When I was a kid, the adult in the front of the class made the weather for me. I’m not proud of this, but I have to confess that I “rewarded” teachers I connected with by giving them my best effort. And, foolish as it now seems, I “punished” teachers who didn’t seem to care about me, or the subject matter, by putting in a perfunctory effort. If they were only going through the motions, well then by golly, so would I! (As a matter of fact, I so severely “punished” my high school chemistry teacher that I almost sent myself to summer school!)
As I leave Upper Canada College after 12 years, I remind myself of the importance of relationships. There is a line in the UCC school hymn that describes the Almighty as being “slow to chide and swift to bless.” I applaud our Higher Power for this good habit. Knowing when to chide and when to bless is a key insight, because Lord knows (and we should too), that if you were so inclined, you could “chide” all day long – in every school you care to name!
Adolescents need to be blessed, swiftly and meaningfully, on a regular basis. They need to be encouraged, acknowledged, and occasionally even celebrated, because those years can be scary and unsettling ones. The stormy seas of physical, mental, and emotional changes kids sometimes swim in can rob them of the kind of quiet self-assurance they’ll need to eventually join a workplace, or a school club, or even a conversation.
Photo: Jim Power’s high school graduation photograph, 1976, back in the era when he “rewarded” and “punished” his high school teachers.