Does the dynamic of your classrooms change when you have prospective parents taking a tour? Do you encourage students to sit up when the board of the school is in for their annual review? Is the lawn freshly mowed when grandparents come? For most of us, the fourth quarter has arrived and the volume of visitors at our schools has lately risen, which often means an increased interest in decorum and aesthetics among staff and faculty.
One drink is just right, two is too many, three is too few.
- Old Irish proverb
I’ve tried everything to lose weight… I stopped just short of diet and exercise.
- Standup comic I saw years ago
Last week, I led a class of twenty-two sophomores to the Met in New York, and in the days which followed, I have returned often to this familiar teaching of St. Paul:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.
First, an experiment: Imagine building a sandcastle. Imagine building that sandcastle right now, as you read this. Imagine driving to the beach, parking your car, walking out onto the sand, going down to the surf and getting the wet sand. Fill up a bucket. If you forgot to imagine bringing a bucket, imagine driving home to get one. Pack the sand in good. Dump it out in an even bucket shape. Do this four times, and have each upside down bucket of wet sand be a corner of the castle. Sculpt walls of sand between the corners. Dig a moat around the castle.
Your numbers are dwindling. Your side is losing. Your way of life is passing from this Earth. In bygone eras, your people transmitted your ideals from one generation to the next with ease. Now, you plant a teaching in the heart of your children, and all the world conspires to strip it out before it can take root. The gravity of this world now inclines away from you. When you set the things you love on the ground, they roll away from you like marbles in an uneven house.
In Acts 17:23, Paul says to the philosophers: "For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, 'TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.' Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.
If you’re reading this article today, there’s a good chance you’re either at home on a snow day or just coming back to work after a snow day... or snow days. With the President’s Day holiday last Monday, I’m currently on a six day weekend. I won’t mince words. I enjoy an unexpected day off from work just as much as the next guy, and, at the same time, I am a teacher at a classical school because I think classical education is a good. A boon to society.
In the average Facebook argument which breaks open into seventy or eighty comments, each getting progressively longer and more acrimonious, someone not invested much in the debate will often cut in with, “Can’t we all just get along?” It’s an interesting question and one worth taking seriously, especially as a matter of historical inquiry. Have we all ever gotten along? When? When we get along, why do we get along? And when we don’t, why?
A fiction. A dramatic monologue:
“Look, Daniel. Let’s talk.
I am not offended when people lie to me. People lie to me all the time. I am a teacher, and students lie to me all the time. Occasionally, parents lie to me on behalf of their children. I am not offended by this either. When someone lies to me, I do not accuse them of lying. I make certain lied-to noises and look away in embarrassment for a moment. It is the same look of embarrassment I make when I am being praised by someone I respect.
"Dear Heavenly Father, help everyone here do well on their midterms. Help the diligent students do well, and help the students who slacked off and did not study or pay attention in class do well, too. Amen.”
This is the prayer I usually offer before major examinations. I offer this prayer honestly, though I also offer it as a testimony and lesson to my students, as well. Most students are quite shocked. Their shock is evidence of a misunderstanding of what a test is, but also a misunderstanding of what academic success looks like.