“Generativity” is a bit of a buzz word among celibates. Many of our friends and family members solve the problem of generativity simply by reproducing; in ushering offspring into this world, parents see the promise of their lives continuing beyond themselves. For those of us who deliberately choose not to have families however, the pull toward (pro)creative activity and contributing toward future generations is no less real. Thus the question of how will we be generative—how will we see our life energies expand beyond ourselves?
As a teacher, it is very easy to say that we have hundreds of children instead of just one or several. To a degree this is true. Nevertheless, although Marists strive to love each of our students equally, it is only natural that deeper emotional connections are made with some than with others. Likewise, some remain in contact while others drift away. Some students resurface at unexpected moments. No matter the degree of mentorship we may provide though, we never truly take the place of a parent—we get to go to a separate home at the end of the day.
Still, we teachers often take pride in the accomplishments of our students, including those we had nothing to do with. I still remember how excited I was the first time I saw one of my students make a key reception in an important football game. “He’s one of mine!” Never mind that I had absolutely nothing to do with coaching football or even teaching phys ed… I was simply his religion teacher. This kind of pride from an enthusiastic rookie teacher is more than a bit exaggerated, and perhaps even a shade ridiculous, which is why the brothers never let me forget it.
Without intending to be patronizing though, I still feel that there are instances in which pride in a younger person is justified.
This past weekend, I had the great pleasure to participate in the annual Marist Youth Gathering, built around the theme “Live like You’re Loved”. As with many Marist Youth programs, the key team consisted of college students who had graduated from our Marist schools. The quality of their presence to the younger high school students as well as the work ethic they bring to preparations is frequently praiseworthy. What stood out to me this particular weekend however, was the large number of young people who had already aged out of eligibility to function as Marist Young Adult leaders but still showed up to support the program in various ways even though they were not employees of our schools nor did they have any participants under their direct charge.
While I was thrilled with this development, I was especially delighted—and proud—to see my former student Teresa Santana and to hear about how her life continues to evolve. Teresa is an exceptional young woman possessed of great social awareness and sensibility. Although I deserve no credit for her achievements, I am nonetheless proud to see that she has turned out to be exactly the kind of person I would hope my students become. I am certainly happy that Teresa has been able to find a position after graduating from college that allows her to engage her passion for visual arts. What makes me proud of her though is that the girl who sat in my morality and social justice class has become this woman who has found employment using these talents in a local Boys & Girls Club where she will be working to improve the lives of vulnerable young people. All that and she still came back to contribute to our own Marist Youth weekend.
Teresa is not the only student of mine I have been proud of, but I am entering that stage in my career as an educator when I begin to see what my former students do with themselves. The children are growing up, and some have already grown up. I am blessed that some have chosen to remain participants in our Marist mission so that this brother can continue to see where they go from here. There are many wonderful things about this life even without reflecting on the accomplishments of students and mentees. For right now though, I’m happy to have Teresa on my mind. As I told her myself, “I’m proud of you, T.” And I am grateful for the hope she symbolizes in my own life.
This week’s “Ear Candy” is the classic “Teach Your Children” by CSNY. It is a bit more political than I usually get in this space (especially if you watch the video). However, insofar as it represents a desire to raise future generations that will do better than our own, it seems fitting to this week’s topic. The “brain food” serves as a reminder that some of the most important skills an adolescent develops are not measured by grades.
Ear Candy: “Teach Your Children” – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Brain Food: “Let’s Hear It for the Average Child” by Margaret Renkl
Come back next Saturday for a new post!