Wednesday, December 17, 2014

True Meaning of Christmas!

Just a week before Christmas I had a visitor. This is how it happened. I opened the door to the front room and to my surprise, Santa himself stepped out next to the fireplace.

"What are you doing?" I started to ask. The words choked up in my throat and I saw he had tears in his eyes. His usual jolly manner was gone. Gone was the eager, boisterous soul we all know. He then answered me with a simple statement . . .

"TEACH THE CHILDREN!" I was puzzled. What did he mean? As I stood bewildered, Santa said, "Teach the children!

Teach them the old meaning of Christmas. The meaning that now- a-days Christmas has forgotten. "Santa then reached in his bag and pulled out a FIR TREE and placed it before the mantle. "Teach the children that the pure green color of the stately fir tree remains green all year round, depicting the everlasting hope of mankind, all the needles point heavenward, making it a symbol of man's thoughts turning toward heaven."

He again reached into his bag and pulled out a brilliant STAR. "Teach the children that the star was the heavenly sign of promises long ago. God promised a Savior for the world, and the star was the sign of fulfillment of His promise."

He then reached into his bag and pulled out a CANDLE. "Teach the children that the candle symbolizes that Christ is the light of the world, and when we see this great light we are reminded of He who displaces the darkness."

Once again he reached into his bag and removed a WREATH and placed it on the tree. "Teach the children that the wreath symbolizes the real nature of love. Real love never ceases. Love is one continuous round of affection."

He then brought out a HOLLY LEAF. "Teach the children that the holly plant represents immortality. It represents the crown of thorns worn by our Savior. The red holly berries represent the blood shed by Him.

Next he pulled from his bag a GIFT and said, "Teach the children that God so loved the world that he gave his begotten son." Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift.

Santa then reached in his bag and pulled out a CANDY CANE and hung it on the tree. "Teach the children that the candy cane represents the shepherds' crook.

He reached in again and pulled out an ANGEL. "Teach the children that it was the angels that heralded in the glorious news of the Savior's birth. The angels sang Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace and good will toward men."

Suddenly I heard a soft twinkling sound, and from his bag he pulled out a BELL,. "Teach the children that as the lost sheep are found by the sound of the bell, it should ring mankind to the fold. The bell symbolizes guidance and return.

Santa looked back and was pleased. He looked back at me and I saw that the twinkle was back in his eyes. He said, "Remember, teach the children the true meaning of Christmas and do not put me in the center, for I am but a humble servant of the One that is, and I bow down to worship him, our LORD, our GOD."

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! Many Blessings in 2014!
Ken Willers

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Think: Erector Set meets Minecraft!

Piper: Building in the Real World while Creating in the Virtual...  

The Madeleine has once again opened the door to another 21st Century Learning Event and the students have been invited to participate as part of the Piper-Beta Team Member, or as an alternate.

Piper is currently in development as the first hacker toolbox that shows how to build electronics by playing Minecraft.

Piper is designed for kids and adults ages 8 and up and will be launching soon on Kickstarter!  They with be bring seven prototype kits tomorrow and the students will be working in pairs.  

Here's the Schedule of Events for Friday, November 21, 2014
11:00-11:30 The Madeleine Welcomes Piper: Mark Pavlyukovskyy & Associates
Piper Executives, Mr. Willers, Student Hospitality, and available staff

11:35-11:55 Piper Product Introduction and Lunch with Beta Students
above plus PiperBeta students outside near Garden or in ECP

Noon - 12:50 Piper Hands-on with PiperBeta students in Tech Center
12:50-1:00 Event wrap up with PiperBeta students feedback in Tech Center  

Thursday, October 30, 2014

What Questions do you ask Teachers when designing 21st Century Classrooms?

Here's what we are asking our Teachers at the Madeleine....

Name(s)   ____________________________________                  _____________________________________

1.     Introductions

2.     How long have you been here?                  

3.     And why here?  (What brought you here?)

4.     What values does this school uphold and promote that overlap most directly with yours? 

5.     Walk us through the day in the life of your class.

6.     What are the aspects of teaching, learning and using the room that could stand improvement? 

-     Where are the issues, pinch points, places where you and students experience stress.

-     Furniture – tables and chairs, daily and occasionally, for collaborative & individual work.

-     Dedicated breakout space

-     Floor Space

-     Whiteboards/ teaching wall locations

-     Noise

-     Temperature  (ever too cold?)

-     Ventilation (fresh air)

-     Light/glare

-     Technology

-     Number and location of outlets and controls?

-     Computers
7.     STORAGE
a.     Student backpacks – now verses ideal

b.     Student accessed supplies and books (in classroom)

c.      Teacher accessed storage

d.     Teacher accessed locked storage

e.     School-wide storage

8.     Shared spaces – do you ever use the ECP or Library or go outside with your class?

9.     What are the school-wide and class-wide special events

10. 21st century education -- What does this mean to you?

11. What would you say Madeleine does best? 

12. What top three or four things do you wish was different?

13. What do you think of the furnishings work that was done back in 2012/2013?    Thoughts about:

Chairs -- individual chairs, rolling chairs,  with storage

Desks – individual , shared, with storage, without storage

Soft seating

Acoustical dividers for collaborative work

14. Dream a little.  Five years from now.  Your vision have been implemented.  What do you see?  What does it look like to you?

15. Anything else you’d like to add?   Or anything else we need to know?    

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Glass is Already Broken

Once Upon a Time,

...a man went to get himself a glass of water and as he picked up the glass, the glass said, "Stop, look at me. Don't you see I am already broken?"

"What?" the man said, "You are in perfect condition."

"Regardless," answered back the glass, "I will be of no use to you--I am already broken."

Nonsense, the man thought and he filled up the glass with water and said, "See, you hold the water wonderfully -- not one drop leaks out."

"Take a better look," said the glass, "and you will see I am already broken."

Holding the glass to the light the man said, "Ridiculous, see how the light shines through your glass and water--it sparkles and shines. You're beautiful and your glass possesses no cracks."

"But, don't you see, sir," repeated the glass, "I am already broken."

"No, you're not," barked the man and he drank the water from the glass. "See? Perfect. You are perfect." and he placed the glass carefully back on the shelf.

Before he left the room, he took one more look at the glass and asked it, "Why do you keep saying you're broken when you're not?"

"How else will you see me?" responded the glass

"Excuse me?" said the man, "I don't understand."

"How many times have you picked me up and drank from me?" asked the glass.

"Hundreds of times." answered the man.

"Exactly!" was the glasses sharp reply. "And you never once saw my beauty. But this time, because you were afraid I was broken, you took time to look at me and you saw how precious I really am. If that's what it takes to get your attention, then remember, this glass is already broken."

@Story by Ken Willers

On September 11th, Catholic schools around the nation shared prayers of remembrance and prayers for peace. Our nation wide tribute honors the memories of the innocents who lost their lives, the men and women of service who lost their lives in their attempts to save the lives of others on that tragic morning and families left to mourn.

As we reflect on the events of 13 years ago, let us hold our school children and our own families close to our hearts and give thanks to God for our most precious gifts of life. Because our gift is so fragile, we must always hold and see the ones we love first and foremost in our minds and hearts. Our daily "routine" seems small and insignificant when compared with the potential loss of those we love.

Together, let us reassure our children that they are safe and well cared for by the adults and family members around them. Let us pray that our leaders restore peace and calm to a nation in grief and let us remember the victims, their families and the tremendous loss of life in our prayers and thoughts. Let us give thanks for those who risked their lives to rescue and assist those within the wreckage.

Although the "glass is already broken," let us see our country and our people made strong and resolute through our trust in God's healing hand, merciful heart and providential care.


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Don't Just Lay Bricks--Build Something!

The Three Bricklayers

Three men were putting up a building on a wide and spacious lot. A stranger passing by stopped awhile to watch. The worker nearest him was doggedly placing brick on brick.

 “Warm day”, said the stranger. “What are you doing?”

 Without glancing up the man replied, “I’m laying bricks”.

 The stranger strolled on. A little farther he stopped again beside another bricklayer and repeated his question.

“Fine day, “ he said. “What are you doing?”

The second man slapped on some more mortar, glanced at the stranger and said, “I’m earning twenty dollars a day”.

 Around the corner of the building, the stranger found a third bricklayer, who whistled as he worked. Again he asked what the man was doing. With careful precision the workman finished laying a brick. He straightened up, stepped back and slowly surveyed the unfinished building.

With pride in his voice he replied, “I’m building a cathedral”. .

Dear Colleagues,
There are so many times when I reduce what I’m doing to merely a function. There are times I reduce what I’m about to only "running a school," or “making a living.” And then there are times when I step back and realize that my life, my purpose, my vocation, is much bigger than myself and even what I’m doing.

What we are about as Catholic school educators is much more than sponsoring a fundraiser, hosting a book fair, analyzing ITBS tests scores or reviewing Progress Reports...what we are about, is creating 'Cathedrals.' Each and every child is a Cathedral in the making and our mission is about them.  Let’s keep that as our focus.

Let our lives and our ministry be about the Cathedrals that fill our schools every day. Let our leadership be about our staff, our children and our families. A faith-filled community of educators  provide the infrastructure for the Cathedral to flourish. At times we are the mortar and at others we are the architects of these magnificent edifices—but as leaders we must let our teachers, staff children and parents be the builders. Day by day...brick by brick...we assist them by inspiring them to the see big picture of the Cathedral in the making.

Personally, the lives we lead, the jobs we have, and the relationships we are involved in assist us in building up the lives of our children and the community we are called to serve. When we forget about the big picture of building Cathedrals our lives become reduced to meaningless tasks. Because of our busy lives we sometimes lose sight of our Mission...our staff...our children...our Cathedrals in the making.

As we embark upon our school year, let us create a new year of opportunities. Let us stay on fire with our our Mission. We are not about just “doing things”--we are about forming children’s minds, hearts, and souls. We are creating Cathedrals!

Thank you for being part of the Church's Mission of Catholic education.

Ken Willers

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Seven Attributes of Successful Diocesan Educational Leadership

Leadership and Strategic Vision
An outline of a Diocesan Catholic Schools based on 21st Century Leadership Expectations.

Only with the conviction that it is God’s work being done with the assistance of Divine Providence can we as Catholic educators see the future of Catholic schools: a future, filled with hope and a mission filled with purpose.

 1) Leadership that is strategic, visionary and collaborates with:
  • Mission-Centric Stakeholders
  • Board Members
  • Teachers/Principal/Pastors
  • Educational Trends/Experts

 2) Leadership develops 3-year initiatives that are:
  • Communicated/Planned
  • Supported and Tracked
  • Implemented and Revised
  • Evaluated and updated

3) Leadership that is inspirational and intentional…
  • Focuses on Mission
  • Focuses on Solutions
  • Focuses on Success 

 4) Leadership that is collaborative…
  • Develops communication with teachers
  • Encourages partnerships with principals
  • Relies on the influence and expertise of board members
  • Fosters partnerships with business/tech companies  

5) Leadership that identifies talent in the field will…
  • Showcase & reward expertise in the field
  • Invite colleagues to serve as mentors/presenters to colleagues
  • Encourage and develop new leadership
  • Identify thought-leaders in area to partner in Mission 

6) Leadership that asks teachers/principals what they need to be successful will…
  • Localize intervention by having sites assess local needs
  • Mitigate challenges by leveraging diocesan talent
  • Minimize unnecessary initiatives that dilutes focus 

7) Leadership that customizes professional development will…

  • Assess needs that are locally identified
  • Categorize common needs to provide adequate services
  • Allocate funds directly to local sites
  • Empower local staff to own professional development

The To-Do List for Successful Diocesan School Leaders

Diocesan Educational Leadership & Service

Four services every Diocesan School Office must offer:
  1. Offer Consultative advice regarding personnel matters
  2. Offer Consultative advice regarding diocesan policies and guidelines
  3. Offer Consultative advice regarding best Catholic educational practices
  4. Be present at local events/celebrations
Four requirements for every Diocesan School Leader:
  1. Availability
  2. Expertise
  3. Collaborative Leadership-style
  4. Credibility from Colleagues in the field 
Eight Opportunities/Necessities • The Diocesan Leader of Education should:
  1. Create a Vital/Meaningful Board of Education with by-laws that reflect best practices; with meetings that result in actionable and measurable goals; and is comprised of committed/Catholic members that possess the following areas of expertise:
    1. Building and Construction
    2. Finance
    3. Technology
    4. Real Estate and Property Management
    5. Marketing / Advertising
    6. Education
    7. Publishing/Media Communications
    8. Parent/Civic Leadership
    9. Theological & Religious Formation
  2. Decentralize Professional Growth
    1. Resources for professional growth should be allocated to local schools
    2. Partnerships with NCEA/ISTE/ASCD/CCCB etc. should be formalized at the diocesan level and provided to schools
    3. Professional resource sharing among colleagues should be promoted, incentivized and coordinated between schools
  3. Expand of Social Media Use
    1. Curation of content
    2. Formation of Professional Learning Networks
    3. Branding of Mission
    4. Communication of Message
  4. Centralize the availability of goods and services
    1. Economy of scale with vendors
    2. Leverage of numbers for purchases educational publications/technology
  5. Form Business/Educational Partnerships
    1. Silicon Valley and Technology companies
    2. Local or regional Businesses
    3. Universities and Colleges committed to Catholic education
    4. Publishing/Media corporations
  6. Re-vision compensation and evaluation models to be based on performance
  7. Limit Diocesan-wide school initiatives
    1. 1-2 initiative introduced over a period of 3 years.
    2. 3-year window of implementation (plan/execute/evaluate/revise)
  8. Report directly to the Bishop. 

Cohort Superintendency: A New Model of Catholic Educational Leadership

Leadership and Strategic Vision

Diocesan leadership must inspire confidence and be Mission Driven.

 “A family once rented a small room. The family went to the owners of the small room and complained that the room was too small. The owner, angered by the comment, asked the family to leave the small room. Now, the room is empty but it’s still too small.”  by Kenneth Willers

How does diocesan leadership transform an educational institution or system? Today, those involved in Catholic Educational Leadership must listen, reflect and inspire the entire educational community to effect change by living their mission. 

In partnership with the Church and those dedicated to Catholic education, the main ministry or role of the Catholic educational leaders is to unify the voices and the vision of those being served. To achieve unity the educational leaders must inspire students, families, colleagues and the greater community about the mission and dream of Catholic Education at both the local or diocesan levels of education. 

In the 21st Century, collaboration will be key to the success of diocesan educational leadership. School Departments must abandon the 'vertical' power structure of titled leadership and adopt the 'horizontal' expertise model of empowered action. Effectiveness at this level requires a cohort-model of superintendency made up of exceptional Catholic leaders, committed experts and innovative practitioners with a track record of success. 

In the cohort model educational leaders own a specific aspect of the shared Mission of Catholic education.  Expertise in the following areas must drive the selection or the appointment of members who will make up the cohort superintendency: 1) leadership development; 2) educational pedagogy and curriculum; 3) Catholic identity and religious formation;  4) educational law; and 5) institutional advancement and finances. 

In addition to the above areas of expertise, a cohort superintendency must be comprised of those who are able to collaborate with colleagues and other professionals to deepen the spiritual and professional lives of those serving within Catholic education. A cohort superintendency thrives on collaboration, while each member focuses on his/her area of expertise, and therefore the cohort is better positioned to partner with school leaders committed to Catholic education. In this model, one can see that, an effective cohort will be able to partner with visionary business leaders to explore innovative educational structures for learning. A collaborative cohort will be able to create a professional climate for growth and change and as a result inspire institutional expansion as well as safeguard that the Mission of Catholic education be sustainable for the future of the Church.

Diocesan leadership adopting a cohort superintendency will appoint leaders based on the needs and requirements of the positions identified above. Expertise in leadership, pedagogy, Catholic identity, law and finances must drive the selection process.  Degrees, years of experience or one's affiliation with a religious order or clerical state can no longer be the sole criteria for any one appointed to the superintendency level as it has been in the past. Furthermore, diocesan leadership will need to move away from the vertical chain of command and will have to view the cohort as the acting superintendency and relate to cohort as co-stewards of the Mission of education by being present and available to the cohort on regular basis. 

Finally, in the 21st Century, a cohort superintendency does not need to be tethered to a location. Cohort leaders could actually reside in the field and be easily available to colleagues that spread across a large geographic territory. Cohort members can communicate electronically and meet as needed, but most importantly, cohort members will be able respond to the needs of their colleagues more effectively because they will be present to them in a way a 'central' office never allowed. 

A cohort superintendency is reflective of the Gospel's message of One Body and Many Parts. To achieve this vision, Diocesan leadership needs to remove the vertical 'walls' of the 'Small Room' referred to as the superintendency and expand them to embrace the 21st Century model of collaboration and innovative expertise. Only with the conviction that it is God’s work being done with the assistance of Divine Providence can we as Catholic educators see the future of Catholic schools: a future, filled with hope and a mission filled with purpose.

Kenneth J. Willers,

Principal at the School of the Madeleine