Except for a few items of paperwork, my first year of regency came to a close yesterday. It's really hard for me to believe that it's over: I remember the first day of classes, homecoming, and the unquenchable thirst I had for the sweet waters of Christmas break as though they were yesterday.
Looking back on the year, I can say that it has been the most protracted experience of grace I've ever experienced. A wise Jesuit told me that, while my job was to teach high school, my mission in the service of the Society of Jesus and the Church was far more important: to learn how to love students even when they would seem to be unlovable. When he offered me this counsel, I sort of scoffed. "I've always liked working with kids," I thought, "so why would it be hard to love them?"
Boy, did I learn that lesson!
When you think about it, one of the major lacunae in the life of a religious is that we (typically) don't have children. I do not have a baby who is unable to sleep; a son stressed over grades; a daughter burdened with not being the prettiest/smartest/coolest girl in her class. I have my niece and nephew, to be sure, but I don't have my own kids. How, then, as a priest could I be expected to have any insight into the mind or heart of a teenager save only for my own experiences of once having been a teen?
Hence the genius of the Jesuit formation: while I don't have a son or a daughter, I was given (since my youngest sister is still in high school), over 200 little brothers to teach this year. 200 different personalities, each with his own history, issues, fears, hopes, and challenges. 200+ opportunities to come to know and, yes, to love and care about students...even when they were unlovable (like when you're begging a kid to turn in his homework assignments so that you don't have to fail him, or telling a student to stop licking a desk, or to wake up, or to turn around and stop talking....again). I might never have to pick my son up out of a crib or wake up to a 3:00 "Daddy, I'm sick" cry, but I have had my fair share of kids puking in class, student who think they've invented farting and need to demonstrate their flatulent acumen to the world, cheaters, post-phys ed sweaty stinky guys, and everything in between.
Parents deal with infants they can pick up and cuddle. I often deal with toddlers in Titans' bodies whom I must cajole, threaten, humor, and care for each day.
I feel a great sense of excitement as I look toward next year. The Student Senate has tremendous promise and I think we're going to do some spectacular things for the school and for the city of Detroit. As a teacher, I have made an infinite number of mistakes that I'll correct for next year...surely to discover yet another infinite series of mistakes to make. But I am joyful and grateful this day, in the wake of my first year, and filled with hope for the future. I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to my students and to the entire school community and I can only wish them a happy and blessed summer.