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.