Catholic School Matters

November 2, 2020

Sharks & Survival

I found myself re-reading this article “What Sharks Can Teach Us About Survivorship Bias” a few times this week. Each time, I thought about a different set of survivors or a different way this bias impacts our work. I encourage you to read it and consider the implications.

For instance, many of our schools have seen their enrollment dip (public and private) due to many parents wanting to sit out this year. Schools are struggling to figure out who they are serving—the students in front of them, their students who are still enrolled but remote, or the students who aren’t enrolled at all. Arguments for developing a more humane/innovative school schedule (as opposed to seven periods a day) are often met with the argument that “this is what our parents and teachers want. They want to return to normal.” We’re too focused on the survivors.

Normal ain’t coming back. And by only serving the students in front of you, you risk attracting more students to your school. I'm sensing a growing level of anxiety and discomfort that might get worse in the next year. What are we doing to minister to these needs? Our schools are uniquely positioned to build on their community strengths to address these mental health concerns.

Another insight from the article is thinking about schools which have closed. Last spring I tried to interview school leaders from closing schools and no one wanted to return my calls. Where’s the postmortems? Where are the lessons that we can share? Instead we rely on the “there aren’t enough students” or “there isn’t enough money” excuses and try to avoid those pitfalls.

But what if some other factors played a role? Have we considered that there might be some ocean white tips out there destroying schools and leaving no survivors to tell the tale? I would be willing to guess that toxic workplaces and unhealthy parent discourse contribute as much to school closures as marketing and financial sustainability. Maybe it’s a chicken or egg argument, but we’d all benefit from understanding the dynamics which contributed to school closures.

Other articles that caught my attention this week:

· The esteemed Dr. Dan McMahon, principal of DeMatha High School blogs about the pilgrim journey that is Catholic education. Find yourself in this narrative and perhaps have this Steve Earle song playing in the background.

· Read this HBR article about your team’s unwritten rules and then Dr. Christian Dallavis’s piece on the root beliefs of Partnership Schools. It’s a compelling pair of articles about school culture.

· Dr. John Reyes’ blog post “Running Towards the Danger” is an interesting mix of research and insight.

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Dr. Tim Uhl

Catholic Schools


Teaching & Learning


Catholic School Matters podcast

Wednesday on the Catholic School Matters podcast I have the chance to catch up with author Dave Stuart, Jr. who blogs here. We have a wide-ranging discussion on teaching during the pandemic and best practices.

Check out the past episodes from this season:

What I'm Reading

    The Last 5 Books:

    1. Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism (2020) by Anne Applebaum.
    2. The Practice of Adaptive Leadership (2009) by Ron Heifetz & Marty Linsky
    3. Friedman's Fables (1990) by Edwin H. Friedman
    4. I Want to See: What the Story of Blind Bartimaeus Teaches Us (2017) by Roc O'Connor, SJ
    5. Jesus and the Disinherited (1996) by Howard Thurman

            Click this link for a full list of my professional reading

            Past Issues of Catholic School Matters

            Oct 26, 2020 "Mt. Rushmore Controversy"

            Oct 19, 2020 "The Cleveland Partnership"

            Oct 5, 2020 "Governance Reform"

            Sep 28, 2020 "Autonomy & Radar"

            Sep 21, 2020 "Learning While Doing"

            Sep 14, 2020 "Connecting the Disconnected"

            Aug 31, 2020 "Racial Injustice"

            Aug 24, 2020 "Figuring it Out"

            Aug 17, 2020 Serenity Prayer

            May 24, 2020 Value Proposition During Uncertain Times

            For previous newsletters, click this link

            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.