more!

One of these fateful conversation partners was Cari White, Director of Campus Ministry from St. Edward High School near Cleveland, Ohio. Cari shared a bit about her school and its ministry, invited me to join a national network of campus ministers and theology teachers, and even mentioned that she had initial conversations with NCEA about writing a campus ministry book. It was a project she had been thinking about for some time, as there is a serious lack of resources for high school campus ministry. We immediately talked like old friends who were catching up, and we agreed that we would keep in touch.

One year later, our co-authored book, Cultivating Faith: A Guide to Building Catholic High School Campus Ministry, has been published by NCEA and is now available at their online store! We are excited to share our work with all of you, and we hope it can provide some meaningful food for thought for you and your schools.

First of all, we never set out to write a prescriptive handbook. From almost twenty years’ campus ministry experience between us, we know every high school is different. Local contexts and varying circumstances mean every school needs to adapt in its own way. As such, we set out to describe some basic frameworks and fairly universal principles as a starting point for readers’ consideration.

From there, we focused on what we feel are the three integral areas of campus ministry: retreats, liturgy and prayer, and service and justice. Each area gets a chapter that lays out a good foundation and some ways to build out to broader offerings or build up to multi-layered approaches.

To get a little past nitty-gritty and into some philosophical considerations, we then included some topics for wider, broader thought. We talk extensively about building a rich, vibrant ministry environment with sustainable vitality; we write about establishing and maintaining a safe, supportive environment both for young people and adults; we give some resources and background on integrating technology into ministry.

Finally, as a conclusion, we offer some spiritual reflection, including some of our favorite self-care and wellness practices. Campus ministers are significantly vulnerable to overworking and burning out, so we wanted to share some ideas for taking care of ourselves.

Together, these areas constitute a roadmap of sorts. We think it can be instructive to schools that are starting campus ministry from scratch. We think it can inform schools who are trying to restart campus ministry or dedicate new, different attention to it. We also think it can be a measuring stick in imaginative, strategic discussions that evaluate the past, present, and future of already stable, strong campus ministry. No matter the situation, we hope most of all that people can use it constructively and reach out to us if we can pitch in as conversation partners to the great work being done at Catholic high schools.

Catholic Schools Meet the Challenge

The following blog was contributed by Kathy Mears, Interim President/CEO at the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) in Arlington, VA.

A ten-year-old boy sat in his classroom and was asked by his teacher to recite the Ten Commandments. The little boy did not stand as required and did not state the Commandments. He knew the Commandments, but he could not stand and enumerate them for his teacher, because he knew his teacher wanted the Protestant version and he was a Catholic. Thomas Whall endured a beating that day in 1859 at the Eliot School in Boston, a thrashing that left him bloodied and bruised. Thomas fainted as a result of his punishment and over the next few days Catholic students attending public schools walked out of their classrooms in protest of the treatment of Thomas and to rally against the teaching of the Protestant faith in public schools. Over the next few years, Catholics built hundreds of schools across Boston and the United States to ensure that their children received a quality education that included the teaching of the Catholic faith.

The Catholic immigrants who built those schools faced ingrained anti-Catholic prejudice among many in the Protestant majority. The Eliot School teachers were following Massachusetts law when they asked the young Thomas Whall to recite the Ten Commandments. Public schools, steeped in the values and traditions of the majority, were intended to be instruments by which immigrants would be assimilated into the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant norm. The common schools taught young Catholics Protestant translations of the bible. They also questioned the validity of the Catholic Christianity and they placed little value on the native languages and customs of the newcomers. They generally created structures that impeded upward mobility for these immigrant children.

In response to the hostility of the majority, the Church formed schools to share a Catholic way of life, including its rich and varied cultural traditions, with the next generation. The school became an essential component of the parish community, which served all of God’s people, the old and young. Unlike public schools, the Catholic schools respected and taught the languages and customs of the various ethnic groups. Catholic schools not only provided continuity, shelter and support, they also provided the skills needed to be successful in America. Our immigrant ancestors often came to the new world with only the clothes on their backs. Despite their lack of financial resources, the children were taught, and they learned. Since their inception, Catholic schools have lifted more people out of poverty, than any other private institution.

Immigrant children continue to fill our schools. Today they are more likely to come from Central or South America, Africa or Asia than Europe, but they still come to learn in schools that teach students to act ethically. Immigrant parents are seeking a place where their children will be loved and nurtured in an environment that challenges them to do their best in their academic studies. They want their children to be encouraged to do well and to do good. They also want them to learn about their faith and how to live a life that has Jesus at its center. Catholic schools continue to be places of hope, places where children are encouraged to embrace their heritage, language and customs, a place where they can feel safe and know the love of God.

Parents who are not Catholic also enroll their children in our schools. They appreciate that self-discipline is taught, and that the environment is one where children are encouraged to develop their talents and skills. It is because of the relationships that are developed in our schools between students, teachers and families that our schools excel in developing our students into responsible citizens, citizens who serve. As more than one parent has stated, “It’s like a family. I know that the people at the school will take care of my kids.”

None of this could have taken place without women and men in consecrated life, who toiled ceaselessly to educate other people’s children. These dedicated religious joined with families to provide young Catholics with the skills they needed not only to make a living, but to make a life worth living. These religious sisters, brothers and priests, taught children “reading, writing and ‘rithmetic”, as well as the faith. Students learned how to know, love and serve God from these teachers. The contributions of these educators to the success of Catholic schools is without measure.

Though fewer in number today, members of religious communities continue to enliven our schools. Today they work with the laity who have taken up their mantle. Lay men and women who work in our schools are very aware of the commitment that is needed to maintain the level of educational excellence that Catholic schools have always offered and realize that they stand on the shoulders of educators who understand that teaching is an act of love.

Catholic schools continue to be special places where the Church accompanies young people by handing on the faith, by providing outstanding educational opportunities, and by forming exemplary citizens committed to the common good at home and abroad. Catholic schools serve nearly 54 million young people in elementary and secondary schools worldwide, 1.7 million of them in the United States.

The Church engages in education because of its evangelizing ministry to bring children to Jesus, to teach them to know, love and serve God. The Church built and supports Catholic schools to build the kingdom of God.  The Church also believes that it is her responsibility to support parents. In Gravissimum Educationis, the Church calls parents “the primary and principle” educators of their children. It is through Catholic schools that the Church more fully supports families in caring for their children and in teaching them the Catholic faith.

Catholic schools are not only places of evangelization, but they are also places of educational excellence and engagement. The Church’s ability to assist students in reaching their potential, in growing the seeds of talent planted in us by our Creator, is of paramount importance. It is through the Catholic schools’ evangelization efforts and quest for excellence that the Church engages in the true ministry of Catholic education. Academic excellence is a requirement of Catholic education. It is not a secondary principle. On the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), Catholic school students outperform other students in both reading and math. Catholic school students are more likely to attend college and the contributions of Catholic school graduates to science, medicine, technology, literature and art are too many to enumerate. From an academic standpoint, Catholic education is critically important to our Church and nation.

According to a Pew study, students who attend Catholic schools are more likely to vote and to volunteer. They are more likely to graduate from high school and continue their education. Catholic schools create engaged citizens, people who give back to their community, people who understand their obligation to know, love and serve God by knowing, loving and serving others. Catholic education works because of the weaving of our faith into every aspect of the day.  It works because our faith provides the foundation for our desire to seek truth, beauty and goodness in our lessons and in the way, we approach life.

During these turbulent times, Catholic educators are more than proving their worth. They are engaging with their students. They are working to create challenging lessons that will continue the learning that began in our classrooms last fall. Most importantly, they are reminding their students that they are still there, still willing to teach them and to enjoy life’s best moments and most difficult of times with them. Our teachers are showing our students how important they are to their school and Church communities. They are teaching them to turn to God in times of difficulty and times of joy, to find their hope in Jesus.

Catholic schools are living the evangelization mission of the Church. They are making a difference. They are worthy of our stewardship.

Administrator’s Survival Guide: Assistance on the Leadership Journey

The following blog was contributed by Annette Marie Jones, Ed.D., educational consultant and former assistant director for school leadership at the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) in Arlington, VA.

Are you a new administrator, an aspiring administrator, a superintendent who coaches new administrators, or a professor who educates aspiring administrators? NCEA’s new publication, Administrator’s Survival Guide authored by Annette Marie Jones, Ed.D. and Thomas J. Kiely, D.H.L., can be utilized as a template providing guidance for new or aspiring leaders.

This practical and thought-provoking publication is divided into four primary sections:  Orientation Questions, Reflection Questions on the National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Schools, Personal and Community Wellness, and a Monthly List of Tasks.

Your Own Orientation Questions
As school administrators, it is important to ask questions, especially the right questions!  In the Administrator’s Survival Guide, the authors have compiled a starting list of questions, which may lead to other questions and clarifications as the school is viewed from a holistic perspective.  In seeking answers, school leaders can determine the best person or group of people to pose questions, such as the superintendent, pastor, board members, highly-respected teachers, engaged parents, students, parishioners, local principals, or local community members.

Reflection on National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Schools
The National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Schools can be a vital tool for envisioning the scope of school leaders’ responsibilities.  This publication highlights the four domains, Mission and Catholic Identity, Governance and Leadership, Academic Excellence, and Operational Vitality, of the National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Schools created by Dr. Lorraine Ozar and Dr. Patricia Weitzel-O’Neill.  For each of the four domains, the benchmarks are listed followed by the reflection questions or suggested actions for the principals’ leadership journey.

Personal and Community Wellness
Catholic school leaders work to create an environment within the school community that integrates a healthy lifestyle with the lifelong pursuit of excellence.  The school’s commitment to wellness inspires and empowers individuals to take responsibility for their own spiritual well-being and physical health as well as creating a nurturing school community.  The reflection questions on personal and community wellness can steer school leaders to reflect on their own wellness and the development of their school’s culture.

Monthly List of Tasks
Who doesn’t love a to do-to list, especially if it is already created?  The authors have designed a monthly task list as a guideline to assist with the various responsibilities of the principal’s role.  For the principal’s convenience, each monthly list is organized by the categories of Mission and Catholic Identity, Governance and Leadership, Academic Excellence, Operational Vitality, Health and Safety, and Personal and Community Wellness.

This valuable Administrator’s Survival Guide can be ordered from the National Catholic Educational Association (ISBN: 978-1-55833-719-0). Please join me in thanking the dedicated Catholic school leaders for their countless hours focused on the continuous growth of their students and staff members. May God continue to inspire, guide, and bless them on their leadership journey!

 

 


Positive Psychology: Focusing on Strengths and the Cultivation of Well-being and Happiness

This blog was contributed by Matthew Breuninger, M.A., Psy.D., Assistant Professor of Psychology at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio. Dr. Breuninger is also a licensed clinical psychologist.

As a clinical psychologist and a college professor, I find myself profoundly aware of the mental health issues and concerns that plague many of our students. Research suggests that the recent cohorts of college students are the most anxious, depressed and suicidal to have entered our college system, ever. With the increased pressures of college—harder course work, the need to find new support networks, and navigating life predominantly on one’s own—many students struggle to master course content and subsequently grades suffer, further contributing to their anxiety and depression.

This problem is not unique to college students, however. High schoolers are also experiencing mental health issues at significantly higher rates than ever before. Students are reporting less positive emotion, fewer relationships with peers, feeling as if their life lacks purpose and less engagement across various domains of life. These issues pose significant challenges for Catholic school teachers, who must form and shape character, as well as transmit knowledge and academic skill. The simple reality is that many of our Catholic schools, despite their academic excellence and fidelity to passing on the truths of the Faith, struggle to teach our students how to flourish. The cultures of our schools are not shaping students’ character in ways that promote their well-being. Compounding this problem, administrators and teachers are suffering from high rates of fatigue and burnout.

Enter positive education. Positive education is a movement that seeks to teach, embed and live the principles of positive psychology within every level of a school (from the principal down to the custodian, from gym class to AP physics). Positive psychology is a relatively recent movement within psychology that focuses on a person’s strengths and on the cultivation of well-being and happiness. According to positive psychology, well-being comprises:

  • Positive emotion
  • Engagement (flow)
  • Relationships
  • Meaning
  • Achievement

Along with these five domains, positive psychology also focuses on gratitude, signature strengths and resilience (i.e., the ability to cope with setbacks and obstacles we face daily). Research suggests that tools and exercises found in positive psychology decrease depression, hopelessness, and anxiety and increase psychological and emotional resilience.

Not only does positive psychology promote psychological and emotional health, but the  domains and topics on which it focuses are highly compatible with the Catholic faith, allowing them to be seamlessly integrated into the foundation of Catholic school culture in a way that promotes authentic flourishing. For example, we read repeatedly throughout Scripture that we should give thanks to God and be grateful (e.g., 1 Thess. 5:18; Col. 3:15; Eph. 5:20).

One of the exercises of positive psychology is the gratitude list. Research suggests that writing a gratitude list can decrease depressive symptoms. By habitually focusing on the positives in life, we decrease our tendency to focus on the negatives and set ourselves up to experience more positive emotions. So, a teacher might invite their students to practice a daily gratitude list in the last class of the day. Another example is found in St. Paul’s invitation to persevere and live the Christian life with endurance (Rom. 5:4).

Positive psychology provides a number of tools that help foster resilience in order that we might endure and persevere against the struggles and challenges of life. By intentionally cultivating resilience, our schools will equip our students not only to persevere spiritually, but to have coping tools to deal in a healthy manner with the normal setbacks of life. The list of exercises and ways that positive psychology can integrate with the faith to create a culture that teaches and promotes authentic well-being is too exhaustive for such a short post. Suffice it to say, however, that I believe positive education can and should be brought thoughtfully and intentionally into all of our Catholic schools.

The benefit is not just for the students though. Teachers, administrators and staff are trained and invited to live positive psychology principles in schools that embrace positive education. This creates a school culture that has shared values (e.g., genuine relationships, trust, compassion, gratitude) and a common language (e.g., virtues, resilience and positive psychology exercises). Further, research shows that when teachers are happy and healthy, students have better outcomes as well. Positive education can help our teachers alleviate burnout and find deep purpose and joy in teaching again.

Yes, we want our students to have academic knowledge and skill, but we also want them to be happy and psychologically healthy; positive education can help. While positive education has become popular in other countries, it has yet to make a significant impact in the United States. I firmly believe that our Catholic schools should spearhead this introduction and integration within American education.

Though short, I hope this post has piqued your interest in how positive psychology can help teachers and students through creating a culture embedded with empirically supported exercises and tools to enhance well-being. If you are interested in a more in-depth look at the topic, I will be giving a webinar in January for NCEA, in which I will dive into more specifics and provide various resources on positive education. This webinar will serve as an extension of my work in the Educators Track of Franciscan University of Steubenville’s Master of Catholic Leadership program.

Shared Leadership: Embracing Teacher Leadership Capacity

This blog was contributed by Annette Jones, Ed.S., Assistant Director for School Leadership at the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) in Arlington, VA.

Leadership capacity is defined as the spectrum of involvement in leadership activities (Lambert, 2002). Depending on each teacher’s leadership qualities and skills, he or she will participate at various levels in the school community. As an administrator, the key is to provide numerous opportunities for leadership so that all teacher leaders will shine. 

As an administrator and colleague, there are numerous opportunities to practice leadership skills in the school environment. With all of the following opportunities, effective communication skills, openness to new ideas and collaborative spirit are the foundation to moving toward and continuing shared leadership.

  • Mentoring Program assists inexperienced or struggling teachers with instructional best practices, professional development, communication skills and interpersonal relationships. The foundation for an effective mentoring program is ensuring confidentiality and ensuring a safe environment for professional collaboration (Henderson, 2001; Wilhelm, 2013).
  • Reflective Practice means that professional educators and leaders use a journal to analyze instructional practices, peer interactions, students’ academic abilities and social interactions (Spillane, 2009). Through reflective practice, teacher leaders may notice patterns and create a plan to activate change.
  • Teacher Educators serve as models of educational skills and professional demeanor for pre-service teachers. These teacher leaders expose the pre-service teacher to the realities and expectations of the profession. In addition, the teacher educator may suggest improvements in the teacher education program in their unique role as a liaison between their school and the university (Henderson, 2001).
  • Curriculum Specialist has interest and expertise in academics. Their role includes integrating Catholic Identity, assisting with lesson planning, and designing, reviewing, and evaluating the curriculum (Henderson, 2001).
  • Professional Learning Communities (PLC) provide teachers with common planning time during the school day. Teacher leaders have equal input into decision-making and discussions focused on students’ academic achievement, behavior management and social interactions (Conley, 1999).
  • Action Research inspires teacher leaders to improve current practices or initiate new practices by asking questions, doing research and discussing results. The research topics can focus on academics, social interactions and behavior management (Lambert, 2002; Henderson, 2001).

Reflection: Which opportunities will you provide for teachers (or colleagues), so they can develop their leadership skills?

Quote: “Action Research inspires teacher leaders to improve current practices or initiate new practices by asking questions, doing research and discussing results.”

References

Conley, S. & Muncey, D. (1999). Teachers talk about teaming and leadership in their work. Theory Into Practice, 46-55.

Henderson, M. & Barron, B. (2001). Leadership challenges for classroom teachers. 62-63.

Lambert, L. (2002). A Framework for Shared Leadership. Educational Leadership, 37-40.

Spillane, J.P. (2009). Managing to Lead: Reframing School Leadership and Management. Phi Delta Kappan (Nov), 70-73. Wilhelm, T. (2013). How Principals Cultivate Shared Leadership. Educational Leadership, 62-66.

Develop and Embrace Teacher Leadership Capacity in Your School

This blog was contributed by Annette Jones, Ed.S., Assistant Director for School Leadership at the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) in Arlington, VA.

What is a contemporary school community?

A contemporary school community is focused on shared leadership.  Each and every person in a school is a leader. What an important concept to teach and model to our new teachers, experienced teachers and even our students in our Catholic schools! In reviewing the qualities and skills of effective teacher leaders and the role of the administrator, one can grasp how high leadership capacity can occur in our Catholic schools.

What are the qualities and skills of effective teacher leaders?

The effective teacher leader understands the needs of the students in the school and often assumes the role of teacher advocate by offering suggestions to improve instruction, curriculum and the school culture (Nappi, 2014; Henderson, 2001). These teacher leaders are agents of change! Specifically, teacher leaders think beyond their daily work and effectively communicate their opinions as contributors and risk-takers (Nappi, 2014). Teacher leaders’ intrinsic drive and motivation propel their knowledge of curriculum and development, interpersonal skills, change processes, and group process skills to affect change in their schools (Henderson, 2001). Over time, the role of a teacher leader can inspire his or her personal transition to a formal leadership role, such as a principal or curriculum director (Nappi, 2014).

What does high leadership capacity look like?

Leadership capacity is defined as the spectrum of involvement in leadership activities (Lambert, 2002). Depending on each teacher’s leadership qualities and skills, he or she will participate at various levels in the school community. As an administrator, the key is to provide numerous opportunities for leadership so that all teacher leaders will shine. Based on research (Wilhelm, 2013; Lambert, 2002; Conley, 1999), a school that embraces a high leadership capacity engages in the following leadership practices:

  • Engages in high level thinking and questioning which results in collaborative efforts, creativity and new ideas.
  • Engages in conversations about curriculum, instruction and best practices across grade levels.
  • Uses inquiry practices—talk, examine, strategize, and take action steps.
  • Ensures that the instructional practices are linked to the school’s vision.
  • Listens attentively, remains open to change, are adaptable, and builds relationships with all stakeholders.
  • Creates shared leadership, which leads to ownership among all staff members.
  • Embraces a collaborative community, such as mentoring, reflective practice or professional learning communities

Reflection: How will teacher leadership be developed and embraced in your school?

“The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born—that there is a genetic factor to leadership. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true.  Leaders are made rather than born.” ~Warren Bennis (Shaw, 2015).

References

Conley, S. & Muncey, D. (1999). Teachers talk about teaming and leadership in their work. Theory into Practice, 46-55.

Henderson, M. & Barron, B. (2001). Leadership challenges for classroom teachers. 62-63.

Lambert, L. (2002). A Framework for Shared Leadership. Educational Leadership, 37-40.

Nappi, J. (2014). The teacher leader: Improving schools by building social capital through shared leadership. The Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, 29-34. Wilhelm, T. (2013). How Principals Cultivate Shared Leadership. Educational Leadership, 62-66.

Perspectives from Principal Jack V. Nelson: 2019 National Distinguished Principal

This blog was contributed by Annette Jones, Ed.S., Assistant Director for School Leadership at the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) in Arlington, VA.

Congratulations to Matt R. Grosser, St. Mary School in Alexandria, KY; Jack V. Nelson, St. George School in Baton Rouge, LA and Deborah C. O’Neil, St. Bernadette School in Northborough, MA who were recently named 2019 National Association of Elementary School Principals: National Distinguished Principals! NCEA congratulates and thanks them for their dedicated and highly effective leadership in Catholic education.

This award winner’s best practices in his school can inspire you! Principal Nelson shares his insight for cultivating a positive climate and utilizing curriculum mapping. In reading his responses, what can you take away as a new or improved practice in building academic excellence, leadership skills and a positive climate for your school?

Do you know an excellent elementary principal? Check out the nomination process for the 2021 Lead. Learn. Proclaim Award in late spring of 2020.  From the pool of elementary principals named 2021 Lead. Learn. Proclaim. awardees, three elementary principals will be invited to submit a packet for the National Association of Elementary Principals, National Distinguished Principals Award! Now is the time to think of a dynamic elementary principal to nominate for this prestigious accolade!

Mr. Nelson, how do you cultivate, monitor and advance a positive climate in your building?

“I believe one of the most effective ways to foster a positive climate in our school is to be visible and present. We are in the relationship business. As a leader it is my responsibility to develop a positive culture and relationship with our shareholders. In regards to faculty and staff, I make an effort to attend a grade level meeting at least once every nine weeks with each grade level. Additionally, I make an effort to have small conversations with teachers and staff and “check in” with them on a regular basis.

I am an advocate for our students. Scheduling regular visits to classrooms, spending time outside at pick up and drop off times, walking through the playground, attending school sporting events and band concerts, etc. lets students know that I care about them. Leadership opportunities are given to students through student government and they feel they have a voice at St. George. They know they make an impact at their school. 

I believe that I am approachable to all and a willing listener. I try to work with parents on our consultative boards and communicate clearly the mission of our school. My years here at St. George have afforded me many opportunities to build on traditions and engage others in advancing our mission. As a community, we work hard every day to develop and advance our mission of educating the whole child in a distinctly Catholic environment.”

Mr. Nelson, what is one effective academic strategy utilized at St. George School?

“One strategy that St. George School implemented to achieve National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence status was to comprehensively map all areas of the curriculum to align with the Diocese of Baton Rouge Learning Standards. Curriculum mapping is the process indexing or diagramming a curriculum to identify and address academic gaps, redundancies, and misalignments for purposes of improving the overall coherence of a course of study.  Curriculum mapping is important because it allows teachers and administrators to find balance between the content across curricula. 

The process of implementing curriculum mapping was as follows: The curriculum mapping committee directed the purchase of the curriculum mapping software and determined the curricula areas to map.  A consultant was brought into our school, so that teachers could learn about curriculum mapping.  We established a leadership cadre in our building. After the training, the school started implementing curriculum mapping by subject areas and grade levels.

Curriculum mapping is an effective planning tool that can set up short term and long-term instructional goals.  When curriculum maps are in place, teachers can trace the previous knowledge and skills of their students and build on them.  One participant noted, ‘You know what they’ve seen, what they were supposed to have seen, what they have supposedly mastered and at what level they saw that.’  Curriculum mapping helps ensure that all students are getting the same education and the same foundations.  As a result of St. George School’s success, curriculum mapping has been implemented across the Diocese of Baton Rouge beginning in 2017.”

Again, congratulations to Matt Grosser, Deborah O’Neil and Jack Nelson!  We look forward to your special celebration in October 2020, Washington, DC.

Perspectives from Principal Deborah O’Neil: 2019 National Distinguished Principal

The following blog was contributed by Annette Jones, Assistant Director for School Leadership at the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) in Arlington, VA.

Congratulations to Matt R. Grosser, St. Mary School in Alexandria, KY; Jack V. Nelson, St. George School in Baton Rouge, LA and Deborah C. O’Neil, St. Bernadette School in Northborough, MA who were recently named 2019 National Association of Elementary School Principals: National Distinguished Principals! NCEA congratulates and thanks them for their dedicated and highly effective leadership in Catholic education.

This award winner’s best practices in her school can inspire you! Principal Deborah O’Neil shares her insight for supporting students and their learning needs. In reading her responses, what can you take away as a new or improved practice in building academic excellence, leadership skills and a positive climate for your school? Do you know an excellent elementary principal? Check out the nomination process for the 2021 Lead. Learn. Proclaim Award in late spring of 2020. From the pool of elementary principals named 2021 Lead. Learn. Proclaim. awardees, three elementary principals will be invited to submit a packet for the National Association of Elementary Principals, National Distinguished Principals Award! Now is the time to think of a dynamic elementary principal to nominate for this prestigious accolade!

Mrs. O’Neil, which program has greatly impacted students at your school?

“When I interviewed with the school board at St. Bernadette School, I was surprised to hear that there were no children in the school with individualized education plans (IEPs). Further responses implied that no student at the school qualified for an educational plan. My response was to explain that I was certain that they were present, but perhaps had not yet been identified. Collaborating with the assistant principal, teachers and parents, a significant goal my first year as principal was to begin the identification process immediately.

The process yielded a number of concerns regarding children’s ability to access the curriculum standards and goals independently. Within the first two months, there were students with reading and math challenges across grades 1-8 identified. The next concern was to determine how could the school begin to address these students’ needs? By Thanksgiving break, a part-time reading specialist had been hired to provide direct instruction and support for first to third grade students. An instructional assistant was assigned to small groups of students initially and, time went on to several individual students whose needs were most significant.

As we developed identification criteria and began to collaborate with local public school districts in which our students reside, we hired two certified reading specialists and two certified math teachers over the next two years. Additionally, several classroom teachers became certified as Wilson reading specialists and provided instruction within the school day, after school hours, and during summer breaks.

Placement assessments of new applicants helped identify where these new students were in relation to current students. As school begins, all teachers read the individualized education plans (IEPs) and sign-off on the review to ensure the plans are followed. While testing is primarily conducted by public school personnel with a small number of families electing to have private evaluations conducted, St. Bernadette School personnel are present at meetings and collaborate with their counterparts.

Since the inception of this program, a significant number of students have benefited from being evaluated and from the support available to them. Currently, nearly fifty St. Bernadette School students are able to access the program and demonstrate significant progress as they continue their education. The faculty has participated in a variety of professional development programs, expanding their skills and understanding of learning differences and increasing their efficacy with all students.”

Perspectives from Matt Grosser: 2019 National Distinguished Principal

The following blog was contributed by Annette Jones, Ed.S., Assistant Director for School Leadership at the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) in Arlington, VA.

Congratulations to Matt R. Grosser, St. Mary School in Alexandria, KY; Jack V. Nelson, St. George School in Baton Rouge, LA and Deborah C. O’Neil, St. Bernadette School in Northborough, MA who were recently named 2019 National Association of Elementary School Principals: National Distinguished Principals! NCEA congratulates and thanks them for their dedicated and highly effective leadership in Catholic education.

This award winner’s best practices in his school can inspire you! Principal Matt Grosser shares his insight for supporting diverse learners and balancing leadership and management. In reading his responses, what can you take away as a new or improved practice in building academic excellence, leadership skills and a positive climate for your school? Do you know an excellent elementary principal? Check out the nomination process for the 2021 Lead. Learn. Proclaim. Award in late spring of 2020. From the pool of elementary principals named 2021 Lead. Learn. Proclaim. awardees, three elementary principals will be invited to submit a packet for the National Association of Elementary Principals, National Distinguished Principals Award! Now is the time to think of a dynamic elementary principal to nominate for this prestigious accolade!

Mr. Grosser, how do you support learners who are struggling, challenge learners who are excelling and maintain high standards for all?

“Like any other school, St. Mary has students with a wide range of academic abilities. To meet these needs, St. Mary School subscribes to the philosophy of professional learning communities, which is to focus on student learning, foster a climate of staff collaboration and emphasize the use of data in designing the curriculum.

Since 2012-2013, St. Mary School has included a 30-minute Intervention Block (IB) program in its schedule for four days each week. Intervention Block is St. Mary’s version of Response to Intervention. All students are included in IB instruction at various tiers that are differentiated to meet their needs. Common pre- and post-assessments are a central element of instruction that is designed to use data for identifying and addressing those needs. Essential skills ranging from foundational phonics skills in primary grades, to reading comprehension and higher-level math computation and problem-solving skills in upper grades, are incorporated across the school’s IB program.

Beginning in the fall of 2018, St. Mary School joined 19 other Greater Cincinnati parochial schools in the Xavier University Professional Learning Communities cohort. This affiliation has led the faculty to re-examine and identify essential skills in reading across all grade levels, with math and writing next in line in 2019-2020. These efforts will continue the data-driven approach that will be the best suited to meet diverse learners where they are, and work with them until they achieve mastery in the skills that are necessary for their long-term success.”

Mr. Grosser, how do you balance leadership and management duties to best support student achievement?

Effective administrators serve as both leaders and managers, but the effectiveness of management practices will depend greatly on the impact of leadership.  That is why I place a strong emphasis on demonstrating positive leadership for students, staff and other stakeholders. I always strive to portray a positive and upbeat demeanor in my everyday actions. I want an enthusiastic and confident attitude to be contagious.

There are some very practical ways to balance leadership and management duties. A critical piece is time management. I rely on keeping an updated calendar to meet deadlines and follow through on issues. I adhere to a specific morning routine to eliminate as many obstacles as possible that might pop up later in the day. If students walk into a clean, organized and safe building, then they are in a good position to have a productive and enjoyable day. Once that routine is complete, I am able to be a hands-on presence throughout the school- greeting students at the door, monitoring student lunch, playing kickball at recess, performing classroom walkthroughs or any other opportunity to interact with students. This balance creates a dependability that breeds trust. Once people trust you, they believe what you say and follow your actions. If that takes place, you have a unified school that is ready to take on challenges.