student teacher

Tania Vincent – Chaplain at St. Michael Catholic Secondary School

Tania Vincent - Chaplain at St. Michael Catholic Secondary School
About Tania Vincent

Tania Vincent (@stmchaplaincy) is the Chaplain at St. Michael Catholic Secondary School.  She is good friends with Angelo Minardi, a past guest on this show, and both of them share a very obvious passion for giving young people the best opportunities for future success.  

Connect with Tania: Email | Instagram | Twitter

Listen Now

Listen to the episode now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on your favourite podcast platform.

Resources Mentioned

St.Micheal Catholic Secondary School

What does a Chaplain Leader do?

Role of retreats

The Transcript

**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.

Sam Demma (00:00):
Welcome back to another episode of the High Performing Educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. Today’s guest is Tania Vincent. She is the Chaplain or the Chaplaincy leader of St. Michael Catholic Secondary School. She was someone who was also introduced to me by another past guest on the podcast. If you go back to the early days, this show was launched, I interviewed a good friend of mine.

Sam Demma (00:59):
His name is Angelo Minardi, and he gave Tania, Tania’s name as somebody that he thought I should speak to. And I’m so glad that I did because we had such a passion filled conversation. You can feel the authenticity and the genuine desire to impact her students in Tanya’s voice. And she shares so much amazing wisdom and advice from her own past experiences and for what she thinks the future might look like in education. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I enjoyed speaking to Tanya to create it and I will see you on the other side. Tanya, welcome to the High Performing Educator podcast. It is a huge pleasure to have you on the show. Why don’t you start by sharing with the audience who you are and how you got into the work that you do with young people today?

Tania Vincent (01:47):
Sure. So thanks. First of all, Sam, thanks for having me. So my name is Tania Vincent, and I’m currently the Chaplaincy leader at a high school in Bolton, Ontario called St. Michael Catholic Secondary School. Before I was a Chaplaincy leader, I was a high school teacher for about nine years and I I taught religion at a few different schools in Brampton. How did I get into this? I studied religion in University. And who in the world does that? And what do you do with that after you study religion and university? Well, I had no idea and I ended up going to teachers college and it turned out that I really, really loved the idea and loved the actual work with students, particularly with teenagers. And here we find ourselves today, you know, still doing it, still going at it, still trying to do it. And it’s been, it’s been great.

Sam Demma (02:42):
That’s awesome. At what point in your educational journey did you know, you know, yes, chaplaincy leader, that’s what it’s gonna be. Was there a defining moment for you or a progression?

Tania Vincent (02:54):
So I when I started teaching, I I just come outta teachers college and I worked with someone who kind of inspired me to go on to do some graduate work that I had never really thought about before. And so I started doing that and then I realized that this role that I have now in chaplaincy, that there was such an opportunity there to connect with to, with, to, to connect with young people in a very different way. It’s one thing when you’re a classroom teacher and you’re delivering curriculum, but you form a very different kind of relationship and rapport with students when you’re a chop and sea leader. And when you’re, you know, trying to encourage and help students kind of find their way in their journey of faith, even in adults in that matter. So that’s kind of how I ended up where I am today and what kind of inspired me to do. So

Sam Demma (03:43):
That’s cool. And I’m sure when you first started in this role it definitely looks different this year, as it does for anyone working in a school. What are the current challenges your school is facing? And there might be similar challenges in all schools and maybe what are some of the ways some of those challenges have been overcome, that’s working for you guys and you think might be valuable for other educators to hear?

Tania Vincent (04:07):
So I think first and foremost, the biggest challenge that I’m finding is that, or that I’m noticing in our school anyways, is student engagement because, you know, right now the way the model works in our school board in different field is students. It’s a hybrid model. Some students have chosen to stay home and, you know, be totally virtual a hundred percent. But for those that are in a hybrid model, they come to school for about two and a half hours in the morning. You know, they, they go straight to class and then they leave and there’s no, you know, you, there’s no, you know, leaving class to, you know, wander the hallway for 30 seconds or five minutes or whatever. There’s no there’s, there’s no opportunity to interact with other staff, with other students. You just come to go to your class and leave.

Tania Vincent (04:57):
And so students don’t feel engaged. They feel disengaged because it’s really become a building. You know, schools are, are these kind of great places for communities to develop, whether it’s because of co-curriculars or sports or athletics, all of these things, none of those things are very few of those things are happening right now. So we have a problem with keeping students engaged in anything beyond education. And even when it comes the educational piece, you know, we, and, you know, the, the, the adults in the building, if you will, are still figuring out how to do some of the same things that we would normally have done when we were physically all together in a school. And so I think, I guess, you know, the challenge really is how do we now continue to move forward and continue to learn and, you know, try to keep these students engaged, not only in the academic part, but in the other kind of stuff that happens at school.

Tania Vincent (05:52):
So like me being a child, for example, I, my role is to try to continue to keep students engaged in the faith aspect of school and of, you know, and of their lives. And that’s been its own challenge. But one of the things that I’m seeing is working is I know for, for me, and even in speaking with other colleagues is a willingness on our part as the educators to really kind of do things and step beyond our own comfort zones when it comes to being virtual, when it comes to being accessible in a virtual platform. So even something like, you know, I used to run retreats, for example. So how do you now, how do I now run retreats when I can’t physically take students out of the building, or I can’t necessarily see them face to face? Well, now I, I deliver retreats.

Tania Vincent (06:39):
I lead retreats virtually. It’s not, it’s not amazing. But it’s, it seems to be working. And I think it’s something that, you know, I can continue to build on. And the same thing goes for, you know, class for teachers in their virtual classrooms. You know, initially I think a lot of teachers were, you we’re there and they were, you know, sharing PowerPoints and all this kind of stuff. And, you know, again, this issue of student engagement, but as we become more comfortable as the adults with the technology, then we’re able to kind of infiltrate a few more ways to, you know, maybe make students more involved in their own learning processes. But that’s something, you know, we have to work on too, right. Because we’re not, you know, like you said, you know, a lot of, a lot of things have changed since March and we need to be willing to move past what we’re used to doing. That’s the thing, right. Everybody wants to kind of mimic what we did before, what we did in person. And I think part of the challenge is recognizing that we can’t necessarily mirror or mimic what, what we did before, but we need to look at other ways to still keep students engaged and still remind them that we are a school community.

Sam Demma (07:47):
Yeah. That’s so true. And the community piece is huge. You know, how do we ensure as educators, as people that work in the school that the students still feel appreciated and heard. And I know that’s a big part of chaplaincy as well, because you’re almost like, you know, an extra guidance counselor that they might come to before going to a guidance office. You know, yeah. How do we make sure the students still feel appreciated? So I think,

Tania Vincent (08:15):
So I think, you know, I think first and foremost, I think they need to recognize a real, I should say that we are still accessible so that even though, you know, they can’t leave class to come and see me in my office, for example, or they can’t leave class to go and talk to a guidance counselor. That doesn’t mean that, that they’re still not able to contact me or contact, you know, a guidance counselor or whatever. So, you know, if I’ve kind of found more creative ways for them to do that. But I, I really think it’s really important that I continue, at least what I’ve been doing is I try to make, make sure that they realize that I’m available even virtually, you know, my DMS are open on Instagram, for example. Right. So I know it, it sounds kind of funny, like to hear someone say that , but it’s true because a lot of people, a lot of students will reach out to me that way as, Hey, miss, can I come and talk to you about something?

Tania Vincent (09:06):
Absolutely. And then, you know, you can use that that’s, you know, just an opening door for them, but letting them know that they’re still, their, their voice is still being heard. Their concerns are still being heard and addressed, and we wanna hear their concerns. I think that’s part of it too. Right. We, they need to know that not only are we accessible, but we wanna hear what they have to say. I know when I, when I meet with students, when I meet with a, you know, a small group of students once a week, I always kind of ask them, it’s not even, you know, I asked them, what is it I can do for you that maybe I’m not doing or something that I did before when we were, you know, in total lockdown that you really appreciated that I can maybe bring back that I haven’t been doing, but what is it that you wanna see as students in our school to, you know, to ensure that you feel appreciated because students are a huge part of our school be community.

Sam Demma (09:57):
Yeah. I would argue almost the whole part , but yeah, without the, without the teachers and educators, but and you guys play a huge role in organizing the community and keep it moving along and transforming the community. I think a huge part of school is also, you know, helping students become self com confident in their abilities, because a lot of the time they don’t know what they’re doing. We don’t know what we’re doing. We have to learn as we go, you know, a student gets a new assignment, they have to learn the, the barrier is for them to say, I believe in myself enough to find the information, to figure this out. And I think, you know, that transformation is a, a huge part of, of school and of education. Do you have any stories of transformation that you’ve seen as a direct result of education in your school? And the reason I ask is because another educator might be a little burnt out right now thinking like, I don’t know what’s going on this year. You know, maybe this is their first year teaching and they’re like, what the heck am I doing here? And those stories might motivate them to remember this work is so important.

Tania Vincent (10:59):
Yeah, I think, you know, in my, in my own personal experience, one of the things that I do every day, one of my jobs, if you will, is to lead the school in prayer every morning. Mm. And so what I do with my, so I write these reflections and you know, on a very personal level, they become all was therapeutic, I guess, or they’ve allowed me to kind of exercise a muscle that I haven’t exercised in a while, but I digress. And so I, you know, I see them every morning at school, but we have a large, you know, number of students that aren’t in the building. So I also post them on Instagram. Hmm. And, you know, I, I spoke before about making sure that students know that I’m accessible. And so one of the things that I’ve had happen a lot, whether we were, it happened when we were sort of in lockdown and schools first shut down and it continues to happen now is me, you know posting these reflections and they’re about all kinds of things.

Tania Vincent (11:53):
And I try to make them kind of relevant to, you know, to students and to, to younger people, to young people. But sometimes they kind of trigger something or, you know, you say something or I write something, I should say that somebody needs to hear that day. And they send me a message. They send me a D and that says, Hey, you wrote something to today. This kind of really, I really appreciated that. And it starts a conversation mm-hmm . And I think that whether you are like me and have to, you know, lead people in prayer every morning, or whether you are just starting off a class online that day I think it’s really important to try to say something that’s not necessarily even curriculum based, even if it’s just, Hey, how’s it going today, everybody, right. How are you feeling? What, you know, one thing I do when I meet with my group weekly is I ask them to give me their highs and the low, their lows for the week.

Tania Vincent (12:47):
And, you know, it’s amazing to know sometimes their highs are really great. Sometimes it’s like, Hey, you know, I did well on a quiz today. Something that might not seem so important in the grand scheme of things, but it gives a student an opportunity to, to think about something positive. And it also gives ’em the opportunity to share something that’s maybe not going so great. And as the adults, as the educator, you know, you get a, you get some insight into your students that you might not otherwise get. Right. Instead of being so curriculum focused, you’re so focused on getting things done. You know, the thing I feel like we’re so worried about making sure we get everything done, because we’re trying to mimic what we would normally do. And we, we have to, we have to try as a collective, I guess, I don’t even know, but we have to try to move past not, and remember that right now. I think the, the importance of relationship and building relationship with our students, I think that is paramount over everything else because everybody’s finding it, tough adults, kids, administration, we’re all finding this challenging. But if we realize that we’re all in this together, and if we just vocalize that with our students, I feel like that really can breed some really great things.

Sam Demma (14:02):
That’s amazing insight. And I’ve had so many other guests give such similar advice on relationships and building relationships. And I think that’s so powerful because when someone trusts you, they, they’re more open to tell you things. And that comes through a strong relationship that you build with them over time. You shed some great advice on the fact that we can’t continually focus on education, being something that we have to solely focus on shoving curriculum, you know, through the day and making sure we finish it but adjusting and allowing the students to speak or, you know, slightly adjusting to what they might need that day. If there’s an educator listening who’s in their first year, and maybe they got into a role where they took on that mentality of here’s the outline here’s what has to get done. What other advice would you give them, maybe even to your younger self when you first started?

Tania Vincent (14:55):
First take a breath that would be the first thing to take a breath and be open to trying new things, and don’t be afraid to, to fail. And I guess at the end of it all, really, what is, I guess, what I’m getting at is be patient with yourself. Mm. Cause I’m finding that even now, because we’re all trying new things and we’re all kind of figuring out this new mode of, you know, delivering education and building community, be patient with yourself. And if something doesn’t work oh, well, so it doesn’t work. So you don’t do it again. You know we have to be willing to kind of make mistakes and giving, granting ourselves a little bit of grace and patience when some of those things don’t work, but it’s gonna get easier. You know, that’s what I would tell them. That’s what I would tell my my first year self is it’s gonna get easier and in, you know, enjoy your students or enjoy your time with your students while, while you have there, because you can learn so much from them too. And you’re all experiencing this together. Like, you know, I said that already, but you, we’re all kind of figuring this out together. Don’t be afraid to make those mistakes and be patient with yourself when you do.

Sam Demma (16:05):
I love that. That’s such a great piece of advice. And if another educator is listening and wants to hit you up in the DMS or, you know, get in touch and just bounce some ideas around what would be the best way for them to do so?

Tania Vincent (16:20):
It’d either be on Instagram or on Twitter and you can find me there @stmchaplaincy.

Sam Demma (16:26):
Okay. Perfect. Awesome. Tania, thank you so much for making some time I chat on the show. It’s been a huge pleasure doing this, and I look forward to seeing all the work you continue to do in the school.

Tania Vincent (16:36):
Thanks so much for having me.

Sam Demma (16:38):
And there you have it. Another amazing guest, an amazing interview on the High Performing Educator podcast. As always, if you enjoy these episodes, please consider leaving a rating and review so other educators like yourself can find this content and benefit from it. And here’s an exclusive opportunity that I mentioned at the start of the show. If you wanna meet the guest on today’s episode, if you wanna meet any of the guests that we have interviewed, consider going to www.highperformingeducator.com and signing up to join the exclusive network. You’ll have access to networking events throughout 2021 and other special opportunities. And I promise, I will not fill your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Tania Vincent

The High Performing Educator Podcast was brought to life during the outbreak of COVID-19 to provide you with inspirational stories and practical advice from your colleagues in education.  By tuning in, you will hear the stories and ideas of the world’s brightest and most ambitious educators.  You can expect interviews with Principals, Teachers, Guidance Counsellors, National Student Association, Directors and anybody that works with youth. You can find and listen to all the episodes for free here.