Saturday, August 12, 2023

Education Changes Every Hour!

Another school year has begun, which happens to be my 35th year in education. You would think that by now, I would have a handle on education with all this experience. There is something you should know about educating our children. NO ONE HAS A HANDLE ON EDUCATION! NO ONE! Yes, the all caps means I'm screaming this.

Education doesn't change every year or even every day. Education changes every hour! The complexity of the human brain in conjunction with the ever evolving human emotional make-up, especially that of a middle schooler, makes every single hour of educating children a mystery. Education is like the 142 staircases at Hogwarts. One minute you are going up, the next down, and the next the whole staircase disappears. But then again, that's why I LOVE being an educator. No two hours are ever close to being the same.

When thinking about all the hourly changes taking place with education, don't forget to factor in the social-emotional and educational problems caused by the COVID-19 shutdown. Most of the students coming to us the past few years who were not in the classroom have been testing between one to four years below grade level. Now, it is up to our school to fix the harm that's been done.

Guess what? I love that challenge. And, I know we will succeed. I know this because I have faith in our work. "Do good and evil will not come your way." (Tobit 12:7) We are doing good!

It will take years to overcome what was deprived the students during the shutdown. It will take time, hard work, long hours, cooperation between parents and educators, patience, grit, compassion, love, and faith. My job in this process is to let the teachers work their magic and be there to support everyone. 

Our enrollment is up once again and we have added more classes. So, I know what we are doing works. Our admissions team is working harder than ever to make certain we can assist the new students. Our team is already making improvements to the admissions process for the 2024-25 school year. God, I love the folks I work with.

As for the 2023-24 school year, let's kick this pig and git 'er done! With lots of kindness, love, and doing good ahead of us, let the work begin. Like the Skyy song, Let Love Shine. Great throwback to the 80s.

God bless you and love!

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Pleasure and Peace

While many folks don't look forward to attending Mass and come up with more excuses for skipping out than for attending Mass, I derive much pleasure and peace from attending Mass. I use the words pleasure and peace because I feel great and burdenless having participated in the Eucharistic celebration.

My favorites aren't the Easter or Christmas Mass celebrations. My favorites are the Friday all-school Masses when we come together as a community to celebrate. I love seeing our students participating and being an active part of the Mass celebration.

Each month during the school year, a different class takes charge of the Mass. The students of the class in charge serve as the greeters, altar servers, gift bearers, and lectors. The school choir leads the singing. Two of the 8th graders run the projection booth. The teachers serve as the eucharistic ministers. The younger students proudly sing the hymns while the older students are too cool to sing. The 8th graders and their PK3 Mass buddies become best friends and attend Mass together. Parents and grandparents attend with our students sitting with them. The priest's homilies are a short lesson of the day that quickly turn into a humorous and entertaining question and answer session. The younger students love participating in these Q&A sessions, while the older students try hiding under the pews so as not to get called on. At the end of Mass, the younger students are excited to greet the priest by the baptismal fountain. At the end of most Masses, there are awards to be presented to our students and educators. All of the pieces of the all-school Mass come together for a wonderful weekly Eucharistic celebration.

So yes, the all-school Mass is my favorite. This Mass more than any other gives me a sense of pleasure and peace. Our St. Ann families and friends are invited to join us for our weekly all-school Eucharistic Celebration and to hopefully experience that same pleasure and peace.

God bless you,

Didier Aur, Principal

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

A New Beginning

Taylor Swift said, "This is a new year. A new beginning. And things will change." I like this quote, but I think I'll make a minor yet important "change" to her quote. Instead of "And things will change," I will say "And things will improve." As we continue to grow, the improvements we are introducing deal with the folks who join our Colts family. These folks will help make St. Ann a better and stronger school. Our people are our greatest asset.

The Ghio Girls
As we prepare for the 2023-24 school year, the first improvement is moving Annmarie Ghio from her role as a 3rd grade teacher to being our full-time assistant principal. Ms. Ghio participated in a two-year program at Loyola Marymount University where she earned a certification in Catholic School Administration. Ms. Ghio's main role is to serve as St. Ann's reading and writing specialist. Our testing shows that our students perform well above national and state norms in reading with just about all our students performing at or above grade-level. We want to keep improving and taking our students to a higher level of achievement. Thank you Ms. Ghio for saying "yes" to this administrative move.

Liz Wehmeyer is our new 3rd grade teacher. Mrs. Wehmeyer comes to us from Bartlett City Schools where she taught at Alturia. Mrs. Wehmeyer is no stranger to St. Ann. Her son is a St. Ann graduate and her daughter is currently a student. She is also a techie and has been a technology professional development leader for our teachers for the past five year. She and Ms. Ghio are responsible for all the inspirational artwork throughout the walls of the school. They painted another one this summer. Welcome Mrs. Wehmeyer!

The 3rd grade has been growing to the point that we are adding a second class. Our very own Tina Ostrowski will teach that class. Ms. Ostrowski is coming out of retirement for a 3rd time. At St. Ann, she has taught just about every grade, with her last class being the 1st grade. At St. Michael, she was the 3rd grade teacher.  Thanks Coach O!

The Dooley Family
Dakota Dooley will be replacing John Baum as our band director. Mr. Dooley stepped in at the end of last year to take over for Mr. Baum and did a fantastic job. He will teach at both SBA and St. Ann. Thanks for being a Colt and an Eagle.

Looking forward to seeing all our personnel improvements in action.

Let's pray for all our educators everywhere. Being an educator gets tougher every year, and every year more and more people are leaving the teaching profession. I've been doing this for 35 years with every year bringing more expectations, demands, requirements, and challenges. I say, "Bring it on!" I love the challenge of being an educator and making a positive difference every day!

Painted by Wehmeyer and Ghio

"This is a new year. A new beginning. And things will improve." Time to listen to some Taylor Swift on Spotify.

God bless you and love!

Sunday, July 9, 2023

Getting Out of a Rut

Biking at Crystal Bridges
In life, we can sure get into ruts. When we work too much and don't make enough time for ourselves, it is easy to get into a routine where you work all day then come home and do little to nothing until it is time to go to sleep so you can do the same thing the next day. And then, doing nothing becomes a safe and easy habit. For part of this year, I was in that rut of working from 6:00 am to 5:00 pm, coming home to do some more work on the computer and then going to bed. I stopped doing the things I love to do like reading, playing soccer, and riding my bike. I wasn't even going to the gym to workout on the elliptical machine. On the elliptical machine, I can put on a podcast or music and mindlessly get in a good workout.

Excuses have been plentiful. I knew I needed to make a habit change. I figure I have about 18 years left on Earth and probably with not all those being quality and healthy years. It was time for a change because I don't want to be Garfield.

I enjoy reading Dynamic Catholic books. When I knew I needed to get out of the rut I put myself in, I received an ad from Dynamic Catholic about a book by Kate Volman called Do What You Love. Figured that was just what I needed so I ordered the book. I quickly read the book and took the author's guidance and started doing what I love. The main thing is to not fear or let anyone detract you from doing what you love to do. I also learned that it is not an all or nothing change. Make gradual changes so there is a better chance that the changes become habit and the habit grows. 

I'm one of those people who when I decide to do something, I go all out and want to make changes instantly and see results immediately. Those changes tend to be short lived, then I'm back to where I started. Set small goals and work to slowly attain those goals. My goals have been simple and I haven't made them like ultimatums such as I'm going to ride my bike 30 miles every day or I'm going to lose 10 pounds this week.

Elliptical at EMAC

The first change is to not come home and do nothing. Start off by not bringing home the computer every day. I will workout on the elliptical machine for 30-45 minutes at a lower setting instead of 60-minutes at a higher setting. I will read a few pages of a book instead of a few chapters at a time. I will finish 15th in Duolingo instead of the top 5. I'll be just fine and enjoy myself while doing whatever it is I'm doing. 

Another change that I've made is to listen to motivational podcasts. I came across a podcast called ReThinking with Adam Grant. One of his podcasts featured James Clear, author of Atomic Habits. That was just the podcast I needed to hear. I ordered the book and it is next on my reading list. Once again, make small changes and improvements just like an atom, small.

I'm re-reading Holy Moments by Matthew Kelly. This is another book that can help give you a little motivation in life. I have extra copies in my office if you would like a copy.

All this to say that we need to make an effort to be happy and enjoy our lives. No more making excuses. My super-competitive self doesn't need to always win or not compete at all. I just need to live life in a happy and enjoyable way.

So, if you are in a rut and need someone to talk with, please feel free to reach out to me. I'm not the shining example of how one should live their life, but I am taking baby steps to get myself out of this rut I'm in. And one of the ways out of the rut is by simply sharing with you through this blog.

God bless you and love,

Didier Aur

Sunday, June 25, 2023

What Do Educators Do In The Summer?

There's a misconception out there that educators have summers off. Wish that were the truth. Since most educators aren't independently wealthy, many have a 2nd job during the summer to help support their families. And, when not working, much of the summer is spent preparing for the coming school year.

Our educators have required work and professional development to complete in order to be prepared. Summer is a much needed time to relax but it also a time for becoming better at our craft. Lots of professional development takes place during the summer.

PK educators not only have to complete the diocesan required professional development hours but also have an added 30-hours of specified documented training for the Tennessee Department of Education. Because of the importance of early childhood literacy, 10 of those hours deal with developmentally appropriate literacy practices for pre-kindergarten students. 

All our educators are also required to have an additional 10-hours of documented Catholic religious professional development. 
Much is required of our educators annually, and even more is required of our PK educators.

On top of this, Catholic Mutual (our insurance company) requires annual active shooter training and the much dreaded bloodborne pathogens training. Cannot forget the first-aid and CPR training every two years. 

And yes, the principal has to go through all this training as well. This includes the 10-hours each of religious training and early childhood literacy. So far this summer, I have completed over 20 of the overall hours needed of professional development.

All the required professional development for our educators is not cheap. The school pays for the professional development. I'm always searching for free professional development opportunities. For certification purposes, many require payment. I get it! The people and organizations leading professional development sessions have to make a living.

13 of our educators will participate in The Bodine School's Structured Literacy Institute this summer. The cost is $50 per educators; inexpensive but adds up.

Educate LLC out of New York will host 2-days of professional development for the educators in our diocese. Just the cost to St. Ann for the 2-days is $4,020.

The required first-aid and CPR training isn't cheap either.

If you are looking to help St. Ann, donations to help pay for professional development are a great way to support our teachers and their work with the children. Your support is much appreciated.

Just know that many educators have been at school this summer working camps, administering screening assessments for new students, and getting their classrooms ready for the new school year. Summer is a time of renewal and re-energizing, but St. Ann educators are always available to do what needs to be done, and I love them for their dedication and passion.

Hope this gives you a better perspective of what educators do during the summer.  So, please help support your local Catholic School educator.

Help Support Our Teachers!

God bess you and love,

Didier Aur, Principal & Professional Development Specialist

Saturday, June 10, 2023

Do Good!

Full Circle House
After another fantastic school year (my 35th as an educator), I'm on a West Coast family getaway to recharge and re-energize. We are enjoying the beauty of Santa Barbara County, and currently staying at Presqu'ile Winery in Santa Maria just relaxing amidst hundreds of acres of all kinds of grapes, berries, avocados, and the San Rafael Mountains. 

I look for opportunities to attend Mass when visiting other cities. This morning, I attended Mass at St. Louis de Montfort in Santa Maria. During the first reading, Tobit 12:7 caught my attention. "Do good, and evil will not find its way to you."

Presqu'ile Winery
That verse should be memorized by all of us. It should be plastered on billboards, buses, buildings, subways, magazines, websites...but it isn't. It is hidden nice and neat in Tobit 12:7 where most people have no idea it even exists. How many people have ever read the Book of Tobit? How many Catholics know it is part of the Apocrypha? I'm not judging because I have read the Book of Tobit and had totally forgot that little verse until I heard it at Mass today.

"Do good, and evil will not find its way to you." So simple and easy to follow but only if we can remember to do so. I try to do good but sin is quick to follow. I try to do good but am sometimes selfish. I try to do good but often forget to help those most in need.

St. Louis de Montfort
I tend to forget that the rest of Tobit 12 deals with helping others who need help. It is about alms giving. It is about loving our neighbors. It is about Raphael, one of the seven angels, interceding to help us. Raphael interceded for Tobit because he did good. He did what he was supposed to do in helping others. So God sent Raphael to help Tobit. God will do the same for us if we can just remember to "Do Good!"

Aurs at Presqu'ile
Today's Mass reading was a great reminder to do good. I want Tobit 12:7 to be a constant reminder to everyone of us as we prepare for the 2023-24 school year. I need to start by making a poster out of this and hanging it at the school entrance and in the school office.

Hey Annmarie Ghio and Liz Wehmeyer! How about this being painted in the school hallway this summer? Maybe in the middle school hallway? Middle schoolers could sure use a lot of "Do Good" reminders.

God bless you and love,

Didier Aur

Sunday, April 16, 2023

2023 Band & Choir Competition

Just arrived from our 2023 Music in the Parks competition in St. Louis, MO. Two bus loads of students, chaperones, and parents left St. Ann this past Friday morning for the trip with many, many families following along.

The band competed in honor of their band director, John Baum, who is in Worthington, PA recovering from a major stroke. Through the work of Mr. Baum with help from Mr. Dakota Dooley (band director at SBA who is substituting for Mr. Baum), and Mr. Ryan Cooper, the band earned 1st place in the competition with their rendition of "The Thunderer" and "Scorpion."

The choir earned 3rd place in the competition with their rendition of "Sanctus" and "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening."

Congratulations to the band and choir for the super performance. We are proud of you for your hard work and dedication to succeed together.

Sending out an extra special thank you to Mr. Cooper for directing both the band and choir in the competition.

All together, the St. Ann entourage consisted of about 150 good people who made the trek to St. Louis. Competition, pizza, swimming, games, Six Flags, food court, lots of bus travel, super crazy weather, and tons of drama made the trip an excellent adventure. Cannot be a middle school event without drama, even though most of the drama came from a parent or two who didn't even make the trip. Very bizarre how that happens. 

Want to thank all the chaperones for a fantastic St. Ann music trip to STL. The planning and organizing, travel, competition, torrential rains and tornado warnings, schedule changes, improvised plans, hotel guest complaints, and drama; but most importantly the shared support and friendships made this trip an extremely memorable one in a very good way for everyone involved. Love the great laughs we had. There’s no substitute for laughter. I appreciate all you did for the children and St. Ann. Looking forward to the next trip, but only after some much needed rest!

God bless you and love to all!

Didier Aur, Principal

St. Ann Website

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