Category Archives: Learning

Living more simply…

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Sometimes in life we can make life tougher for ourselves… we rush things, cram in too much to every day and also fail to live in the present. It is easy to recognise these things when we take a step back and take the “long view” but perhaps more challenging in the here and now.

We also fill our lives with possessions and things we believe we can’t do without. My ten year old daughter once asked me to name the worst week of her life… I was suddenly worried that she had faced some unknown trauma or difficultly that I had missed and that I had failed her in some way as her Dad. I was relieved when she revealed to me the worst week of her life was when we went on holiday to France and she had no internet access! But also there was a sense of sadness that she felt that she couldn’t cope without the joys of YouTube or going online.

I joined in with a Year 7 class discussion on surviving the internet and social media detox they had just had for 24 hours. I was shocked by how isolated they felt by this but there is something we can learn from it.

I think our deepest satisfactions come from the simplest things – time with people we love, time to rest, times when we learn or are inspired. So I hope this week we can find some opportunity to do this.

A few thoughts;

  • What can we do to declutter our lives?
  • How can we find the time for the things that matter most in our lives?
  • How by having less possessions or “disconnecting” in some way can we be happier?

So to model this we can pray simply… I will share a prayer written by a Year 9 this week after I challenged him to think about how to be a positive part of our community…

Dear God,

Please bless this school with your greatness as St Paul’s is a great school that loves you.

Please bless everyone and everything that they do everyday.

Please help students make good choices as they go throughout their everyday lives.

Thank you. AMEN

God bless.

The chosen people…

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This week we have the theme of Church as a focus in our school community. In a very simplistic way we probably think immediately of a variety of Church buildings or experiences we have had.

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In essence this may be missing the point. The Church is actually God’s “chosen people” – a community responding to the call of faith to come and worship together. In the photograph of the brick wall we can see the different shapes, colours and textures of every brick which are unique and different, yet together they make the one wall bound together to make something which is greater in some way.

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Some of my best experiences of being part of the Church have come in unusual surroundings ranging from celebrating Mass in a railway carriage on the way back from pilgrimage in Lourdes to gathering under a tree in Zimbabwe and sharing the Gospel with a community in a rural village awaiting a priest (who never turned up!). The word Catholic means universal or worldwide and it is a great joy that wherever you go in the world you belong to part of the community, even if we don’t understand the language we can engage with the faith we share.

The world feels at times troubled and divided facing great challenges in tragedy, terrorism and political division. However, I feel so blessed as I have the perfect tonic to recover my belief in humanity, faith, life and hope. I have the joy of walking into a vibrant school community each day. Being surrounded by young people (and staff!) so full of vitality, joy, energy and positivity brings joy to my heart.

This week we celebrate our Patron Saint’s Day as we celebrate the feast of St Peter and St Paul. This culminates for us on a day on Friday full of fundraising, activities and time celebrating all that is best in our school.

A few thoughts for the week ahead;

  • How can we build up the strength of the Church community?
  • What can we do to celebrate the diversity and difference we find in our communities?
  • How can we ensure we continue to see light and hope even in times of challenge and conflict?

So in advance thank you for making St Paul’s such a special community that I am so proud of because in essence #thisismychurch!

God bless.

We are one body…

It seems like we are living in a divided and troubled world.

We have shared a minutes silence more often in the last 4 weeks than I remember in twenty years of being a teacher. We have witnessed the horrific Grenfell Tower fire with such tragic loss of life and continued extremism and terrorist attacks, the latest at Finsbury Park Mosque.

This is combined with a country divided by the election, the start of Brexit negotiations and a Government formed on a deal with a small group of politicians never before at the heart of the political system. I was proud to see the alternative speech written by a fellow Headteacher, John Tomsett, in the days following the election. Well worth a read – if only politicians could show brave leadership and integrity at the times it is most needed.

In all of this unease and confusion we need to strive to find Christ among us. We can see this in the goodness of human action in responding to challenge and tragedy. God is good and God is love. This is what we need to see shining through even in the darkest times.

The Feast of Corpus Christi, the Body of Christ, marks how we invite Jesus into our lives in the sacrament of the Eucharist or Communion. He is truly present in this moment. It also prompts me to consider how we can be “in communion with one another”.

So perhaps we can do a few small things this week;

  • Look to find the goodness in humanity
  • Be able to offer light and hope in some small way to others we encounter each day
  • Stop for a minute to give thanks to God for all we are blessed with – our safety, our homes, our food, our faith…

I hope and pray that we can all be part of one body, one community to enrich the gift of life that God gave us all.

God bless.

A still small voice of calm…

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All of us need calm and tranquility somewhere in our lives. A sense that we can find a time to stop, even for a short moment, to find an inner peace that grounds us in some basic way.

This week we have celebrated the feast of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit, that reminds us of God’s presence amongst us in the world and the challenge we have been given to live out faith inspired by the life of Christ. As the Holy Spirit is not visible, physically, it is often represented by wind, fire or a dove. It may help us to have something tangible to think about and represent the power of God.

All of us have been shocked and horrified by the recent terrorist attacks in London and Manchester and mourn the innocent loss of life. Sometimes we can only understand it fully by thinking of our families, our children, us being in the same position. It can make it more real to us rather than just the latest images on 24hr news. The challenge is  for us to use this time of darkness to bring greater light and hope.

We live in a democracy and as we prepare for our general election this week we need to make a commitment to not relying on tabloid headlines that divide us or breed distrust or hatred. We need instead to make a renewed commitment to tolerance, understanding and unity in all that we do.

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Working in education we are privileged to have the opportunity to transform the lives and futures of every young person in our care. This is a gift but also a great responsibility. Let us grasp this opportunity to make a real difference in all we do.

When we find ourselves challenged by all that happens around us this is an opportunity to ask for God to be with us – “come Holy Spirit”. Rather than disbelief I hope and pray to find God in the love, compassion, care and selflessness of people who reach out and act with such loving kindness.

A few questions for the week ahead;

  • What can you do to encourage love, tolerance and understanding when faced by the challenges we see in the world?
  • How can we use the gift of education to transform people’s hearts and minds and build a better future?
  • How can we feel the presence of God amongst us as we think about the power of the Holy Spirit?

Thank you, in advance, for all you will do this half term to make St Paul’s a place of vitality, happiness, light and hope.
God bless.

 

Be the change you wish to see in the world…

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We need to “be the change we wish to see in the world”. This week after the horrific scenes in Manchester we need to have a shared commitment to live with love, compassion and forgiveness. If people look to drive us apart, accentuate our differences and conflict we have a chance to move closer together instead.

As we celebrate today the Feast of the Ascension we remember Jesus is not leaving us alone but saying, “I will always be with you” and reassuring us that the Holy Spirit, the power of God in the world, will always be with us.

In times of tragedy or suffering we need to trust in God to heal the hurt, division and distrust.

We pray today for our leaders to use love as the most powerful weapon to destroy hate and terror.

We pray for all the innocent victims of the terrorist attack in Manchester and their families. May God comfort them in their suffering and angush.

We pray for those vulnerable in society to being led towards violence and hatred in the world. May God give them strength to listen to His voice within them to do good and reject evil.

We pray that we can live our lives full of faith, hope and love.

God bless.

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I am proud to be Catholic and proud of the example of Pope Francis #thisismypope. This week he spoke these words in Mass to all of us.

“You can have defects, be anxious and live irritated sometimes, but do not forget that your life is the biggest company in the world.

Only you can prevent her from going into decline.
There are many who appreciate you, admire you and love you.

I would like you to remember that to be happy, is not to have a sky without storms, road without accidents, works without fatigue, relationships without disappointments.

To be happy is to find strength in forgiveness, hope in battles, security in the box of fear, love in disagreements.

Being happy is not only valuing the smile, but also reflecting on sadness.
It is not just to commemorate success, but to learn lessons in failures.
It is not just to have joy with applause, but to have joy in anonymity.

To be happy is to recognize that life is worth living, despite all the challenges, misunderstandings, and periods of crisis.

Being happy is not a fatality of destiny, but a conquest for those who know how to travel within their own being.

To be happy is to stop being a victim of problems and become an actor in one’s own history.
It is to cross deserts out of itself, but to be able to find an oasis in the recesses of our soul.
It is to thank God every morning for the miracle of life.

Being happy is not being afraid of your own feelings.
It is knowing how to talk about yourself.
It is courage to hear a “no”.
It is safe to receive criticism, even if it is unfair.
It is to kiss the children, to pamper parents, to have poetic moments with friends, even if they hurt us.

To be happy is to let the free, happy and simple creature live within each one of us.
It is to have maturity to say ‘I was wrong’.
It is to have the audacity to say *forgive me*.
It is to have sensitivity to express *’I need you’*.
It is to be able to say * ‘I love you’ *.

May your life become a garden of opportunity to be happy …
May you be joyous in your spring.
In your winter you are friend of wisdom.
And when you get in the way, start all over again.
Then you will be more passionate about life.
And you will discover that to be happy is not to have a perfect life.
But use tears to water the tolerance.
Use the losses to refine the patience.
Use flaws to sculpt serenity.
Use pain lapping pleasure.
Use obstacles to open the windows of intelligence.
Never give up ….
Never give up on the people you love.
Never give up being happy, because life is a must-see! “

Pope Francis

Living life to the full

live-life-to-the-fullest-quote-with-picture-of-the-sea-live-life-to-the-fullest-quotes-of-the-day.pngWhat do you do that makes you feel most fully alive? Seems like an ideal first date question… it could be interesting in the week ahead to ask a few people this question even if there are no first dates on the cards!

For some of us it may be that we have a love of our job, pastime, sport or time with our families. All these things may be important to us and give us a sense of purpose, enjoyment or satisfaction in what we do each day. I believe that we are most deeply fulfilled when we find this sense of purpose and meaning and it “banks the resilience” to deal with whatever life may challenge us with.

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In the Gospel reading this week it finished by Jesus saying, “I have come so that you they may have life and have it to the full.” This is directed at us and poses the question about how we can respond. We can be inspired by this in some way to explore and find the “definite purpose” God has created us for. The enjoyment is the journey as well as living this out in some way.

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This weekend I had a great opportunity to do this by spending 4 days with 145 students and staff doing an activity weekend on the beautiful Dorset coast. You can physically see the journey they embark on – some nervous and anxious about being away from home or taking on new physical or personal challenges. The reality is that every person comes back changed, in some small way, having achieved something or breathed in a new experience in their lives. It was simply fantastic and a joy to be with them to share in this adventure.

I am so grateful to do something that I truly love. I knew the first day I came into teaching that it was what I was meant to do and each day has provided fresh opportunities to learn and grow so I thank the students, families and staff for providing this inspiration.

My sister-in-law noticed a National Teacher Appreciation Day on Facebook which was 9th May. So in honour of all of you who dedicate so much to education, learning and caring so deeply about the young people we serve, simply thank you for making such a difference each and every day. You will never know the everlasting impact of what you do and how far-reaching your impact will be.  As the wonderful Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

So let’s do it… take the challenge and live life to its fullest each and every day. It could be quite a journey!

If you fancy finding out more about teaching or training with us get in touch at St Paul’s and through Inspire Teaching School Alliance we lead.

On the road together

the-emmaus-road-a-chiasm-in-luke.jpgIn this week’s Gospel account we hear about the followers of Jesus meeting a stranger on the road to Emmaus. They were heading downhearted from Jerusalem having seen Jesus crucified and defeated, on one level they were walking away from their faith, hopes and dreams for the future. On the journey they were joined by a mysterious stranger walking alongside them who made their hearts “burn”. In the breaking of bread at the meal they finally recognised Christ amongst them.

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I think this is a great Gospel account in this time of Easter and resurrection. It makes me think of how we can sometimes walk through life blind to the fact that Jesus has walked alongside us. At other times maybe we need to be open to the fact that we can find God with us in those who walk alongside us in life’s journey.

A few thoughts for the week ahead…

  • How can we be full of faith even when the situation may be hopeless?
  • Where can we find Jesus alongside us day to day?
  • How can we encounter God in those we meet day to day and at times be God’s presence to others?

I hope this week that we can all find a small way to encounter God on the journey ahead of us. With hope and faith we too can be people of resurrection and light.