-Luke 15: 4 - 7
One of the criticisms against the success of Catholic education is that Catholic schools are inherently elitist. Catholic school students are more successful, the argument goes, because Catholic schools reject or weed out those students who have behavioral problems, academic weaknesses, or families with low incomes. It's easier to have higher test scores or fewer drop-outs or less behavioral problems when you only have the best, brightest and wealthiest students in your school.
While there may, in some cases, be some validity to this stance, I feel that it not only cuts against the original reason for Catholic schools in this country (to provide immigrant families a place of education that was affordable, rooted in their faith, and committed to maintaining their heritage) it also goes against the "univerisal" aspect of the word "Catholic". Catholic schools should be for all - regardless of race, religion, economic status, academic / artisitic / athletic ability or any other factor.
But, my point in writing this blog isn't to focus on Catholic schools' moral obligation to keep their education financially within the means of all families or for Catholic schools to open their doors to more than just the upper echelon of society. It is to say that too often, and maybe in defense of those who say Catholic schools are only successful because they keep the "bad" kids out or kick them out if they happen to slip in, Catholic educators expect that their jobs should be easy. We get frustrated with the unruly class, or the whiny student, or the emotional parent and behave as if these disturbances are beneath our time and talent.
We wouldn't have jobs if kids - or people for that matter - were perfect. Similarly, as Catholic educators we should believe that forming students entails "disciplining" them. In other words, what we do should involve making students into disciples of Christ.
Imagine if Jesus had a stringent admission policy. He probably wouldn't have had 12 apostles...or any. If He is our Model and Inspiration, we should be more forgiving of our students and we should try harder with those who are in most need of our help.
As a principal, I would be irrate if a teacher came to me and said, "I'm going to stop teaching the other 24 students in my class for the next week because Student Withnoname is completely lost and I need to help him." But, it is equally frustrating, and unfortunately so much more common, to hear that a student is unteachable, unreachable or so troubling that we just don't know how the rest of the class will be able to make it through the year.
Most of the students in our classes don't really need us to be successful. They are the 99 and while we still need to challenge and cater to them (or fool ourselves into thinking that we actually are challenging them), it is equally important to go that extra step to help that lost sheep in need of some extra tender loving care.
As educators, our jobs our difficult. As Catholic educators, we carry the extra burden of dealing with that which is eternal - the souls of our students. Most days it seems like we've already traveled a journey of 99 miles. We've already completed 99 different tasks (all before lunch!). We cared for 99 of our sheep. We've tried 99 different ways to reach that student who is unreachable.
Don't stop. Go one more.
Go one more.
Go one more.
Go one more. Go one more. Go one more.
It's just one more step for you, but it could mean everything for the one that, because of your efforts, you are able to reach.
Go one more.