Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Implementing Mobile Technology without a Single Mandate

“Innovation is the distinction between a leader and a follower.” – Steve Jobs

How did the Madeleine achieve overwhelming success implementing mobile technology with its staff and students in such a short period of time? Here's the success story.

 


The Catalyst of an Innovative Idea
In September of 2010 the Parent Association stated they would donate funds toward an innovative technology program that would benefit the students.

The Innovative Idea
The Principal asked the PA to consider a pilot program where iPads might be incorporated into the Kindergarten program. The idea generated awareness among all the other teachers that wanted to experience the iPad technology first and explore ways in which the technology could be integrated into their classrooms as well.

Educator Incentive
Teachers were asked to consider if they wanted to use an iPad and explore its potential for instruction. The principal reached out to the faculty and offered that if they were interested in receiving an iPad they needed to write a brief narrative addressing the following questions:
· Why you would like to use the iPad?
· How might you incorporate it into your own professional use?
· How might you incorporate it into your instruction—or how might students use it?
· Innovative ideas you might be willing to explore?
Upon receipt of the iPad teachers would also receive an iPad cover and an iTunes card worth $100 dollars. Teachers were highly motivated.

March 11, 2011 (Day of the iPad2)
While Steve Jobs and Applephiles around the world were celebrating the launching of the 2nd generation iPad--the Madeleine was celebrating the launching of its own innovative program, that of incorporating iPad technology into the life of the classroom and the instruction of the teacher.

At morning assembly the principal asked the student leadership to host the launch. Each teacher that had written a ‘narrative’ was called up in celebratory fashion. The student body president, who gave the iPad to the teacher, greeted them with the words, “As you learn how to use this tool, we hope you will bring it to the classroom so we use the iPad next year.” As each homeroom teacher came forward to be handed their iPad, with their class roaring with delight, it was as if their students were all receiving their own iPad. The feeling that morning was electric; it was certainly incentivizing the teachers to engage this new technology.

Now, as teachers partner with their colleagues and with their students we are excited to witness our innovative Vision become Reality. The teachers had 3 months to experiment with the iPad and experience its educational value first hand, without any pressure.

Preparation for the iPad Experiment to be Integrated into Instruction
The next piece of the iPad experiment was to invest in professional development for the staff. In order to have quality training, the principal needed to host two six-hour training days. However, to do this the principal needed to ask the teachers to return the week after the school ended for the year. In return the principal offered to extend summer break for two additional days and offer breakfast and lunch during the training days. The staff was excited and the training was tremendous. After the training, the staff would have all summer to ‘play’ and use the iPad to further deepen their commitment to implementing it within their classroom instruction in the upcoming school year. Over the summer, teachers spent time investigating and researching apps that would serve as tools to reinforce learning and the acquisition of new concepts.

Based on our student needs, it was determined that deploying iPads to our Jr. High would be most beneficial as a result of the content being taught and readiness of our students to engage the technology. In preparation of deploying the iPads, the administration and teachers worked with parents to create an iPad Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) to be signed by every student and their parents/guardians previous to receiving the iPad in September.

Preparing the infrastructure
Working with the technology coordinator, I, as the Jr. High lead teacher, spent the summer designing the ‘virtual’ classroom that would be needed to deploy 72 iPads to all our Jr. High students come September. The Google Education Cloud served our needs.

The Madeleine set up its domain themadeleine.com within the Google cloud and issued all the students their own account. The account set-up was simple: Year of graduation, first initial, last name @themadeleine.com. For example, John Smith of the class of 2012 would be 12jsmith@themadeleine.com. Each student would then be assigned to a group (Class of 2012) and given limited permission. For instance, no student can send or receive e-mails outside themadeleine.com domain.

Deployment
On September 10, 2011 we gathered all the Jr. High students together for an iPad orientation where the iPad Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) was discussed, a lesson explaining the iPad and it’s functions was facilitated, and the students were introduced to their new Google Cloud accounts. The next morning, on September 11, we deployed the iPads to all the Jr. High students. The students immediately took to the new tool and began to use it within the classroom and for their instruction immediately.

Current & Future Use
Students have used the iPads in all of their classes by creating multimedia presentations, watching video lessons, writing essays, researching projects, and engaging in apps designed for reinforcing concepts already learned. We engaged the students to find apps to help them in utilizing the best possible tools to be continuously engaged in their learning throughout the day, no matter the subject. 

The School of the Madeline is now a 1-1 iPad school. Student and teachers have also found the Google Cloud to be a great communication tool for their group projects, whether at home or at school, and a key way to communicate their questions, comments, or concerns with their teachers. Teachers utilize the ability to read and annotate novels, short stories, and articles in the iBook app and I we now use digital textbooks or resources for Algebra, Mathematics, Religion, Social Studies, Literature and Language Arts.   

Two years ago the Madeleine brought fiber connectivity to the school to prepare for future bandwidth needs and in addition to our instructional projectors we've connected Apple TV. Our wireless environment and mobile technology allow our students to AirPlay their content via the iPad right from the own desks in order share with the rest of their class--making our whiteboards interactive for everyone!

Innovation in educational leadership inspires success. Our staff and our students, as a result of embracing innovation, are creating environment where authentic 21st Century Learning can flourish.

100% of the Teacher Believe:
  • that technology use in the classroom can enhance student learning
  • that their school encourages technology use teaching and learning
In 2014, 2015 and 2016 the Madeleine staff and students participated in survey to determine the impact of our technology use. We contracted with BrightBytes to conduct the survey and compile the results. Our survey responses ranked four areas: Classroom, Access, Skills and Environment. The results we achieved in the category of Environment were very affirming. Our results indicated culture of experimentation, innovation and collaboration in regards to technology use. 



The Madeleine is very proud of the collaborative and transparent manner in which we have integrated technology into the culture of learning. Innovative Leadership inspires Innovative Educators.

“The iPads are great! It’s like we’re doing something that no one I know is doing and it works. It just makes our experience in the classroom that much easier, so we can constantly, you know, actually learn!” – School of the Madeleine 8th Grade Student

What is 21st Century Learning? Let's ask the students.

What is 21st Century Learning?

Students Respond, "That's the wrong question...

The video was commissioned by team at Picaboo Yearbooks. The video was produced and directed by the students of the Madeleine.


What/Who is 21st Century Learning?

What/Who is 21st Century Learning?  - by Ken Willers

Did you know, that today’s Kindergarteners will retire around the year 2074?

Astonishing to think, huh? But, it serves as a stark reminder that we, as educators, are called to prepare today’s five-year-olds, as Ian Jukes stated, “for THEIR future and not our past?”

If a school is not living out this call, or even worse, resisting it, that school has no right to exist. 

In 21st Century Learning students who can think critically and communicate effectively are better able to build on their base of core knowledge. Within the context of 21st Century Learning of core knowledge and faith instruction, students also learn the essential skills for success in today’s world, such as critical thinking, problem solving, communication and collaboration. When schools build on these skills by combining the necessary support systems—standards, assessments, curriculum and instruction, professional development, faith formation and learning environments—students are more engaged in the learning process and graduate better prepared to serve the global community and to thrive in today’s global economy.

We can divide these 21st Century skills into three domains (see graphic for more specifics)


LEARNING AND INNOVATION SKILLS
Learning and innovation skills are increasingly being recognized as those that separate students who are prepared for a more and more complex life and work environments in the 21st century, and those who are not. Schools across the country must have a renewed focus on creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration as essential to prepare students for the future.

INFORMATION, MEDIA AND TECHNOLOGY SKILLS
People in the 21st century live in a technology and media-suffused environment, marked by various characteristics, including: 1) access to an abundance of information, 2) rapid changes in technology tools, and 3) the ability to collaborate and make individual contributions on an unprecedented scale. To be effective in the 21st century, school students must be able to exhibit a range of functional and critical thinking skills related to information, media and technology.

LIFE AND CAREER SKILLS
Today’s life and work environments require far more than thinking skills and content knowledge. The ability to navigate the complex life and work environments in the globally competitive information age requires students to pay rigorous attention to developing adequate life and career skills. Schools must create opportunities for students to practice, develop, and translate life and career skills, along with innate talents and personal interests into real life experiences.

What is so impressive is the number of educators who have embraced the essentials of what constitutes 21st Century Learning. School teachers can encounter these innovative educators on Twitter. Many schoolteachers across the country have an intuitive sense of the type of skills today’s students are going to need to be successful in their future life and career. As a result, many schoolteachers incorporate 21st Century learning proficiencies into their educational vision as well as into their students’ learning expectations. 

I would like to add, that this 21st Century vision certainly rings true for the amazing educational community at the School of the Madeleine, where I have the honor as serving as principal—and it is exciting behold.

The Good News is—It’s happening! Schools across this country are blazing trails, transforming learning and inspiring souls. As I engage educators across the county the innovative and collaborative spirit I encounter is truly inspiring. I have often remarked after meeting these great educators, ‘Look at what is possible… When innovative schools with innovative vision, inspire innovative students to use innovative tools…we actually empower and prepare our students for a future they will be called upon to create.’

How Students and Teachers Designed 21st Century Classrooms

Students help revitalize and reinvigorate classrooms for 2015

Light, height, air. These tiny entities are the agents of change coming to the Madeleine classrooms in Fall 2015 that will transform and improve the way that our students learn.

And the students themselves helped make that happen.

Armed with suggestions and drawings from the students that showcased their dream classroom, a redesign team will revamp portions of each 1st through 8th grade classroom this summer. 

“These improvements will facilitate and encourage more of the great teaching that already takes place at the Madeleine,” said Joseph Nagel, eighth grade teacher. 


“Teachers will more easily be able to move around 
and teach from different parts of the room, and students will have greater access to whiteboards and storage areas.” 
The redesign of the classrooms has been carefully thought out, he said, to make the flow of teaching and learning effortless. 

On the first day of school, students in the main building found modern 
tackable wall surfaces that improved acoustics and allowed them to hear better and stay focused. Large magnetic whiteboards were added. Each classroom’s projector had been relocated higher on the primary teaching wall so that all students could more easily see the screen.

In place of the 1950s-era cloak-rooms in each classroom of the 
main building, built-in storage space, that will be behind horizontally sliding whiteboards, has allowed teachers and students to transition efficiently between different modes of learning. Also, located behind the whiteboards are the charging stations for our 1-1 iPad program. Devices are now able to remain fully charged they are easily accessible to students when needed.

Over the last year, two out of nine classrooms received new desks and ergonomic chairs that could be easily rearranged as curriculum changes, allowing students to sit in pairs or large collaborative groups. “We had an aggressive set of goals for a summer project and hoped to make a substantial impact on the look, space, utilization and functionality of each classroom,” said Jed Doust, Madeleine parent volunteer who is leading the summer construction project.

While there’s always more to be done, this work represents a giant leap to ensure we’re maximizing our investment and providing a world-class, 21st century learning environment for our children.” We are proud to move forward in our goal of providing an environment conducive to students learning the skills they need to compete in a 21st century world.

Doust is most excited to see the students learning in their new environment. “We’ve spent hundreds of hours poring over every possible detail to ensure we’re maximizing our invest- ment and providing a world-class, 21st century learning environment for our children.”
Mr. Nagel & teachers sharing design suggestions to architects 
All teachers, the school’s after-care director, and the Madeleine librarian were consulted all along the way and are looking forward to an environment that helps make teaching and learning natural and intuitive.

“The new rooms are intended to work like a well-designed device: when the user experience is smooth and intuitive, the device seems to melt away,” Nagel said. “So we hope it is with the new rooms: by making teaching and learning clear and natural, the students and their education will come that much more into focus.”


4th Grade with rolling desks and flex chairs
The School of the Madeleine, as a 21st Century 're-imagined' School, will now be known as the 'Next Generation School' and we have our students, all born in the 21st Century, as those of the 'next generation' to thank!

Take a look at the final results. You will notice all the elements in harmony: lighting, ceiling fans, sliding whiteboards, integrated technology and furniture conducive to student learning.


Sliding whiteboards with iPad charging stations
8th Grade with Steelcase Verb tables and flex chairs
You will notice behind the whiteboards we have plenty room for storage. Each classroom has 2 locations for iPad charging stations. Each stations can charge up to 20 iPads. The stations cost just over $100. This was an affordable and practical solution. No need for rolling carts. The white boards when fully extend lock to provide security for all the devices as well as other items of value. The storage





In the middle school we chose tables that provided tandem seating as well as individual white boards. These boards can be placed upright to the left/right of the student or in the center as a divider. Students use these boards for brainstorming and problem solving. The rolling desks can be placed in multiple formations. The light sea-green wall coverings are actually acoustical panels that allow for any item to be tacked or posted. Every surface in the room is either writable or tackable.


Tech Deck: Elmo, iMac and AppleTV 

Each classroom has a floating 'Tech Deck.' All the necessary technology is available to the teachers along with a floating desk top. The Elmo mounted to the wall opens up and can project any item placed on the desktop. The mounted iMac is available as is the AppleTV. Each device is connected to an HDMI hub and when 'hot' or in use, the projector knows which device needs to be projected. The AppleTV allows all the iPads in the room to be mirrored to the projector via AirPlay. 

21st Century Educational Leadership: Creating a Culture of Collaborative Decision-Making

Agree to Disagree 

by Ken Willers

       Once Upon A Time, there were three tailors, who were very dedicated to making clothes. They prided themselves on how well they got along with each other because they agreed never to disagree.
            One day a man came in and asked if he could have a pair of pants made for him. The first tailor looked at the man and from sight attempted to guess his size. The second tailor also looked at the man and from sight attempted to guess his size. It didn’t take long before the two tailors soon realized that they both had come to different sizes so, rather then have a disagreement, they agreed to divide the pants in half each making one side. The third tailor, however, took a measuring tape and sized up the man. When he told the other two tailors that both were wrong with their sizes he was immediately fired for he had broken their agreement not to disagree.

            A few days later the man returned to pick up his new pants and after he tried them on he found that one leg was too short and the other was too long. The pants were obviously of no use to him and angry by this mistake, he canceled his order, refused to pay for the pants and never did business with them again.

Reflection by Ken Willers
How leaders engage dissent is proportionate to how they experience success.  Truth, sometimes disguised as dissent, will blind those who lead by ego. How do you 'wear' your leadership?

School Leadership for the 21st Century by Ken Willers
     The effectiveness of any organization is rooted in leadership. Every organization has an underlying philosophy that governs its decision making process, its mode of operational leadership and its overall effectiveness. What I intend to present here is an overview of a few key elements that will contribute to the effectiveness of education, its organizational structure and its leadership: 1) the culture and climate of an organization; 2) the professional development and empowerment of employees within an organization; and 3) the collaborative and/or participatory decision-making process of an organization
Culture & Climate of an Organization
The culture of an organization is communicated through symbols: typically stories, myths, legends, and rituals that establish, nourish and keep alive the enduring values and beliefs that give meaning to the organization and make clear how individuals become and continue to be part of the saga of the organization as it develops through time. Personal identification with the values of the organization’s culture can provide powerful motivation for the dependable performance.
If the working environment is satisfying, employees view work as natural and acceptable as play. When the climate is open and encouraging people will exercise initiative, self-direction, and self-control on job because the culture of the workplace enables them to commit to the objectives of the organization. The average person, under proper conditions, learns not only to accept responsibility on the job but also to seek it.
The average employee values creativity. A work place climate or culture that fosters creativity allows an employee to use his or her ability to make good decision and to seek opportunities to be creative at work. The main casual factors of organizational effectiveness or ineffectiveness are the organizational climate and the leadership behavior, which significantly affect how subordinates deal with each other in order to produce end results.
Culture and climate of a school is crucial to living the mission of the school. For some schools this may be a challenge because where there is poor leadership there is a deterioration of culture and climate. For organizations to thrive, administrators, teachers, staff, parents and students should not only know, intellectually, but should experience, emotively, the culture and the climate of the school. Effective leaders will see the use of story, metaphor, symbols and images as one way to familiarize a school community with the founding culture, climate, and charism of the school. The use of the weekly newsletter, morning assemblies, parent meetings, faculty gatherings and public addresses provide the administrator with ample opportunities to continue to communicate the culture and the climate of the school.
The entire environment should evoke the culture and the climate of the school. Do the images associated with the school communicate the mission of the school? Does the atmosphere communicate the values of the school’s mission? Do the policies, the budget, and the practices of the school reflect the school’s mission? Only upon reflection with parents, faculty, students and board members can these questions be answered authentically. By creating a climate that encourages participation and by fostering communication that expresses the culture of the school, administrators enable the mission of the school to thrive.
Professional Development & Empowerment
Some employers tend to manipulate followers often by using a veneer of seemingly participative involvement. True empowerment is where workers participate actively in the dynamic ongoing processes of leadership by contributing their knowledge, insights, and ideas to the development of the vision for the workplace. Employees acquire greater personal ownership and thus a greater sense of personal commitment to the values for which the school stands and that shape it vision for the future when they are empowered to contribute to the vision. By their active engagement in the process, and by being personally committed to its outcomes, employees are stimulated to increase their awareness of both the larger mission of the business and the connection of their own daily mundane work to the achievement of that mission.
Schools like any organization have the power to shape views and attitudes of its employees. Increasing attention has been devoted to the possibilities of improving organizations not by changing their structures as a way of inducing more effective organizational behavior, but by training participants in more effective group processes as a way of bringing about desirable changes in organization structure.
Administrators within education should attempt to adopt similar practices for their teachers. Providing leadership training and or professional development opportunities for teachers in a specific area of expertise can empower teachers to engage in institutional advancement that would benefit the entire school community. The challenge facing some schools is an aging population of teachers who have resigned themselves to regurgitate, year after year, what they have taught without any vested interest in what takes place outside their classroom. Administrators, like other employers must use the opportunity for providing professional development in order empower employees to become more productive and invested at the workplace.
Collaborative & Participatory Decision Making
Organizations are facing change at an exceedingly high rate. Change, at this rate, requires organizations to adapt to new solutions. Adaptive solutions require collaboration between many individuals over time in an iterative process. In this approach leadership is a group function. Leaders intentionally seek to influence others, however one must understand that those who lead are necessarily powerful people because power is the basic energy for initiating and sustaining action that translates intention into reality when people try to work collaboratively.
Followers who accept the leaders’ influence and direction by shared agreement, no matter how informally the agreement is arrived, voluntarily grant the power of leaders. Authority is entrusted to a leader when power resides in the followers themselves and cooperation is granted the leader by the follower. The exercise of power is a reciprocal relationship between the power holder and others. The strength of the leader’s power depends on the range of the sources of power drawn on
Leaders engage with followers in seeking to achieve not only the goals of the leader but also significant goals of the followers. Leadership is not something that one does to people, nor is it a manner of behaving toward people: it is working with a through other people to achieve the organization’s goals.  In an educational setting, many teachers find helping behavior from principals to be highly rewarding if it is nonjudgmental supportive collaborative and caring in the tradition of self-development. Principals who have fresh exciting ideas or who have a vision of the future and can express their vision coherently and vividly will inspire enthusiasm.
This type of leader, otherwise known as the transformational leader, looks for potential motives in followers, seeks to satisfy higher needs, and engages the full person of the follower. The result of transforming leadership is a relationship of mutual stimulation and elevation that converts followers in to leaders. This type of leadership does not merely obtain the compliance of followers; it evokes their personal commitment as they embrace the goals to be achieved as their own.
The vision that leaders seek to share with followers is a protean thing, continually being revised and annotated by changing values, emerging developments and events, and leaders engage constantly in the dynamic process of stating a vision of things to come.
By definition leadership involves working with and through others, individually and in groups to achieve organizational goals. Study supports the use of collaborative methods in decision-making. The quality of decisions that are made in an organization usually reflect the skill with which the leader has orchestrated these two issues: the individual versus organizational decision-making. Below, I highlight the three processes of decision-making:
Autocratic Process
AI: leader makes the decision using whatever information is available
AII: Leader secures necessary information from members of the group, then makes the decision.
Consultative Process
CI: Leader shares the problem with relevant members of the group on a one-to-one basis getting their ideas and suggestions individually without bringing them together as a group; then the leader makes the decision
CII: Leader shares the problem with members as a group at a meeting, then decides
Group Process:
GII: Leader, acting as chairperson at a meeting of the group, shares the problem with the group and facilitates efforts of the group to reach consensus on a group decision. Leader may give information and express opinion but does not try to sell a particular decision or manipulate the group through covert means.

Arriving at better decisions and enhancing the growth and development of the organization’s participants can be achieved through participative decision-making. Participative decision-making requires the interaction of power and influence from two sources: the power and influence of administrator and the power and influence of others in the organization. The process goes something like this: first permit followers to ask questions after a decision is taken. Then, offer a tentative decision subject to possible change after discussion with followers, before the administrator finalizes the decision. Next present the problem to followers, and make a decision only after discussion with then to get their opinions. And so on until finally the organization has the possibility of making many of its most important decisions in a highly collegial and collaborative way.
The challenge facing most educational settings is that decision-making is sometimes looked upon as a top-down process. However, this does not have to be the case, at the highest levels of participation, the administrator and the other participants can become involved in a more genuine collaborative process of first, mutually agreeing on the definition of the problem itself and second jointly deciding how to deal with it. 
By sharing leadership and the decision-making process in this manner the school is better positioned to adapt to change and move toward advancement.
In a future installment I will present how these principles were adopted at a school I administrated for 9 years--and with the participation of the entire community we were able to move the school from near closure to a sustainable future.


EdTech Innovation and the Role of Students

Ed Tech Innovation must engage and inspire student-directed learning and result in some ‘meaningful’ or value-oriented outcome. 

When a student’s experience of an Ed Tech product results in creating something purposeful the following happens: 
  1. skills are acquired
  2. concepts are deepened 
  3. failed attempts are not interiorized as negative but serve as motivation to achieve one's desired outcome 
In other words, doing something over until it is ‘right’ sharpens skills, reinforces concepts and is a great lesson on the power of iteration.    

Innovative Ed Tech products must achieve these three opportunities for younger students. 

Bringing coding and robotics to students, as young as 5, in a platform that engages, teaches and provides ‘meaningful’ or value-oriented outcomes is in opportunity that offers student-directed learning to an age group that have very limited options. Students will acquire skills and concepts around coding and will continue to code until their desired outcome is achieved. All done in a playful, yet, engaging manner.

Innovative Ed Tech products must also introduces the students to authentic 21st Century Skills: collaboration, communication, critical thinking and most importantly creativity while solving real-life problems. 

As students partner and work together to build they are intuitively using all of the above skills. As they build what their ‘imagination’ desires (creativity), they have to work together and share ideas (collaborate and communicate).  Most importantly, however, students have to think, troubleshoot and ‘code’ (critically think) in order to achieve their desired outcome. 

This is where students can play a valuable role in shaping innovation. Ed Tech Innovation should begin with student input--not just end up on a student device. 

When partnering with Ed Tech developers we apply these expectation to any EdTech product we are invited 'test-drive.' In the past, The School of the Madeleine has welcomed opportunities like this with Ed Tech start-ups to beta-test, build and pilot their products. Our most recent partnership was withpiper.com. Our students, under the direction of our Tech coordinator,  partnered with the co-founders around building and testing their product with our kids and the experience was great.

We helped withpiper.com launch their Kickstarter campaign (http://abc7news.com/education/startup-uses-minecraft-game-to-inspire-future-inventors/541425/). They reached their 50K goal in 2 days and by the end of the campaign raised over 250K. We partnered with them to review the latest iteration last September and as principal I am still finding ways to assist them as they broaden their reach.

What's truly exciting about Ed Tech Innovation and a school/student partnership is the REAL Life influence students have in shaping a product in the REAL world. This is the ultimate forum for project-based learning is the opportunity Ed Tech Start-up can have in the classroom.

Ed Tech Innovation should begin with student input--not just end up on a student device. 

The truly authentic and innovative Ed Tech companies know this and they are the start-ups and visionaries who partnering with schools--like those I've referenced above who are partnering with the School of the Madeleine. 

Friday, June 3, 2016

Letter to parents regarding teachers

Dear Parents, 

I want to share with you a few personal reflections that I have kept to myself all year regarding my commitment to the Mission of the Madeleine. 

I deeply love the Madeleine's Mission. I believe my early years at the Madeleine (1993-2001) were profoundly formative. I imbibed the culture and the Spirit of the Dominican Charism and worked alongside some very amazing educators.

These past six years have also been extremely rewarding. Partnering with tremendously giving and talented colleagues, collaborating with the expertise of committed parents and stakeholders to plan and advance the school’s Mission and serving the smartest, sweetest and most exceptional children and their parents has been extremely rewarding. 

Reflecting back over the course of this year I realized how precious and vulnerable each and every one of our teachers are and how vital they are to the success of our Mission. 

This year, many of our staff members were confronted with life events that resulted in their presence being called away: birth of new child, serious health issues, and family emergencies and needs. Each time a staff member was called away, his or her absence was deeply felt by the entire community. These sometimes sudden occurrences left me wondering how I was going to fill the void left by the absences while trying keep a sense of equilibrium within the community.

In every instance our community of educators rose to the occasion. Every teacher found a way to support the students being impacted by the absence of another colleague. The generous spirit among the teachers at the Madeleine is unprecedented. 

I share this reflection with you because it is also clear to me that our teachers could certainly work at other schools or other dioceses and achieve a higher income. Clearly, the staff at the Madeleine is here because of the culture and the climate of education and collaboration that exists at our school. This became more than evident this year in light of all the events that impacted our staff. 

I share this reflection with you because your child’s teacher, the teacher who taught your child in the past, and the teachers who will teach your child in the future, need to know that you cherish and value their presence as well. Each teacher here is passionate about learning, is committed to your child, and chooses to be present to our Mission so your child will flourish and grow. 

I share this reflection with you so you can share my sense of gratitude with the teachers. Your words of thanks, your trust in their pedagogy, your willingness to hear challenging observations about your child and your commitment to partner with them is what they need to experience from you if we are going to retain and support our teachers for the years ahead. 

Take minute and think about one of the teachers—now reflect on the impact his or her absence would have on the school if he or she were to leave. 

I spent this entire year reflecting on that reality. 

I can honestly say, that this reality has informed how I communicate, how I confront a problem or a challenge but more important how I demonstrate my gratitude for their presence and their value. How might this reality inform your response the teachers at the Madeleine?

As you read the personnel updates for 2016-2017 school year (please see the updates posted on SchoolSpeak), I hope you will join me with this sense of sincere gratitude for the all the staff who are returning, the staff who will assume new roles, and for those colleagues who are moving on from the Madeleine. I also hope that before the end of year you will find a way to express your gratitude to the Madeleine’s amazing staff. 

Sincerely,

Ken Willers

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Catholic School's Week Homily by Ken Willers

Good Morning!

The words of the prophet Jeremiah this morning:

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.
Before you were born
I dedicated you,
to be a prophet to the nations.

Wow…think about that boys and girls…

Before you were born,
God knew you
—God dedicated you
—which means
God had a plan for you.

To be a prophet—hmm

Someone who speaks truth and brings hope to others.

You know
when I was little I used to think,
why did God make me---what was God’s plan for me?

And then, I ask…
Why did God bless me to born on January 31st
which happens to be today?
But it also happens to be the Feast of St. John Bosco.



A saint, who lived about 150 years ago,
and
who dedicated his entire life to serving and educating youth
—boys and girls,
especially the poor.

I asked myself
I wonder if this means something for me
--does God have a plan for me being born on this day?

Well, I grew up believing that it did
—that God had dedicated me to a future
that was going to have something to do with teaching and serving the young.

…and then I’d become frightened,
I’m not smart enough,
I don’t get good grades
—why would God want me.

…and just as my doubts would grow to the point where I didn’t believe in my future anymore
--God would bring me the words of encouragement that I needed
…words that came from my parents
…and words that came from my teachers
…words that kept me believing in my future.


So, I believed it then
—and I believe it now
—and everyday I try my best to be that prophetic teacher I am called to be.
To bring truth and hope to those I serve.

But what about you boys and girls?

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.
Before you were born
I dedicated you,
to be a prophet to the nations.

To what is God dedicating you?

How will you be the prophet God is appointing you to become?
What are your dreams…
…your hopes?

You know boys and girls
…those dreams that you have
---those hopes that you possess,
they will serve as the starting point
or the catalyst of the prophet you will be
         to bring truth and hope to others in your life.

And your parents know this
because your dreams & hopes
are your parents’ greatest desire for you as well.
Their desire that your gifts & talents be discovered by you
—be fully developed by you
and be shared with the world by you. 
To be the prophet you’re called to be.

Your parents desire that your education
not only forms your intellect,
your brain,
but informs your character with virtue and purpose.
Lets be Good to One Another!

Yes,
in a way, boys and girls,
your parents, like God,
had these desires for you before you were born.

And parents,
God is celebrating your vocation when you hear the words

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.
Before you were born
I dedicated you,
to be a prophet to the nations.

And as dedicated parents committed to your family’s wellbeing
and your child’s education
you are prophets to this community,
bringing truth and hope to all of us this morning.

Now parents,
---the desire you have for your children
---that desire
is the life’s work of these educators sitting before you today.

The vocation of the Catholic School educator,
secretary, aide, staff member, etc
… is to partner with your parental desires
by bringing the world of knowledge to your child
---by instilling confidence within your child’s giftedness
---and by inspiring service in your child’s heart.

This is possible
because as Catholic school educators,
all of you embody Paul’s definition of love
—you are patient,
…you are kind
…your love for children bears all things
and never stops believing in them
…You will never LET this educational love FAIL.

Yes, Madeleine staff,
God is celebrating your vocation when you hear the words
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.
Before you were born
I dedicated you,
to be a prophet to the nations.

And as dedicated Catholic School educators
you indeed inspire truth and hope
and therefore,
are truly prophets to the entire community.
And we THANK YOU!

You know Madeleine staff
—the aspirations you have for your students become real
as a result of the entire parish community
surrounding and supporting you here this morning.
This Eucharistic Body
—that sacrifices and nourishes each other,
embraces you this morning
---this parish body
makes it possible for the School of the Madeleine
to live its Mission.

You, the Parishioners & Friars,
are the most important prophets dedicated to the schools Mission,
because for 79 years,
you have believed in the Dominican charism
and in the education of the young
of St. Mary Magdalen parish.

As we embark on the beginnings of Catholic School’s Week
we want to thank all of you
for your generosity of time, treasure, and talent.
We want to extend our most profound gratitude to
Therese Pipe, Ron Larson and Helen Rendon
Who, through their generosity, have established
scholarship funds
which allow us to broaden our support of parish families
who find the cost of tuition out of reach.

I want to personally thank the parish
for attending our school fundraisers with good spirit and generosity
…I want to thank you for sharing your “space” with us
—when its not always convenient
…and most importantly
I want to thank you for praying for us
—praying for the staff
---praying for the students
and praying the families before you now.

There is one more body of prophets in the congregation
I would like to acknowledge and thank this morning

…Upon our return from Christmas break,
I found a letter addressed to me from the National Catholic
Educational Association.

This letter informed me,
that our Schools Advisory Board was to be the recipient
of the Lead, Learn and Proclaim Award
for Outstanding Board Leadership.
Out of all the Catholic Schools in the United States,
         Of which there are over 6,000,
the Madeleine’s Board, is one of two nationwide
                  to be honored for its excellence.

This award will be issued during the National Catholic Educational
Association’s Annual Convention
held during Easter Break in San Diego.  
Please join me in extending our congratulations and our gratitude to them.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.
Before you were born
I dedicated you,
to be a prophet to the nations.

Yes,
as dedicated board members,
parishioners, teachers, parents and students
committed to the Mission of Catholic education
at the School of the Madeleine
we are all inspired to bring truth and hope to those we serve
and in so doing we are prophets,
not only to this community of St. Mary Magdalen,
but to faithful of the diocese of Oakland
and to the entire Church.


God Bless and Happy Catholic School’s Week.