I had a bad day yesterday. Rough morning, obnoxious and immature freshmen, malfunctioning technology, and then the assistant principal walks in to observe my class. Great timing. Instances like these are not what I choose to remember though. Instead, I think about each student in the class: how much I care about his success, what makes him such a great young man, and why I am so grateful that my life’s journey crossed with his. Upon reflection, it is not these boys’ immaturity that ruins my day. It’s the smiles, the laughter, and the gratitude that they create which makes my day, my job, and my life so much better. As much as I try to be a positive role model and seek to show God’s love to my students, so, too, do they show God’s love to me. It’s so great to see God at work in my classroom whenever my students are finally realizing how to solve a math problem, telling me about how they’re going to ask a girl to Homecoming, or even heckling me about my love of the St. Louis Cardinals. As much as I care about them, I am finally starting to see that these kids care about me too. That, my friends, is one of the best feelings in the world.
Going back to my bad day, I ran into several of my students who obviously felt very bad about their behavior in my class. For some, it was just a simple, “Hey, Mr. Hurteau, hope you’re having a good day.” One student offered to help me carry my stuff to my office, and another felt compelled to share his McNuggets with me. These were small gestures, but they were greatly appreciated. One of the most impactful lessons from my years of Jesuit education has been the idea that God exists in all things, and I can see God so clearly in each of my students and in the positive experiences that we share together. A fellow faculty member recently told me that, as much as we are trying to educate these students to be brilliant academics, the more important goal is to mold them into genuinely good Men for Others. Do I want my students to be smart and intellectually competent, especially in their math skills? Absolutely. But no matter how smart they are at the end of the year, it is my job as an Ignatian educator to make sure they learn to become true Men for Others in the world. I see so much potential in these boys to become well-rounded and ethical young men. My greatest hope is that I can help them shine their light even brighter so that they can make the world a better place for others and for themselves.