Superintendent of Holy Spirit Catholic School Division

Tag: learning

March Madness – In Our Schools

When we ordinarily think of March Madness, it is typically associated with a month of anticipation and excitement surrounding NCAA’s Division 1 basketball. Fans from every corner of the globe ready themselves for binge watching game after game, either in person or with eyes glued to the television, centering on a physical activity that has been coined as the third most popular sport in the world. 

Most especially in the last couple of years it is very important for everyone’s mental health to engage in activities that will bring joy to the heart, for we know all too well the challenges and obstacles we’ve encountered.  Going forward, we need to begin to feel relative degrees of normalcy.  Without question, I understand that everyone believes this to be true.

From a significantly different perspective of March Madness, we are finding ourselves on the cusp of what could very likely be a removal of all COVID-19 related restrictions and health protocols. With a fair degree of certainty, we are positioned to see continued and augmented polarizing viewpoints which inevitably will lead to increased divisiveness and fracture in our communities.  Since the formation of our country, Canada has been a magnet for immigrant families all over the world for a multitude of very good reasons.   The negative attention that Canada has recently garnered in worldly news, from parades of protests to complete blockages of main highways at multiple ports-of-entry in and out of the country, is incredibly unfortunate.  

Now in Family Week where we have the wonderful opportunity to gather as family, let us take every chance to recharge, renew and reset. We are slated to return to classes on the eve of March, and let’s do so in the spirit of togetherness and unity where the focus is on learning, not on the political rhetoric that is becoming more and more common and damaging to our youth.  This facade of politics must be kept out of our schools. 

The past two years have caused tremendous obstructions in learning in so many ways.  As a society, we will feel the effects of this disruption for many years to come.  That being said, our school and divisional staff have gone to no end of the earth to ensure schools are safe, caring, respectful and welcoming environments for our students to learn and staff to work. This amalgamated work has been a collective effort and includes everyone from school administrators, teachers, program leaders, support staff, office administrators, custodial and maintenance staff, information technology, business services, human resources, learning services, support services and most importantly religious education.  We recognize the significant hurdles that lie ahead but we are certainly up to the challenge.

As we are about to head into March, let us join together as a true united community to create our own March Madness. A March Madness that burns with unquenchable desires for learning that recognizes the MOST fundamental reason for the very existence of schools – that children and students entrusted to our care will learn, be cherished and reach their fullest potential.  We all have a critical role to play in this formation.  We owe it to the key stakeholders in our division, our children.  

Catholic Education – A Rich Blessing

Catholic Education Week is celebrated annually in our province. This year it is being held from May 10th to May 14thin and the theme is, “Those who hope in the Lord shall renew their strength” from the Book of Isaiah (40:31). It is during this week that we recognize the critical role that Catholic schools play in providing a publicly funded faith-based education to Alberta students. 

Like residents in Ontario and Saskatchewan, Alberta’s families have the constitutional right to choose a publicly funded Catholic education for their children.  Today, more than 180,000 Alberta students are blessed to be educated in Catholic schools. Catholic education remains revolutionary on both  individual and societal levels, and strong as a result of the support and participation of our families and communities.  Choose it for you. Choose it for the world.

Catholic education endeavours to achieve many goals, among them being to provide students with personal and social spiritual formation while fostering high academic achievement.  It invites our youth to see each other, and all those around them, as their sisters and brothers in Christ. The unity resulting from this common lens calls all students to respond to those in need.  This outlook of compassion helps young people to search for the common good and to bring Christ’s love and hope to others, locally and globally.

To guide and instruct our direction as a faith community, Holy Spirit Catholic School Division creates an overarching Three-Year Faith Plan.  Not that anyone would have anticipated this worldly context when the current Three-Year Faith Plan was developed and written a few years ago, but our theme for this year, Transformed by the Journey, could not have been more fitting and appropriately identified.  This past year has caused each of us to be transformed in our own faith journey, while simultaneously calling us to be grateful and gracious in all that we do.  It is often during times of challenge that we are forced to be mindful of the many blessings and graces that have been given to us unconditionally.  As a result, among many things, it demands that we: 

  • provide opportunities to creatively engage our learners,
  • examine our instructional practices, and
  • find new and innovative ways to collaborate with colleagues. 

As our Holy Father, Pope Francis, stated in August of last year, “The pandemic has given us a chance to develop new ways of living.” How about that for a profound, yet simplified, statement of purpose?  We will not be returning to the days of old, or to what has become known as a hopeful restoration to a ‘NEW-NORMAL’ — for many things will never be the same.  We need to continue to look for opportunities in this ‘NEW-NOW’ environment. There are certainly challenges ahead on many levels, but equally there are many golden opportunities waiting to be explored.  Let us graciously embrace them with a grateful heart and, in doing so, never cease to see the face of Christ in everyone we meet.

Who are the Superheroes in your School?

Over the past year, there has been no shortage of news stories around the critical and absolutely necessary endeavours of front line workers in the many sectors of our society. Nurses, doctors and the myriad of healthcare workers in the medical profession certainly are atop the list, for without them, our environment would be unimaginable. Workers in food stores and other identified essential service businesses have been relentless in their pursuits to provide the necessities of life. We also know how school administrators, teachers and the variety of support staff in our schools have gone the extra mile to ensure that our students are safely guarded in a welcoming and loving learning environment. They have made learning come to life in creative and engaging ways in a very different learning context. There is no question that these people are real heroes. 

Those of us in the education system know that superheroes are not just those fictitious characters who wear capes and swoop in to save the day. I am always most impressed when it is our students, the young people we serve each and every day, who take on the role; when they inspire those around them by going well beyond that which is expected, when their strong work ethic, attitude and effort are undeniable. It is for this reason that the Holy Spirit Catholic School Division has initiated a special means of recognizing the missionary work that is carried out by the dedicated and hard-working students in our schools.  

The stories that have come back to us are heartening. We’ve heard of many students who act as peacemakers on the playground, encouraging the inclusion of peers and classmates in a variety of activities. Another small group of students organized a special fundraising activity and donated all of the proceeds to a charity that supports individuals in need. A third example involved a single student writing messages of hope to every schoolmate in the building. Just this past week, one of our grade one teachers delivered a special gift to our office that contained carefully illustrated and coloured posters with uniquely crafted messages from her creative-minded students. Special messages included, “We love you”, “You are just right” and “Thanks for being you” to name a few. One even said, “Just keep swimming!”  What an uplifting experience that was for everyone here at our Catholic Education Centre. It is people like this who make all the difference in our schools and communities. In spite of all the current difficulty and challenges in our world, we don’t have to look far to intentionally see young learners making our world a much better place. 

True superheroes lie in our students. We all recognize as educators that students learn well from their peers so when students go out of their way to make this world a better place, it is particularly important that we encourage and support them. Children and youth, at all ages, who make kindness their priority, who are empathetic towards others or who graciously see the selfless need to extend gifts of time, talent or treasure to others understand that we are called to be our brother’s keeper. We must be intentional to make and seek out these acts of kindness, whether overt or subtle, and appropriately recognize them.


Growing Pains

Do you remember growing up during childhood and adolescence when, for a short period of time, every muscle, joint and bone ached in your body?  Although the physical hurt and soreness was almost unbearable at the time, it was absolutely essential to our development.  These were physical indicators that we were growing and changing – never again to be exactly the same.  

In the arena of education, the year 2020 was figuratively similar to the physical pains we experienced growing up.  We experienced the irritating hurt of the disruption in the education process early in the spring, the aches of adhering to the health measures and public restrictions along with the discomfort of having to be immersed in the ways of learning relatively unfamiliar and to some degree undesirable.  These temporary hurdles and different ways of being have caused us to embrace educational diversity.  Whether we are ready or not, education is evolving.

Teachers and administrators have become proficient at using Zoom, Google Meets and Google Classroom as platforms to facilitate online instruction.  At the same time, students have become very accustomed to receiving instruction in this way, particularly for our secondary students, who have been learning from home since late November, in addition to those who chose to begin the school year in an at-home-learning environment.  However, the ongoing challenge in education is far more involved than being comfortable using technology.  The change we must provide our students with is a framework upon which they can create and direct their own learning at any time and place and at any rate or speed.  Technology then becomes the tool or the vehicle by which all of this happens.  The learning process needs to be personalized for each student so that he or she can grow and develop in accordance with his or her God-given potential.  When students become more engaged and invested in the education process, because it is more personal and meaningful, their learning is optimized.

As we wrap up this past year, I encourage everyone to move forward into 2021 with confidence, enthusiasm and optimism.  Having been challenged within our personal, economic and political circumstances unlike any we have previously experienced, we’ve learned a great deal this past year as it relates to the many facets of teaching and learning.   As we proceed one day at a time, my prayer is that all of our students, who are entrusted to the care of teachers and staff, experience the richness of educational opportunities presented to them.

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