Thursday, October 7, 2010

It's For Their Own Good

Last Friday, I had arthroscopic surgery on my knee to repair a torn meniscus. While I wish I could say that this injury was a result of some exciting feat of strength or daring act of kindness, I "tore" it by merely standing up from a squatting position. Torn last month over Labor Day weekend, I had adjusted my lifestyle to accommodate my limiting condition. Not being able to run or workout was initially a hard pill to swallow. But, over the course of the month leading up to my surgery I grew accustomed to doing one-legged workouts, going for walks instead of runs, and coping with not being able to squat past 90 degrees. In fact, in this short time, I became so comfortable with this new way of life that I was worried about this surgical procedure.

Thoughts of "What if something were to go wrong? What would the rehab be like? How much longer would it be before I'd be able to workout, or even just walk normally?" raced through my mind. Even though I knew that this surgery would put me on a path back to my pre-September lifestyle, I was reluctant to go through with the procedure.

Similarly, just yesterday I removed the very large post-ob padding and bandage that had covered my knee for five straight days. Even though I knew that this would be yet another step toward my recovery, I felt comforted by its protective covering and hesitated exposing my repaired knee. "Would I be able to sleep? What if a student bumped into the next day? Would I feel wobbly without it?"

These are two examples from the past week that point to a much more important issue than my pending rehabilitation: change, even change that we know is good for us, is often met with resistance.

Think of a new dieter and his/her attempts to steer away from sweets, the smoker doing his/her best to kick the habit, or even a child before taking the training wheels off of a bicycle. All of these changes are good; but all are also hard. They can also be scary. In many cases, the difficulty involved in making a change and the fear associated with the uncharted territory of change can immobilize us. It can keep us from changing. Or, mid-change, it can send us running back to the familiarity of our past selves.

But, as Catholic educators we must embrace change. We must fight the urge to announce "but we've always done it this way" and remain entrenched in our past mediocrities. We must embrace each new school year as another chance to improve on the successes of the past one. Much hype has surrounded the recent documentary, "Waiting for Superman" and our educational system here in the United States. Staggering statistics have surfaced: the United States ranks 10th in Reading Literacy, 12th in College Completion Rates, 17th in Science Literacy, and 24th in Math Literacy of all industrialized nations. 67% of our nation's 4th graders read below their grade level. 25% of America's seniors don't graduate from High School and of those that graduate, only 35% read proficiently.

This is not to say that every school, and more specifically every Catholic School, falls into these same percentages. However, our educational system in general is in dire need of change. Changes in our approaches to instruction, administration, parenting, grading, planning, discipline-- everything are essential if our students are to reverse these horrifying statistics. If we continue to do things the same way we've always done them, we should expect to get the same results we've always gotten.

We must be open to change and open to the fact that change, no matter how good it is for us or our children, will be difficult.

In the final chapter of John's Gospel (21:18), Jesus says to Peter, "Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." Jesus concludes this message to Peter by saying, "Follow me."

Luckily for us, Peter and countless other followers of Jesus were willing to change. We, too, must have this same openness of spirit if our children are to succeed.

Changing, in this case, is for their own good.