Have a go at doing this: think about your most treasured memories of school, either as a student or as an educator. Which moments resonate most strongly? When you think about what inspired or motivated you, was it something that was a head moment or a heart moment? After two days of reflecting, discerning, discussing and sharing our experiences, I can confidently say it is the heart moments that are the most rewarding in education. The encouraging words, the integrity of the actions of our colleagues, maintaining dignity in the person, essentially it is what touches our hearts that ultimately inspires and motivates us to continue.
I have had the distinct privilege of learning about the charism of DOLSH (Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart) and the MSC (Missionaries of the Sacred Heart) in my first year at OLSH this year. There is something really rewarding, working in a congregational school or a systemic school whose tradition resonates with a congregation. Learning about Jules Chevalier, a French priest and founder of the orders DOLSH and MSC, a man whose thinking was certainly ahead of its time. For starters, he believed in the power of educating women to transform the lives of others, in a time when education for women was a rarity and certainly not valued. The 1800’s in France was not necessarily a time when educating women was considered to have any importance. In fact, when you look back at those times, it was the emergence of these religious orders, and others that really helped to meet the needs of the community. They were forward thinking, progressive and really understood the communities that they served.
This really made me think a lot about what it means to lead with heart. Leading with heart is not always easy, particularly if your head is warning you of the barriers that are ahead. The courage of these women, in setting up schools for girls in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide is a courageous example of leading with heart. The first day of our conference was Friday and I was really pleased to have met my colleagues in other OLSH schools. We spent the day in retreat, led by Patricia Thomas, one of the most impressive women I have ever met in faith formation and spirituality, allowing the charism be brought to life through scripture, with a focus on spirituality and at times, focusing introspectively on our own experiences. I felt that the day was really quite valuable. For starters, it was the first day, in a really long time where my colleagues and I have had an opportunity to just stop. To stop, think and reflect. This is something that is really valued less and less in our society. Thinking, deep thinking and reflecting, allowing the silence to fill the space is so powerful. Powerful because thinking and reflecting allows new ideas to come forth, ways to deal with situations – all these moments of clarity are just absolutely wonderful.
On Friday night we had dinner at Ubud in Kingsford which was great. I had some fantastic conversations about curriculum, with a teacher from Bentleigh who holds the equivalent executive curriculum role in her school as I do at Kensington. We debated quite passionately the relative strengths in the respective NSW / VIC curricula. I got to hear about how they have begun to implement the Australian Curriculum in their school. The best part of the experience was the agreement that we should continue our discussion, with the curriculum coordinator from Enfield to consider ways we can integrate our curriculum experiences, to really enhance the OLSH charism in our schools – a way to link each school.
Saturday was a great day. We heard from the Provinical, Sr Pauline Compton DOLSH who is one very wise woman. She spoke about her experiences and opportunities for teaching with heart and leading with heart. Sr Pauline led us through some reflective experiences, allowing the great work of the previous day to prepare us for this experience. I will focus on these reflective questions in another post, because I am thinking about how I am going to share this with my team of KLA coordinators, in order to enhance our current practice.
We finished the day with mass in the beautiful and serene chapel in the OLSH convent and then lunch. It was such a great experience to learn about the differences in each of our schools, in terms of the communities that we serve. It gave me so many ideas about how I would like to lead curriculum in my own school, a focus that imbues the charism in a deeper way.
I really think that our conference, ‘Leading with Heart’ has allowed for deep conversations about learning, teaching and leading. This was made possible through the efforts of the presenters, whose focus on reflecting and embracing silence allowed for deep thinking and creativity. The conference was renewing in that it allowed me to think and to innovate. I should really acknowledge the great executive team that I’m part of, because it was our exec that organised this great conference experience. I believe it has created a platform for future conferences where we are able to explore lasting connections.
‘Leading with Heart’ – what does it mean to you?