Sunday, January 30, 2011

It begins with the teachers

Yesterday was the beginning of Catholic Schools Week, a national celebration of Catholic Schools.

We spend a lot of time during the year bragging on you and all your successes, and in fact, we're very proud of all your achievements. But this morning, I’d like to take this occasion to focus on your teachers.

From time to time, I do parking lot duty with Mr. McLaren. One thing I can’t help noticing: some of you have some VERY nice cars. It would be interesting to calculate the average value of the car in the student parking lot with the average car in the faculty parking lot. That comparison will probably reveal what you may have been able to guess: Your teachers make a financial sacrifice to be your teachers.

They could be making a lot more money; these are smart, interesting people! Among your teachers are valedictorians of their high schools, teachers with 4.0 grade point averages in college, teachers of the year, writers of textbooks, presidential award winners, former investment bankers, former principals, former executives in business, former journalists, former premier athletes, former military men, and former university professors.

Unlike most jobs, when teachers go home to their families after a long day, they still have grading to do, prep for tomorrow’s class, tests to create, recommendations to write, emails to respond to, ball games to attend and plays to watch. Most teachers spend at least 6-8 hours preparing classes during the weekend. Most come to school early, some times to help you with tutorials, and leave late, perhaps due to some of their afternoon time has been spent with detentions or with after school tutorials.

They agonize over your failures and worry about you when you seem upset, or despondent, or having a rough time. They rejoice with your successes, cheer loudly when you beat a rival team, and watch with pride during a theatrical or musical production.

Some of you may remember that each June, I ask you to tell me what you regard as the strengths of JPII and also what you regard as areas we can improve upon. Let me share with you some of your comments you made, and see if you notice a common theme.

The strengths of JPII, in your own words, are:

The teachers are very good listeners and really help us.

The teachers are willing to take the extra time to help a student in his or her studies.

The rigorous academic curriculum is made possible by teachers who are willing to put time into helping students.

I honestly haven't thought about JPII's strengths. If I had to say something, it would have to be the wonderful teachers.

Before JPII, I never had a teacher who would stay after school to help with any of my problems in their class.

The skill and enthusiasm of the teachers is the strength of JPII.

Teachers give students plenty of opportunities to go to tutorials and get help with their work. The teachers are friendly and understanding.

I love how the teachers at JPII put an effort into making learning new concepts fun and how they’re always helpful and there if you need help with something.

The faculty and staff are just amazing. From those who have been there from the beginning, to new teachers, all seem to be linked in a drive to assist students in their pursuit of learning and academic excellence. Within the classroom, most of the teachers are unmatched on their ability to keep student interest and to convey the information for their subject. It is also apparent that the teachers sacrifice a large amount of time outside of the classroom, both for helping students and for coaching, chaperoning, and leading many clubs and activities.

An outgoing senior said: The strengths of JP II are definitely the powerful relationships that are built between faculty and students. The teachers genuinely care about whether or not their students succeed. I know I was able to develop wonderful and unforgettable connections with most members of the faculty and staff.

I think you get the picture.

So let me ask you to do something. Teachers, could I ask all of you who are in the hallways to come into the auditorium, please?

Students, I know what you’ve told me privately on these surveys. On this, the first day of Catholic schools week, could you join me in paying tribute publicly to your teachers of Pope John Paul II High School?

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