Sydney Catholic Schools Executive Director, Dr Dan White swapped the office for the classroom from May 2 to 6 when he immersed himself in the life of Sacred Heart Catholic Primary Cabramatta.
As well as his regular visits to schools, each year Dr White spends a week at one school to get a deeper understanding of the needs and challenges of Sydney Catholic Schools. The five-day immersion assists in forward planning and enables Dr White to affirm the work of the teachers and support staff, provides a connection to a faith community and allows the school’s principal to have renewal leave.
Sacred Heart Assistant Principal, Dee Rotondo, said no bells and whistles were put on for Dr Dan’s visit.
“We gave him an authentic, normal week with all our ups and downs. It was terrific having him here and a joy, privilege and honour to work with such an inspirational leader.”
During his five days at Sacred Heart Primary, Dr White visited each classroom, observed the students’ lessons, taught Year 5 and 6 Religious Education, participated in a spelling lesson in Year 1, and joined the parents at a Mother’s Day Mass. He also had morning tea and lunch with the school community, spent time with the office staff, building workers constructing the school’s new facilities, with the executive and teaching staff and with Sacred Heart parish priests, Fr Liem Duong (Administrator) and Fr Nen Dang.
Dr White said it was a real thrill connecting with the children, hearing them laugh, pray and learn.
Teaching a Religious Education lesson on Holy Week to Years 5 and 6, using a thinking strategy called ‘Scripture Detours’, was a particularly rewarding experience. The strategy breaks open the Holy Week story and encourages the students to think about what if something different happened and consider how that would change things.
“The students’ knowledge of the scriptures was really pleasing,” Dr White said. “They had a deep knowledge of the story and their ability to think up ‘what if’ questions was terrific.”
Another highlight for Dr White was seeing an authentic faith community in action which he experienced through a beautiful Mother’s Day Mass, a children’s liturgy and through the daily prayer life at the school.
“There’s a richness in the spirituality at Sacred Heart that’s enhanced by the Vietnamese community and enriched by the presence of the Sisters of Our Lady of the Southern Cross,” he said.
At the end of the week, Dr White was energised by the experience and could definitely say yes to the two questions he always asks after being at a school: “Does this school deserve to have the word Catholic in its title?” and “Would I send my child to this school?”