Catholic School Matters

October 20, 2019

Belongingness & Community


This past week I spent a great deal of time with Jodee Blanco, the anti-bullying speaker. She came to Montana to present at 5 of our schools and to all of our teachers as part of our Catholic Teacher Days. I served as her chaperone driving her around our great state. She gives a powerful testimony and she shared with me the feedback she received from one of the students last week: “I just wanted to say that your speech spoke to me and probably saved my life, thank you.” She’s doing important work and I highly recommend bringing her in.


In the process of listening to her presentations and conversing with her, I found myself reflecting on community and belongingness. I’ve included a lot of articles below dealing with belongingness and community:


· “Strategies to foster a sense of belonging in your classroom” from Mind/Shift

· “7 Ways to Build Trust in Your School” from Thomas Murray

· “Why Schools Should be Organized to Prioritize Relationships” from Mind/Shift

· “Turning Classrooms into Communities” from Edutopia

· “How to Make Friends, Build a Community, and Create the Community You Want” from Quartz


Community is something Catholic schools do well. As we search for ways to improve and to increase enrollment, it’s worth considering doubling down on what we do well. Our mission should be to create a community where every person is known and loved. This echoes what the Vatican established in 1977’s The Catholic School, that the Catholic school is a “community whose values are communicated through relationships.” (32) This idea was echoed in the Vatican document Educating to Fraternal Humanism: “Humanizing education [17] means putting the person at the centre [sic]of education, in a framework of relationships that make up a living community, which is interdependent and bound to a common destiny. This is fraternal humanism.” (8)


This emphasis on belonging should shape your programming, your schedule, your hiring, as well as your marketing. Here’s an example from Providence High in LA.


The paradigm of a Catholic school as a faith community rather than an institution originated in Vatican II’s emphasis on engagement with the world. We have embraced community as the model of a great school and the relationships between students and teachers as fundamental to community development. Innovations such as inclusion (two articles included below) and house systems (read more here) are recent emphases that support community. Certainly Jodee’s message of kindness and bullying prevention serve as bulwarks as well.


Here’s an example of a student who found community at a Catholic school. Notice she was not known at her larger school and turned to the community of a Catholic school and found that she could flourish. Or consider CrossFit which believes its power lies in building community. They don’t view themselves as gyms, health clubs, but a movement toward creating community where people are known and loved.


I explore these issues this week in the Catholic School Matters podcast. Fr. Eric Ramirez, SJ, the director of Pastoral Ministry for the boys division at Regis Jesuit HS, discusses what students need and how he believes his calling is meeting their needs. Tony Ferraro from Dynamic Catholic and Floyd Consulting, discusses their Dream Manager program which challenges teachers to get in touch with their personal hopes and dreams in hopes of creating a more engaged school. Here’s an article about how difficult it is for adults to find and cultivate their passions.


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Dr. Tim Uhl

Big picture

Case Studies Ripped from the Headlines

In this section, I present a Catholic school controversy in the headlines. I don't mean to single out one school or criticize its leaders. I want to present the story and offer you a few questions to consider in case this controversy lands on your desk this year. I encourage you to look at the particulars of the situation to understand the intricacies of the controversy.


In last week's podcast episode, Sr. Angie and I discussed the firing of gay teachers. She maintains that teachers should not be fired for their orientations but when a relationship becomes public, Catholic schools need to consider how to respond. Three recent examples call into question whether Catholic schools are following these suggestions: a Springfield (IL) teacher was fired the same day she was hired after news emerged of her relationship, a Riverside (CA) principal claims he was fired for being gay although he wasn't in a relationship, and a St. Paul Catholic school is in turmoil after two departures. Put yourself in the shoes of the leaders. How would you respond in each of these cases? Each situation is paricularly different. Would you say the decisions resulted in good outcomes?

American Catholic News

Leadership Links

Teaching & Learning

Miscellany

What I'm Up To

I'll begin the week in Ohio as I join Dr. Tiffany Boury to support her new Franciscan program in Catholic Leadership and speak to the Catholic Central HS community in Steubenville. Then I'll be attending board meetings in Great Falls and Billings.


I explore belongingness and community this week in the Catholic School Matters podcast. Fr. Eric Ramirez, SJ, the director of Pastoral Ministry for the boys division at Regis Jesuit HS, discusses what students need and how he believes his calling is meeting their needs. Tony Ferraro from Dynamic Catholic and Floyd Consulting, discusses their Dream Manager program which challenges teachers to get in touch with their personal hopes and dreams in hopes of creating a more engaged school.


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


  • Sunday: Travel to Steubenville
  • Monday: Franciscan U work; Central Catholic HS presentation (Steubenville)
  • Tuesday: Return to Helena; Board meeting in Great Falls
  • Wednesday: St. Labre Indian School Board meeting, Day 1 (Billings)
  • Thursday: St. Labre Indian School Board meeting, Day 2 (Billings)
  • Friday: Office (Helena)


Miles this week: 575 driving miles; 4,117 air miles

Miles travelled in 2019-20: 14,057 road miles; 19,885 air miles

Last 5 Books

    1. Meeting Wise: Making the Most of Collaborative Time for Educators (2014) by Kathryn Parker Boudett
    2. River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey (2019) by Sister Helen Prejean
    3. The Sermon on the Mount and Moral Theology (2017) by William C. Mattison III
    4. Standing for Reason: The University in a Dogmatic Age (2019) by John Sexton
    5. Talking to Strangers (2019) by Malcolm Gladwell

            Click this link for a full list of my professional reading

            For Montana Administrators & Teachers

            • Here is a link to the slideshow from the October 1st Virtual Meeting. Our next meeting is November 5th
            • NCEA data survey is due Oct 23rd. The link was sent out last week
            • Renaissance Learning is putting on a free literacy event in Missoula (covering math and reading) on Nov 8th. If you're interested, let me know

            Past Issues of Catholic School Matters

            Oct 13, 2019 Sr. Angie's Lawlapalooze

            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"