Sunday, 26 July 2015

Horizons of Hope: Reflections from the Catholic Education Convention


An excited team from St Joseph's Oamaru travelled via Dunedin to the triennial New Zealand Catholic Education Convention in Wellington.
As it stated on the convention website :The convention brings together Catholic educators, bishops, priests, school trustees and a range of others associated with the New Zealand Catholic education system. Our 238 Catholic schools, early childhood services and tertiary institutions have the opportunity to share experiences and learn from one another.
Here are some reflective snippets based on my own notes taken at the convention :
Professor Theresa D'Orsa - Catholic missiologist and educational leader Australia
  • Pope Francis says "I am a living mission." He proclaims the gospel very strongly by witness and symbolic action.
  • We need to integrate RE. The whole curriculum needs to be harnessed with biblical and faith questions and not just focussing on RE itself. 
  • It is time to intentionally rebuild our catholic education community taking everyone into account. It is part of a kingdom building project. It needs to be intentional. The more we do it, the more we rebuild faith and culture. The catholic school as Community for the Kingdom. A community can do so much more than the individuals in it.
  • We need to be engaged in serious formation work. It is business of the heart. The formation of staff and leaders is of the essence for success in this new era.
The Pastoral Challenges of the Family - Cardinal John Dew, Wellington
  • Cardinal John shared his synod experiences. All bishops had four minutes to address the synod. The pope asked for openness and honesty.
  • The pastoral issues that face our parishes and families are significantly different to worldwide issues.
  • Always look for the good aspects in people's lives and help them with pastoral challenges to move forward. 
  • Although we have our own lives, we  belong to a community of Christ and have a responsibility to help others. Bring the joy of the gospel and let it fill the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus.
  • Seek enlightenment, not entitlement.
  • The bishops document (see image below and reference on an earlier blog here) is a living document and we need to think about it in the context of our lives and the pastoral challenges we face.

You can access a link to this document by clicking here
  • Reignite faith in families through sending children's RE work home.
  • Never overlook the power of prayer.
Dr Gemma Simmonds CJ - Sister of Congregation of Jesus, UK
  • We need to be revolutionaries of tenderness. The pope does this really well. Jesus taught us to imitate him in gestures of humbleness and service.
  • Being nice is not the same as being a follower of Christ.
This is the same quote referred to by Cardinal John and Dr Gemma as shared at our presentation Authentic Catholic Leadership. You can access more information on this link.
  • Dr Gemma believed that the bishops' document is one of the best that she has read. These are robust words and a tough call.
  • Where is the happiness and joy of Catholicity ?
  • If we are willing to engage in the process of being makers of God in other people...then we will comes face to face with Gods longing for us...
  • What our teachers model, do and say with our kids are vital. We ARE the gospel. For some the only gospel that they will read.
  • We need to encourage our young people and ourselves to be open to receiving the gift - a relationship of love and worship of God in spirit and truth. 
  • What does a spirit filled life look like if we are modelling it ? It's a real life, an honest to God life. God dwells in relationships. God is love and anyone who lives in love is God and God lives in them.
  • Relationships...you can't learn about them in books but from the person. The catechists own heart must first be created and transformed. 
  • Pope said to his cardinals, "Don't be holy but be real."
  • Try and share our vision with others, wake others up to a life and faith leading to discipleship. Share the treasure of what you know with others. That will help us to be made God. 
  • We are a mission in every aspect of our life and actions. We are never off duty. Our mission is part of who we are. That's what we are as educators. We are missionaries.
  • Here are some thought provoking quotes that Dr Gemma shared with us -




  • Our Catholic schools can reach families before they come to our schools.
  • See the face of Christ in the lives of others and keep alert to the voice of Christ.
Gary Finlay - Acquiring a Catholic Worldview
  • Gary has written a paper based around answering the question raised by the 2014 bishops' document NZBC The Catholic Education of the School-Aged Children. You can access the full paper by emailing him ragnif@gmail.com 
  • Those around us, fewer have a Catholic background than in the past. It's hard for teachers to teach the traditional Catholic view in a society that is not modelling that anymore.
  • World of communications - a global village. It is an information environment and it's influence has been neglected. We need to promote a Catholic worldview.
  • We can't expect it to happen through osmosis but it needs to be identified and broken down. You can't hope that young people understand this but we need to help them.
  • We teach techniques for advertising by demystifying. We need to do the same with a Catholic worldview. We need to be explicit.
  • What does the Catholic graduate look like at graduation ?
  • Teaching students to pray is vital and may be the only time that they will pray.
Sir Brother Patrick Lynch
  • Most recently, in the 2015 New Year’s Honours, he was made a Knight Companion of the Order of Merit, for Services to Education over a 50 year period.
  • We are in the faith business. The Catholic review indicators show what makes us different to our state schools. It is harder but that's the deal. We have to sustain and strengthen our Catholic brand. One of us is never as strong as all of us. We are unabashedly Catholic.
  • Educational philosophy predicated on our faith is vital and should be expressed on our websites.
  • Get out the integration agreement and share it with everyone.
  • Globalisation. Look out for Catholic ideas from educators from around the world. Look outwards. This will happen with links on the new Catholic Portal.
  • Engage immigrant families and children so that they belong. They are strong in our parish networks and strong nationwide.
  • We are the face of Christ in our schools. We are witnesses to hope. We have a mission to spread Gods love and Jesus showed us how to act. Let us bring the good news of the gospel to everyone we serve. We are the adopted daughters and sons of God.
Dr Katy Novak - Teaching without barriers: Universal design for Learning (UDL)
  • Dr Katy's website link
  • UDL aligns with 2020 Catholic Beacon Goals. It's about teaching and learning with different dimensions.
  • Always be explicit about what we are wanting to happen.
  • Dinner party analogy. Plan the party differently to meet the needs of the guests dietary requirements etc. Think about your students and making sure you plan before to ensure everyone access to the learning. Make sure you don't just plan for what suits you. Our students are hungry for knowledge and we want to have food our students can eat and is nourishing for them.
  •  UDL based on brain research. Differentiation is presently based on students that already have a label. UDL - everyone gets the same thing from the beginning. It empowers students and they make choices of how they best learn.
  •  Reflect and assess yourself and then choose. Help our students learn how to learn.Why do they need this ? Allows them to advocate for themselves and feel better about expressing own knowledge. 
  • We need to say to students: I am teaching this to you because this is ultimately what you are going to do with it. You need it for life. 
  • Students have choice. They can choose the tool to write their responses with. 
  • Ask the children: What's your goal ? How much do you think is challenging for you ?
  • Give strategies and as much choice as possible. All the time relate it to real life. This is what you need to do to get to the next level as a learner. 
  • UDL guidelinesUniversal - introduce to all students every day. I am now going to provide Tier 2 targeted teaching to some students. Students make the choices. If they still need help, then offer more at intensive level. Ask them to express their knowledge and then you know that they are there. It allows the students who need the most time to get the most intense instruction.
  • Students can show what they know in countless ways: poems, videos, letters, posters, etc. Give choice. Give them many options and be flexible about assessment. For example state : If you have met the standard then these 3 things will be in it and then it can be shown in anyway.Be flexible about the way it's taught and really scaffold. Break it down if they are stuck, give them the words to express themselves if they are stuck. We need our students to know themselves as learners. 
  • Have them assess you frequently. We have to know ourselves as educators to be good role models. Let's talk about the grade that you got, what could I have done better that could help you do better ? What you are saying is I am weak at thisI need to model to be a learner, it is my job to help you learn. Are you engaged In this lesson? Teacher needs to be willing to work on how they teach to help students to learn.
  • Value your students and their personal stories. This is the goal and this is why it is important. Does anyone have a question? This builds their character on how to be successful. Leave 15 minutes for questions and the self assessment of rubric. They go through and take time to reflect against criteria of rubric. Write for me evidence of where you show this.You look at the rubric and they match it. Students need to reflect and assess, shouldn't be just the teacher. Those who were far off need more intense feedback. Video carrying out the self assessment and you hand this in with  annotations. 
  • Embed choice for assignments...response via podcast, audio recording, collaborative google doc . Turn it in.com  


Jenny, Siobhan Burke, Ann Dooley all from St Joseph's Oamaru with
Pope Francis and key note speaker Dr Gemma Simmonds

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