Over the past 11 weeks, I was challenged and encouraged to share my thoughts, ideas, and happenings on 10 different topics relating to Catholic education. My time as a Social Media Influencer for the National Catholic Educational Association was a time for me to reflect on where I have been, where I am, and where I’m going in Catholic education. The topics that I was able to share about are topics that are extremely relevant to my job as an educator in a Catholic school, but also as a follower of Christ in the Catholic faith.
When I began the contest, I was unsure how to tell my school’s story and what we do. I was extremely excited to tell our experiences, but I truly believe that we are also very humble and are hesitant to share because it’s not who we are. We are told to be humble and just do what we are expected without seeking recognition. It was difficult at first, but that difficulty turned into pride. We need to be proud of what we do. We need to understand that an activity that we do is not a small thing but that it can mean a lot to a parent or a benefactor. We cannot hide our story.
The first week led us to the question of “Why Choose Catholic Education?” This was a question that I felt like I could answer on my own, but I also knew a great resource for an answer would be my students. Why do my students choose Catholic education? Why do they find Catholic education to be important? Why do I recognize Catholic education to be important? When I asked my students I was surprised by their answers. They see the importance of the Catholic faith to keep them focused on their faith. They want their moral character to be improved and they see that Catholic education is helping them. They see that the work of us educators is bettering their lives. We may hope that it happens, but asking students just shows us that we are doing the right thing. This also helps me to recognize that I am doing the right thing by choosing Catholic education.
Week 2 was Professional Development for Catholic Educators. Professional development for Catholic educators needs both relevant classroom technique development but there also needs to be a faith formation/spiritual direction element for Catholic educators. We must understand that our position is not just content formation, but also faith formation. We need to provide educators with the proper skills of how to model the faith for our students. We need to show teachers where they can grow in these techniques and open their minds to the world of Twitter and other social media sites so they can connect to other Catholic educators. #CatholicEdChat is an excellent chat on Twitter that has personally helped me grow in my faith and as a teacher.
Week 3 was service in Catholic Schools. I was blessed to be able to share the amazing stories from my high school days. My alma mater was able to lead me to understand the importance of serving others within the framework of the Catholic faith. For me to now help others see the importance of service in the Catholic faith is a blessing.
Week 4 was Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge, and Service. This week allowed me to share how my school connects our religion content and core subjects to the faith. The importance of community is seen through the commitment of all teachers to model the Catholic faith through their lessons and actions. This was a great week for me to reflect upon how my Catholic education experiences helped me grow in a learner of knowledge through serving others.
STREAM was week 5’s topic and it was one that I was excited about. My school is beginning to enter into STREAM and teachers were very supportive. I know teachers have continued to do STREAM projects from this week’s topic and students are already excited to do more! Connecting faith into the mentality of STEAM adds an extra element that Catholic schools are blessed to teach!
When I began week 6 and the topic of Exceptional Learning in Catholic Schools, I began to reflect upon what am I doing to aid exceptional learners. Changing the focus from special education to all students who either need more guidance or are accelerated shows that Catholic education provides many different learning opportunities for our students. The programs that are already available to change the focus to exceptional learning are great and I’m ready to see where my school takes this idea.
Professional Learning Networks in Catholic Schools was a wonderful topic. We as Catholic educators may sometimes feel isolated when it comes to forming PLNs. We may not know where to turn to for support. Catholic educators need to rally together to strengthen our commitment to teaching within the Catholic school setting. I am so fortunate to have found the #CatholicEdChat on Twitter. This Saturday morning chat has opened my eyes to new ideas and experiences in my classroom. Teachers need to look further than the boundary of their school to find educators who want to share their faith and passion for Catholic education. We need PLNs that will have us grow academically and spiritually.
Week 8’s topic of the preliminary sessions for NCEA 2017 was overwhelming, but in a great way! I was overwhelmed by the number of sessions available for teachers to learn from! Whatever your interest you have in Catholic education, there will be a session for you. The growth that I know teachers will experience at NCEA 2017 will be immense because there are so many educators and supporters of the Catholic faith ready to help teachers, administrators, and support staff do even greater things within their schools. NCEA 2017 is going to be a tremendous Convention & Expo!
Week 9 was Leadership in Catholic Schools. When I saw this topic, I knew that leadership in Catholic schools is more than administrators. Leadership in Catholic schools involves all those who show pride and commitment to furthering the mission of the school. Staff, teachers, administrators, benefactors, parents, and students are all leaders. We work as the Body of Christ in Catholic schools. We lift each other up and work to strengthen our education and our faith.
The last week was Catholic Identity. Catholic identity needs to be visible in all things that we do and throughout the school. We need to let guests know that from the moment they arrive on our campus that we are Catholic. We need to show the loving, compassionate, welcoming spirit to all who are a part of our school community. I believe my school does a tremendous job sharing our Catholic identity and I am blessed to be a member of this school.
I have found great joy, passion, and excitement for my Catholic faith over the past 11 weeks. I know I will continue to share the stories that my school has to tell, which I can then only hope will ignite the passion for the Catholic faith even more to my PLN. I want people to be a part of the love of Christ that St. Michael School has and shares.
Thank you, NCEA, for letting me be a part of this tremendous opportunity. I know I have grown as a follower of Christ and more passionate educator because of the Social Media Influencer Contest. I can’t wait to continue to share my faith and influence others to do the same!
Adam W. Cottos