Monday, October 22, 2018

Play and Work

Catholic theology is often focused on the “both-and” and usually avoids the “either-or.” All the Christological heresies of the early Church veered toward saying that Jesus was either God OR human, but the Church said consistently that Jesus is both “fully God AND fully human.” In Catholic moral theology, the human person is neither “good” nor “bad,” but “good", in that God’’s grace lives within us, but also “bad”, in that we are flawed by original sin. In terms of the end days, the “kingdom of God” is already among us, but it has not yet fully arrived. 

When we look at the “fun-factor” of a school, I think it’s wise to think in “both-and” terms as well. School is both fun AND hard. We celebrate together, we enjoy weeks like Homecoming week, we enjoy House games and competitions, but we also understand that it’s a bit of a grind, too—that there’s homework to do, that there are tests to study for, that some of our grades won’t turn out the way our children (or we!) hope. 

As far as the fun goes, I’ve asked two very creative, talented teachers here—Miss Smith (theology) and Mrs. Smith (Spanish) to make suggestions as to little things we can do over the course of the year to elevate our students' spirits here, to keep things fun and interesting. If you have ideas, please share them with those two teachers. I am not opposed to a little fun—it helps us with the day to day doldrums. 

At the same time, as principal of St. Michael, I have to remind students that school is sometimes hard work—and that being a teenager is hard. When a student has had a long day, and realizes he or she  has 2 hours of homework to do, it’s hard for him to sit down and do it. It takes maturity to grind his way through. I’ve told students many times over the years that if adults tell them “these are the best years of your life,” that they've forgotten what it's like to be a teenager and are idealizing the past. High school years are tough. There are better years ahead! 

A couple of years ago, I told students about a slogan that the Marine Corps uses with their trainees when they’re going through basic training. Basic training is the hardest thing these 18, 19 year olds have ever done. They wake up before dawn, run, do drills, are pressed to the point of exhaustion.  They’re yelled at, insulted, their grit and toughness are challenged. The Marines are doing their best to harden them, to make them tough soldiers, to instill the discipline they need in battle. That slogan is “Embrace the suck.”  

Embrace the suck!

One of the things I am proud about this year is watching our football team go through its first varsity season. People knowledgeable about sports agree that the hardest program to start in a high school is football, because it requires so many excellent athletes to be competitive. So yes, our guys have been taking it on the chin some. But all through out the season, I’ve never seen our players lay down and quit. They fight to the end, regardless of score, and show up at practice the next week and work to get better.  They’re handling themselves like men.  They are “embracing the suck.”  

Athletes understand this is the cost if they want to be successful. Our cross country team has been running hard all summer, in blistering heat and humidity. Many members of our volleyball team play club ball--in effect, practicing their skills all year. Our cheerleading team is excellent, but they've practiced their routines over and over and over. Now our basketball teams are starting their seasons, marked by a lot of conditioning. 

There's a lesson in all this for all of us. We need to remind our children that sometimes,  life is hard, not fun.   Let’s not let them back away from that challenge. They'll be better men and women for it. 

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