Sunday, February 02, 2014

Gearing Down

Student assembly address:

Well, it was an amazing week last week—Coming Home week, dress down days, National Catholic Schools Week, the JPII youth rally, the biggest name in Catholic contemporary music leading music for our Mass, playing Fr. Ryan in basketball, a pep rally with TV stations there, the dance, swim meets, hockey games, an alum in the super bowl. This week in comparison looks pretty plain, but I think that’s a good thing, because it gives all of us the chance to “gear down” a bit and establish some normalcy.

“Gearing down” is a reference to cars. Back in the day of manual transmission, when you had to change gears with a clutch and a stick shift, you would typically change gears to a lower number when you were tackling a steep hill, or if you were carrying something on a hitch behind you to give you more torque to get up the hill.  Race car drivers “gear down” when they are coming into a turn as a natural way to slow the car down without putting undo stress on their brakes, which can wear out quickly given the high speeds.   

Metaphorically, we can’t always live our lives at 200 mph either. It’s mid-quarter already—hard to believe. How are you doing so far?  Remember the three keys to success here:  Attend class, do your homework, get sleep.

The evidence is overwhelming: High rates of absenteeism are the greatest predictor of poor grades. You know what it’s like when you miss school around here: when you come back, you feel lost in the classroom discussion, you have make up work to do in addition to the work you’re being assigned that day, and it adds a lot of stress. It typically takes a couple of classes and a lot of hard work to feel like you’re out of the hole.

And don’t forget the mathematics of not turning in an assignment. Let’s say a student is killing it by getting 5/5, 5/5, 5/5 on his first three assignments. He’s got a 15/15 so far, an A+. Then, feeling good about himself, he gives himself the night off and takes a zero on the fourth assignment. He now has a 15/20, or 75%. He’s gone from an A+ to a C taking one night off. And it’s much worse if it’s a major assignment—a paper, a lab report, a test that you never made up. The vast majority of failing grades at JPII are not because you’re not smart enough to do well. Inevitably, it’s a matter of not turning stuff in, missing assignments, not doing homework. 

But really, that’s the good news. Since all of us are capable of effort, turning stuff in, it means that we’re capable of passing classes that are hard if we simply do our jobs.

And look, you know I talk about sleep a lot. That’s because most of us aren’t getting enough of it. There’s a high school in New England that has built in a 30-minute nap time in the afternoon, just after lunch. Kids just lay their heads on a desk for 30 minutes each day and take a snooze.  Interesting idea, right? Well, I don’t think we can add 30 minutes to our schedule, but we do need to be wise about stealing sleep where we can.  One of the reasons we moved faculty meetings to Wednesday mornings in 2008 was that Tuesday nights were often late nights for athletic teams, and starting school 40 minutes later gives you some extra sleep time.  

Give yourself permission to go to bed early every now and then. In this twisted world we live in, we feel guilty or lazy if we take naps or have early bedtimes. But God made us to need sleep—it’s the fuel that regenerates our minds and our bodies—and the best way to operate in a high performance way is to get plenty of it.

So let’s gear down this week.  Come to school, turn stuff in, get some sleep. Take care of yourself. Have a great week!

No comments: