Caring for Our Common Home #cisva

On Thursday, May 26th,  I attended a workshop on Pope Francis’ latest encyclical “Laudato Si: Caring for Our Common Home.”  This letter to world details the Church’s position on the environment and our role in stewardship over the Earth.  It was an enlightening experience to hear and have explained what the Pope is saying and how his vision of environmental protection fits with my (lack of) understanding.

I’ve never been much of an environmentalist.  In fact, I have found it rather amusing in the past to have fun with people who go crazy over the environment.  That’s not to say I’m against taking care of the environment, I just never took it super seriously.    In fact, I still am not sure whether “global warming” is caused by human activity or not.  What on learned on Thursday changed my attitude almost completely.

It’s not that the Pope has convinced me one way or the other of what the causes of global warming may be.  What I realized from understanding Laudato Si is that it’s not about what could happen to the environment if I pollute or waste, it’s about what is happening to my fellow man here and now.  It’s about learning to reduce my own consumption and my own waste.  It’s about sharing what I have with those in in need.  It’s about doing my part, however small, to reduce the amount of pollution I create.  Instead of focussing on the possibilities, it’s about focussing on the reality of my own life.  I need to live with humility and in solidarity with the poor more than I do now.

The point from the Pope’s encyclical that made the biggest impression on me was the impact that environmental degradation has on the poor.  The lifestyle of the wealthy does have a direct impact on the lives of the poor.  Seeing it through this lens helps me appreciate that every little thing I do, however small, can lead to a real change in my heart and a real change in the world.  If everyone does a little, it actually can make a difference.

So what difference will this make at Cloverdale Catholic School?  We are going to commit to wasting less.  We can start with paper.  We go through more than 500,000 pieces of paper each year.  I don’t even know how that is possible!  That’s over 1600 pieces of paper per student and that is unacceptable.  Secondly, we are going to get in line with the rest of the world and begin composting our food waste.  Finally (for now), we are going to build a garden/farm here at the school.  Getting kids’ hands dirty and helping them appreciate where our food comes from should make them into more well-rounded, healthier people.  These three relatively small areas are a beginning and as they say, every epic journey begins with just a single step.

Thanks for reading!

What-If-Its-A-Hoax

4 Comments

Filed under Faith, School, Uncategorized

Good Parenting: The Spirit is Willing But the Flesh Is Weak #cisva

We all have heard the saying “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”  I take this to mean that I know the right thing to do, I want to do it, but I just can’t make myself do it.  We see it in many aspects of our lives but typically use it to refer to things like healthy eating, getting more exercise, or going to bed earlier.  We know what we should do, but we choose to indulge ourselves anyways.

I see this at work a great deal in my own life as a parent.  We have expectations in our home about how much screen time the kids should have, how much we should pray as a family, the cleanliness of the kids’ bedrooms and bathroom etc…  I find myself time and time again relaxing one expectation or another for an array of reasons i.e. “well, she had a hard day” or “as long as you make sure you do it later” or if my child asks for something sweetly enough “okay just this one time.”  If you multiply 1 of these gestures of leniency per day times 7 children times 365 days per year you would have 17, 885 rule exemptions in a year.  My home would be chaos!

I know the right thing to do is to stand by the expectations because they are good for the children, but I often allow myself to relent anyways.  Why?  I have 4 main reasons and as I will explain, they are all super lame.

1. I want them to be happy

Of course we all want our children to be happy.  There is a big difference, though, between short term and long term happiness.  Letting my child eat a whole bag of chips may make them happy in the next 15 minutes, but I know very well it won’t make them happy in two hours and if I let them do it often enough it will make them unhealthy (and therefore very unhappy) in the long run.

2. I want them to like me

Don’t we all want that hug and smile and to have our children say “Oh you are the best daddy in the world!”  Of course we do, but these are children and they have terrible judgement!  A kid who thinks being allowed to eat a whole bag of chips makes their parents great is a terrible judge of parenting and we should take no solace in their approval.  In fact, the opposite is likely true.  It’s like asking some one in plaid shorts and a striped shirt if they like your outfit.

3. I can’t deal with their behaviour if I say no

Sometimes I’m just too tired to deal with the “stuff” I’m going to have to deal with if I I say no so I just give in before causing a tantrum.  I understand how tiring life can be, but this is likely the saddest reason of all.  How can I function as a responsible, working adult if I can’t even stand up to a child when I know what is right?

4. I want to be nicer than my own parents

I have terrific parents and I had a wonderful childhood but I’m sure deep down all of us want to have some kind of revenge for all the times our parents said no to us for things that we thought were completely unfair.  Guess what?  Our parents were right to say no and we should do the same.  Even if it was unfair and there’s no reason for them to have said it, learning to deal respectfully with not getting what I wanted helped shape me as a person.

So what can we do?  First of all, we need to stop being wimps with our kids.  We are in charge, we know what is best, and we have to act with fortitude.  Stand by your rules and expectations.  Also, we need to support each other.  By this I mean respect authority of other adults.  If your child tells you a story about how mean their teacher is, don’t complain about the teacher in front of them.  Tell them that their teacher wants what’s best for them and we will figure it out together.  We need to have a relationship with our children that goes beyond just “doing stuff for them.”  Communicate everyday about lots of stuff, not just what needs to get done and what they want.  Finally, I highly advise you pray together as a family.  I notice a tangible difference in myself and my children when we take time to pray together.  It doesn’t have to be a lot, just something everyday.

Being a good parent is really difficult.  May God bless us all in this most challenging but most important work.  Thanks for reading!

funny-parent-quotes

Leave a comment

Filed under Family, Uncategorized

The Success of the Re-Designed Progress Reports #cisva

In November 2015, Cloverdale Catholic School issued its first reformatted Progress Reports in a very long time.  The changes were implemented in response to BC’s redesigned curriculum and incorporated the Core Competencies and individual student goals.  The new format was the result of a months long process of feedback, compromise, and reiterations involving staff and parents.

After the first official roll-out in November, parents were able to complete an online survey to once again give their impressions.  The feedback was generallReport-Card2y positive, with an average overall positive impression of 82% and many specific and positive anecdotal comments.  While this is a good thing, I don’t think it tells the whole story.  As the only person in the entire school community who gets to read all 311 report cards each term, I can see something more important.

The change in format has really changed how teachers think about reporting to parents.  Now that teachers have to specifically consider the Core Competencies, the examples and insights they share about student progress are significantly more personal and meaningful.  It is tempting as a reader to be skeptical and think “Oh, they probably write the same thing about everyone and just change a few words.”  I can assure you, this is absolutely not the case.  As I read through the reports I was overwhelmed by the personalization of each and every report.  I was left with the very strong impression that every classroom teacher knows and cares for each individual student almost as if they were their own.

I think the improvement in the Progress Reports speaks to two important things.  Firstly, the teachers at Cloverdale Catholic School really know and care about their students.  Secondly, changing how we report (or perhaps do many things in education) is an important way of refreshing our perspective and reinvigorating our practice.  Believe it or not, because of these improvement, I’m actually already looking forward to reading all 311 third term reports.

Thanks for reading!

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

What is the “end” of Catholic Education? #cisva

Schoolboy-writing-lines-o-001

“I’ve got such a hard class this year!”

What constitutes a hard class?  When a teacher or principal says this, what is their definition of “hard”?  I think each individual’s answer to this question reflects their answer to the bigger, more philosophical question “What is the “end” of Catholic education?”

When our objective as an educator is compliance with instructions, any behaviour that runs contrary to compliance makes reaching the objective more difficult.

When our objective is completion of prescribed curriculum, then a class that takes longer to complete tasks is more challenging.

When our objective is academic excellence, then a class with lower than expected levels of ability or achievement is hard.

When a teacher labels a class as “hard” I think they are often confusing the “end” of education with the “means” for achieving it.  Compliance, completion, and academic excellence, for example, are not the ends of Catholic education, they are partial means to a far greater end.  The goal of Catholic education is the formation of the whole child in Christ.

When we measure success based upon what I have called the “means” (compliance, completion, and academic achievement) and not the “ends” (holistic formation in Christ) we can cause several problems.  Firstly, we may measure success incorrectly.  Secondly, we run the risk of separating the “wheat from the chaff” in the classroom, labeling students as those who can and those who cannot.  This is an injustice as it takes away the dignity of the individual and limits their capacity for growth and access to opportunities for learning.  This view is opposed to real “inclusion” of students with differences and risks limiting students with intellectual or physical disabilities to the sidelines of the classroom.  Finally, we limit students at both the top and bottom of the academic spectrum.  Students at the high end achieve success before they reach their full potential.  Students at the low end never achieve a sense of success at all.

If the end of a Catholic education is developing the whole child in Christ, and measuring success cannot rely solely on measures of compliance, completion of work, and academic excellence, then how do we measure success?  My answer is, unfortunately, not a satisfactory one for those who like black and white answers and standardized comparisons.  The key rests in the educator knowing the child as an individual.  What are his strengths and weaknesses academically, emotionally, spiritually, and physically?  What are her (and her parents’) goals?  What measures can be put in place to gauge progress towards those specific and personal goals.  This is a way of educating and assessing that is respectful of the individual abilities and potential of each and every learner.

Is all this realistic?  If we have 30 students how can we attain such heights of personalization?  At least part of the answer lies in relinquishing more responsibility and control to the learner and adapting to the times.  This is easier said than done.  What I do know for sure is that if we don’t adapt as educators, classes are only going to get “harder.”

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

What’s the point of “content” anyways? #cisva

You know that saying “Everything I ever really needed to know I learned in Kindergarten?”  It’s usually said in jest (mostly) but at some point I think most people understand that the majority of the “stuff” they learned in school was pretty useless.  Unless you become a chemist, you’ll probably never need to know how to balance a chemical equation after Grade 10 Science.  Knowing that Wolfe battled Montcalm on the Plains of Abraham won’t help you in your job as a mechanic.  So why, then, do we learn these things?  What’s important about content?

I think the answer to that question has been lost over time.  As with most things, we start out with a clear mission and vision, but over time we just continue doing things because that’s just the way they’ve always been done.  We pile content on top of content and eventually we reach a point where we forgot where we started.  In a way we are like a boat that has broken loose from it’s anchor; drifting with the wind and tides.

bestgeezersSocrates

Socrates in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”

So what is our anchor?  The answer goes back to the classics.  I’ve begun a personal learning journey with a book about Socrates by Peter Kreeft.  To read Socrates is such an eye (and mind) opening experience.  With each page I had a new thought or idea.  I kept wondering to myself at the fact I’d never read it before!  With Socrates it is not the content that matters most, but the internal processes that his words inspire.  Now that is what curriculum should do!

The revised BC Curriculum is, in a post-modern/information age kind of way, trying to go back to the basics.  The new curriculum is not so much rooted in facts and knowledge, but in developing creativity, critical thinking, and personal and social responsibility.  This is a good thing.  My skeptical side doubts that the new curriculum and the education system is rooted in enough wisdom and classic thought to pull it off on a provincial level, but on a classroom-by-classroom or even a school-wide level it could succeed.  Cloverdale Catholic will endeavor to take advantage of the opportunity to get it right and develop our kids not just as workers in the 21st century, but as thoughtful human beings for eternity.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Delaying Gratification #cisva

marshmallow1Have you ever heard of “The Marshmallow Test”?  The story goes back to a study done in the 1960s and 1970s at Stanford University.  Psychologists put a child in a room with a single marshmallow.  The children were told that if they waited to eat the marshmallow until the adult returned, they could have two instead of one.  Researchers then surveyed these children later in life.  The results showed that those children who were able to wait, or “delay gratification”, were much more likely to have happy, successful lives.

Delaying gratification is an essential life skill.  Giving up an evening out to study for an exam, practicing your basketball skills instead of playing video games, or rehearsing for the play instead of watching TV are all ways kids can practice delaying gratification.  Through experiences like these kids can learn that short term sacrifice can result in long term success.

The Christian life can sometimes be a bit of a life-long Marshmallow test.  It requires sacrifice of immediate earthly pleasures to truly live the life we are called to, but the rewards of such sacrifice are not just long term, they are eternal!  Even in the short term, living God’s laws lead to happiness.  Many secular studies have demonstrated that couples who wait until marriage to engage in sexual activity have happier relationships with less chance of divorce.  We all want that kind of success for ourselves and our children.

What does this have to do with school?  In the season of Advent there is a temptation to jump the gun and start Christmas early.  My suggestion is to challenge the kids to wait for certain Christmas traditions.  Give them a date for putting up the tree, sending Christmas cards, or indulging in treats.  In my family I have found the “waiting” makes the “having” even more enjoyable.  Sometimes the waiting is the best part!

May God bless us all this Advent Season!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

An Eye Opening Professional Day With Our Brothers and Sisters in Christ #CISVA

logos

Friday, October 23rd was a province-wide professional day.   Rather than go to a workshop, I arranged to spend my day doing something I should have done years ago.  In the spirit of learning and ecumenism, I visited our neighbouring Christian schools: William of Orange and Cloverdale Christian School.  The experience opened my eyes to some differences but mostly to the similarities we share with our brothers and sisters in other Christian Churches and Schools.

My first visit was to William of Orange School on 60th Avenue.  To a Catholic who reads the news of the annual “Orangemen” marches in Northern Ireland, the idea of going there was a little intimidating!  I’m happy to report that I could not have been more warmly greeted and accepted.  The principal, Kent, took me on a tour and spent over an hour talking about everything including the new curriculum, enrollment, tithing, and tuition.  We shared our mutual concerns and hopes for how to change with the times and adapt to the new curriculum while retaining the traditional elements of our schools.  The biggest difference between our two schools is enrollment.  While Cloverdale Catholic has over 300 students, William of Orange School has only 90.  The schools are the same size physically, but with only 90 students the hallways and classrooms were tidy, quiet, and spacious.  What was truly remarkable was that the principal didn’t seem to worry about low enrollment in the least.  He was confident in the mission of the school regardless of finances and numbers.  What a a great lesson for me!  I spend so much time and effort hustling to increase enrollment and fretting over finances.  It gave me reason to pause and reflect on my attitudes towards the value of peace and quiet and a sense of security and confidence even when finances may be struggling.

My second visit was to Cloverdale Christian School.  Similar in size to our own school, Cloverdale Christian has a new building.  What a difference that can make!  The principal Dave was also gracious and welcoming.  We both remarked at how sad it was that we, as brothers in Christ, had never gotten together before.  He shared stories of his time running Lutheran schools in Montana.  I really got the sense from him that he was on a spiritual mission to bring Jesus to his students and families.  Like me, he really wants to bring the students into fuller practice of their faith.  Dave kindly invited me to join him at a workshop for Christian schools on how to implement the new curriculum.   It was a great meeting and I am so grateful for the experience.

I am reminded of a line from Lord of the Rings when Elrond says to Gandalf, “Our list of allies grows thin.”  Christianity seems under constant attack from our secular culture.  Religion is often seen as an enemy of freedom.  As Catholics we can no longer afford to sit back and presume we can stand alone against world.  We have friends in the Body of Christ outside of our Catholic church.  We can work with them, pray with them, and bring Jesus to our communities together.

1 Comment

Filed under Faith, School