Catholic School Matters

November 12, 2017

How Are We Building Relationships?

In last week’s Catholic School Matters newsletter, I shared the article “Who Do You Say You Are: Relationships and Faith in Catholic Schools” from this fall’s Journal of Catholic Education. The authors (Jennifer Maney, Carrie King, and Thomas Kiely) examine the importance of teacher-student relationships within Catholic schools. They found that the quality of those relationships mirror the quality in public schools. For those of us who take pride in the community/family aspect of our Catholic schools, the findings were a little disappointing.

What are we doing to build relationships? Or, perhaps, what are we doing to increasing our teacher’s ability to relate to students (to quote Harry Kraemer in podcast #66)? After all, relating to students (or to teachers for principals or to principals for superintendents) is a teachable skill. Ronald Heiftetz and Marty Linsky in their seminal work Leadership on the Line distinguish between adaptable challenges (i.e. culture) and technical challenges. This is a only technical challenge for most of us. Or, to put it another way, our culture shouldn't eat this strategy, instead welcoming this path toward strengthening our mission.

First, consider what our customers (students, parents, teachers, principals) need. Dirk Deichmann and Roel van der Heijde in Harvard Business Review explore how figuring out what hospital patients need impacts how you communicate to them in “How Design Thinking is Improving Patient-Caregiver Conversations.” Their four categories (google patients, dominant patients, quiet patients, and emotional patients) have relevance to our schools and challenge us to design our communication accordingly. My guess is that many of us design our communications around how WE best receive them. And thus we try to build relationships the way we like!

Chip & Dan Heath in their 2017 book The Power of Moments explore how people can deepen ties by improving their expressions of understanding, validation, and caring. Are we teaching these skills? Are our teachers so afraid of crossing professional boundaries that they haven’t bothered to learn? I also wonder that as email and social media have shaped our methods of communication we might have forgotten to teach empathy and face-to-face communication. The authors explore the meaning of “What matters to you?” as an important question for understanding.

The Heaths also point to the work of Arthur Aron. He developed 36 questions to promote togetherness. Apparently these questions work to bring any two people together and I wonder if these questions couldn’t be used in faculty meetings as well as student activities such as journaling to promote the student-teacher relationship.

On a related note, this week the American bishops are meeting. I was reminded of the 1999 address by Cardinal George Basil Hume who asked how a bishop’s conference should behave in the midst of a divided church. His exploration of how the church should respond to division is worth the read. When he says, “Always be strict on principles but endlessly understanding of individuals,” I’m reminded of the value of a pastoral approach to divisive topics. We need more understanding! Isn’t that ultimately a question of relating effectively?

If we want our schools to be considered communities, then we need to be intentional about relationship development.

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Dr. Tim Uhl

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What I'm Up To

The Church Documents podcast series continues this week. On this week's podcast, Dr. Tom Burnford and I discuss To Teach As Jesus Did--the 1972 American Bishop's pastoral statement which is their first since Vatican II. On the web page, you'll find a link to the document, study/discussion questions, and additional articles & resources. This week's blogs reflect on the impact of To Teach by Kathy Mears, the outstanding superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Boston.

I'm spending this week on the road. Sunday I'll be in Baltimore for the USCCB meeting on education (I'm serving as a consultor). On Monday, I'll travel to DC to visit the NCEA headquarters and my friend Dr. Marco Clark's Bishop McNamara HS. Tuesday, I'll make the drive to South Bend and I'll spend the rest of the week in South Bend attending the American Indian Catholic Schools Network conference as well as visiting ACE and attending my friend Jim McLaughlin's ND volleyball game.

Here is the link to the podcast on iTunes. Here are videos showing you how to download and subscribe to a podcast on iTunes and how to download and subscribe a podcast on Android.

Here's what I'm working on this week:

  • Monday: NCEA meetings (Washington, DC) & visit to Bishop McNamara HS; Episode 83: USCCB's To Teach As Jesus Did
  • Tuesday: travel day; Blog To Teach as Jesus Did
  • Wednesday: ACE & Notre Dame meetings (South Bend); Wed book blog: At the Heart of the Church Ed. by Ronald Nuzzi & Thomas Hunt.
  • Thursday: Notre Dame meetings; Guest Blog: Kathy Mears
  • Friday: American Indian Catholic Schools Network conference (South Bend)

Miles this week: 773 driving miles; 2,651 air miles

Miles travelled in 2017-18: 11,304 road miles; 13,024 air miles

American Catholic News

Leadership Links

Long-term trends in private school enrollment by Richard Murnane & Sean Reardon in the National Bureau of Economic Research. This is a dense research paper which points out (among other things!) that middle class enrollment in Catholic schools has declined over the past 50 years

Teaching & Learning



  • NCEA Visions for Excellence Soul of Youth Sports Conference, Feb 21-23, 2018 (KC)
  • Convention, April 3-5, 2018 Cincinnati


  • Nominations for the spring awards are now open: Lead, Learn, Proclaim Awards; President's Awards; and Youth Virtues, Vision and Valor are now open. Click here for more information.

Professional Development

  • Click here to register for webinars
  • Nov 14: "Practice and the Game: Using Sports Language to Teach the USCCB Curriculum Framework:"
  • Nov 15: "Cultivating Catholic Identity Year-Round Throuhg Service Learning"
  • Nov 16: "Campaign Marketing for Schools"


What I'm Reading

  1. The Principal as Spiritual Leader (1994) Ed. by Maria Ciriello, OP
  2. Be Our Guest (2011) by The Disney Institute and Theodore Kinni
  3. The Power of Moments (2017) by Chip & Dan Heath.
  4. Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership (2007) by Gary L. McIntosh & Samuel D. Rima (underway)
  5. You Don't Have Say You Love Me (2017) by Sherman Alexie.

Click this link for a full list of my professional reading along with links to Wed Book Blogs

For Montana Administrators & Teachers

Past Issues of Catholic School Matters

November 5, 2017 "Journal of Catholic Education"

October 29, 2017 Church Documents

October 22, 2017 Momentum Special Issue

October 15, 2017 "Anthem Protests"

October 8, 2017 Classroom Managment Special Issue

October 1, 2017 "The Un-Themed Issue"

September 24, 2017 "Joy of the Gospel"

September 17, 2017 "ESSA"

September 10, 2017 "On Leadership"

August 27, 2017 "American Catholic News"

August 20, 2017 Back to School Issue