Column: School visits gratify super – as does special encounter

Kathy O'Hara is the superintendent of archdiocesan schools.
Kathy O’Hara is the superintendent of archdiocesan schools.

by Kathy O’Hara 

Dear friends of Catholic schools,

Since the beginning of the school year, I have been engaged in one of my favorite activities — visiting our schools! It is so fun to see all the joy and energy of our students, teachers and school leaders. Most of all, it is very gratifying to see all that we hope to see happening in our schools.

Here is just a glimpse of what I have experienced:

• Statues of Mary, Joseph, angels, saints, and, of course, Jesus, everywhere

• Rosaries, rosaries, and more rosaries

• Quotations from Scripture and from the saints lining the hallways and hanging in classrooms

• Posters promoting vocations throughout the buildings

• Birthday cards written to Our Lady from primary students (“Happy Birthday, Mary! I hope you have a good day! I wonder what you’re doing in heaven for your birthday.”)

• Interdisciplinary lessons combining math, religion, geography, and P.E. (How many miles is it between our school and the Vatican?)

• Beautiful prayers written by students

• Many, many atriums for the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd formation program

• Posters showing Pope Francis’ “Tweet of the Week”

• Posters describing the virtuous behavior expectations of our students

• Students who possess a wide spectrum of abilities

• School leaders who know the names and stories of students, teachers, and parents alike

One of my favorite stories from my visits is from the beginning of the school year when teachers are still teaching classroom, hallway, and recess routines, etc. – all things necessary for an orderly school.

A classroom of kindergartners came in from recess, and I could tell they were trying very hard to meet the expectation of their teacher.

One by one, as soon as the children entered the building, they put their hands straight at their sides and pressed their lips tightly closed.

If you have ever seen a roomful of primary students trying to be “good,” you know the exaggerated posture I am describing! One little boy rounded the corner of the hallway in this posture when he spotted me alongside the principal. Instantly, his eyes lit up and he started to open his mouth to say something, but then he stopped. He looked at me, and then the principal, who said, “It’s OK, Isaac. You can say ‘hi’ to your grandma!”

Isaac gave me a big smile, ran over to hug me, then scooted quickly back into the line. As he rounded the corner to go into his classroom he turned back, looking at me with a sheepish grin.

By the time Isaac got home, he may have forgotten all about my visit, but the memory of his expression when he saw me is one I will cherish.

¡Vaya con Dios!

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