Our approach to education

Why our new structure with Pedagogical  Tact

 

In the last few years the Education system on St. Maarten has undergone many changes, challenges and innovations. To name a few:

Changes:

·         The establishment of our own Ministry and the expansion of stakeholders since the new constitutional status on 10-10-10

Challenges:

·         Vast growth in technology

·         Yearly large turnover of teachers

·         Many more children diagnosed with learning or/and behavior challenges

Innovations:

·         The continuous rapid growth of education innovations and materials

 

 

The Board was inspired by these changes, challenges and innovations. Having many conversations with the board, school managers, teachers support staff, students and parents it was clear that we were not fully living up to what we have on paper.

We reflected on our vision and mission and restructured our organization to reflect what we believe. The negative impact of our society deserves a structural approach.  The changes, challenges and innovations forced our organization to improve the guidance within our schools, to guarantee optimal development opportunities for school managers, teachers, support staff and most important, our students.  It is imperative that our schools are recognized for having a good and safe environment and high quality education.

 

Our first step was to get more hands on deck and renew the management teams within our schools. Change goes hand in hand with new management. We believe a new approach is more effective with a new team. This action was carefully put in place during school year 2012-2013. We have opened the school year 2013-2014 with new management in our schools and more hands on deck on board level.

 

With the new staff in place we have decided to guide educators differently, through adaptation of a new mentality, in order to guarantee optimal development. This approach will decrease many behavioral issues that we have been dealing with over the years.

 

During our visit to Holland in April 2013, to recruit new teachers, we visited some impressive schools and exchanged many ideas and thoughts.

Our motto is: Teaching is best done with love; once you have captured the heart, the mind opens.

To our surprise we have witnessed an educational institution that built their school based on the context of that motto. The school emphasized on active, project-based, collaborative learning in Multi-aged classes with a meeting area. Students were active learners, developing their artistic and academic skills through much of the school day. The school focused on habits of mind and work. Lots of emphasis was put on the emotional well-being of students. Teachers were fully involved and engaged in guiding their students.  This was an environment that any parent would want/like their child in.

 

In our search and aspiration for a clearer vision on how a child learn, develop and form optimally, we had discussions with various experts and the plan of action started to unfold.

Two years ago, we were introduced to a new concept called: “Pedagogical Tact and Leadership.”  In 2012 we organized a mini workshop for our teachers on this new concept but it was only embraced by a few. In discussing this concept again in April, 2013, we decided to introduce the concept structurally.

Pedagogical Tact is something that you feel. You cannot learn it. Yes, the theory is there, but your action comes from within you. You act out of love and logic, you act at the right moment, and you say and do the right thing in the eyes of your students. You are the best role model for your students. You look, say and do the best at all times.

 

Implementation process

We recruited experts from Holland and organized the training in August/September 2013. During the first week of training on board level, all disconnections or detachments visible within the schools, that were causing students to have a low self esteem, decreased involvement and delinquent behavior, were analyzed. We came to the realization, that through values, behavior could be influenced, but not owned and that values are not decided by one person. Respect and happiness can be accomplished within a good school. On board level, the Innovation Coordinators and the director took ownership of the concept and embraced the principals of Pedagogical Tact.


 

We had many conversations with the experts on what we want and what we were looking for. They guided our thoughts and actions in achieving this.

We, under guidance of the trainers, introduced it to the new school managers in August, 2013. The goal was to guide them into the responsibility of taking ownership of the concept. We opened our session with the wonderful story about Mrs. Thompson. (This story is a must read for educators, visit 
http://www.snopes.com/glurge/teddy.asp)

We then took our rigid goal, vision and mission and decided to make it come alive within our schools.

 

Our rigid goal, vision and mission read as follows:

 

The main goal of the Foundation for Catholic Education is: To have the interest of education and upbringing at heart in accordance with the Roman Catholic Faith.

Vision/Philosophy: Our Roman Catholic schools are committed to quality education to meet the needs of the modern child.

Staff members of the Foundation Catholic Education are dedicated to the development of each individual student’s potential. Our schools aim to educate intellectually, spiritually, socially, emotionally and physically.

The student will be taught both the cognitive and the affective skills needed to become effective world citizens. The child will learn to discover knowledge on his/her own, to solve problems, to be a critical reader and thinker, to develop a healthy curiosity and to be open minded.

The child will be encouraged to give witness to his/her faith by his/her own way of life.

Our aim is to form pupils with a social conscience, a desire for racial justice, compassion for those who suffer, and zeal for common goal.

The school assumes this responsibility in cooperation with the child’s primary educators, the parents, the community and the parish.

The Mission of the Catholic School is; Commitment to strive and motivate each child to achieve according to his/her ability, by creating a loving and privileged environment, where learning can be enjoyable, meaningful and a challenging experience.

 

We have re-written our goal, vision and mission in three captured statements, namely:

-          We will embrace each and everyone and guarantee optimal development

-          If one is unhappy, all are unhappy

-          BAN on exclusion


 

The school managers’ challenge is to guide their teachers to own and develop quality connections and relationships between teacher and student, whereby the teacher acknowledges the child, detached from his/her unwanted behavior. Thereafter, guides, challenges and supports the child to develop into an autonomous person that can help him/herself, can solve problems, be responsible, is of importance to others, meaningful and worthy. This falls nicely in line with our rigid vision and mission.

 

After introducing this to our new school managers we all took the opportunity to share what is meaningful to us by using a cherished object. One used a picture that spoke about LOVE and translated the sentence that reads ‘love is what makes our house a home’ into ‘love is what makes our schools a home’, one used a nut symbolizing the planting of a seed that must flourish, one used a failing report card that reminded her that she can do it, one used a ring that symbolized continuous development etc…..

This exercise was aimed at conditioning the minds on the importance of relationships and communication with students. This takes us to our first statement: “We will embrace each and everyone and guarantee optimal development.”

We continued the discussion on believing in embracing everyone, which took us into our second statement: “ If one is unhappy, all are unhappy”. The intention of this statement should gear the focus of teachers on the fact that if one child or team member is not doing well, all should be concerned and involved in changing this. It is our responsibility.

This last statement: “BAN on exclusion.”  Targeted actions and situations that cause a child to feel excluded, left out, sad, miserable, hurt, angry, unhappy. These built-up feelings lead to detachment, disconnectedness that eventually allows them to attach to the wrong things in our environment/society such as; negative groups, fights, gangs, theft, drugs, promiscuity …….The end result is that society ends up with a considerable amount of school drop outs and delinquents.

Within our schools we have listed many, many incidents during which we as adults and educators say and do things, which hurt and damage our children.

 

During the extensive sessions an assignment for the new School Managers was to interview two classes and two teachers to discuss occurrences or incidents that make one feels excluded. Our students and teachers have shared their experiences with us. To name a few; being send out of the classroom, being screamed at, incidents of embarrassment, more focus on academically inclined students, more focus on popular students, giving insufficient marks, punishment, being the teacher’s pet, gossip amongst teachers, clique-ing of teachers, no team work, being the school manager’s pet, etc……

The personal stories of the new School Managers about their excluded feelings when they were in elementary school and high school were extremely emotional. To read these stories, visit our website www.catholiceducationsxm.org

 

After exploring the incidents and experiences  that we were actually aware of, we have decided to fully enforce our last statement: ”BAN on exclusion”

There are many techniques and theories that we can use to BAN exclusion.  We have chosen the Pedagogical Tact and Leadership, in order to achieve our goal to realize vision and execute our mission.  To know more about this concept visit www. Pedagogischetact.nl.

 

The new school managers are faced with this challenge. They have the task to embrace and own it. The intention is that School Managers and teachers recognize and acknowledge what causes an unsafe climate for students, that causes a negative well being, and take full responsibility for change. They must build healthy relationships; have autonomy and competence to stay connected. Educators must always avoid the external factors as to why something is not working or happening, look within self and do something about it. Change starts with oneself. It is important to have a good well-being, to be involved and to have self-confidence. The school managers must guarantee the success of each individual. ‘ You are what you are now and not tomorrow.’

 

School Managers will be guided in their task in developing the mentality and attitude of Pedagogical Tact and Leadership. This challenge can take some time, but when you have mastered it, you can change any child that comes into your care.

We owe that to our students. We must stand for what we believe. We must own and embrace our actions. We are responsible for building a better nation by embracing our students. ‘Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.’

We must not forget to take care of ourselves by embracing each other, which ties nicely into our theme for this school year; “We Are Called to Take Care of God’s Creation

We must never forget that with God’s grace everything is possible.

 

We would like to keep you updated on our success stories on this our website.

November 2013
Lilia Aventurin-Hodge
Director Foundation Catholic Education St. Maarten