CHARLESTON — The National Catholic Education Association convention in Baltimore attracted six principals from South Carolina, plus a number of teachers and diocesan educational leaders.
Those who went all agreed that one of the biggest attractions of the convention is the huge variety of break-out sessions that are offered each day.
One of those sessions was presented by Barbara Cole, principal of St. John Neumann in Columbia, who discussed “If Teachers are Happy, Everyone is Happy.”
“I get nervous about an hour before, worried that no one will show up,” Cole said in a phone interview with The Miscellany. “One presenter only had eight people in the audience, and I was terrified that would happen to me.”
It did not. Cole said she had a good crowd of educators, including Molly Halasz, principal of St. Andrew in Myrtle Beach.
Cole told her audience about the many methods she employs to keep her teachers and students happy. The list, compiled by teachers and staff at St. John Neumann, enumerates 100 things they appreciate most.
The top five are: prayers with us daily, support us with parents, always thinking of us, positive reinforcement and has time to listen.
Another item further down on the list is keeping the teachers’ lounge supplied with M&M’s.
“You can always tell the stress level of the teachers by how fast the M&M’s are eaten,” Cole said with a laugh.
Halasz said she enjoyed all the lectures she attended, and only wished she could have gone to more.
“You can’t possibly go to all the break-out sessions,” she said. “Every time, there were at least three I wanted to go to.”
One topic that she found particularly interesting involved bullying in cyberspace, which happens when children participate in hurtful gossip about other students during online chat-room sessions, Halasz said. She hopes to bring this session to her school.
“It can be very devastating to a child,” she said, noting that there have been several instances at other schools where children targeted by the gossip sank into a depression so severe they started talking about suicide.
“I think it’s more of a problem in public schools, but parents need to be aware of it,” Halasz said.
Other topics she and her teachers found interesting included the Holocaust and finding moral messages in modern-day films.
Sister Roberta Fulton said her interests depend on what her school’s needs are for that year. She is a Sister of St. Mary of Namur and principal of St. Martin de Porres School. She has been an educator for 25 years and has attended about 20 conventions.
“It is a wonderful experience,” she said. “I believe in what the NCEA stands for, and what the NCEA does.”