Catholic School Matters

March 29, 2020

Managing Our New Reality

We are all sad for what we’ve lost. The present can seem downright depressing and the immediate future looks even less promising. Read the HBR article entitled “That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief” which addresses the emotional experience of change in times such as these. While it might be easier to think only students are losing out on many spring rituals, most of us have been living disrupted lives and grief can surface there, too.

We’ve all been trying to provide the best environment for our employees and the most valuable experience for our students. Chris Lehmann, a principal from Philly, offers a great reflection “Doing School in the Time of Coronavirus.” It might be the best thing I’ve read this week. Close behind is Deborah Cohan’s “What Do We Need to Teach Now?” in Inside Higher Ed. It’s a great look at one professor’s struggle to figure out the technology, connect with her students, and figure out what’s essential.

We need to stop and consider the concept of overwhelm. “How not to overwhelm your school” from ASCD is a reminder that you can’t do everything. And yes, I realize the irony that this is coming from the guy who presents 50 links at a time! Our faculty, staff, students, and parents are already close to the breaking point with anxiety and stress.

Decision fatigue is a factor. Our lives have become so disrupted that we are now forced to make so many decisions that overwhelm is a factor in our daily, family, as well as professional lives. This great blog post about “Decision Fatigue” from the Cult of Pedagogy folks is a classic.

I worry about our people. The level of anxiety and stress is high and that’s before we even consider the disruption of our school lives. We are worried about our health, our loved ones, the future. When we try to re-create school digitally, it can overload our students, parents, and teachers. On top of that, we have a disruption in our social supports. Think for a minute of a student who loses a parent due to COVID-19. They might have been separated from them at the time of death. None of his/her friends can join him/her during this time of need. There will not be a funeral for a while and even the committal ceremony is private. The family might be separated by quarantine. Read this article from The Atlantic about a social recession which offers 4 tips that you can implement now. The “social recession” threatens to be even more damaging than the economic one. Another article to consider is from EdSurge: “The Case for Shutting Down Schools.” I’m not advocating for this course of action but the ideas are thought-provoking. What are we prioritizing?

We need to carve out a little time to think strategically. We always need to do this! I’ve been asking “How do we want our schools to look differently after this crisis?” It’s a great question because it assumes that we’re not just doing this to survive but we’re experimenting and innovating and the best parts will be integrated. So what are your best parts? Here’s a great article to get you thinking about the big picture by conducting a “premortem” of the crisis.

Three other articles really jumped out at me this week:

· “How will the Coronavirus End?” in The Atlantic

· “What it means to be a Christian during lockdown” from OSV

· “Coronavirus has dealt a massive blow to Catholic schools” by Kathleen Porter-Magee

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Dr. Tim Uhl

Big picture

Case Studies Ripped from the Headlines

COVID-related questions:

  • A parent calls to ask for a refund of tuition due your closure. How do you respond? Do you have a policy to guide you? What will be the precedent?
  • An hourly staff member cannot do her job remotely and has been home caring for her children. How do you proceed?
  • When a teacher finds out about the new Emergency FMLA, they request it. But you can't afford to lose her? Can you sweeten her contract to influence her decision?

For Your Reflection

Operational RESOURCES

Religion Resources

The McGrath Institute offers the following religion resources:

    1. The Pillars of the Church, a free online course explaining the basic doctrines of the faith
    2. Saturdays with the Saints, a free online course based on our popular game day lecture series
    3. Teaching the Saints, workbooks for faith formation & education
    4. Discerning Your Spiritual Gifts, a toolkit for faith formation
    5. Liturgy of the Hours, a guide to night prayer for Lent
    6. McGrath Institute Blog, compiling practical resources & words of encouragement

Educational Resources

Crisis & Communication Links

What I'm Reading

    The Last 5 Books:

    1. Fragmented Catholicity and Social Cohesion: Faith Schools in a Plural Society (2012) by Ann Casson
    2. Let's Talk About Truth: A Guide for Preachers, Teachers, and Other Catholic Leaders in a World of Doubt and Discord (2020) by Ann M. Garrido

    3. Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box, 3rd edition (2018) by the Arbinger Institute.
    4. Leading With Soul: An Uncommon Journey of Spirit (2011) by Lee G. Bolman & Terrence E. Deal
    5. Stories that Stick: How Storytelling Can Captivate Customers, Influence Audiences, and Transform Your Business (2019) by Kindra Hall

            Click this link for a full list of my professional reading

            For Montana Administrators & Teachers

            • I'm sending out a Coronamemo every day which you can find in the Principal portal at For the immediate future, plan on joining us at 9 am for a virtual meeting every Mon-Friday.
            • Here is a link from the March 3rd meeting. For the April 7th meeting, school leaders are challenged to tell a story about a family which was transformed by your school
            • Here is the CDC guidance site

            Past Issues of Catholic School Matters

            Mar 22, 2020 "School Without School"

            Mar 15, 2020 "Let's Talk About Truth"

            Mar 8, 2020 "Orchestrating Conflict"

            Mar 1, 2020 "Building a Stronger School Community"

            Feb 16, 2020 "Catholic but not Christian"

            Feb 9, 2020 R.I.P. Archbishop Brunett

            Feb 2, 2020 "The Nashville Exchange"

            Jan 26, 2020 "Learning from our Elders"

            Jan 12, 2020 "Shaping School Culture"

            Jan 5, 2020 "Timelessness"

            Nov 24, 2019 "Best of the Fall"

            Nov 17, 2019 "Synodality"

            Nov 3, 2019 "Finance Best Practices"

            Oct 27, 2019 "Blaine Amendments"

            Oct 20, 2019 "Community & Belongingness"

            Oct 13, 2019 Sr. Angie's Lawlapalooza

            Oct 6, 2019 "River of Fire"

            Sep 29, 2019 "Male and Female He Created Them"

            Sep 22, 2019 "Surveying Catholic Culture"

            Sep 15, 2019 "New Catholic Schools"

            Sep 8, 2019 "The Mustard Seed Project"

            The Nashville Exchange

            Join this first annual conference for Diocesan high school presidents. Presented by the Greeley Center, the conference promises to provide great professional development to presidents/heads of schools for diocesan Catholic schools. However, all are welcome! Special thanks to the Diocese of Nashville for hosting. Here is a link to the Nashville Exchange flyer, here is the link to the schedule. Go to this link to register. Please go to for more information and to register.

            Orchestrating Conflict

            Orchestrating Conflict: Case Studies in Catholic Leadership is now available on Amazon or on the Barnes & Noble site in print or e-book formats. The book explores issues in Catholic school leadership and the tensions between building community and following Church policies and introduces deliberate practice as a method for leadership formation. This is my first book and has been an ongoing project for the past couple of years.