Jesus and the Sabbath

We had our Homecoming mass today and our readings and homily were about honoring the sabbath. Except that they were about much more than that, they were about how we sometimes lose sight of our goals as we cling to the structure created to accomplish our goals. While there were many lovely connections made by our priest’s homily, I could not help but wonder how it relates to our educational systems.

Sometimes doctrine or religion or tradition or structure rises up to be more important to us than the original intention. Our intents are to be more like Christ and to be closer to Him. In education, our intention is to help students LEARN. We create structure to help model, scaffold, explain, clarify, teach, and of course, assess. Just as the notion of honoring God on the sabbath is a good structure but Jesus does not ask that the sabbath be rejected.

So often, we are trapped by the ideas we ourselves create for the sake of the education of our students. While I do not accept that this tendency to become narrow in focus means that we should reject any church structure, I similarly believe that schools and grades are neither the enemy nor the problem.

BUT- the way we and our students tend to use/view them may be highly problematic and tend to impede learning and growth.

I know as a teacher in my second year of teaching I am not yet truly “experienced” but I am starting to see how grades can be problems. How if I give a grade on a paper with a zillion comments, the students will only see the grade. The last paper I returned, I went ahead with my usual practice of commenting and marking (in pencil) but neglected to give a point or letter grade. Students were instructed to submit a revised copy in a week that could earn full credit. This is either their 3 or 4th draft depending on the student.

I’m optimistic that those students who are approaching A level writing will benefit by being forced not to accept their frequently B level work. Maybe it will help them see what their writing CAN be and help it ‘click’ (I went through something comparable as a freshman in college and it made a world of difference in my college experience.)

More than that, I am hoping that my students who frequently fail or nearly fail papers will see what it is like to turn in work that is more polished – something they can be proud of. Then their grade will (hopefully) reflect that effort and help them see that they are capable but have to be willing to put in the work.

I would love to teach my students the lesson that hard work can be truly satisfying.

All this just to say that I’m coming around. I get why people are frequently concerned about grades and their potential ramifications. But I think, like Jesus (you like that? lol), we can bend the rules but don’t have to throw out the whole system. There’s something nice about having a special day of the week to come together in a community and refocus ourselves to our faith. There’s also something nice about receiving a good grade for a good effort.


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