Sep 8th Newsletter

Sep 8th Newsletter

Welcome back to another season of Catholic School MattersThis week’s newsletter focuses on the Mustard Seed Project (Oct 7-9) in Chicago, the great annual conference put on by the Greeley Center of Loyola-Chicago.  This year’s conference focuses on the mental health of our students.  The Top 5 articles this week:

  1. The first article in the American Catholic news section spotlights the great work being done at ACE at Notre Dame as seen through the eyes of Dr. Bill Mattison from the program. He talks about the importance of formation of our leaders, which we often overlook in favor of formation of our students.
  2. The second article features a great school leader at a fantastic school—Bryan Carter from Gesu School in Philadelphia. The article has a school choice bent but it’s a insightful celebration of what makes the school succeed.
  3. In the leadership section, I present three great articles on feedback. While they are all great, the article on how to ask for feedback is probably the one which stuck with me the longest.  It’s an often overlooked skill.
  4. In the Teaching & Learning section, the first article about how learning is supposed to feel uncomfortable is timely and insightful. Like our students, we often believe we should be able to to pick up and master new skills without any problems.  But … c’mon!
  5. The next article in that section on the rise of the haphazard self is great reading for anyone feeling disjointed and adrift at times. In other words, all of us! #catholicschoolmatters

May 19th Newsletter

In this week’s Catholic School Matters newsletter, I present the most impactful six books I read this year and the most popular links from each edition this year.  I looked at those links and have picked out my favorite 5.  The Top 5:

  1. The story about Brother Placid resonated with me. “With No More Cowboys, Monastery Quits the Cattle Business” is the story of how Assumption Abbey in North Dakota moved Brother Placid out of the feedlot.
  2. Ideological Bias Cannot Taint Our Approach to Sexual Abuse” from America magazine challenges our thinking about the sexual and leadership crises in the church.
  3. ’We’re a Family’ and Other School Norms Which Can Cause Burnout” from Jennifer Gonzalez (the Cult of Pedagogy blogger) challenges our approach to establishing school norms.
  4. I love articles on feeback. One of the best was HBR’s “What Good Feedback Really Looks Like.”
  5. Finally, “Schools as Places of Joy: We are Responsible for the Cultures We Create” is a reminder of what we’re supposed to be about.

Those were my favorites.  Enjoy!  Have a great summer!


May 12th Newsletter

This week’s newsletter features a blog on Social Emotional Leadership and some great articles, too.  The Top 5:

  1. In the American Catholic News section, “Ideological Bias Cannot Taint Our Approach to Sexual Abuse” is a thoughtful piece from Matt Malone, SJ of America magazine. He’s right—many people find in the abuse crisis what they’re looking for rather than approaching the crisis (and the concurrent leadership crisis) with a beginner’s mind.  You might be growing tired of reading about the abuse crisis but I encourage you to read this article.  It’s really good.
  2. The next article is a piece on a retiring priest from Butte, Montana. It’s interesting to look at the Catholic-rich background of his life in the 1940s and 1950s.  Haffey is the real deal and it’s been a privilege for me to work with him a little.  It’s a great feature article and provides great insight into the priesthood.
  3. In the Leadership section, “3 Simple Habits to Improve Your Critical Thinking” is a great reminder about how we need to challenge our own thinking. The article recommends steps to take.  As we transition to summer, we welcome a little more time and space to do quality thinking.
  4. The next article is about “Fixing a Toxic Work Culture” and highlights the “toxic triad.” As we are encountering the May mayhem, it’s important to keep our eyes and ears open for toxicity.  We’re here to serve students and build the Kingdom.
  5. In the Teaching & Learning section, the first article is a challenging piece about how teaching has changed: “It’s Not Them, You Need to Evolve.” If you’ve ever spoken with a veteran teacher who is struggling to figure out how to reach students, you’ll see the same struggle in this article.

April 14th Newsletter

In this week’s newsletter, I blog about a holy brother I met in North Dakota, a simple story which surfaced last week.  I hope spring has sprung in your world.  Here in Montana, we’re still waiting!

The Top 5 this week:

  1. The first article of the Leadership section is about the Wallace Foundation’s latest principal study. They found impacts on student learning through their program.
  2. In the Leadership section, I included Jennifer Gonzalez’s South by Southwest talk “The Aerodynamics of Exceptional Schools.” It’s a long one (55 minutes) but is really thought-provoking.  Jennifer runs the “Cult of Pedagogy” website and is fill of great ideas.
  3. The first article in the Teaching & Learning section “Teaching for Deeper Learning” from the Harvard Graduate School of Education is filled with practical tips for teachers.
  4. The second article from Pernille Ripp is topical for today “A Few Things to Do Before the End of the Year.” Pernille is a great blogger and is worth the follow.
  5. In the Miscellany section, the first article from Farnam Street is entitled “How Mental Models Unlock Your Thinking.” Shane Parrish has just published a book on mental models and I can’t wait to read it.

April 7th Newsletter

In this week’s newsletter, I blog about the laity’s role in combatting clericalism and then include a number of great articles.  The top 5:

  1. The first article in the American Catholic News section is from NCR and focuses on a tour of Indian Catholic schools in Montana and South Dakota I took last fall. It’s a great look at the challenges and successes of those schools.
  2. In the Leadership section, the first article (from HBR) focuses on how to accept and process criticism, “How to Keep Criticism from Undermining Your Confidence.” In this season when school leaders are evaluating and being evaluated, this article should help.
  3. The next article is a summary of a podcast on managing adult conflict. This is the conflict season!
  4. In the Teaching & Learning section, the first article is a blog by David Guerin on lifelong learning. We often purport to want students to become lifelong learners, but how well are we modeling this?
  5. In the miscellaneous section, the first article on attention management in the New York Times was very thought-provoking. As my number of tasks keeps adding up, the article is a reminder of how valuable even 15 minutes can be to focus on a project.

March 24th Newsletter

This week’s edition of Catholic School Matters is full of great articles.  The Top 5:

  1. Underneath the American Catholic News section is a little section I included entitled “Leadership Dilemmas.” I’ve included links to articles about a coach dismissed from a Catholic school due to her marital status, another article focusing on Archbishop Naumann’s response to the controversy in the Archdiocese of KC, and the new developments in West Virginia.  It’s important for all us to stay abreast of controversies and dilemmas.
  2. In the Leadership Links, the first article entitled “Why Feedback Rarely Does What What It’s Meant To” is a great reflection to read at this time of the year. Many of us are embarking on or wrapping up evaluations and this articles will inform your approach.
  3. In the Teaching & Learning section, the first article is focused on “Stress-free Training” and posits that a different learning environment might be more effective for emerging surgeons. I often hear coaches (like Saban) or teachers espouse the value of making the learning environment stressful so that learning can be more effective.  This article challenges that hypothesis, and like the article in #2 above, supports the notion that learning is often consolidated on what they already know—as opposed to lying outside of current neural pathways.
  4. In the Miscellaneous section, the absolutely best article I read last week is “How to Make Friends, Build a Community, and Create the Life You Want” is fantastic. Challenged to make sense of the sudden loss of a loved one, the author realizes that community and connections are the most valuable.
  5. The next article is a link to Roy Petitfils’ new book, Helping Teens with Stress, Anxiety, and Depression: A Field Guide for Catholic Parents, Pastors, and Youth Leaders (2019).  Roy is currently at the LA Congress and will be a speaker at the NCEA Convention.  I’ve heard him speak about these topics and know that his community-based approach (see #4 above) is valuable for all Catholic school educators.

March 10th Newsletter

This week’s newsletter lands right in the middle of National Catholic Sisters Week (March 8-14)!  Here is the website.  I certainly encourage all school leaders to honor sisters working in your schools and reach out to sisters/orders who once staffed your schools.  I’ve heard of schools asking their students to send cards or bringing in sisters for an All-School Mass and tour.

This week in honor of Lent, I’m blogging about prayer and leadership.

The Top 5 Links:

  1. In the Catholic news section, NCR published a great article about how to create a Vatican II parish. I suggest you read it and replace “parish” with “school” and see what ideas emerge.
  2. In the Leadership section, the absolute best article of the week is from Education Week. “The Hidden Logic of American Underachievement” challenges how we educate.  I’ve often said that you can’t rely on parent or student feedback about teacher effectiveness.  Sometimes the teachers who challenge students and expect excellent effort are the ones who receive the most complaints.  Whereas the teacher who doesn’t challenge students, gives each student top scores, and avoids any conflicts does not receive complaints from students or parents.  This article might force you to reexamine your approach.
  3. The next article from Jennifer Gonzalez asks principals “Are you Brave Enough to Ask for Staff Feedback?”
  4. In the Teaching & Learning section, there is a great article on “in the ear” instructional coaching. We have great new technology tools (video, Huddl, etc) but I’m not sure we’ve integrated them into our professional practice.  And instructional coaching is certainly one area where we can all improve.
  5. In the Miscellany section, The Atlantic published a thoughtful piece on our workaholic natures, “The Religion of Workism is Making Americans Miserable.”

Click here for this week’s newsletter.  The Top 5:

  1. If you ever wonder how to describe, articulate, or portray the beauty that is Catholic schools, look no further than this blog post from Rose Pillay of Vancouver or this great little article highlighting a graduate from Mercy High School in Omaha. Both articles capture the essence of Catholic schools AND model how we should all be working to spread the good news of our schools.  Read them both!
  2. In the Leadership section, this great blog post by Jeff Zoul entitled “ Learn. Lead. Repeat” captures the essence of effective school leadership.
  3. In the Teaching & Learning section, I present another thought-provoking blog from “The Great Handshake” entitled “Schools Should be More Like Trader Joe’s”. It’s an homage to the little things we need to do to build excitement and engagement in our schools.
  4. In the Miscellaneous section, David Brooks is back at it this week with his “A Nation of Weavers” which is an essay extolling the virtues of those who build community. Why can’t your Catholic school weave together our community and thus serve the common good?
  5. The next article is a thought-provoking piece from Rahm Emmanuel in the Atlantic entitled “Policy Makers Need a New Path to Education Reform.”

Feb 10th Newsletter

For this week’s newsletter, I was able to put together some thoughts on leadership in the blog and found a few great articles, too.  By the way, I was asked again last week for permission to share one of the articles in the newsletter.  Please feel free to use these articles without my permission!  I’m curating for you.

  The Top 5:

  1. From the blog, “The Best Leaders are Great Teachers” in HBR (Harvard Business Review) explores how leaders make their styles stick—that is, how they show their work.
  2. The last article in the blog was probably the best.  “If Strategy is So Important, Then Why Don’t We Make Time for It?” from HBR is an argument for carving out time for strategic thinking.
  3. In the Leadership section, “The Three Elements of Trust” from HBR is a great reflection on what’s needed to build and cement trust in an organization.
  4. In the Miscellany section, “Underrated” by Stephen Curry is worth reading and definitely worth sharing.
  5. The next article “Let Children Get Bored” from the New York Times hit close to home.  On these snowy days, the consistent refrain is “What are We Supposed to Do?”  The author argues that creativity emerges from blocks of unstructured time.

Don’t miss the article on the rising number of measles cases in the Pacific Northwest where some of the most permissive vaccination exemptions exist. 


Feb 3rd Newsletter

In this week’s newsletter and podcast, I preview the NCEA Convention.  I hope you consider committing to convention and encouraging others as well.  We need a great turnout in Chicago!  The Top 5 links:

  1. In the American Catholic news section, the first article highlights a Boston College report on the priesthood.  The article (and the link to the report itself) shed light on the importance of proper formation for our ministers (clerical and lay).  It’s a thought-provoking reflection on what the Church needs right now.
  2. Because it was Catholic Schools Week, there is a plethora of content generated by our schools last week.  Take a glance at the success of Diocese of Grand Rapids, a unique partnership in Cleveland, the vision in Springfield, a new scholarship program in Lincoln, and the challenges of the New Orleans schools.
  3. In the Leadership section, the first article from Forbes highlights one of the central problems of leadership—how to give effective positive feedback.  If you’ve struggled (like me) to give timely and authentic positive feedback, this is a great article to read.
  4. The next article in the same section is a link to a podcast and accompanying article from Vicki Davis aka the “Cool Cat Teacher” about motivating teachers.  As we enter the doldrums of February, it’s a timely piece to discover suggestions on how to motivate teachers to change with joy.
  5. In the Teaching & Learning section, the essay by David Brooks in the New York Times entitled “Students Learn from People They Love” is a great reflection about community and points to one of the reasons for the success of Catholic schools.