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September is a special month for us because the 5th is the feast day for our patron Saint: St. Teresa of Calcutta. She was known for her work with the sick and the poor, and she said many wise words throughout her life.  Many of her statements fit in quite well with the 7 Habits.  To start the year, the teachers are doing the “First 8 Days Program” and are introducing all of the habits to the students.  These are lessons centered on the different habits which involve creating a classroom mission statement and establishing classroom routines. After this, we will focus on a different habit each month and learn more about it. The following is a summary of each of the habits so that you can use the same language at home with them.

Habit 1:  Be Proactive – You’re in Charge

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.”

Habit 2:  Begin with the End in Mind – Have a Plan

“God doesn’t require us to succeed, He only requires that you try.”

Habit 3:  Put First Things First – Work First, Then Play

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come.  We have only today. Let us begin.”

Habit 4:  Think Win-Win – Everyone Can Win

“Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.”

Habit 5:  Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood – Listen Before You Talk

“Before you speak, it is necessary for you to listen, for God speaks in the silence of the heart.”

Habit 6:  Synergize – Together is Better

“I can do things you cannot and you can do things I cannot.  Together we can do great things.”

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw – Balance Feels Best

“Life is an adventure, live it.  Life is a game, play it.”

Along with our 7 Habits, we are going to be introducing Kelso’s Choice to our students.  Rhiece Cordes, Mental Health Capacity Building Facilitator, will be working at St. Teresa on Mondays and Tuesdays.  To start with, she will be delivering the Kelso’s Choice program to our grades 1-6 in September and to Kindergarten in October. Kelso’s Choice helps students to develop conflict resolution strategies and helps them to practice Habit 1: Be Proactive and Habit 4: Think Win-Win. Last year this program was introduced to our grades 1 and 2 students and we fell that the whole school will benefit from it too.

We do have a few more activities planned for the month of September.  We are planning a virtual Meet the Teachers Night and more information will follow on the details.  We have our opening mass on the 16th at 9:00 which will also be virtual and we will email out a link for parents to join us.  Our first School Council meeting will be on Monday the 20th at 6 pm. All parents are welcome to join us in the link sent out by email.

Let us follow the guidance of our patron Saint this month, a symbol of love and compassion, and Lead with Love.

I did a google search on Mary to find out if she was called as a peacemaker. I found a Wikipedia page about the Titles of Mary that were more numerous that I realized. The titles differ from early titles to devotional titles to those associated with images or apparitions.  Yes, I did eventually find that in the Roman Catholic Church she has the title of Our Lady of Peace, Mother of Peace, Queen of Peace or Our Lady Queen of Peace. In this month of Mary, I wanted to talk to you about the Kelso’s Choice program we have introduced which believes that every child is capable of being a peacemaker.

Earlier in the year, we noticed that students were coming up to the adults on supervision to tell them about their problems and then the adult would solve the problem for the students.  Our school counsellor, Miss Ann Elise, suggested Kelso’s Choice conflict management skills program to us which has been effectively used at various schools for over 25 years. We wanted students to Be Proactive (Habit 1) and solve their own problems and conflict. The philosophy of the program fits well with the 7 Habits as it believes that each child is smart enough and strong enough to resolve conflict.

When students are faced with conflicts, the first step for them is to decide if it is a small or a big problem.  A big problem is one that they need adult help to solve and they can make students feel scared, worried or frightened. Examples of big problems are if someone is in danger, a student is hurt or some students are fighting. A small problem is one that students can solve on their own and they can make students feel annoyed, frustrated, embarrassed or have hurt feelings.  Small problems may be the following: not sharing a toy or equipment, pushing or cutting in line, saying you are not out when tagged or arguing about which game to play. In order to solve the problem, Kelso has a Choice Wheel where students can try out a couple of choices to solve their conflict.  If, after trying a couple of choices, the problem isn’t solved then the students can talk to an adult to help them solve it.

The choices on the wheel give both verbal and non verbal options and fit in with what we teach the students with the 7 Habits. The following are the choice the students can make to solve small problems.

Habit 1 Be Proactive: You’re in Charge

These choices remind students that they are free to choose their reactions and are responsible for themselves.  We are asking students to choose to react like water not soda.  If you shake up a water bottle then open it, nothing happens but if you do the same thing to soda, it will explode all over when the cap comes off.  These choices help students act proactively like water.

  1. Tell Them to Stop
  2. Walk Away
  3. Ignore It
  4. Go to Another Game
  5. Wait and Cool Off

Habit 4 Think Win-Win: Everyone Can Win

These choices explore the ideas of fairness and mutual benefit.  We are asking students to consider other people’s wins as well as their own. In using these choices, the students are trying to come up with solutions that benefit others as well as themselves.  They are practicing and learning how to Lead with Love.

  1. Make a Deal
  2. Apologize
  3. Talk It Out
  4. Share and Take Turns

Currently only the Grades 1 and 2 students received the Kelso’s Choice lessons and have practicing the skills.  Next year we are planning on teaching the skills to more grades in the school as we have seen success.  Now, when students come up to us with concerns, the first thing we do is ask them if this is a big problem or a small problem.  We help guide them through the process as needed instead of solving their problems.  The website has a parent page with some information so that you can use the same language at home.  You too can help them to learn to peacemakers at home.

Kelso’s Choice Wheel

Its hard to believe that it’s approaching the one-year mark since I came to St. Teresa of Calcutta School.  I have really enjoyed getting to know the staff and students and I am looking forward to the day when I can meet many of you in person.  I knew of the 7 Habits and had heard from my colleagues about the merits of them in schools, but I had never been in a Leader in Me School.  After my experience this past year, I now understand how effective the 7 Habits are not only in schools, but also in everyday use for everyone.

One of the priorities we have focused on this year is integration of the 7 Habits and our Catholic Faith.  During Advent and Lent we linked together the 7 Habits, the Catholic themes of those seasons, and our Faith Plan calls to action of Be Gracious and Be Grateful. We have also been looking at meshing together our faith with the 7 Habits.  We looked at how other Catholic schools did the same thing and liked the idea of finding Bible stories where the people demonstrated the different habits. God does work in mysterious ways because we received a copy of the book Do Something Beautiful for God: The Essential Teaching of Mother Teresa. The book provided us with statements made by St. Teresa for every day of the year and as we read through the book, we realized how much of her teachings we could relate to the meaning of the 7 Habits.  We then proceeded to read through and jot down different statements she made that we thought best represented each of the habits. The following is a draft of our ideas:

Habit 1:  Be Proactive – You’re in Charge

Bible Story: The Wedding at Cana

St. Teresa Teaching: Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.

Habit 2:  Begin with the End in Mind – Have a Plan

Bible Story: The Story of Noah’s Ark

St. Teresa Teaching: God doesn’t require us to succeed, He only requires that you try.

Habit 3:  Put First Things First – Work First, Then Play

Bible Story: The Story of Creation

St. Teresa Teaching: Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come.  We have only today. Let us begin.

Habit 4:  Think Win-Win – Everyone Can Win

Bible Story: The Story of the Good Samaritan

St. Teresa Teaching: Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.

Habit 5:  Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood – Listen Before You Talk

Bible Story: Finding Jesus in the Temple

St. Teresa Teaching: Before you speak, it is necessary for you to listen, for God speaks in the silence of the heart.

Habit 6:  Synergize – Together is Better

Bible Story: Jesus Calls the First Disciples

St. Teresa Teaching: I can do things you cannot and you can do things I cannot.  Together we can do great things.

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw – Balance Feels Best

Bible Story: The Resurrection of Jesus

St. Teresa Teaching: Life is an adventure, live it.  Life is a game, play it.

Habit 8: Find Your Voice and Inspire Others to Find Theirs

Bible Story: Moses Speaks to the Israelites

St. Teresa Teaching: I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.

May the blessing of Christ be with you during the Lenten and Easter Season. We ask that He watch over our school community during the upcoming holidays that we may safely return with a new spirit and energy.

St. Teresa of Calcutta said that “it is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing.  It is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving.” Lent is a time of prayer, fasting and almsgiving and it is not important how much we do or how much we give, but how love we put into our actions. For our Lenten journey we are asking the community to follow those words of our patron saint.

Our motto is to Lead with Love and that is exactly what we are asking of the school community during our Lenten Adventure.  We have created a Lenten calendar based on the following categories:

  • The Three Pillars of Lent: Monday –  Prayer, Tuesday – Alms or Fasting
  • Our Faith Plan Calls to Action:  Wednesday – Be Gracious, Thursday – Be Grateful
  • Leader in Me: Friday – 7 Habits

Each day of the week has a specific activity to be completed for the theme.  For example, one Monday we ask you to pray for world political and religious leader, one Tuesday we ask you to do something to help the earth, one Wednesday is to learn about a saint, one Thursday is to think about a place you are grateful for and one Friday is to plan to first complete your big rocks for the weekend. Activities for our calendar can be found on our Webpage and our Facebook Page. These activities can also be completed as a family so I encourage you to follow Habit 6: Synergize and Lead with Love throughout Lent.

Habit 1 is to Be Proactive so here are some other things going on during March to bring your attention to. Join us for our weekly Lenten prayer services which are on the first school day of the week. Zoom links will be emailed out so that can join us.  Our virtual School Council meetings are the second Monday of the month so please join us on the 8th at 6:00 so that you can be engaged in what is going on at the school.  Thank you to School Council for organizing the Pie and Pierogi fundraiser which will help support more online events for the school community and individual classes. Please note that our school calendar has changed and our Spiritual Development Day was originally scheduled for the 16th of March but has been moved to the 22nd to accommodate the speaker’s schedule.

Love and Red in February

When I think of February, two things come to mind:  Love and Red. Our motto is Lead with Love and there is no better role model of love and friendship than St. Teresa of Calcutta. Leading with Love is a choice that we ask the school community to make everyday. This is part of Habit 1: Be Proactive where we are free to choose our actions and our attitudes.  There are a few events going on this month where students can practice Being Proactive and Leading with Love.

From February 1 – 12 we will show our love for one another through Candy for a Cause. We have chosen a Lenten project that will allow us to help a community in Tanzania by gifting them a sustainable water system. This system costs $750 and we are hoping to raise enough money through our sucker draws to purchase it.  If we raise more than the amount needed, we will donate to another Chalice project.  The chalice website is where you can find out information about the organization.  To find out about all the available gifts for donation, click on Give a Gift which will bring you to the Gift Catalogue page.  Our water system is listed in there under the Community Improvement heading. The draws will be made near the end of the day and students will be limited to two suckers a day.  Each one costs $2 and can be paid for in cash or through cash online.  The suckers are gourmet Kapow Pops in a variety of flavors.  I have had them before and can attest to how good they are. Further information about Candy for a Cause and the prizes that can be won are included in the newsletter.  Maybe your family may choose to support chalice as your family Lenten almsgiving project.

While red is a colour for February, on the 24th  we will be wearing pink in support of Pink Shirt Day. This day came about because of an act of kindness done by a few teenage boys in Nova Scotia. They saw that a grade nine student was being bullied for wearing a pink shirt and so they purchased a bunch of pink tank tops. The story was featured on the news and it has now become an international day and the pink shirt is a symbol of kindness. The theme this year is “Lift Each Other Up” as the pandemic has affected all of us and shown us the importance of helping one another out. London Drugs stores will have Pink Shirt Day products on February 1 if you are interested in purchasing an official shirt.  This year’s shirts are white with a pink design.  Every day of the year we need to treat everyone with respect and be kind to one another.

Word of the Year: Pandemic

I’m always interested to see what the word of the year is going to be and it is no surprise that Dictionary.com awarded it to “pandemic”. It has totally changed how we approached things or as the coined phrase: “new normal”. My Sunday mass “new normal” is watching it through livestream or on the Salt and Light channel.  This past Sunday the mass was from Mary Queen of the World Cathedral in Montreal.  As it was the third Sunday of Advent, the theme of the homily was joy.  The priest talked about how the root of joy is gratefulness: it is not joy that makes us grateful, but it is gratitude that makes us joyful.

With the pandemic and everything that has come with it, it isn’t always easy to feel joyful. Cultivating an attitude of gratitude can help us feel more joy.  About ten years ago, I read about a gratitude challenge and like a good mom, I decided that our family would do this as a Lenten challenge. Every night during supper we would go around the table and share a few things that we were grateful for.  My two teen aged sons were not really into the challenge, but I told them they had no choice and they grudgingly went along with it. By the time Lent was over, it felt that we had drawn closer together as a family through our gratitude sharing. After Lent was over, we continued this tradition during special occasion meals.  A couple of years ago, we sat down for Christmas supper and I thought that maybe my sons, who were in their twenties, were now too old for our gratitude tradition. I wasn’t going to ask the question, but to my surprise, my son asked it, “So mom, what are three things you are grateful for?” It brought joy to my heart to hear him ask this question and it is one we continue to this day.  I’m pretty sure that our puppy Dexter is going to be mentioned a few times around the Christmas supper table this year.

One of our calls to action in our faith plan is to Be Grateful.  We are challenged to acknowledge the presence of God and give thanks to Him for our blessings.  We can all use a little more joy in our lives so I challenge you this Christmas season to take up the gratitude challenge with your family. Here are some ideas of where to start in case you are having trouble thinking of things:

  • Something you did
  • A good thing that happened today
  • Something you love about a family member
  • The best thing that happened to you during the day
  • Something or someone that made you laugh
  • Technology that you used today
  • Something you learned
  • The gifts and talents God gave you
  • Someone or something that inspired you
  • A part of nature that you enjoy

Let’s spread a little joy with the simple act of gratitude.  Maybe it may become your “new normal” for 2021. Have a blessed and safe holiday.  Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Happy New Year! Advent marks the beginning of a new liturgical year for us.  It is a time of quiet, joyful preparation for the celebration of Jesus’ birth. We do this by thinking of, praying for and doing things for others.  Our patron, St. Teresa of Calcutta, was a great example of helping others in need and she said “if you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”  This year we are again supporting the Angel Tree Campaign and we have five different ways that you can help support a family in need. Our project kicks off on Monday November 30 and runs through December 11. Please see the Angel Tree poster in the newsletter for more details and for all things Angel Tree visit Lethbridge Family Services Website.

During Advent we will be focusing Habits 4-6 as they deal with thinking about and working with others.  The first week of Advent is about Hope and we will focus on Habit 4: Think Win-Win.  Here we consider what others want and since our Advent project is the Angel Tree we are asking students to consider others who may not have the money to have a happy Christmas and to do what they can to bring hope to families in need. Our focus for the second week is Peace and Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood.  We want to be at peace with each other and to bring peace to others through the Angel Tree project.  Our third celebration’s theme is Joy and Habit 6: Synergize. St. Teresa of Calcutta said it best when she said “I can do things you cannot and you can do things I cannot.  Together we can do great things.” Just as we are preparing for Jesus to bring light to our world during Advent, by working together we can be a light for others when we synergize to help out those in need.

STC Angel Tree Campaign 2020

Throughout 2020, it has been difficult to maintain our sense of community due to our COVID-19 restrictions.  To help regain that sense we will be inviting families to virtually join our advent celebrations through Zoom. Each week a link will be sent out through email and we look forward to having you join us. The tradition of coming together also happens with the December Christmas dinner. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, food needs to be prepackaged so we would have had to make up plates for students which may have involved food waste.  Instead of turkey dinner, school council is supporting a pizza meal for students on the 16th of December. Having a hot meal delivered will be a much appreciated change for all of us who eat and make lunches.  Than you school council. Finally, our Christmas event this year we will a little bit different in nature. We will be sending out a STC Family Christmas Bingo card.  There will be 14 activities on the card that you can do as a family. Your family can complete as many items as you like during the month of December.  Send in pictures of your family completing the items to the office and we will share your pictures to our Facebook page.  With the new COVID-19 restrictions that just came in, playing STC Family Bingo might be a great way for your family to synergize. There may even be prizes for the first few Bingos we receive. We look forward to re-establishing that sense of community and to see the different activities families choose to do.

Throughout 2020, it has been difficult to maintain our sense of community due to our COVID-19 restrictions.  To help regain that sense we will be inviting families to virtually join our advent celebrations through Zoom. Each week a link will be sent out through email and we look forward to having you join us. The tradition of coming together also happens with the December Christmas dinner. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, food needs to be prepackaged so we would have had to make up plates for students which may have involved food waste.  Instead of turkey dinner, school council is supporting a pizza meal for students on the 16th of December. Having a hot meal delivered will be a much appreciated change for all of us who eat and make lunches.  Than you school council. Finally, our Christmas event this year we will a little bit different in nature. We will be sending out a STC Family Christmas Bingo card.  There will be 14 activities on the card that you can do as a family. Your family can complete as many items as you like during the month of December.  Send in pictures of your family completing the items to the office and we will share your pictures to our Facebook page.  With the new COVID-19 restrictions that just came in, playing STC Family Bingo might be a great way for your family to synergize. There may even be prizes for the first few Bingos we receive. We look forward to re-establishing that sense of community and to see the different activities families choose to do.

Begin with the End in Mind

The month of November is when plans are due in education which fits in with Habit 2 Begin with the End in Mind – Have a Plan. In the Alberta Education Ministry Business Plan for Education for 2020 – 2023, the Minister articulates goals for the province and then our Holy Spirit Board sets Strategic Priorities that align with the Business Plan. At our Professional Development Day on October 9th, we looked at the following four divisional priorities to determine our area of focus at St. Teresa:

  1. Faith: Staff & students will grow in their faith and experience the richness of Catholic Education
  2. Learning: High quality instruction rooted in sound research & effective assessment practices to support growth for all learners
  3. First Nations, Metis & Inuit: First Nations, Metis and Inuit education for all
  4. Wellness: Foster a culture of wellness that is foundational to support learning

From these priorities we created goals to help us plan for student success.  As we ask our students to focus on the “Wildly Important Goals” or WIG, we too narrowed our focus so that our St. Teresa Continuous Improvement Plan focuses on the most important areas. Students are also going to be setting their WIGs during the month of November.  Teachers will be sending home information for parents to go through the process in the first week and we are asking that the goals be set and uploaded to Fresh Grade by November 13.  The following week will be our first set of office hours where parents can make appointments to discuss the goals and any other concerns with teachers.

Having goals helps us to plan for success and achieving small goals can increase confidence and motivation.  One thing I have learned about setting goals is making sure that they are realistic and achievable.  A podcast I listen to talks about attendance goals or goals that we can achieve every day.  For myself, I’ve set a goal of getting 20 active minutes on my FitBit every day.  There are days that I get many more than 20 but then there are the days when I do not feel like doing anything, but I tell myself that I can get to 20 minutes.  If I had put it at 40 minutes I am not so sure I would be as motivated to try to hit my goal every day, but 20 is achievable.  For now, I am developing the habit and will slowly increase the expectation as the habit is developed.  Make sure you are setting targets that you can achieve every day when setting your goals.

Another aspect of Habit 2 Begin with the End in Mind is having a vision for identifying the desired outcome.  Each class has created and posted Mission Statements which clarify the important purposes of their class.  It also helps the students know why they come to school and how the class can best work together. Our Leader in Me At Home page offers information for you to create a Family Mission Statement.  Try it out so you can capture the main principles and values of your family!

October Thoughts

It is a month into our new normal and as we are approaching Thanksgiving, I want to express my thanks to the entire school community for adapting to all the new procedures.  The staff has worked hard to come up with the general school procedures and to develop procedures for their own classes.  Our caretaking staff needs a huge pat on the back as they have worked tirelessly to create a cleaning and sanitizing schedule that ensures the classrooms are all sanitized during lunch recess.  There are days where they are running from one class to another and we should soon have an additional four-hour caretaker to help out during the day. With everyone Synergizing, together is truly better.

We are in our second year of our Faith Plan Making Our Mark – Journey of an Intentional Disciple and our theme for this coming year is Transformed by the Journey.  Our first call to action is to Be Gracious and when we are welcoming to others, we welcome Jesus into our midst and become Jesus for that person. It is fitting that with this theme that we are able to welcome students back to school.  In Matthew 18:20 Jesus said that where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there among them.  We will continue to gather and welcome Jesus into our midst, but our gatherings will look a little different this year.  As we did with opening mass, we had a class of students present while the others joined in virtually.  We are hoping to be able to have our school community join us virtually for future celebrations.

Our second call to action is to Be Grateful and we are focusing on an attitude of gratitude where we acknowledge God’s presence and give thanks. As we are heading into Thanksgiving, we will be focusing on giving thanks and expressing gratitude.   One of the things I am grateful for is that I am at a Leader in Me school.   The students are learning the language and meaning of the 7 Habits and I am learning alongside them. The more I learn, the more I realize the depths of the meaning of each habit.  There are many layers to each habit and, each year, students peel more layers to develop a deeper understanding and to learn more skills.  Below is a summary of each of the habits so that you can use the same language at home with them.

Habit 1: Be Proactive (You’re in Charge)

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind (Have a Plan)

Habit 3:  Put First Things First (Work First, then Play)

Habit 4:  Think Win-Win (Everyone Can Win)

Habit 5:  Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood (Listen Before You Talk)

Habit 6: Synergize (Together is Better)

Habit 7:  Sharpen the Saw (Balance feels Best)

St. Teresa of Calcutta spoke of gratitude and said that, “joy is prayer; joy is strength; joy is love.  God loves a cheerful giver.  The best way we can show our gratitude to God and the people is to accept everything with joy.” I pray that your October is filled with joy.

We have been working on re-entry plans and I know parents have many questions as to what school may look like in the fall.  Our plan is a draft form of our June discussions with staff and information that has since come out from the Government.  As more information becomes available our plans may be subject to change and a finalized version will come out closer to the start of the school year after we have had discussions with staff.  As we try out our plans, we may also decide to change them to improve the effectiveness of them.  I’m going into this year with the mindset of “Failing Forward”. What I mean by this is that we are beginning with the end in mind.  We have a plan in place to ensure that school is going to be a safe place with meaningful learning activities but we will make changes if things don’t go as planned.  If our plan fails, then we will learn from it and be flexible to make the necessary pivot steps that are needed to make it more effective.  I know it may not answer all the questions you may have, but I hope this plan will help so that it doesn’t seem so uncertain.

St. Teresa of Calcutta School Re-Entry Plan for September 2020

Our Faith theme this year is Transformed by the Journey with our calls to Action to be grateful and to be gracious.  I think it’s so important that with everything going on in our world right now that we focus on gratitude. One way to express gratitude is to turn a negative into a positive. Ask yourself if there is a silver lining or what can you be thankful for in a situation. For myself, I am grateful for all the time I got to spend with my family.  Usually everyone’s schedule is so busy that we are running all over but with the pandemic, we have got to experience more togetherness than normal.  For that I am extremely grateful to God as my two sons are getting to the age where they will be moving out on their own soon.  Last fall our family was devastated when we lost our 11-year-old dog, Trinity.  Our family Christmas gift was Dexter, a two month old Cavapoo (King Charles Cavalier Poodle mix). Dexter has also brought us closer together as a family as he is so cute that we all want to be around him all the time.  His love of socks (and chewing in general) knows no bounds as nobody’s socks are safe from him. We have shared many laughs over his antics and he has kept our spirits up during this pandemic. Take some time in the next couple of days to think about any negatives that you can turn into a positive and then say a prayer of gratitude to God. After all, gratitude is the open door through which God sends his blessings.

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we do our best to adapt to the pandemic scenarios while still providing high quality student learning opportunities for our students. We all need to keep Habit 1 – Be Proactive in the forefront. We all must  take responsibility for doing our own part in keeping our school community safe by following our new procedures. We are looking forward to seeing everyone in a few weeks and please email me if you have any questions or require clarification. The office opens on August 24 at 8:30 am.

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