It is the end of the school year. This simple fact brought to you by a person who lives across the street from a school, and so I'm now dealing with the more pleasant experience of people coming almost daily, early in the day and sometimes in the evening, for the pleasure of seeing little John or Buffy get recognized for this and that and parking up and down the street in numbers that are too numerous to count. The marquee at the school is changing the announcements steadily with dates for parents, guardians, grandparents or others to carefully read - Kindergarten graduation 5/5/15...1st grade award ceremony 5/6/15 - morning....splash day 5/7/15 - morning...2nd grade award ceremony 5/7/15 - morning... 3rd grade award ceremony 5/7/15 - evening... annual school campout 5/8/15 - sleepover... AR (accelerated reader) awards luncheon 5/11/15....
I was a principal. This time of year was, in a word, a beating. Recognition programs, awards' ceremonies, graduations. Ironically,I didn't believe in any of it personally, but when you are a principal, it's not yours to exercise your personal beliefs fully. So, you march out in your coat and tie and put on a happy face and strive to make each child know just how proud you are for his or her award. Shake the hand of the tyke, pose for a picture smiling (beaming in fact, and after awhile, the face gets stuck in that position). If you know the child, make a personal comment about him or her (of the 950 students in the school, I was familiar with about half of the students and knew some well - not just the bad stuff either), smile, and then greet the parents afterward to talk about how special the day was. And gird your loins for those who felt like their child was not recognized adequately or that we failed our due diligence by not giving the C student an "Honor Roll - All A's" certificate.
Unfortunately and statistically, rewards and recognition really only work for a small fraction (very small) of children. Some noted education researchers have done extensive studies to demonstrate that there is little, if any, correlation with rewards and recognition and success in school. Sadly, most of it is done for us, the parents. We like hearing our children did well and we like hearing their name called at an assembly for good things. And in the school business, you do want to make sure you are actively engaging parents in a positive manner (which is why we did it at our school - my opinion aside, it is one way of getting together with parents on a positive note and a great way to end the year on one as well).
Our pastor last Sunday used the scripture lesson to teach something that resonated with me, and probably explains why I resisted such events. An awards program, a graduation, a recognition is just temporary. In his words, commencement is not about an ending of any kind, but rather about a step in life. "Graduation" means the next step, not a final event. I liked that personally mainly because it is true. Nothing in life is final until God calls us to our final resting place.
The book of Acts (chapter 2) shows the disciples in a transformative event. Christ's call to discipleship was not the end of the road, but rather a beginning. Christ's teaching and miracles were merely a process. Christ's crucifixion was not an end for them. Neither was his resurrection. The resurrection meant a new beginning for them and us. Christ staying on earth 40 days after his resurrection was not an end either, but a transition period with his ministry. And in Acts 2 we see the disciples empowered with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (Jewish celebration that recognized the 50th day after the Passover). On this Pentecost, God's Spirit descends upon them and gives them the ability to speak so that all understood. This was a transformative event for the apostles, but not an end as well. This was a completely new beginning for them. The church and the word of God exploded, literally, and the numbers grew dramatically as people responded to the call of the Word and the Holy Spirit.
Enjoy these events your school is holding this month, but please, fathers, take the time to make sure that regardless of the accomplishment, your son or daughter realizes it is just a step, not an end. Christ sends his Spirit to us to make us new creations as well which does not mean we stop after baptism, confirmation, a milestone, communion, or other act or event. Make sure your son or daughter knows of your unfailing love and that it is separate from the accomplishment or event. Our love for them needs to be regardless of status, just as Christ's love for us is unconditional and not related to what we deserve. Be a part of this time, and as an educator, I apologize for giving you so much to be a part of and to celebrate. You're welcome.
Hope Men's Ministry