Posted by Julia Goonan
on 10 March 2020
The Lasallian Leaders Gathering began March with a sense of unity and new beginnings. The leaders among the District gathered at the Ex Serviceman's Club in Orange, where Lasallian School, James Sheahan Catholic High School is located. Principal, Peter Meers welcomed the attendees,
"This has been an amazing privilege for our School and community. This is the first time such an event has been held outside of an Australian Capital City. It has been a chance for our students to shine."Kicking off the three days of the Seminar was Br David Hawke, Br Visitor, and Merv McCormack, Executive Director, Lasallian Mission Council, with their opening address to the 60 attendees that included, Principals, CEOs, leaders and coordinators from across the District. The leaders travelled from as far as Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, and New Zealand, as well as from every state of Australia. Br David and Merv expressed the appreciation they have for the crucial role that every participant plays in their School. The two prominent leaders for the District highlighted incredible achievements made by the participants, including the influences they have had on students.
Presentations across the first day included Leading From the Heart as Leader and Educating from the Heart with Andrew Lines and Keeping the Rumour of Angels Alive with Jill Gowdie. Andrew's first presentation on Educating from the Heart came from a practitioner's perspective - giving insight to the layers of how students learn. He said, "Academic testing is front and centre, social and emotional learning and wellbeing is typically pushed to the back seat". Andrew's Leading form the Heart presentation centred around the idea that "as leaders, great things ARE possible if we look after ourselves and those around us". Jill Gowdie has worked in Catholic Education for over 30 years spanning from teaching, writing, researching and consulting the leadership with the school system. She outlined in her presentation that "Hospitality is both an ancient virtue and prophetic practice...It makes us givers and receivers... How does this make great things possible today?"
These presentations were complemented with Workshops, presented by Michelle Whiteley, Assistant Principal at James Sheahan Catholic High School, Br Ambrose Payne, District Professional Standards Officer, and Peter Houlihan, Principal of De La Salle College Malvern. Michelle Wheatley led a workshop on Implementing a Positive Education Approach, where she discussed strategies that James Sheahan has implemented to focus on student mental health, resilience, wellbeing and attendance issues. Br Ambrose's workshop was The Role of Leadership in Not-For-Profit Organisations whereby he contended that leadership in a professional service context is a collective process and that interactive dynamics is a tension that the leaders must continuously work on to achieve. Peter Houlihan's workshop in Lasallian Leadership in the Secondary School Context involved a focus on Lasallian Values and how to use the Founder's works as the basis for leadership lessons in learning and teaching and several aspects of school life.
Participants had the opportunity to collaborate and discuss ideas within each workshop that had differing focuses to broaden their horizons and perspectives. The visitors also had the chance to speak with Sheahan students, to visit a Year 7 Contemporary Learning Class and to learn about the School's farm, including aquaculture and recycling. The guests were also invited to a welcome assembly where they enjoyed a school liturgy, Aboriginal dancing, a candle ceremony and a performance by the James Sheahan orchestra.
Tuesday began with Morning prayer which was followed by workshops, one of which was The Work is Ours: Nurturing and Sustaining our Lasallian Identity with Br Peter Ryan. Br Peter asked the participants two main focus questions: "What does my School do well in any of the dimensions of nurturing and sustaining Lasallian identity and charism through the School's culture? And what do I consider one priority for my School to better nurture and sustain our Lasallian Charism?" Being Lasallian with Martin Chamberlain was an opportunity to share the Lasallian practices he uses in his School and seek input from the participants regarding the practices used in their schools. The final workshop was from Ken Moroney, What are the Characteristics of Effective Leadership in a Contemporary Organisation? The workshop explored leadership in the context of how it comes about and understanding the traits of poor leadership.
The conference was complete with a final lunch together and closing prayer. A few of the participants gave some insight as to what they took away from the conference:
"The power of fellowship. We are a family and we support one another. We build one another. We nurture one another. We celebrate our successes. We empathise with our challenges."
"Absolutely loved every session. Appreciate the stories shared and the advice given to leaders."
"Very relevant to my work. Putting some ideas to use straight away in a formation program that commences at School later today."