With the fluctuations in temperature, the body cannot seem to find its rhythm in the early days of spring. I look in the mirror and long for the warmth of the sun to put a bit of color on the tired face staring back at me. At Kellenberg, we administer trimester exams before the Easter break. As I proctored exams during the last week, I pondered a topic for this column. “A column?” I asked myself. “ How can you put together two coherent thoughts when you have trouble remembering your name, Alex,” I admonished myself.
When you saw the title of the column, you may have been tempted to reach for your ruler. There are times when corporal punishment may be tempting, but that is not what I am talking about. I thought it would be appropriate to write about the positive affects of pain during this Holy Week.
A good teacher causes pain in the lives of their students. Growth is a difficult process. Many of the young people in our classes would rather remain in the cocoon of apathy. “No interest, no opinion, no problems” may be the mantra of some students. The slumped bodies hiding in the shelter of the classroom desk wait for the days to slip away.
Faith is an invitation that many find too inconvenient to pursue. “I am way too busy on the weekends to think about church,” rationalize many of my scholars. A Sunday morning underneath the covers presents a more attractive alternative to Mass. A friend recently joined a conversation about the Church’s teaching about how missing Mass is a mortal sin. When one member of the group explained how Vatican II clarified this teaching, my friend sarcastically questioned whether more people were banished to hell after the Church defined this matter. Excuses come in all shapes and sizes. These days the press is full of people taking cheap shots at a Church because it is easier to criticize than embrace the conversion process.
My friend illustrated a major problem in the world today: relativism. We avoid the pain of this world by inventing our own rules to the game of life. The teacher’s obligation in the classroom is to assist his or her students in facing the discomfort that shapes us as human beings.
I had these lyrics playing in my head as I sat down to write this column:
Don’t give up ’till it’s over
Don’t quit, if you can
The weight of your shoulder
Will make you a stronger man.
Life is incomplete without difficulty. Many young people don’t quit, because they never begin trying. Our students see homework, papers, projects and other simple obligations as exercises in futility. They fail to realize that teachers are attempting to expand their minds and hearts through every experience in and out of the classroom.
As my students sat through their trimester exams, many had a desperate look on their faces as if to ask, “Why are you torturing me?” When preparing for the impending exams, several students asked if I had a copy of one of the books that were covered during the trimester. When I questioned what had happened to his or her copy, they told me that they had thrown the book in the garbage because “they were done with the book.” Many students totally miss the point of education.
Our students must discern between their perceived duties and the glorious possibility into which they have been invited. The simple word “yes” can cause pain and discomfort. Ask Mary what this word did to her. Faith costs. Our Blessed Mother did not jump for joy when the prophet Simeon told her, “A sword will pierce your heart.” But the wonder of Easter could never have occurred without her heartbreak at the foot of the cross.
Each day with your students should not be all sunshine and flowers. Our experiences with our students can literally be a pain. There are many days when we feel as if we will “let things slide,” but the distress caused by the time with our students can lead to incredible change.