Tag: catholic education (page 1 of 2)

Your First Year as a Catholic School Leader

As you work your way through a first year as a Catholic School Leader, you may want to consider the following:

 

LISTENING IS KEY

Listening is especially important advice for first-time principals or for principals who are new to a school. It is important for any new administrator to gather input from those who have been on staff at the school for some time.  Ask [the staff] about what is working in the school and what is not. Meet with people individually, talk with them, get some insight and don’t try to change everything overnight.

Let the school’s faculty know up front that you intend to spend some time assessing the situation. Get in and learn how the school works before making any major changes. Some of the things you think would never work may be great ideas that work for that school.

Remember the school ran OK before you got there, and it will run OK after you leave. Many individuals guide the ship. Find them and solicit their thoughts. Those individuals include the school custodian, the secretary, the bus driver, the pastor, and even the kid who’s always in your office for being in trouble.

Spend most of your time listening to staff, students, and parents.  Get concerns out in the open, and be as accessible as possible. Save paperwork until the end of the day when things have quieted down so that you can be visible in classrooms and throughout the school. Make it a priority to visit classrooms every day. It’s amazing how much information you can gather just by being out of your office and approachable.

 

SHARE YOUR LEADERSHIP

Don’t forget that there’s a wealth of talent around you. The Holy Spirit didn’t give you all of the wisdom. We each got just a piece of the wisdom and we are therefore larger than the sum of our parts. Staff members who are well known in the community might request volunteers or donations for school events; those who are good organizers could be tapped to organize an after-school parent activity, a Family Math Night, a carnival, or an ice-cream social. Good Principals find out what people’s talents are and put them to work for the good of the children and the school. Even disgruntled employees have talents, and approaching them for their help just might turn them around. Everyone loves to feel important and needed.

Keep the personal in personnel. Remember at all times that you are dealing with people and feelings.  Support your staff. Teaching is hard work.

Don’t try to do it all yourself.  God is in community – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. If he can’t do it alone what would make any of us think we can .Give the teachers everything you can to help them do their job; then get out of the way and let them do it. Remember, it’s better to give than to receive. Give them compliments. Share victories. Give them credit.

 

FIND A MENTOR … AND MORE PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT ADVICE

A true mentor is not just someone assigned.  The mentor is there when needed to discuss issues, offer advice, bounce ideas, and help you with making decisions.

Be sure to educate the clergy in your service area to the mission, vision and goals of the school. Ask the pastors in your service area  – how you can better serve them. I believe the Church has a mission and therefore we have schools. You are about the mission of the Church – your success – is the success of the Church.

Think about the characteristics of your principalship and how you want your tenure at the helm to be described. Write it down.  Keep it where you can see it every day, on the bathroom mirror or refrigerator, for example. Read it every day, then go do it!

Read the book, How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk, by Adele Faber. It was recommended to me and one help book I always recommend to parents, teachers, and administrators.

Make sure that time with God and your family is listed as an important priority appointment on your calendar. Don’t let a day pass where you ignore yourself, your prayer life and your family. If you fail to feed your soul you won’t be able to feed the teachers or your family.

 

DON’T FORGET THE KIDS!

Every principal knows it, but some forget it as they get caught up at their desk. It is impossible to lead the spiritual and academic formation of children from your desk.  Ask yourself am I spending my time in the best interest of student formation.

Most of the successful Catholic school principals I know had their character stretched early in their tenure as a principal.. There will be days you probably will question everything about yourself and your abilities. This is normal and it has the wonderful potential of causing tremendous personal growth.

And while you will feel days of joy and the rewards will be great, you will also feel days of despair and times you will be overwhelmed. In those dark hours give it over to Jesus. You are not alone – he is always with you as you are laboring together as partners in HIS Father’s business.

May the blessed Mother watch over you and your school community throughout the days and nights of the 2019-2020 school year. Please be assured of my prayers for you, your family, faculty, school parents and students.

 

Steven Virgadamo is an educator and school administrator filled with a missionary zeal for contributing to education reform. Currently, he serves as the Associate Superintendent for Leadership at the Archdiocese of New York and he encourages every Catholic School Leader to consider the tips he offers above.

Customer Service in Catholic Education

Customer experience is one of the hottest buzzwords in Catholic education these days. Schools are retaining national consultants such as Partners in Mission, Inc and committing resources into building a strong customer experience. In many parts of the country Catholic schools are already competing more based on the customer experience versus price or curriculum. After all, a school is a school is a school, and all elementary schools in essence offer the same education adhering to both state and national standards.

So, what is left then to set the school apart but the customer experience. Parents need to be able to rationalize the school purchase decision and the customer experience is the key to happy satisfied parents who are willing to serve as good will ambassadors for your school.

Outside of the education business, we are seeing research that companies that invest in customer experience boast a higher stock price. That said, more companies are also taking customer experience seriously.

The truth is that in the business of Catholic education, there are a many ways to care for and interact with parents to create a positive customer experience.

Customer service is the advice or assistance a school leadership and staff gives to parents.

The goal of customer service is to increase customer satisfaction, and it usually comes by answering questions – often before they need to be asked.  Some schools offer Kindergarten readiness testing for parents and parenting workshops open to parents of both enrolled students and parents with children enrolled elsewhere who members of Catholic parishes. This strategy can be viewed as a customer service gesture on behalf of the parish leadership as well.

Customer care means how well parents are taken care of while they interact with school leadership and staff.

A term used less often is customer care, which is how well customers are taken care of while they interact with the school leaders, faculty, and staff and yes even the custodial staff. Customer care in Catholic education is actually caring for parents, listening to their needs, and finding the right solution – even if it means sometimes helping them find a neighboring Catholic school more prepared to meet their needs.  In many instances, customer care moves one step beyond basic customer service by building an emotional connection and making parents feel like a member of the community. I refer to this as the Starbucks experience. Starbucks doesn’t really sell coffee but rather the experience of community.

Customer experience is the total journey of parent’s interactions with a school.

Customer experience is the sum of all contact, from first discovering and researching school options, to touring a campus, applying, admission notification, registration, enrollment, and the day to day interactions each day of the school year with EVERY member of the school staff. with to actually using the product and following up with the brand afterwards. Customer experience measures how customers feel about a company overall and includes the emotional, physical, psychological connection parents as a consumer have with the school.  Customer care for school parents isn’t a one-off interaction, but rather includes the entire lifecycle and every touch point a parent has with the school.

If these three concepts all sound similar, it’s because they all contribute to a school delivering on its promises and building loyal, satisfied parents and alumni. Customer experience is the overarching sum of all interactions, and customer service and customer care are pieces of that puzzle.

Customer service is a vital part of the entire experience—nearly 75% of customers who leave do so because they aren’t satisfied with customer service. However, customer service and customer care often fall under the responsibility of the school leadership. To be effective, everyone in the organization should be invested in customer experience.

Customer experience is more than just a buzzword—it should be at the heart of everything a Catholic school does. By including customer service and customer care, Catholic school leaders can exceed expectations and delight parents.

Millennial Parents, Catholic Schools and Customer Service

Here are 8 suggestions and a few customer service core values for improving customer experience in Catholic schools.  

1. Streamline. Millennial parents “digital parity.” They expect schools efficient, streamlined, user friendly and the best of what they customers have experienced online in every other part of their lives.  Millennial parents expect self-service options, they don’t expect to repeatedly fill out forms with information they’ve already provided elsewhere, and they actively rebel against org chart-mandated siloing (“I don’t handle that, you’ll have to go down the hall, or “you’ll have to come back on Tuesdays, when Mr. ____ is in the office.”)

2. Try it yourself. Are you easy to use? You won’t know until you try.  Try your own website without your auto-log in.  Is it easy?  Or a pain? Come in the front door of your building (rather than entering from the employee parking area) and see if the front door swings open easily, or whacks you on the shoulder.  Look for the signs and symbols at the get go and throughout the building that say we are a Catholic school.  Try a little secret shopping – Fill out a “request information” form online and see if anyone—ever!—responds.  You may be shocked at what you find out.

 

3. Do the hustle.  Perfect customer service, delivered late, feels wrong. And the timeline in this digital age for what parents as the consumer consider a delayed response is continually getting shorter. You’re not being judged based on what’s always been “fast enough for education”; you’re being judged, implicitly and unconsciously, based on the speed of Amazon.

 

4. Benchmark outside of education. More and more, what your parents are expecting in customer service comes from the service they experience outside of education–and you, too, should look outside of education to great companies and organizations regardless of industry for inspiration that will improve your user friendliness.

 

5. Learn to apologize.  Things will go wrong. Prepare for this, emotionally as well as operationally.   Note that sometimes–often–you’re simply apologizing for the situation, not for something you did wrong. It doesn’t matter; an apology is still of value. Parents are willing to recognize we are all perfectly imperfect.

 

6. Don’t make parents ask simple questions that they should have been able to find online. Customers don’t like to be burdened to contact you for items that could easily be provided for them on a self-service basis.  The lunch menu and photo day requirements are good examples here.

 

7. Get the welcome to your school right even before you greet the parent.  Welcomes are first impressions and are a key moment in customer service. If parking is hard to find, if disabled access is poor (or–just as common–confusing), if office hours are posted incorrectly online, then you’re making a poor impression before the parent or prospective parent gets to consider all the wonder you can do to prepare their child for college and heaven.  

 

8. Build a culture of yes.  A hallmark of a great school is an attitude by every teacher and staff member, that “The answer is yes—now what was your question?”  There’s great power  in getting everyone in your school to share a goal of getting to a “yes” for every consumer, rather than figuring out ways to say “no,” “not my department,” “it doesn’t work that way around here,” “sadly, we cannot accommodate that request,” or “if you call back in the morning, perhaps we’ll be able to help you.” Well-meaning teachers and staff can still find a dozen ways to say no to their parent consumers.   You accomplish this by modeling a spirit of yes, hiring for a spirit of yes, and rewarding a spirit of yes. (And there’s one more thing: Sometimes in education, achieving a culture of “yes” requires rooting out or/and reforming “situational tyrants.” Any institution can become a breeding ground for what I call “situational tyrants,” people who have the power to say “no” within their tiny little fiefdom, and who exercise that powers every chance they get.  It is incredibly important to get these people to come over to your program of having “yes” as the goal: “Yes, we can assist you with this and would be happy to do so.

Finally, work with all staff members to adopt customer service core values I refer to as:

  • Make it Happen
  • No Drama
  • Absolute Persistence
  • Relentless Support
  • Passion in All Things
  • Get Your Hands dirty

Christmas Break – a time of Recollection and Reflection for School Leaders

Sometime over the next two days the final bell will ring and the students will pour out of our Catholic school buildings to go home. At that moment, every Catholic school leader will feel a huge sigh of relief, because as you share your “Merry Christmas’ and Happy New Year” with each student, teacher and parent you will know that you made it to Christmas break and concluded another semester as a school leader.

The first semester of each school year is always a semester with many ups and downs, but it is an important time to lay the solid foundation for continuous improvement. As Christmas break begins, it is a time of reflection on what worked and what didn’t, so each school leader – new or a veteran – can continue to move forward with success.

The humid days of summer can feel as though it was years ago considering the amount of time and energy you have spent with the teachers, students, and parents in the process of building up the school. In this short time each Catholic school leader has accomplished huge feats, and still have much to do. Catholic school leaders today are busier than ever before and each school leader has earned the right to be extremely proud their progress.

As a leader, reflection is an extremely important aspect of life–it is an art form that must be practiced. It requires digging deep into recollection. As I recount stories of students, and stories from my own life, I realize that many have shaped who I am as a leader, and identify why I act the way I do.

This is not my first time practicing or encouraging school leaders to adopt this art of recollection – at first, it can be extremely difficult, and you may not know where to begin. You may not want to look back – I know I didn’t want to look back—mainly because I was afraid of what I might see. I had always been taught to show my strength, focus on it, and remain confident in appearance, despite what I was feeling on the inside. This exercise, this art of reflection to the public, was contradictory to my own upbringing. To some people it may be self-gratifying to research oneself in context with the culture that surrounds them, but in my case, it was the exact opposite, and something in the beginning, I viewed as painstakingly torturous.

Then one day, I realized that there was no moving forward as a school leader until I looked into the past. As a leader, similar to an athlete, I had to review my own practice, and look honestly at myself, as well as those that were around me, so I could be better, and possibly help others to become better.

The distractions and the humming of the world are sometimes extremely difficult to overcome, especially during the rhythm of life when school is in session, but this art form is necessary in analyzing and reflecting on what is working and what is not, so that adjustments can be made. If it can’t be done during the semester, then it must be done at semester breaks and summer vacation.

So at this Christmas break, I invite and encourage each of you to initiate a new practice in your life as school leader – spend quiet time practicing reflection and taking a hard look at the realities that surround you and your school. Spend time thinking about what you have done well and what you could have done better during your first semester as a school leader or a first semester leading a different school than in the past. Then write it down and conclude with New Year’s Resolutions which focus on what you will do to make you a better leader, your faculty better teachers, your students more motivated and your parents more committed to partnering with you in their education of each child entrusted to your care.

In the meantime, please know that I pray you will all enjoy a blessed Christmas and make many memories with family and friends.

Catholic School Olympians

There are a lot of Olympians from all over the world participating in Rio 2016 Olympic Games, a wonderful chance for huge amounts people from all over the world, both athletes and spectators, to come together and root for one another in a global arena. However, you might have heard of a few specifically: Katie Ledecky, Lia Neal, and Anabelle Smith are names you probably recognize, as all three have won medals in the games.

 

But that’s not the only thing these athletes have in common: They, along with Olympians Erin Rafuse, Gaby Lopez, KK Clark, are all products of the Sacred Heart Schools, a Catholic school network of over 145 Catholic education institutions founded by the Society of the Sacred Heart.

 

“Our athletes recognize that their gifts comes from God and are not to be wasted,” the school’s communications director Donna Heckler told CNA.“They are taught to take personal responsibility for themselves while being self-disciplined in their efforts,” she said.

 

Coming from four different countries and from and from an institution over 200 years old, these athletes have a lot to be thankful for.

 

“Ledecky attended Catholic school –  Little Flower School in Bethesda through 8th grade, and then Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart for high school – her whole life. “My Catholic faith is very important to me. It always has been and it always will be. It is part of who I am and I feel comfortable practicing my faith. It helps me put things in perspective,” Ledecky told the Catholic Standard in a recent interview. She also confirmed that she says a “Hail Mary” before each event. “I do say a prayer – or two – before any race. The Hail Mary is a beautiful prayer and I find that it calms me,” she told the Catholic Standard.

 

While Heckler noted that they have no secret to producing Olympians, she did say that the school “does have a secret to producing amazing people. That secret is seen in the five Goals and Criteria of the Sacred Heart Schools that bind the schools together.” According to Heckler, the network of Sacred Heart Schools focuses on instilling five main goals in their students: a personal relationship with God, respect for intellectual values, social awareness and action, community building, and personal growth. “The Goals and Criteria, which are Sacred Heart educational principles, are foundational to this year’s dedicated Sacred Heart Olympians,” the schools press release stated.””

 

The Sacred Heart schools are run by the Sisters of the Society of the Sacred Heart. There is a focus on challenging every student to be their “most authentic selves,” as well as a strong faith, commitment to the transforming power of the Spirit of God, and the value of community, it’s clear that the Sisters are helping to inspire students to a life of determination, commitment, and faith that is an inspiration to many. These athletes are just a small few of the successful students of Sacred Heart schools specifically, but also of a Catholic education worldwide.

 

It is wonderful to see athletes that will come to inspire generations of children who are not just excelling physically, but who have a strong foundation of self-discipline, a relationship with God, and values that are inspirational in and of themselves.

 

Educator Resources: Bookmark This Page!

From lesson plans, to clip art for materials, to Sacraments, Liturgy, Prayers, and Liturgical Seasons, there are a lot of resources for Catholic and Christian educators scattered across the web.

You can find online games, arts and crafts blueprints, and more but not all are organized and easy to find. Most are focused on K-8, as many high schools have their own specific programs, but there are many higher-level grade resources out there too!

I have gone through and organized a list of links, making things easy for you to find, and each link comes with a small breakdown from me of the contents of each page, but if you have suggestions or corrections, please send them my way. I want to keep this resource useful, and up-to-date.

 

  • http://www.4catholiceducators.com/ Is a vertiable buffet of links and resources, from lesson plans, and religious education, teaching tools and links, religious art, Christian clip art, to reference tools, theology, Sacraments, Liturgy, prayer, Liturgical Seasons and even puzzles and coloring pages, this webpage has a lot for you to work with.

 

  • https://www.catholicteacherresources.com/ is a non-profit out of the San Fransisco Archdiocses, which compiles ideas and resources from educators in San Fransisco, San Jose, and Oakland. With Catholic WebQuests, interactive Catholic games, Catholic Mass Plans and prayer services, Catholic writing prompts, bible stories, Catholic Virtual Tours, Catholic songs and music and more.

 

  • http://www.catholiccatechist.org/ Contains many resources including games, icebreakers, worksheets, lesson plans and teaching aids, prayer services and many other supplements for your lessonplans broken down by classification.

 

  • https://educationforjustice.org/ is focused on providing timely and engaging educational resources which highlight the foundations of Catholic Social Teaching and real-world applications. Promoting increased knowledge of the Church’s social mission. Supporting people of faith in making the connections between the signs of the times and the demands of the gospel locally and globally. Developing the skills of theological reflection and social analysis needed in a globalizing world. Encouraging greater awareness and engagement with justice issues, and fostering a transformation of mind and heart through materials created. All resources are located within a search-engine-like finder.

 

 

  • http://www.catholiceducation.org/en/ This is the Catholic Education Resource Center, and one of the most in-depth resources based on topic, journalistic essays and thinkpieces about almost every subject that a Catholic school child or educator might face or question. This is a great resource for older children who might want to look more in-depth at their faith and the threats posed to it, as well as current events, health, family, and more. Less lesson plan-type resources here, more reading articles relevant to us all.

 

  • http://www.eds-resources.com/edthe.htm A great resource for many ideas on lesson plans and more, from a wide variety of sources. Has not been updated since September of 2015, and is a little disorganized, but can be a great source of inspiration.

 

  • http://www.catholicteacher.com/ This is the online companion to Today’s Catholic Teacher magazine. You can view their blog, and digital versions of past issues, but you’ll need to register to see the current magazine online.

 

  • http://www.catholiccurriculumonline.com/ This is a very in-depth site focusing on Effective curriculum resources to integrate and infuse Catholicity within specific courses throughout all academic areas. Resources are aligned with the Common Core Standards. Engaging curriculum resources aligned with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Doctrinal Elements of a Curriculum Framework for the Development of Catechetical Materials for Young People of High School Age for Catholic high schools and the Adaptation of the Framework for parish Religious Education programs. Resources for retreats/renewals, spiritual formation days, etc. for high school Campus Ministries to enhance student spirituality. Also there are active forums allowing Catholic educators (high school and parish) to collaborate on lesson planning and for increasing the abilities to utilize Catholic teaching in all academic areas. You must apply for membership to access this site.

 

 

 

  • https://www.ncea.org/ This is the site for the National Catholic Educational Association, and focuses more on professional resources like career education and catholic education data.

 

  • https://www.pinterest.com/ Can be a slog to wade through, and a lot of the pages linked are pages that you can find elsewhere on this list, but a great way to brainstorm lesson plans and activities is with Pinterest.
  • http://www.catholicmom.com/religious_education_resources.htm is a list of books and other resources, but it a little long and not as organized to read through or search as I would like. All of the images on the site currently appear to be broken, so there might be out-of-date information here as well.

 

 

  • http://education.crs.org/ A non-profit called Catholic Relief Services that aims to work in the spirit of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to assist impovrished and disadvantages people overseas. While there is a lot on this site about programs and ways to help with their mission, there are also some great resources for older students looking for outreach and to help make a change in the world.

 

  • http://catholicblogger1.blogspot.com/ Is a website put together by a mother who is passionate about what she does. Games, printables, special event planning, lesson plans, classroom, crafts, and more. An impressive list of resources to come from one woman running a website on her own.

 

Top Five Books in Catholicism on Amazon

A slideshow presentation by Steve Virgadamo, of the top five bestselling books on Catholicism from Amazon.

Catholic Education 2015-2016 Infographic

Catholic Education Facts Infographic by Steve Virgadamo

Catholic Education Facts Infographic by Steve Virgadamo

Five Essential Marks of Catholic Schools

With so many colleges coming under fire for being Catholic in name only, the question becomes, what makes a school Catholic in the eyes of the Church? Here are the five marks that give a school a good Catholic identity:

More Students in Great Schools