Montana Catholic Schools Weekly

March 8, 2015

Shifting Paradigms

I don’t know if I’d call myself a swimmer, but I swim once or twice a week and enjoy the solitude of swimming laps. The other day I was thinking of the challenges facing schools these days: students are asked to take new tests; teachers are asked to map curriculum and teach math differently; principals are asked to raise money and pay attention to their school’s culture; parents are asked to pay more in tuition. The paradigm of Catholic schools has changed.

Likewise, swimming changed radically in the 10 years I was coaching. Swimmers were taught to hold their heads up, for example, with the water hitting their hairline and looking forward. But then suddenly, a new approach was disseminated change the body position. We started hearing from coaches who had studied biomechanics and believed that core strength was more critical. The paradigm shifted and we needed to teach and coach in a different way. There were holdouts—there might still be—but coaching changed.

Swimming coaches would argue that these new techniques have improved their sport. In fact, coaching clinics are filled with coaches willing to share their practice methods, coaching practices, strategic innovations, and motivational secrets. Coaching evolves with new innovations and practices. There is an acceptance that the paradigms will continue to shift and with every shift comes improvement.

But what about education? There seems to be a fear of facing new demands and trying new techniques and approaches. There seems to be nostalgia about a grand past that perhaps will not serve us well (or even never existed). There seems to be fear about sharing best practices and learning new approaches. The best example is the new approach to math problem solving. It’s new and hard to understand for someone like me who was taught via rote memorization. But it’s a proven approach in other educational systems and has been recommended by experts.

There are exciting new innovations in teaching & learning—not to mention emerging best practices in managing & leading that show tremendous promise in improving our schools. Before you can embrace them, however, you need to accept that the educational paradigms of learning, teaching, and leading are changing. Instead of denying or resisting, why not participate?

Dr. Tim Uhl, Superintendent

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St. Charles, San Diego

I spend four days last week as the WCEA Accreditation Chair of St. Charles Academy in San Diego. What a great school!

The Week Ahead

Monday: office (morning); Great Falls (afternoon); Browning (evening)

Tuesday: Catholic Student Days at the Legislature (Helena)

Wednesday: St. Labre Board meetings (Billings)

Thursday: St. Labre Board meetings (cont)

Friday: fly to Philadelphia for Pacific Institute Workshop

Saturday: Pacific Institute Workshop for School Leaders

This Week: 3,122 miles

Last Week: 2,528 miles

2014-15: 31,665 miles

Montana Catholic Schools

Serving 3800+ students in 24 Catholic schools across the Treasure state

Notes for Principals

  • We currently have two principal openings for next year: De La Salle Blackfeet School (Browning) and St. Mary's (Livingston)
  • Mark the dates for the New Teacher Retreat August 17th (beginning at 10 am) through 6 pm on August 18th. The retreat is designed for new teachers, not just first-year teachers. On August 18th, the principals will meet. I'm finalizing the place.
  • The agenda for the principal regional meetings (Mar 23rd @ St. Labre, Mar 24th @ Great Falls, Mar 25th @ MIssoula):
  • 1. School Updates (3-5 minutes on your successes & challenges)
  • 2. WCEA Action Plan updates (3-5 minutes each school)
  • 3. Teacher evaluation process
  • 4. Principal evaluation process
  • 5. Whizfish school app presentation
  • 6. Smarter Balanced testing
  • 7. NCEA dues
  • 8. Asbestos manual (bring to discuss)
  • 9. Title I & II monies
  • 10. religion curriculum update

Great Falls Update

Bishop Warfel has invited the three Catholic schools and four parishes to come together to form one school system with one board of directors. The details of the board (who, what, how, etc) will be worked out once the participation level in the system has been established. Our hope is that the new board will develop a common vision and enkindle in Great Falls a renewed support of the Catholic schools.

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