Monday, 16 January 2017

Altar'd in Faith

I have the pleasure of working in a Catholic school division. In the province of Alberta, we are very fortunate to have fully funded Catholic schools. This blog is not going to be about the history or politics of Catholic education, but the fact that it exists sets the context for it.

For the past number of years in Elk Island Catholic, our superintendent, Mr. Michael Hauptman (@Mike_Hauptman) has introduced different faith themes that have formed the focus of our faith development. In year 1 it was Mission:Possible, year 2 featured Mr. Potato Head and a theme of Many Parts, One Body in Christ, and last year featured the question, "Where is Jesus?" with the answer, "Right Here, Right Now!"

This year, the theme focuses on the question, "How are we altered?" The answer...we are:


The altar is a central location in the Catholic church. It is the location where the bread, the Eucharist, transforms into the body of Christ. A body of Christ that nourishes our soul. Over the course of the year, students will be taught and will gain a better understanding of this most critical part of our Catholic faith. I for one am very excited.

Developing our theme has been supported by guest speakers that are brought in to share their knowledge. This year, staff of EICS were blessed to have the knowledge, humour, and faith of Father Leo Patalinghug. From Baltimore, MD, Fr. Leo has started a movement to bring families together through food. He is "master chef" who hosts his own cooking webshow "Meals Before Grace" and has even beaten renowned chef Bobby Flay on his Food Network Show, "Throwdown with Bobby Flay".

For Fr. Leo, using food and family meals is a time to share and to grow as as a family and as Christians.

St. Martin's will be looking for opportunities to break bread together and grow as a school family. If you have any ideas or would like to help us throughout the year, please feel free to contact me. We can certainly use as much help as we can get to make this year an absolutely amazing one.


So, I began to write this much earlier in the year and as happens, things got super busy and I have not found the time to finish it. But, alas, here I go.

St. Martin's mixed things up this year and had supper together as part of our meet the teacher event. It was more of a welcome back to school event and we were very excited that students and staff were able to work together to prepare a meal and share it with our families. It was great to see students chopping vegetables in order to make our turkey soup. We had over 100 students and parents attend and this type of event will certainly feature next year when we welcome families to St. Martin's for 2017-2018.

But, the year is not over yet and we are always looking for ways to get together as a school community. The next opportunity will be January 27. As I have mentioned in the past, I have found a new love of board games. My cousin Heidi would never believe it because she used to thump me at Monopoly so often that I swore I would never play again! But, Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan (Catan), and Pandemic have changed my mind. I love interacting with my family and friends while playing board games. We will be hosting a family game night on the 27th. Please check out our RSVP page at ( and we hope to see you on the 27th!

Also coming up in February, we are hosting a Winter Family Dance. We are still working on the details, but DJ Rudy will be spinning some tunes for us on Thursday February 16. It should be a great evening, so please mark your calendars.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

The Power of Dialogue

My good friend and colleague, Joe sent me a text the other day asking me when I was going to come over so that we could make a podcast. This is what Joe does, he throws himself head first into projects and more often than not, they turn out great.

This was my first real foray into the world of podcasting as part of the creation process. I had previously made a single episode of a podcast for a class as part of a graduate diploma, but nothing since. The topic of the session was educational leadership and my new role as principal at St. Martin's in Vegreville. What I really want to focus on in this blog posting is the power of dialogue and how there is so much growth that happens in the act of dialogue.

I participate in Twitter and Facebook and have numerous colleagues and other individuals involved in education in these fields. I engage in "conversation" which these individuals through social media, but it is not often enough and I would contend it is not the same thing. In a 2012 Time Magazine article MIT professor Sherry Turkle indicates that she "believes that having a conversation with another person teaches kids to, in effect, have a conversation with themselves — to think and reason and self-reflect". “That particular skill is a bedrock of development,” Turkle is quoted as saying.

In the podcast, Joe asks me about my how I am feeling about my new role. As I reflect upon that experience, I realize that perhaps I had some ideas rolling around in my head, sort of like laundry in the dryer. You can see that there is a red sweater in there, but not exactly which red sweater. Until you have a chance to verbalize fully through dialogue with another individual, you don't know exactly what your thoughts on the subject are; you don't know that the red sweater is your favourite Roots Team Canada sweater. My interaction with Joe allowed me to think, reason, and self-reflect about the questions I was being asked. As I listened to the podcast once it was posted online, I again had a chance to consider my answers and entrench the feelings I was having or make arguments against myself. It was quite an interesting experience.

By bringing technology into the school and classroom, as teachers and school leaders, we need to be cognizant of how that technology is implemented into the classroom. Educators need to ask the question, "How can I leverage the technology to make the teaching and learning that was occurring in my class better than before?" If the technology does not have a positive impact on the teaching or learning, the technology is best left alone. I however feel that the technology can have a huge impact. The activity of podcasting is an extremely enlightening experience that is rooted in conversation and dialogue and is a perfect example of how technology can be used in the classroom. I believe this would be a wonderful format for students to share their learning but by further extending the activity to have students reflect upon their answers after the podcast was completed would also be an extremely useful activity.

If you would like to hear Joe's podcast, the first of hopefully many more episodes can be found here.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

What can we Learn from Pokemon Go?

Before this week, I only had a vague idea about what Pokemon are. I had seen students at school with cards featuring cool little monster like creatures with funny names. My daughters even had a few cards lying around the house that they had received from school friends. Other than that, only recollections of images that I could not 100% identify as Pokemon related from television and other media sources.

And then over the last couple of weeks, I started hearing about this Pokemon Go on the new and seeing Facebook articles about it and how there was a craze going on and there were newsworthy stories of individual hurting themselves.

When I started to see that people I know from Facebook or Twitter were involved in Pokemon Go, I decided to check it out for myself.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Dust yourself off and keep going

Okay, I will admit it, I am not a huge fitness buff. I love playing sports and as a kid, I loved practices, too. But, to go for a run or a bike ride or go to the gym as a form of exercise, that was never really my thing. As I get older though, I recognize the value in being more healthy. Ensuring that I eat right, get enough sleep and get enough exercise is becoming more  and more important.

This post will not be about fitness or exercise, but rather it sets up my story. In trying to be a bit more healthy, I decided to go for a bike ride. Easy enough, I figured a hard bike ride for a half hour or so would get the heart rate up and all would be good. About 20 minutes into the ride, I came to a curb and tried to pull the front end of the mountain bike up to get a softer landing off the curb.

It is at this point of the story, that I confess that I am not the most mechanically inclined individual and I have a certain level of trust in the mechanical devices that I use, mostly because I don't know any better. The bike that I own has a quick release front wheel that allows you to easily remove the front wheel. I will admit that I did not check to see if it was tight enough before I began riding, but when I pulled up on the handle bars and the front wheel came down, the rest of the front of the bike kept going. Somehow, when the tire came down, it was no longer attached to the front fork of the bike. I can honestly say, I don't know how it happened. Regardless, I ended up sort of doing a front roll / shoulder roll (I don't think it was very pretty) in the middle of the street onto my right side. My right elbow and right shoulder are scraped up, but I will survive.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

The Traditions of School

July 1, 2016, a short 149 years removed from the birth of our country, Canada. Today, my family and I took in the parade and festivities surrounding Canada Day in Sherwood Park and then spent time with family for a BBQ. This has become a tradition in our family and it is one I look forward to every year.

Traditions are so important to my family and I. From my lovely wife making a second turkey at Thanksgiving because she knows how much I love turkey, her delicious stuffing, potatoes with a hole for the corn to go into and the gravy to go on top to our watching of White Christmas after 9:00 mass on Christmas Eve partnered with the yummy ham sandwiches and eggnog or chocolate milk. These are small family traditions that we have created over time, but they mean so much. The traditions of our Church are so very important as well. The rites that we follow as we follow our faith; baptism, reconciliation, communion, confirmation, and marriage are so critical to our development as a larger community.

School traditions are no exception. It is vital that we hold on the the traditions that have been created and are ongoing within a school environment. As a new principal enters a school, it is imperative that the principal learn the traditions and develop an understanding of and respect for the traditions of the school. Traditions are created over long periods of time and become a part of the culture of the school.

Merriam-Webster defines culture as, "the beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time".

As a new principal to St. Martin's I am very curious about the cultural aspects of the school that are important to the school. What are the parts of the school that are non-negotiable mainstays, what are the historical traditions that need to stay? This will be a big part of my early time at St. Martin's. Despite my experience at the school, I want to make sure that any changes that may occur do not impact the history, traditions, and culture of the school as it exists.

With this in mind, please feel free to share what you love about St. Martin's. What are the beliefs or customs that the St. Martin's community shares that make St. Martin's what it is today, a high quality school that engages it's students in meaningful learning that prepares our students for their future.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

An Open Letter to Staff, Parents, and Students of St. Martin's School

Dear Staff, Parents, and Students of St. Martin's School,

A little over five years ago, former Superintendent of Elk Island Catholic Schools, Chris Diachuk, offered me the opportunity to become the new assistant principal of St. Martin’s Catholic School. This was an opportunity that I had been striving towards for many years. I had a wife who was so very supportive and young children who thought it was very cool and exciting that Daddy was going to be an assistant principal.

I agreed with my girls that it was going to be exciting, but I was also very scared. I was working in a K-9 school at Holy Redeemer, but I was a junior high teacher who had focused on mathematics and physical education. Sure, I had been asked to teach a few grade five classes, but how was I going to fare in this new environment where most of the students were looking forward to losing teeth and as opposed to gaining a learner’s permit or a first job? Reflecting back now, it wasn’t so hard and my fears disappeared rather quickly. I realized one of the questions I needed to ask was, “What do young people want?” The answer was relatively simple: it is what all of us want. Like us, young people want to be heard, they want to be loved, and they want an opportunity to grow. For me personally, that is what I strived for. In any interactions with students, I was looking for ways to show I cared, to truly listen, and I was looking for ways to help students grow (in their faith, in their learning, and in their development as young people moving toward adulthood). Another understanding that I came to know that has been solidified for me time and time again is the understanding that the work we do in education is all about relationships. I have continually tried to develop positive and productive relationships with students, staff, and with the parent community. I hope to continue to do this. It is only in positive relationships that great work can be done. As individuals, we may not always agree, but if we work together with mutual respect, we can come to a solution that will work for all involved.