Sandria Morten serves on the faculty of the Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program and earned her Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction at Loyola University Chicago.
When my husband, Benny (ACE 6 - Brownsville, Remick 1), was the principal at St. Ann School in Chicago, there was never a shortage of amusing artifacts that he would find in the school with a 120-year history.
One day, he brought home a book he found on the bookshelf in his office, filled with books inherited from those that came before him. The title was, If You Don’t Feed the Teachers, They Eat the Students! Guide to Success for Administrators and Teachers. We had a good laugh over the book, but we had to admit – it was true! Whether we had the money in the budget or not, there would be paczkis in the faculty room on Fat Tuesday and a pasta dinner during parent teacher conferences.
Feeding the teachers might just be the most effective strategy for building staff morale! (In fairness to the author, the book is about more than literally feeding the teachers and might just have some good tips for setting up a culture of support for teachers -- and if nothing else, the metaphors are entertaining.)
But the truth is, when we consider hunger as a disposition of a Catholic school leader, it works both ways. As a Catholic school leader, you must have a hunger - a deep, insatiable desire to provide the very best experience for your students and families. This is the hunger that drives you to spend your weekend planning a faculty retreat, your evenings coaching and mentoring, your early mornings meeting with parents and redesigning your unit assessment. It is the hunger that drove to you this profession because you see what needs to be done and you are committed to the formation and self-sacrifice it will take to lead a Catholic school community.
While you must have hunger as a Catholic school leader, you must also be ready to feed the hungry that surround you. I imagine this must feel truer than ever in Catholic schools this year. Everywhere you look, there is someone that needs something from you, and with the challenges members of your community are experiencing, what they are asking for may feel well beyond what you have the capacity to provide. Saint Teresa of Calcutta, who encountered hunger each day, said, “People are hungry for something more beautiful, for something greater than people round about can give. There is a great hunger for God in the world today. Everywhere there is much suffering, but there is also great hunger for God and love for each other.”
During this Advent season, I wonder if that can be our response to hunger – to recognize the love that exists among us. The demands will only intensify as Christmas break draws nearer, so force yourself to find the moment of peace to see the love. For me, it was during our weekly school Masses. Even if for most of the Mass my mind was swirling from what happened right before
, or running through my to do list for the day, I’d take just one moment to feel the peace and the absolute miracle of the school community kneeling beside me. And that love would simultaneously feed me and ignite my hunger.