Opening Message to Staff

Good morning and welcome back. It is good to be with you again and I hope that you experienced the same rest and relaxation that I had over the summer. I would really like to thank Bishop Henry & all of our clergy here today for celebrating with us. Your presence reminds us of the important partnership that exists between school and parish. I would also like to thank FLVT staff for their hospitality and organization of this opening celebration. You have welcomed us into your school home and we are ever grateful.

Today I would like to address two plans with you, the last year of our 3-Year faith plan and the beginning of our new AISI Three-Year plan. I want to begin with some quotes from our mission statement. “We are a Catholic Faith Community; an education rooted in the Good News of Jesus Christ; Our Catholic Faith is the foundation of all that we do.” And, our vision, “A Christ-centered learning community where students are cherished and achieve their potential.” Those words allow us to be unique, but it must be our actions that make us unique. Our actions should speak so loudly that others cannot hear what we are saying. As we enter into our final year of our three year faith plan, we need to ensure that our theme of “Feed my sheep” is evident in all of our actions to our staff, our students, our parents and the general community.

Just as the Lord is my shepherd, our shepherd, we must understand that his message to Peter of feed my sheep is about us being shepherds as well. And as shepherds we must feed the children who enter our buildings each and every day. We must remember that we teach these children with every act and gesture. We must teach them the love of learning, the beauty of life and the wonderment of faith. Our work should never allow any child to feel that they are without a shepherd in our schools. Feed our children!

We must feed each other. Over the last couple of days in our division, I’ve celebrated the news of upcoming births and the excitement of new marriages. But I’ve also mourned because of the news of critical illness and other family struggles. At times throughout the year we will feel euphoria on the mountain top and at other times we will be deep despair in the valleys. We must always be willing to reach out and lend a hand to one another. Feed each other!

And finally, we must feed ourselves for we cannot feed our children and each other without our own body, mind and spirit nourished. We must take time to pray. We must take time to play just like a child. We must rest and we must find activities and people who infuse energy into us. Feed ourselves! As we begin this last year of our faith plan remember that we are called to be shepherds and tasked with feeding His flock!  

We conclude one plan and begin another. Over the next three years we will focus on student engagement. This project is exciting because it scaffolds so well on our two previous cycles of 21st Century Learning and Assessment for Learning. I believe that with the consultation that occurred, it is also our most grassroots project ever. It is not my project or anybody else’s, it is our project. And, it allows each school and every individual staff member to have choice on how they are going to be creative and innovative to enhance student engagement.  

This summer I re-read both Daniel Pink’s Drive and Carol Dweck’s Mindset which were the basis of our literature and research review for this project. Reading “Drive”, reminded me of the importance of autonomy in all of our sites and each of our classrooms. For the adults, it is not blind autonomy but autonomy based on collective, informed professional judgment. For the students it is about having some choice in not necessarily what they learn but in how they can demonstrate that learning. Autonomy moves people from compliance to commitment. Autonomy also allows people the freedom to be creative and innovative which has a positive influence on student engagement.

Reading “Mindset”, provided me with a different personal insight. Many of you may not know that I’m not a strong reader and certainly not a gifted writer. Give me the opportunity to speak in front of a crowd and I’m ease but reading and writing are struggles. Reading Mindset reminded me of the importance of effort; of believing in struggle and knowing that with a growth mindset, much can be accomplished. Even though I read non-stop this summer both for work and pleasure I’m still not as fluent of a reader as I would like to be. And even though I wrote a blog every week last year, I’m still not as gifted as a writer as I would like to be but I’m better today than I was at this time last year. It is this message of effort that we need to share with our students. That talent is never enough and effort must always be present for optimal improvement to occur.

Our plan requires each of us to be learners. Allows each of us to look for ways to be more creative, to be more innovative. We have a blueprint, our blueprint that will assist us in moving forward in the next three years. I begin this year with much hope. I believe that beauty speaks in our division. The beauty of Christ’s love, the beauty of shared purpose, the beauty of “shepherdship” and finally the beauty of learning. May each of you experience the love of Christ and the support of one another as we journey throughout this year. Good learning, good luck and God Bless!

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