Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Agents of Change

In a post almost one year ago to the day, I wrote about my big brother, Joe. Today's entry features my brother once again.

Joe is a football player. Yes, that's right. He plays football for a living. Professionally. He has for over 10 years. He holds the record for the Jacksonville Jaguars for the most consecutive starts. He's a long snapper. And, before you think just how easy of a job that is, I challenge you to try it. Quarterbacks who complete over 50% of their passes are considered pretty good. Likewise, other positions are "graded" based on a percentage of accuracy. A long snapper, though, must be perfect. All the time. Unlike the kicker who is known whether or not he shanks a punt or dog legs a field goal, the long snapper is only known when he fails to meet perfection. Fortunately for my brother, he is Mr. Anonymous in the NFL (okay, not really...he is such a goofball that he actually has an underground following and is often featured in commercials and other TV spots in the hometown markets of the teams he has played for).

So, what place does my brother serve in a blog about Catholic education? Truly?

Joe does a lot of public speaking. Many Church groups, schools, foundations, and other organizations tap into his charisma and invite him to speak. In a few weeks, a group of School Administrators in Ohio will host my brother for a conference at which he will be the keynote speaker. Seriously. So, Joe asks me what playing football has to do with being a school administrator. My thought exactly. But, he's my brother so I gave it some thought. A lot of thought, actually.

Here is my brainstorm:

As a long snapper, my brother is the person responsible for some sort of change to take place on a football field. If he is snapping for a punt, the offense will be changing to defense. If it's a field goal or extra point, the same transition will take place. In a sense, he's the catalyst for the offense to, barring a fake that goes for a first down or a penalty, switch over to the defense. Joe enacts change on a football field. The punt starts with him, the field goal is initiated by his bent over spiral. These changes, in many ways, can win or lose games depending on their success or failure.

Teachers are agents of change. Principals are, too. Education itself is built upon the moving foundation that everything changes. The student comes to us and is changed because of our efforts. The greater the change, unless wholly unsuccessful causing the student to severely regress, the better.

As Catholic educators, this change goes even deeper. Teachers must catalyze a spiritual transformation in addition to the intellectual one (the physical change is pretty much a given although we do have an impact on it as well - PE classes, cafeteria menus, recess times, how many sugary sweets we allow into our classrooms!). Again, the spiritual life is based on the idea of growth. It is based on the principle of people changing - changing their hearts, their minds, their behaviors, their lives.

This should make sense. Our Model, our Inspiration, our Teacher, Jesus Christ, was the Ultimate Agent of Change. He says, "I have come to set the world on fire and how I wish it were already blazing!" (Luke 12:49). He gave us a New Testament, a new law, a new code, a new discipline. He gives us new life. As schools that are based on Him, we would do well to follow His great Example of embracing and enacting.

My brother can't hold onto the ball. He must release it, he must do all that he can within his power to ensure the proper trajectory and flight and then let the ball go. Holding on too long can have an adverse effect. He's an agent of change on the field. It's what he does.

As Catholic educators, it's what we do, too. We're agents of change. Like Joe, our margin of error, because we're dealing with changing lives, is non-existent.

And maybe that should change our view of Catholic education.

And long snappers.