Educators: New School Year, New Questions
By Mark F. Plaushin, OSFS
Ahhhhhhhhhh! I love the smell of chalk dust in the morning! I really rue the advent of dry erase boards in our classrooms, the aroma of chalk replaced by the smell of pungent, alcohol markers. And now "smart" classrooms with digital boards are the latest and, admittedly, exciting innovation. This is new for me, but I'm excited about returning to the classroom and hearing some new and excellent questions.
Parents, students and teachers reassemble in classrooms, on playing fields, in music rooms, and in hallways filling our educational space with enthusiasm for learning—education at its best—the encouragement of the mind, heart, soul and body. In a rhythm we've celebrated before, we welcome September and the transition from summer to autumn. Nonetheless, something new is happening in the Lehigh Valley.
I decided to go back to teaching, while I was in Iraq. During my year overseas I served and lead young Marines, sailors, soldiers and airmen in something of a quest. Many posed this question: "Sir, I want to talk. It's just that I think I'm called to do something with my life. Something for others—you know something really meaningful! I'm not sure what I want to do, but this war has changed me. I can't go back and be the same person doing the same things. Do you think that's normal, sir? Do you think there's something new I can do?"
Well, yes, I do. What an excellent question! I realize that, like these more youthful warriors, I too desire to do something meaningful. The events of 9-11, which marred the beauty of that other September, and my own experience of the War on Terrorism impassions me more than ever as we kick off the school year. I'm going back to teach and to learn. I want to learn what motivates our young to give themselves so freely for others. I want to teach so that I can en-courage ("give courage to") their effort. I can do something new.
Some accuse our "culture" (and here I presume American culture or Western Capitalism) of breeding young people who are selfish, arrogant and narcissistic. OK, I've met some young people like that, but I found selflessness and humility more common. Well, in whose culture-pool did these un-selfish youths spawn? Who taught these young people to ask, "Can I do something new?"
The young men and women serving in harm's way around the world are the same kids who sat as 10 year olds in classrooms in Saucon Valley... as 16 year olds at Bethlehem Catholic... as 19 or 20 year olds at Lehigh or DeSales. In some classroom, or hallway, or on some ball field, or on a stage, or in some lab in the towns of this valley, and in towns like them across America, the foundation for this question was laid. A teacher, an administrator, a coach or a librarian inspired something very unselfish, very self-less, in the youths who turned to me in a hostile land to inquire, "Can I do something new?"
That quest for the fresh start, the new way, the search for completeness and purpose is a sign of God at work. Meanwhile, parents, a child's first and primary teachers, labor to grow children with a sense of the commonwealth. And we professional educators partner with God and parents to excite the student's enthusiasm for self-gift. Educators support the transition from willingness of heart to heartfelt service. Good educators encourage excellent questions.
It's our second year of war in Iraq and our fourth in the War on Terrorism. It is the 57th year since the creation of the State of Israel and the continuing enmity between Palestinians and Israelis. It's an election year. Students will have excellent questions about these and many other issues. It's a new school year, and something new is happening in the Lehigh Valley. We will see it in the questions raised in class and at the kitchen table. The hand of a child raised in inquiry is our greatest shot as parents and educators to encourage each child in their quest for completeness, self-gift and the chance to do something new. We may be chalkless but we won't be without excellent questions.
Mark F. Plaushin, OSFS, teaches philosophy and theology at DeSales University in Center Valley. He served in Iraq as brigade chaplain with the rank of major with the Army Reserve 358th Civil Affairs Brigade. He can be reached at 610-282-1100, ext. 1840, or via email at email@example.com.
Press Release: Educators: New School Year, New Questions by Mark F. Plaushin, OSFS | Posted on: 8/31/2004
For more info:
Tom McNamara, Executive Director of Communications
DeSales University | 2255 Station Avenue | Center Valley, PA 18034
610.282.1100 x1219 | Tom.McNamara@desales.edu