Sunday, August 08, 2010

Finding a Groove

This is Mr. Weber's address to students on August 9, JPII's first full week of school for the 2010-2011 school year.

Good morning. I've been speaking to a lot of last year's graduates from JPII recently. Most of them are leaving for college this week or next, including Aaron, my son, who will be leaving for Notre Dame on the 17th.

Freshman year is generally the toughest year of college--not, so much, because of the difficulty of the courses, but because of everything else. I remember there was a guy in my section of the dorm at Notre Dame--a good guy with a very impressive set of high school credentials, who completely unraveled during his freshman year. He drank on Wednesday through Saturday night, recovered from his 4 day hangover on Sunday, tried to squeeze in a week's worth of work on Monday and Tuesday, and starting drinking again on Wednesday. At the end of the first semester, he had a .8 grade point average (and it was only that high because he had P.E.) and by the end of his freshman year, despite the fact N.D. was his life's dream, he ended up having to leave the university for a local community college.

Many freshman do poorly in their first year. Why? Because quite suddenly, there's no one there to order their lives. Do you wake up in time for class? Mom isn't there to wake you up. Do you go out drinking on Thursday night? Dad isn't there to say no.Do you keep your room clean? Do your laundry? Attend classes faithfully? Go to church on Sunday? Pay your bills on time? Do your homework? All of those decisions are your own to make, or avoid making.

When we were children, our lives were structured by our parents, as was proper. Nap times, chores, meal times, homework times and bed times were imposed on us by our parents. Psychologists agree that kids are creatures of habit and need these patterns. If you have a baby brother or sister and go on trips when their sleep times are disrupted, you know what I mean. They're generally cranky and out of sorts for the entire trip. So there was security as children in the routines imposed on us by our parents: our lives had a certain rhythm; we knew what to expect and what was expected of us.

The challenge of high school, in large measure, is that you must start setting up these routines for yourself. What time you go to bed, how much sleep you're getting, how much homework you're doing, when you're doing homework, are largely your own decisions. And as tempting as it is to assume the opposite, as young adults and as older adults, we are STILL in need of a routine to function well. No, we're not babies who get cranky when they miss nap time. But we do feel it when our lives lack order, when we're "winging it" day after day, without a pattern or structure to our day. We feel out of synch with ourselves.

So this week begins the first full week of high school in 2010-2011. The preliminary classes where teachers talk about grading and homework requirements are out of the way. The introductions are over. Now is the time to figure out which routines work best for you, and once you find out what these routines are, to stick with them. Are you a bus rider? Do you find you're able to do math in the bus on the way home? Are you an athlete who gets home around 6:45 and need an hour or so to clean up, eat and wind down a bit before hitting the books at 8? Or maybe you function best, if you get home earlier, in knocking out all your work before dinner so you can relax and talk with friends after dinner? Whatever works for you, cultivate it. Practice it consistently. Find your groove.

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