Thursday, 20 November 2014

Catholic Leadership Reflections and Recommendations

Last weekend, I finally completed my second essay as part of my first paper in the Masters of Educational Leadership studies through the Australian Catholic University. It took several weeks of reading and then at least three dedicated weekends to complete my essay. This is part of the commitment that we must all make when we study part time while working full time. Despite this mammoth effort, it was genuinely a worthwhile process for my own professional growth and development.

I related my essay to our role as leaders of Catholic schools in relation to the important document released this year by the NZ Bishops (see image and link below).This is a document we can't overlook as Catholic educators. It has many very powerful messages for us.  If you wish to read my essay, you can go to this link (open and download it to get the whole essay).

You can access a link to this document by clicking here
After being inspired by public feedback about my sabbatical report (you can access the 4 minute video here) and the message to be 'bold and brave', I was motivated to share my recently completed leadership essay with our Catholic Education Office in Dunedin. As I result, I felt privileged to be invited to contribute a 'studying principal voice' to a recent meeting as part of a review of professional qualifications and courses available through the The Catholic Institute of Aotearoa New  Zealand (TCI) 

Here are my reflections as a result of this meeting and my own thinking and research:
  • In a  recent survey I carried out with Catholic Leaders in our diocese,100% of participants agreed that a programme of professional learning specific to the context of leaders in contemporary Catholic schools would be beneficial 
  • Believing that 'having a Catholic background' is all that we need as teachers and leaders in Catholic schools is not enough. It is an invaluable starting point. But just as we teach our children to learn and grow, we must also have a 'growth mindset' towards our Catholicity and develop our theological knowledge and spiritual leadership skills 
  • Boards can support teachers and leaders in our schools by offering financial support towards furthering their qualifications (many of our boards are already doing this). We also need diocesan or national funding support here through access to scholarships to encourage and support our dedicated staff towards furthering their qualifications
  • I suggest that schools explore a study release option along the lines of the existing Classroom Release Time (CRT) for primary teachers. I would recommend one day release per paper- RE Study Time (REST) for any staff studying to enable some quality time towards completing their assessment and to recognize their existing workload. (Our board will be offering this to our staff in 2015).
  • There is a definite need for explicit study pathways for future and existing teachers, leaders and principals of Catholic schools. These need to be established sooner rather than later and become an expectation for leaders and staff (mandated through our Catholic Education Handbooks and guidelines). We have high expectations of success for our learners, we must be role models and set the same high standards for ourselves as part of our commitment as educators in Catholic schools. Here is an example of such a pathway created overseas (taken from Cook & Durow, 2008 full reference in my essay see link above)
  • Setting up 'open formation' model schools for leaders to put into practice some of their learning and to experience contemporary Catholic schools in action would provide a practical element to the widening gap for existing and future leaders of Catholic schools. (We have the expertise and willingness to develop and offer such a model of professional and collegial support and guidance at St Joseph's in Oamaru)
  • Forming networks of Catholic schools based on the Learning and Change model ( further information and referencing in my essay -see my LCN video link that explains this model) would further support principals, Directors of Religious Studies, leaders, boards and staff of Catholic schools to increase our combined capacity to address challenges, share best practice and grow together. 
Let's join together and inject our passion, enthusiasm and creativity for life and learning into our Catholic schools across New Zealand.

“School can and must be a catalyst, it must be a place of encounter and convergence of the entire educating community, with the sole objective of training and helping to develop mature people who are simple, competent and honest, who know how to live with fidelity, who can live life as a response to God’s call, and their future profession as a service to society ” (Pope Francis, 2013). 

Pope Francis. (n.d.). To Students of Jesuit Schools of Italy and Albania (7 June 2013). Retrieved from

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