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.

June 2 Update

Although the fall situation is unknown, we are working with the division in planning for September. The calendar for the 2020 – 2021 school year is available on the Holy Spirit Website. As more information becomes available we will be sending it out.  Please check our website (https://stc.holyspirit.ab.ca) as we will be updating it regularly with featured news and calendar information.  I’d like to share three updates with you regarding information for June.

June Learning Timeline

June 19th will be the last day for instruction for students.  The final week of June will be time for families to return any learning materials to the school like chrome books, library books, classroom books, whiteboards, etc. The office will be open all week and we would appreciate items returned on either Monday the 22nd or Tuesday the 23rd.  We ask that chrome books be returned to the office and all other items can be returned to the tables in the gathering space.

Report Cards

Report Cards will be going out electronically to parents through Fresh Grade and we will be reporting on Literacy, Numeracy and Religion with anecdotal comments and descriptive feedback. If you would like to receive a paper copy of your child’s report card, please let your homeroom teacher know by June 15th so we can mail out a paper copy.

Staffing Information and Homeroom Lists

One exciting piece of news to share is that we will have an additional teacher and will have four Grade 5/6 homerooms next year. I do not know who the person will be as we have advertised the position which closes this Thursday.

Next week we will looking at creating homeroom lists and we need to know if your family is returning as this will help us with our planning process for next year.  Please complete your electronic registration update to confirm your return. With our multiage philosophy, students remain the same “home base” for two consecutive years.  For the most part, our grade 1, 3 and 5 students will not be changing home base.  When it comes to finding the right placement for those students who will be changing classes, we consider the following:

  • Student learning needs and abilities
  • Male/female ratio
  • Behaviour needs
  • Class size
  • Student relationships with other students
  • New students to the grade level

I will also continue the school’s policy of not accepting specific teacher requests as all our teachers work collaboratively as a team so your child will have the privilege of instruction from various teachers on staff. As I am new to the school, if you feel there are other factors that should be taken into consideration when placing your child in a specific class, please contact me by Monday June 8th.  You can reach me by email at kobzad@holyspirit.ab.ca, phone at 587-787-1490.  I am open to any form of communication and we can even set up an online meeting to discus your student. 

Each year at this time the government sends home survey information to parents for the Accountability Pillar so you may have already received your envelope in the mail.  This survey provides an opportunity for Alberta Education and school authorities to ensure that we are equipping students for success. The Accountability Pillar uses a set of 16 indicators consisting of Surveys of students, parents and teachers on various aspects of quality; Provincial Achievement Tests, and measures like High School Completion, Drop-Out and Transition to Pose-secondary Rates. All surveys are anonymous and ask questions about experiences with the school.  We only see the overall results at the school and not any individual responses. Students and teachers will be completing their surveys at school before the end of February.  Your participation in the survey helps provide important information on the quality of education your child is receiving, so we encourage you to complete your survey.

Here is some information for you about the survey that we hope will make it easier to complete:

  1. In addition to English and French, the parent survey is available in Chinese, Punjabi, Arabic, Blackfoot, Cree, Korean, Spanish and Tagalog.  Please come see us at the office if you would like to do your survey in a different language.
  2. All surveys can be completed either through paper or online.  You can drop off your paper copy at the office and we will send it off for you.
  3. We have put a link to the online survey on our website under Resources and Publications:  Accountability Pillar Survey
  4. The library is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays with computers if you want to stop in and complete a survey before or after picking up your child.
  5. Previously only parents in grade 4 received the survey and this year parents in grades 4-6 will receive it. We are encouraging parents to complete the survey as our average response over the past years is 20 parents.  We have generated 90 codes and we want to hear from as many parents as possible.
  6. You do not have to answer every question.  If you come across one that does not apply to you, you can leave it blank.  An example is that we see a lot of “Don’t know” for the high school preparing students for careers questions.  If you do not have a child in high school, you can leave that question blank.
  7. We have put together some information about the pillar areas for parents to help you in completing the survey. We are posting them on our social media pages, around the school and in the newsletter.
  8. Before the end of the year, we will receive a report with a color coded snapshot that details the responses from parents, students and teachers. Each year we create an Annual Educational Results Report from this information.
  9. Every year we review the data from the responses and use that information to create our school’s improvement plan.
  10. If you want to learn more about the survey, check out the Fact Sheet.

We appreciate you taking the time to complete the survey as we want to hear as many voices as possible to give us a true snapshot on what is happening at OLA.  The survey is open until the end of February.  My door is always open if you have further questions about the survey or anything else you want to chat about.

During Advent and all the preparations for Christmas we generally hear many Christmas carols being sung. One popular song is the Twelve Days of Christmas. Every year on the radio I hear how much it would cost to purchase all the gifts mentioned in the songs. As great as a partridge in a pear tree is or twelve drummers drumming are they don’t reflect the true meaning of the song.  First of all, The Twelve Days of Christmas are not in the Advent season leading up to Christmas but are the Church’s celebration of the Christmas season starting with Christmas Day on December 25 and ending twelve days later with the celebration of Epiphany on January 6.

I did some research on the song and found out that it was written in England during the time when they changed to the Church of England and Catholics were persecuted. During the 16th and 17th centuries it was a crime to be a Catholic. The song was written as a method for Catholics to secretly learn the teachings of the faith.  The “true love” in the song who is giving the gifts is God while the “me” receiving the gifts are every baptized person. 

The meaning given to the gifts each day are as follows:

1 Partridge in a Pear Tree = Jesus Christ, Son of God

2 Turtle Doves = The Old and New Testaments

3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues

4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists

5 Golden Rings = The first Five Books of the Old Testament, the “Pentateuch”

6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation

7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments

8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes

9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit

10 Lords A-leaping = the Ten Commandments

11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles

12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed

As we leave Christmas season and move back into ordinary time, we are starting a new calendar year.  Think of it as a second beginning in the middle of the school year: a priceless gift of time and an opportunity for growth.  Take a moment to look at ourselves and our world, to be mindful of God’s presence and to make decisions about the way we live.  How will we try to reflect more perfectly the loving kindness of our God and follow the example of Jesus and Mary? This January, make a resolution that is not so ordinary.  Spend time every single day giving thanks for the gifts that God has given us by developing an attitude of gratitude. Each day say “Thank you God for the gift of life. Today I am especially grateful for _____________________________.”  Give it a try and by the end of the year you will have 365 things that you are grateful for. A good place to start might be with the Catholic teachings in the Twelve Days of Christmas

Source for the Article: Catholic Online (The Origin of the 12 Days of Christmas)

Hail the Advent Season at OLA

Mary is an important person in the Advent season. She was open to and mindful of God’s presence.  Through our book study of Walking with Mary by Edward Sri, we have come to better understand her open heart. When the angel Gabriel greets Mary to tell her that she is going to be the mother of Jesus, he says, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:28). No one in the history of the Bible has ever been addressed like this before. “Hail” is more than a simple hello. It means rejoice! Gabriel does not call her Mary; instead he says “full of Grace”. This is Mary’s new title or name which reveals the mission that God is entrusting to her. Finally, Gabriel assure her “the Lord is with you”. These words have been used throughout the Bible as God’s greeting to people he calls and it lets them know He will be there to guide, strengthen and protect them.

Our challenge for our students and our school community this month is to mimic this by rejoicing and greeting people they come across in the halls. We want them to Hail one another and rejoice by looking at the person.  Mary was given a new name as Full of Grace and we want our students to smile and say the person’s name if they know it.  Finally, the Lord is with You is a reminder that God is always there with us so we smile and say hello to the person.  We acknowledge the presence of God by responding with a smile and a greeting to the person. We are challenging our students to try to be the first person to say hello. Parents, we welcome you to join in our challenge when you are in the building. Good luck in Acting Like Mary by opening our hearts to God’s will and presence within each of us.

The Advent Sock Drive kicked off on Crazy Sock day on November 28. Socks that are collected will go to support Harbour House, Salvation Army, Homeless Shelter and Woods Homes. Last year we brought in 1,977 pairs of socks and hopefully we can surpass that effort this year. The final day to bring in socks is December 12 which is when we have our Advent mass at the Church followed by our Christmas Event.  This year we are having a Snowball dance at the school.  The dance with feature hot chocolate and cookies, a family photo booth, a quiet coloring area, and numeracy and literacy dice and card games that you can learn and play with your family over the holidays. I will be sharing our family Christmas favorite card game, 7 Up, that my children started playing when they were around 5 and that we still play every year at Christmas.

The cake walk is back by popular demand, but will only run from 6pm – 7pm.  To stick to the hour time limit, we will be giving away multiple cakes for each round. The cost of entry is 1$ which will go to cover the expenses for the evening and any leftover funds will be donated to the sock drive. Thank you to a parent for a generous donation of hot chocolate for the evening! We are gratefully accepting donations of cakes for the evening. I look forward to seeing you at our Christmas dance on the 12th.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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