Leadership & Love: A Reflection

American Flag

I write to you today as both a parent and an educator. For those who know me, you are well aware that I am rarely at a loss for words, yet last evening I felt speechless. Today, through prayer, I found the words that I’d like to share with you.

If you are upset and frustrated after watching last night’s presidential debate, you are not alone. Policy issues aside, this event featured behavior that would be completely unacceptable in our classrooms. In fact, some of the behavior exhibited on that national stage would result in a school suspension or expulsion!

The politicians and pundits will likely continue to argue. As LCA educators, however, we will recommit ourselves to the important work of teaching respect and thoughtful conversation & dialogue. As people of faith, we will renew our commitment to form our students in humility, compassion, kindness, and social & moral justice. As academic leaders, we will rededicate ourselves to the intellectual tradition of Lakewood Catholic Academy that values truth and distinguishes the difference between facts and opinions. Since the world can’t look to our political leaders for this noble work, the world will look to us, the educators of tomorrow’s leaders. This is a heavy burden to carry during an already challenging year, but we will carry this work forward, because it is at the heart of our mission.

One small, tangible way that we at Lakewood Catholic Academy aim to build a more respectful and peaceful world is the incorporation of our communications class in both the seventh and eighth grade curricula. This class helps our students learn effective public speaking skills and introduces them to the art of true debate. As a former speech and debate competitor and coach, I assure you that our students are capable of more competent and constructive debate than what was televised last evening.

As the tumultuous political season continues to rage on, please be aware that, as a Catholic school, we do not endorse specific political candidates in our classroom conversations. Our teachers strive to share balanced perspectives when asked questions by our inquisitive students, and they regularly suggest that students share those questions with you, their parents. We encourage you to take time to thoughtfully and patiently discuss those issues that your children may bring to you.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops recently reissued a document entitled Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. The guidance provided within that document states, in part:

Our commitment as people of faith to imitate Christ’s love and compassion should challenge us to serve as models of civil dialogue, especially in a context where discourse is eroding at all levels of society. Where we live, work, and worship, we strive to understand before seeking to be understood, to treat with respect those with whom we disagree, to dismantle stereotypes, and to build productive conversation in place of vitriol.

While there is indeed a heaviness to the issues we face today, there is also an undeniable source of hope. My son and your children have the benefit of being part of a school community and a faith that teach love – a radical love, Christ’s love, a love that knows no bounds, embraces differences, mercifully forgives and calls forth compassion. The type of love the world so desperately needs.

In the midst of national and global distress, I hope this brings you some peace. Your children are taught love. Yes, they will learn our first-class curriculum, complete with all the subjects with which you are familiar, but of greater importance, they will learn love and kindness. May God continue to hold us close, and may the love shared within the walls of LCA and the love experienced in your own family inspire and empower our children to heal a broken world.

With Love,
Brian Sinchak
President

Looking Back | Looking Forward

A Message from the President

I don’t know about you, but, even with Cedar Point still closed, I don’t find myself yearning for the thrill of a rollercoaster just yet. Life itself has provided quite the ride lately. Over the last several weeks and months, I’ve experienced beautiful and joy-filled moments, including graduation celebrations for our tiny saints in our preschool program, as well as our kindergarten saints and our beloved eighth grade students. I’ve also experienced the deep sadness of disconnection from family and friends due to the COVID-19 health crisis. I’ve been inspired by the amazing work of our Early Childcare Program staff as they lovingly cared for children throughout the pandemic, and I have been encouraged by the social justice projects completed by our community – even during school closure. I’ve also been shaken to my core by the acts of racism and violence that have gripped our country. Tears and laughter, prayer and work – they are all part of these difficult days. It has been and continues to be quite the ride, not just for me, but perhaps for you as well.

In some ways, this wild journey may feel like we are approaching the apocalypse – a roller coaster drop to our doom. I’ve learned from writer Krista Tippett, however, that this Greek word apocalypse does not mean a catastrophic undoing. It means an uncovering — the lifting of a veil. The current realities of our world have indeed uncovered reckonings we must bravely walk toward if we are to become wise and whole as individuals, communities and institutions. This is not easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is. Will we create a more just, fair and safe world for our children — all of our children?

I hope so. Sometimes hope is all it takes to roll up your sleeves and get to work. Empowered by that hope, we have started to work, and will continue to do so, not just as individuals, but as a Catholic school community dedicated to bringing the Kingdom of God more fully into this world. Simultaneously, we will continue the necessary work to live out our mission as an International Baccalaureate World School committed to the development of inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.

LCA Saints At-Home Hero Unit

LOOKING BACK

In reflecting on the survey results regarding our Saints At-Home Learning Program, I was moved by the thoughtful comments shared by our parent community. Overwhelmingly, you supported our work and approach while still providing insightful suggestions for consideration as we move forward. One parent noted the important and timely work our middle school students completed during their interdisciplinary study of their biographical hero unit. In that unit, our students examined the lives of five incredible women and five incredible men – six were people of color, four were citizens of other countries, and all were people who changed the world in some significant way. When we planned this course of study in March, we couldn’t have imagined the parallels our students would discover between their school work and their world.

As the world was learning more and more about the coronavirus, our students examined the global pandemic of polio. As the world watched a space mission blast off, our students learned the history of NASA and the lessons learned from courageous exploration. As the Amazon rainforest burned, affecting global climate and animal life, our students studied the lives of those who work to conserve the natural world we all share. As the world awakened to racial injustice, our students read about the long history of struggle of Black Americans through poetic expression. And finally, as the world protested and rioted against racism, our students examined the history and power of nonviolent revolutions and the importance of prayer and reflection.

Saint Mother Teresa was one of the heroes our students studied, and in reflecting on her legacy, Father Gregory Boyle wrote,

She diagnosed the world’s ills in this way: we’ve just “forgotten that we belong to each other.” Kinship is what happens to us when we refuse to let that happen. With kinship as the goal, other essential things fall into place; without it, no justice, no peace. I suspect that were kinship our goal, we would no longer be promoting justice—we would be celebrating it.”

As is the case with all of our teaching, it is our hope and prayer that these lessons not only find their way into our students’ minds, but also their hearts. This is how the world changes.

Students with Mother Teresa Statue Student with Gandhi Statue

LOOKING FORWARD

We have significant work ahead of us. I know personally I am committing to doing some deep listening, reading and reflecting on how it is I can walk in the footsteps of some of the heroes our students studied, as well as how I can more closely follow the greatest hero of all, Jesus, who was fully committed to radical equality. Professionally, my administrative team and I will be working tirelessly this summer to continue to improve and enrich our innovative curriculum, create and install new health and safety features and protocols, as well as prepare new distance learning options for our students.

We are moving forward boldly with donor-sponsored renovations to our campus, including our school chapel and the creation of a new, state-of-the-art Innovation Lab. The pairing of these improvements offers a great lesson on the importance of adapting to new technologies without losing sight of the timeless tradition of prayer.

For those who may be worried about school structure in the fall, please know that Lakewood Catholic Academy will be ready to open and safely serve our students and families to the full extent allowed by our state government. Thanks to the more than 100 students enrolled in our early childhood program this summer, we already have experience with the new health and safety protocols. We will be excited to welcome your children back to campus in the fall. For those parents who might want their children to spend some time at home during the year ahead, please know that we will have distance learning options available for you as well.

As always, we will keep you informed throughout the summer months as we receive information and guidelines from the state government. While there may seem to be great uncertainly, please be certain of this…my team and I will adapt to whatever is tossed our way and will create an engaging educational experience for every little saint entrusted to our care. Speaking strictly as a parent myself, there is no better educational team that I would want to lead my family through a global pandemic than the one in place at Lakewood Catholic Academy.

We See in You the Glory of the Lord

If you find yourself on a rollercoaster this summer (either real or emotional), I encourage you to be gentle with yourself and others, and, above all, to hold on to hope. If you need a reason to hope, allow me to remind you of the inspiring work of a 2016 Lakewood Catholic Academy graduate, Chloe Becker, who will be studying at Harvard University in the fall.

Last summer, long before global protests demanding racial justice, Chloe began an artistic project focused on strengthening the Catholic Church’s voice against racism. Chloe shared her gift by creating a unique mural in the third and fourth grade wing of our campus that depicts primarily underrepresented Saints of color. In the mural, Saints are reaching down from heaven toward the Sacred Heart, holding flowers from their native lands. The words above the mural are taken from a worship hymn, We See in You the Glory of the Lord.

I see the Glory of the Lord shining brightly in Chloe, and this gives me hope. If LCA was one small part of Chloe’s formation, and it made a difference, then we have the opportunity to help form all of our student saints. These saints, tomorrow’s global leaders, are increasingly called to see the Glory of the Lord reflected in people unlike themselves, to go forth to serve others, and, in ways both big and small, to change the world.

Be a Saint!
Brian Sinchak
President

Entertain and Engage Despite The 7-Day Forecast

The weather has a way of dampening our plans. Unfortunately, when you have kids, it also has a knack for causing cabin fever. When you are stuck indoors with little bundles of energy, you sometimes have to get super creative to figure out what to do. After all, you can only stand the sound of Minecraft music in the background for so long, and even your kids will eventually get bored without something challenging to pour their energy into.

When it’s Teens

When the temperature outside is in the single digits or a storm is brewing, teenagers may retreat to their bedroom with video games in-hand. While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with wasting a wet afternoon away battling Bulbasoar or searching Hyrule for Princess Zelda, Education World explains kids don’t get much educational benefit from it.

Have them change things up a bit by grabbing a laptop to help them play a few educational games or finish up any lingering homework. If you don’t have one already, it’s an investment that they can use for years to come. Before you buy, however, look for one that will last – durable, plenty of storage, and easily portable.

In the Middle

Middle school children – those between 11 and 14 years – may still enjoy a few hands-on activities. Red Ted Art offers several ideas for weather-themed arts and crafts that even tweens may find fun and challenging. You might, for example, build a sun catcher, sundial, or a bottle wind spinner.

You can also use these creative sessions for their personal development and to help them learn about the weather and the world around them. If your kids are into music, put their knowledge to the test by playing “name that tune.” You can download songs to your phone or simply hum them out loud.

Something else that the not-yet-adult crowd may enjoy is getting in the kitchen to cook with you. By this age, they are plenty old enough to crack eggs, use the blender, and take things out of the oven with supervision. Mom Junction’s ideas for easy desserts can serve as great inspiration, but don’t be afraid to let them dig through the cabinets and pantry to come up with their own dishes.

Keep kids busy by letting them help in the kitchen.

The Littles

The elementary and younger crowd are both the easiest and the hardest to keep busy when the backyard is off limits. If you have multiple age groups, the littles may have already gotten jealous that their big brothers or sisters got to help out in the kitchen.

You can appease their need to refine their own culinary skills by making no-churn ice cream together. While you will still need to do the whipping, this is a great recipe for little hands to gently mix the ingredients together, and of course, you can let them pick the flavor and any extra ingredients like nuts or chips.

With the sugar rush, the youngest members in confinement will need a way to burn off some excess energy. This is another place where music can come in handy. This time, however, plan a dance party in the living room or use your smart home speaker for an impromptu karaoke session. You can also play hide and seek, have an indoor scavenger hunt, or, when all else fails, let them jump on the bed until nap time.

Unpleasant and unpredictable weather does not have to ruin your time together. Look for activities that are age-appropriate and that can serve as instruments of fun and educational growth. Whether that’s math games on the computer or whipping up a sweet dairy treat in the kitchen, there are many activities that can easily pull double-duty on those days Mother Nature puts your parenting skills to the test.

~Guest Blog Post by Alice Jonas, educatorsupport.org.
Image courtesy of Pexels.