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Trust the Process

Monday, December 12, 2016 by Brendan Bell - ACE 22, Sacramento

Brendan Bell ACE 22 Sacramento

The NBA season is well underway, and as a native Philadelphian now teaching in Sacramento, I do my best to keep up with both the Kings and the Sixers. While watching the Sixers string together a couple wins recently, I started to think about how the team’s development over the past few seasons highlights some of the best lessons I learned about myself during my two years in ACE. As the Sixers closed out a win over the Miami Heat, it made me think, “Record aside, there are actually a lot of similarities between my ACE experience and the Sixers’ development over the past few seasons.” The motto in Philadelphia is “Trust the Process,” and I have found much about this theme that overlaps with my own ACE experience.

We Can Do Hard Things

Monday, October 12, 2015 by Fr. Nate Wills, C.S.C.

At the end of August my Professional Learning Community conducted our first video chat. Through the wonders of the interwebs, it was delightful to see the smiling faces of our small group of Remick Leaders, now scattered across the nation. Mike Zelenka, a great principal at Incarnation Catholic School in Tampa, FL, thoughtfully led our meeting and reflected on his own experience of coming to Notre Dame for a couple days this summer. Mike spent time in classes and said the conversations about “root beliefs” got him thinking about his own root beliefs. He listed and explained some of the ones he came up with.

Lemme just tell you, they are really good.

An Awesome Week to Work for Catholic Schools

Wednesday, October 07, 2015 by Christian Dallavis, Ph.D.


What an awesome week to work for American Catholic schools.

For the last decade, every story I’ve seen about Catholic schools in the mainstream media has been a tale of decline and demise, a sad story about a once vibrant system of schools that has entered a phase of decline and is heading toward certain death. Just last month The Atlantic published “The Demise of Private Schools.” In 2013, the New York Times published, “A Lifelines for Minorities, Catholic Schools Retrench.” Time, 2009: “Looking for Solutions to the Catholic-School Crisis.” Education Week, 2012: “Catholic Schools Feeling Squeeze from Charters.” Education Next, 2007: “Can Catholic Schools Be Saved?.” Philadelphia Magazine, 2013: “Will Philadelphia’s Catholic school’s Be Resurrected?.” 

You get the idea.

The Key to School Leadership: Love Those Hardest to Love

Wednesday, September 30, 2015 by Kole Knueppel

The Key to School Leadership: Love Those Hardest to Love

As the school year moves out of launch phase and picks up steam, it’s all too easy for us as teachers and leaders to get caught up in planning, programming, and logistics – the nuts and bolts of school. As we build relationships within the context of the school community, we also naturally begin to form opinions about the people around us. School can be beautiful in terms of relationship formation, but by the same token, school can sometimes feel as if it is the great clash of humanity.

For some of us, the combination of all of these factors can lead us down a path in which we begin to get caught up in the “daily grind,” completing tasks and fulfilling responsibilities as a definition of success within our day.

The Best Way to Set the Tone for the School Day

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

mc4 6623One of the most important responsibilities for a school leader is building a strong community among the students, their parents, and the school’s faculty and staff. While there are many ways to help foster a great community, a principal’s morning interaction with his or her students can help set the right tone for the day that keeps the school community motivated and believing in themselves.

I spoke with Rodney Pierre-Antoine, ACE’s Director of the Notre Dame ACE Academies and a veteran school leader, to get his thoughts on the importance of a consistent, positive morning interaction with students.

Morning Assembly

One of the most effective ways for a school leader to connect with his or her community is through a morning assembly. Pierre-Antoine said that, when he was a principal, the most important aspect of his morning assemblies was to keep Christ at the heart of his message and to co-create an atmosphere “animated by the Gospel spirit”. A morning assembly provides the school community a daily opportunity to break open the Word and encounter Christ through communal prayer and fellowship. He leveraged this daily platform to spread the good news to all members of the community (students, parents, faculty, and staff), that God loves them and calls them to love one another.

Another crucial aspect to a successful morning assembly is to celebrate the students for their accomplishments, but also encourage the students to celebrate each other.

“At one of my schools, I would use the Friday assembly to reflect back on the week and recognize those students who modeled Christ-like behavior and embraced the student-learning expectations,” Pierre-Antoine said. “As students became more comfortable with this routine, I would encourage them to celebrate their peers, which helped further strengthen the community as a whole.”

Less Formal Interaction

While morning assemblies are important, not all interaction between a school leader and his or her students is quite as structured. Pierre-Antoine said he made it a point to always be outside at the carpool fifteen minutes before the bell rang to greet students and their parents and grandparents. He would smile, welcome them to school for the day, and make every effort to make the whole family feel as though they were a part of the school community.

This type of morning interaction bled over to other times of the day and the week—at the end of the day when parents were picking up their children, on weekends at sporting events and other extracurriculars.

“I wanted to constantly model that I was trying to build a community in Christ that supports one another and that rallies around the school,” he said.

Why It Matters

Building a strong and positive school community isn’t just about making parents and students feel welcome when they arrive at school for the day, and it isn’t just about setting a positive tone for the day at a morning assembly. By making a concerted effort to do those things, though, a school leader can be responsive to the needs of the community when more significant issues arise.

Pierre-Antoine said it all comes down to a ministry of presence. School leaders should take advantage of the very visible platform they have each day to help model for, direct, and guide their students, parents, faculty and staff. It is this presence, this relationship that separates an administrator from a school leader who truly walks with his or her school community day by day.

“Walking alongside those we serve provides us ample opportunities to bear witness to Christ by our words and actions,” Pierre-Antoine said. “Whether it's a handshake or a hug at carpool; a reflection on Sunday’s gospel; an inspirational video from YouTube; a read-aloud from an old favorite like the Giving Tree; affirming a member of the community for a good deed; a blessing on a group of students like a CYO team before a big game or the eighth graders prior to taking their high school placement test; a prayer intention for someone who is ill or who has recently returned home to heaven; so many different activities can take place during morning assemblies, but there is only one goal, make God known, loved and served.”


How a Five Minute Visit Reveals Everything Parents Need to Know About Your School

Monday, September 21, 2015 by Melodie Wyttenbach, Ph.D.

How a Five Minute Visit Reveals Everything Parents Need to Know About Your School

The first five minutes a visitor spends in a school can reveal a lot about its students, their teachers, and the broader school community. What impression of you do you want them to walk away with?

As leaders, we sometimes only have a few minutes to convey our passion about our work, ability, and confidence as an instructional leader, and what our root beliefs are. Below are three stories of effective leaders I witnessed on a recent trip to Chicago that hopefully will challenge you to reflect upon the lasting impression you leave others with when they visit your school (note all school and principal names are fictional).

ACE Link Roundup: Your Catholic Education “Must-Reads” from the Past Two Weeks

Friday, September 18, 2015

ACE Link Roundup: Your Catholic Education “Must-Reads” from the Past Two Weeks

Obviously, we here at ACE are pretty bullish when it comes to Catholic schools. And boy, after the reading the news lately, it shouldn’t be hard to see why. It seems like every outlet has chimed in over the past few weeks on Catholic schools, parishes, and the “state” they’re in.

Pope Francis’ upcoming visit certainly has something to do with that, but the past two weeks have also seen sweeping profiles on Catholic higher education; spotlights on the Cristo Rey network and its students; and the growth, challenge, and promise of Catholic schools writ large.

It’s a lot.

And that’s a good thing! But because time is finite — and I expect many of our readers are busy planning classes and teaching kids themselves — here are the stories that are particularly worth your time this week:

How to Build a Strong Academic Foundation in Your School

Wednesday, September 16, 2015 by Sr. Gail Mayotte SASV, Ph.D.

How to Build a Strong Academic Foundation in Your School

What is it that we want our students to know and be able to do? Answering this question before we align to standards, set curricula goals, and form lesson objectives is imperative to establishing a Catholic school’s strong academic formation of its students.

According to Archbishop Miller, part of the answer is to be “strong and responsible individuals, who are capable of making free and correct choices” and it demands “an education that responds to all the needs of the human person.”

The USCCB notes that it is, “to live morally and uprightly in our complex modern world,” and therefore students must be provided “an academically rigorous and doctrinally sound program of education” (2005).

Notre Dame ACE Academies simply defines it with two words, “college” and “heaven.”

With clarity of purpose, the specifics regarding a holistic, academically rigorous, and doctrinally sound education can take shape.  However, even with this, the implementation of strong curricula and research-based techniques remains no small task. Catholic school leaders must articulate a clear vision for academic excellence (the WHY), guide curricula decisions that flow from the vision (the WHAT) and build capacity among their faculty (the HOW) in order to provide strong academic formation for their students.

Eight Ways Catholic Schools Can Be More Welcoming to Latino Students

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

"El entusiasmo es contagioso" 
“Enthusiasm is contagious”


Throughout the United States, Latino populations are on the rise, especially in the Catholic church. Latinos now make up approximately 70 percent of all practicing Catholics in the United States under the age of thirty-five, yet only 3 percent of school-aged Latino children are enrolled in Catholic schools. Oftentimes, Latino families can feel disconnected with their local Catholic school, many of which are designed to cater to an immigrant community of a different generation. Here are eight ways to help your school become more welcoming to Latino families:

1. Ditch the deficit mindset. Too often, when considering Latino outreach, people approach the topic with a deficit mindset, asking, “why don’t they do this the way we do?” Not a single strategy (and there are thousands) will work if you see Latinos’ growing presence in the United States as a problem. But if you believe in your heart and mind that welcoming Latino families is part of God’s providence, and see it as an opportunity, you’ll approach it with zeal, energy, and life. You’re bound to be more successful.

2. Realize that it takes work. Reaching out to Latino families and making your school more welcoming for them isn’t rocket science, but some of it is counterintuitive to how an Anglo-centered mind might work. We all have hidden biases and prejudices about how life works and about the way things are—stop for a moment to consider these biases, and think about how others might approach things differently.

3. Do the small things. Latino outreach is not just about hanging a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the office or providing a Mass in Spanish—but those things help! Make sure your school offers clubs centered around things valued by the Latino culture and, if possible, offers extra classes after school like Spanish for those who don’t speak it, and English for parents whose first language is Spanish. Make sure that all of the forms at your school are in both English and Spanish. When it comes to the small things, make every effort to show that there isn’t a dominant culture at your school, and that it’s welcoming of all cultures.

8 ways catholic schools can be more welcoming to latino students4. Look for potential community knowledge. Using the real life of your kids (and their parents) to help them learn is an excellent strategy for any teacher, but can be particularly helpful in making your school more welcoming for Latino families. Once again, ditch the deficit mindset and start thinking about the community as rich with resources. What gifts do your Latino parents have that could truly benefit your students, and how can you incorporate those gifts into your lessons? Answering this question will not only benefit your students, but will also improve the relationship you have with your students’ parents.

5. Increase your knowledge. As simple as it may sound, it makes a difference to know your stuff. Teachers and administrators should be knowledgeable in the process of language acquisition, best practice for English language learners, and culturally responsive and sustaining classrooms. Remember that many immigrant children feel as though they have to check their culture and language at the door, but you can find ways to honor and celebrate their culture and language—it’s who they are.

6. Reach out with care. A recent Edutopia blog argued that the number one thing you can do on a back-to-school night to connect with parents, more than providing information, is to show them that you care about their children. This is doubly true for Latino parents. Latino culture strongly values relationships, and the more trust and confianza you can instill, the more successful you’ll be in building those relationships. Show parents that you love what you do, that you love your school, and that you really care for their kids—remember, el entusiasmo es contagioso (“enthusiasm is contagious”).

7. Weave the community into the school. Your school should not be separated from the community, but rather a part of the community. Encourage families to bring their gifts and talents to the school community, and see the relationship as reciprocal. Don’t forget to ask questions, and help your students to ask questions of each other and their own families. These questions can help to validate the importance of each student’s own culture and family.

8. Invite, invite, invite. Invite Latino parents to come to school to help with refreshments after Mass, invite grandparents to attend weekly Mass with the students, invite parents to share their gifts with their children’s classrooms. But don’t just invite them once—invite, and invite again, and invite again. Make all the families in your community—Latino and otherwise—feel as though you’re not just welcoming them to the community, but actually want them there.

Latino families can be an incredible blessing for Catholic schools, bringing rich cultural experiences and expertise to the community. We should strive to continue to help these families feel welcome in our shared mission to provide as many children as possible an education that is academically excellent and authentically Catholic.

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