October brings the World Series and Halloween, and for teachers, it’s that mid-semester point when we accept that our school year will not go as planned. The syllabus has gone through a couple revisions, the course calendar has been reworked, and we start to hear the footprints of December’s final exams. Will we cover everything we need to cover? Have we prepared our students for next semester, for next year, for life?
In most schools, certainly in Catholic schools, teachers are also coaching teams and moderating clubs, not to mention leading retreats and providing that combination of spiritual care and person-centered education that Ignatian faculty know as cura personalis. By now, though, we start to wonder whether we’ve taken on too much. We are doing a lot of things, but perhaps not excellently. To balance our commitments, and do so well, will require fresh infusions of grace.
This natural chaos is, of course, part of the fun. I wouldn’t want everything to go as planned. And, besides, the winding road of education and the detours along the way are not new.
A few days ago I made one of my frequent pilgrimages to Fr. John O’Malley’s The First Jesuits and re-read his section on the Society of Jesus and the beginning of Jesuit schools. There, O’Malley writes: "The difficulties in opening new schools were so overwhelming that some Jesuits simply abandoned their vocation to the Society, and [Juan Alfonso de Polanco] warned as early as 1553 that ‘experience teaches’ that only the ‘most proven and constant’ should be sent into these situations, a warning with scant possibility of being heeded."
“Proven and constant.” I am privileged to work with just such a crew, and I find the same to be true at our companion schools as well, whether those schools are relatively new or a hundred years old. Every day I find Jesus at work, multiplying loaves and turning water into wine, mixing the best of both human and divine.