Moral Happiness in Class Part 1 of 2 - A Spiritual Reflection

The school year recently began. Over dinner, I was talking with a priest friend of mine who teaches in a Catholic high school. He shared with me some guidelines that he provided to the students on the first day of class. I thought his insights were rather profound. Parents – share this with your children – students and see what kind of conversations it sparks. Oh, by the way, having taught myself, there’s some good suggestions for parents included as well. Finally, many of the items also work for the behavior of adults in the workplace.




The Pursuit of Happiness in Class (Part 1 of 2)


Charity alone is the entire law

This handout is a description of principles and the philosophy behind them. The entire student handbook is in effect at all times. A teacher cannot provide a list of every rule or a contract spelling out everything expected of you. Nothing can contain every good we should do - except charity.

The dignity of the human person is to be respected at all times and in all ways. Do not try and “get more attention” than you need. Do not distract others. Do not impede the learning process.

Arrival. Be on time. Check the board for the day’s materials. Put everything else at the “designated place” (which includes cell phones, earbuds, etc.) Go promptly to your assigned seat and sit. As soon as the teacher begins, all conversations stop.

Theft. People are working hard to pay your tuition. People are working hard to pay other students’ tuition. What one buys with one’s work is expressed at their work just in another form. Tuition buys a Catholic education. Anyone who disrupts class and impedes learning is depriving people of that education. Thus, disrupting class involves stealing capitol (work, money, sacrifice, education) from others: from classmates, from their parents and from one’s own parents.

Trash. Cleanliness is next to godliness. Your “space” should not look like it’s located 12 inches away from the devil. Keep trash at your desk until the end of class. Drop your trash in the trash can at the end of class. Never throw it. You’re not in the NBA.

Try to keep an open mind. I do not assume that you also agree with everything that the Church teaches. No matter how much of the teaching of the Church you disagree with, you may hear something of interest within the context of that topic. If you disagree with something we have learned, you have to write it down on the test to get the points. In doing so, you are not violating your conscience by putting down the answer that earns the points. You are showing me that you have learned the ideas and skills.

Your participation in any conversation about faith, the Church, religion, etc.. must be respectful of others. Disagreement does not have to keep people from working together and enjoying each other. It is absolutely vital for your education and growth that you strive to see the good in other people and other points of view.

Our beliefs cause our thoughts and feelings. Low self-esteem is a pattern of thoughts and feelings. These thoughts and feelings come from a core belief about the self, “I am not good. I should not exist.” This can lead to misbehavior, which is often a person’s way of trying to convince other people of this belief. “I do evil so you have to agree with me that I am bad. I need you to hate me. I like people who join me in affirming bad. Bad is good.” The misbehaving person takes disordered pleasure in making others agree with his/her negative core belief. “See? I was right. I told you so. I’m smarter than you. I’m smarter than anybody. You were foolish to see good in me. You said you wanted to help, but I proved you wrong by making you hate me. When the whole world agrees that I am bad, I rule the world.”

Real satisfaction cannot be obtained through misbehavior, because misbehavior concludes where it began. It has nowhere else to go. “I hate me. I should not exist.”

You Don’t Get Paid For Your Feelings. Whether at school or at work, you will never be graded on what you think or what you believe. You will only be graded on what you know and what you can do.

Don’t let a bad day determine your whole year. It is natural for a teenager to assume that a teacher only sees a first impression, or that one bad day in class ruins everything forever. Actually, teachers see a lot of humanity happen every day. Life moves. To me, you are who you are right now, not yesterday or last week. At our worst, we are very different from our true selves. When we cross paths again after high school, I will presume only good things of you. Lift up your head. Try to picture the most excellent human being you could become. Look at your peers, and try to picture their possible future excellence. Look to the people you love and be amazed at them. Honor them in everything you do.

The motives of misbehavior (DIA.P.R)Young people misbehave for a reason. Misbehavior can be the way a person (young or old) Displaying InAdequacy. Displays of Inadequacy may be used as a defense against doing difficult work. More fundamentally, it is a fear of becoming more understanding, more effective and more responsible to others. It’s easier to say, “I can’t try. I’m not good enough” than entering through the “narrow gate” (Matthew 7:13-14). Misbehavior can also be a person’s way of exerting Power. “My power is to make you stop what you are doing and react to me.” Finally, misbehavior can be a person’s way of getting Revenge. “I resent you. I will hurt you by hurting others and myself.” I will try and understand the motives and deal with them appropriately. I will not accept them.

Next week we will continue this reflection beginning with the “Metaphysics of Happiness.” (Aren’t you excited!?)


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