Tomorrow we have a faculty retreat and preparation time. On Wednesday the students arrive.
I'm back in the classroom again.
Of course, this marks the 11th year in a row now that I've been "back" in the classroom and my 17th first day overall (interrupted by a dozen years as a print journalist).
I am excited, nervous, ready, but not ready.
The last couple of days I've been planning what I would do in each class for the first couple of days, creating some worksheets and puzzles. I also went in to the school to decorate my homeroom. I still have to find a nice image of St. Francis to put up. Or maybe a San Damiano Cross.
In the last couple of days I've also seen in some conservative Catholic websites and blogs reports of a new study that's critical of Catholic schools.
The two-year study from an organization called Cardus - I plead ignorance of who or what that organization is - apparently does not paint a pretty picture of Catholic schools.
According to the study, students who attend Catholic schools, when compared with Catholics who attend public schools, are less likely to believe in moral absolutes, to respect the authority of the Catholic Church, to believe in the infallibility of Scripture, or to condemn premarital sex.
Of course, it's led to my more traditional brothers and sisters lamenting the state of Catholic education, the presence of non-Catholic teachers and students in the schools, and so on and so on.
I'm not trying to challenge or argue with them and their conclusions here. I have no data to counter or respond to their theories and conclusions.
On a positive note, I can say that my school is starting the year with that staff retreat, starts every day with a prayer over the P.A., suggests all teachers start each class with a prayer, has weekly prayer services and Communion services, is developing a program to require all students to be involved is social ministry projects, and much more. My department head and I were talking the other day about trying to get more Bible into the classroom.
As for the non-Catholic students, as one school official said, their parents knew what school they were sending their children to and the Catholic environment there. It's part of the package.
I know that my faith and my Franciscanism will not be hidden. I won't club my students over the head, certainly. I will be sensitive to the beliefs of students of other faiths, and I won't arbitrarily bring faith into class discussions. But I will no longer feel the need to hide my own beliefs - as I had to do at my previous school.
I'm looking forward to that.
Pax et bonum