Measure Twice, Cut Once

My dad would often say, “Measure twice, cut once.” As an engineer and general handy man, this had quite a significance for his work. As I’ve grown older, I have come to appreciate the deeper meaning to this phrase.

For me, the literal meaning is true, but the deeper meaning for me is to take time to measure a situation before you act, so you don’t make an error you can’t reverse. Once you cut something, there is no going back to fix it. If we spent more time weighing situations, whether it be the words we say, actions we take, or time we use, we would spend less time having  to repair the damage. I also thought about how to spend differently. I intentionally purchased gifts for family and friends from independently owned and operated stores vs. big box stores. I prayed for inspiration when purchasing gifts to make sure they were meaningful and personal.

Then I thought about how I needed to spend time differently – to measure twice and cut once. I have been trying to stop and be present in every situation, rather than multi-task. Multi-tasking does not allow me to measure wisely. I have made some cutting errors when I wasn’t careful. This is what I have decided to make as my new year’s resolution: to spend less time being in so many places at once and spend more time being present. I owe it to the people around me to do that. I owe it to myself to do that. The work will always be there, but the people won’t. People matter.

 

Jill Fischer is the Principal of St. Dominic Catholic School.

 

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The Armor of God

Bullying.

Thanks to the media, this word has become an overused buzzword in many circles for what can be considered a natural component of child development as children learn to socialize and communicate.

A large part of what happens in school is the socialization of children. School is a microcosm for the greater society. What is in the world, is in the school. When meanness and unkindness exists in the world, it also exists in the school. Children do what they see and experience. If the greater culture accepts mean behavior and makes it the norm, it will creep into the school unless parents are vigilant against it.

The school cannot control what parents allow in their homes. When a family selects a Catholic school there is the hope that there will be the support of likeminded people in the raising of children. There is also the expectation that work will be done to tame the evils of the outside world. We try. Even a Catholic school does not exist in a bubble despite our best efforts. If it did, one may even question if that would be in the best interest of a child.

Resilience and tolerance are virtues we teach along with love, patience, respect, compassion, empathy, and a whole host of other virtues as well. These virtues are the armor of God. We strive to have our children put on this armor of God to combat what is in the world, but virtues don’t develop in a bubble.

“Bullying” is a learned behavior. For that reason, we need to be mindful of the models we provide for our children. We all need to look at how we interact with one another. Little ears and eyes are always on. What they hear and see is brought into the school. This is why the partnership between home and school is so important in the development of a child. Intentionally including God in the equation is even more important. When you have a gathering of over 400 children coming from over 200 family situations, this becomes a very complex endeavor.

From media in its many forms, our children are learning that the way to solve misunderstandings is through violence – physical contact and harsh language. Carefully watch the shows your children consume with this lens. Listen to the news with the ears and eyes of a child. Children do act out these scenarios in their play. They do mimic it in their conversations. You’ll see it if you pay attention. This has been true for all generations.

Is this bullying? As parents and educators, we need to be countercultural. The art of communication is being lost, as is civil discourse. Slowly and maybe unaware, we are creating a very angry environment. Yelling, belittling, sarcasm, taunting, jumping to conclusions without all the facts, and teasing are common modes of communication that our children see in the media, if not in our own homes/families, and sadly, classrooms. This is so opposite of what WE should be creating. At school, we tell children to use their words to solve problems, but tones, not even words, can be just as bad. Our words as educators sometimes don’t help either. Love is to be the source of all. We all need to work at it.

Current research in the educational landscape has identified a “crisis in self-regulation” among this generation of children. They are the smartest of all previous generations but lack necessary skills in how to discipline themselves. Instant information and gratification has diminished if not extinguished these skills. This is why more children have difficulty resolving conflict, can’t sit in their seats, as well as struggle with anxiety and perfectionism more than any other generation (Educational Leadership, September, 2018, p10).

Research points to the disappearance of unstructured outdoor childhood play, the growth of media and technology, and the fact that kids are “unemployed”, that is, they often don’t have meaningful ways to contribute to the family or community, especially in ways that aren’t achievement or competition oriented, as the cause for this crisis. How do we turn back the tide? Research suggests that adults stop taking misbehavior personally, and work to find a path to stopping  it without rewards and punishments. This means to foster social-emotional skills. Children need to own behaviors and learn from them. They need patient adults to do this. This is what we try to do in school. We see our role as helping children progress in behavior, rather than expecting children to have everything be perfect. This work is messy. It is hard. It is a case by case basis. Students who misbehave are not bad kids, they are not necessarily bullies, they’re children who need support in learning to manage their behaviors, emotions, and thoughts. (Educational Leadership, September 2018, p11)

As educators, we are trained to identify bullying. We are trained to identify aspects of child development that are “normal.” We have all taken psychology and sociology classes around child development as part of our undergraduate training. We know children very well. The majority of children will respond to distress from an emotional place, which is why they hit and bite or kick and scream – they do not have the words to express what is happening inside. As they grow, and words are more available to articulate what they feel. We then need to work on appropriateness of word choice and timing.

That being said, children develop differently, so a classroom can have kickers and screamers as well as eloquent orators. Oftentimes, an “I don’t know” will come out when the words are not there. An “I don’t know” requires your help in finding the words. An “I don’t know” can also be just that – they don’t know. This means that emotion was very much a part of what is going on – a reaction.

Here is a set of questions to pursue with children when they have made a poor choice in relationship with others:

  • What did you do?
  • What made you do that?
  • What should you have done?
  • What will you do next time?

“Why” is not a good question to ask. Use “what” instead as it gets to the cause differently – What caused you to do that? or What made you do that? The response will bring you to where you need to be to have a teachable moment with a child. The essential component is ownership. Children, and adults, like to bring others into the equation. When behaviors can be owned, correction can be made. It only takes once, usually. Most importantly, be calm and let the child think it through. Don’t answer for them. Don’t put words in their mouth. This line of questioning catches them off guard. Bullying is psychological. The bully is intentionally seeking out a power imbalance with those around them to gain control, usually because something in their life is out of control. The victim/target will lose confidence and self-esteem at the hands of the bully which is exactly what the bully strives for. Victims come to fear the bully. This is done over a period of time. It can be obvious or it can be subtle. Both the bully and the victim need help. Both the bully and the victim need love. If children are afraid of another child, this is something we pay very close attention in order to determine if bullying is or is not occurring.

Where is the line between bullying and normal human development? When does behavior cross the line? Every human being has a level of tolerance. It is that level of tolerance that draws the line.

Every school has children learning how to be civilized human beings and that isn’t a problem, that is what we do in school. Bullying should not be tolerated. Bullying requires help. We are here to help people be the best versions of themselves. If you feel your child is being bullied or your child is the bully, we can help. If your child is struggling socially, which isn’t bullying, we can try to help. We are in this together.

 

Jill Fischer is the Principal of St. Dominic Catholic School.

 

What Would You Do?

In the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 10, we hear the story of the rich young man. This young man thought he had heaven in his grasp, a slam dunk! He had been following the Ten Commandments. He had been giving appropriately to the poor. He was being kind. In essence, he was talking the talk and walking the walk in a manner he thought fit the expectation. He was thinking much like many of us do.

But then Jesus throws him a curve ball. He reminds us that Heaven is not a given. I like to imagine that Jesus scanned his soul, as only a divine human could do, and landed on that one trouble spot He knew the rich young man had. That sore spot. That chink in his armor.

Jesus told the rich young man to give away everything he had and follow Him.

This gives the rich young man pause as he had worked hard to acquire his wealth. To give it all away was too much of an ask. Ultimately, he couldn’t do it. He passes up a lifetime with Jesus because he couldn’t get rid of his worldly possessions.

I don’t know about you, but I often play with this in my head: would I be able to drop everything and follow Jesus? What would be the spot on my soul that Jesus would press upon?

Personally, in my head, I know that everything I have is a gift from God. It was never really mine to begin with. As a student of the Bible, I know that Jesus always came back “home,” so while the disciples had to drop everything and go, they were never fully disconnected.

As a friend of the Saints, I know that abandonment leads to great joy. Jesus doesn’t want us to suffer, but He does want us to connect completely to Him so all distractions have to go away. He wants us to trust Him. He’d never lead us into something He wouldn’t be there to help us with.

So when I wonder if I could just drop it all, I’d like to think I could. Could you? What is that thing that would trip you up?

 

Jill Fischer is the Principal of St. Dominic Catholic School

 

 

Own and Grow

In the Gospel of Luke (6:39-42), St. Luke shares how Jesus encourages us to stop the blame game and own our behaviors.

“First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.”

When we make a mistake or a bad choice, own it and learn from it. Don’t pass the buck. Don’t make excuses. Don’t point to someone else. Own and grow! Own it and then help others to be better versions of themselves.

This is what the sacrament of reconciliation is all about. Admitting our errors in order to be forgiven and be a better person for it. We are in it to win it – not a prize but the satisfaction of living a life worthy of God.

 

Jill Fischer if the Principal of St. Dominic  Catholic School.

 

The Road to Holiness

The way to live a life of holiness is found in the gospels. Embedded in all the wonders and teachings of Jesus lies the key. The life of holiness is a life rooted in the beatitudes. To be holy is to be poor in spirit, meek, empathetic, just, merciful, simple and pure, peaceful, and courageous in faith. In other words, to be holy is to be unaffected by the worries of the world because of a dependence on the will of the Father.

Is that easy? Not at all. This is why a “holy” person depends on prayer, a tight relationship with God that goes beyond formal words to conversations with Him. Conversations where you are not just talking, but also listening. Listening for what God is saying to you through Scripture, through others, through the events of your life. “Holy” people depend on their relationship with God. They trust in God. “Holy” people don’t take life too seriously, but they are serious about loving and serving God and others.

“It takes effort to always do good…The road to holiness is not for the lazy!

Pope Francis tweet on 9/17/2018

 

Jill Fischer is the Principal of St. Dominic Catholic School.

 

The Call to Holiness

In the papal encyclical “Gaudete Et Exsultate, On the Call to Holiness in Today’s World,” Pope Francis talks about the challenges we face as followers of Christ. He also reminds us to call upon the saints/Saints as companions on that journey to everyday holiness. They are there to help protect, sustain, and carry us when we feel that we cannot.

We can do this for one another as well. We all have the same goal in mind – to be transformed into the image of Christ, right? It is only through community that this can happen.

Throughout the entire encyclical, Pope Francis reminds us of the many saints who, by their lives, were not perfect, but tried very hard to live a life worthy of God. They always sought forgiveness. They always sought love. They always had hope, and they brought others to the Lord by their witness.

There is no greater example of how to live a life of faith, than to live a life of faith and have courage in it. Let us begin by acknowledging that we are His, and never apologizing for being in love with Him, and being grateful for all He has done for us.

 

Jill Fischer is the Principal of  St. Dominic Catholic School.

 

Love One Another

Love one another…

What does it mean to love? I remember back in high school, we had to read a book entitled “Love” by Leo Buscaglia (1972) as part of our theology instruction sophomore year. It was in the context of this book that I learned many things about this little four letter word, that can have such ambiguity as much as it can have definition.

I went and pulled it off the shelf of my library as I pondered the commandment to “love one another.” While Jesus had provided example after example of what love really looks like in the gospels, the climax being His Passion, rarely are we ever confronted with such a selfless act of love on a daily basis. I thumbed through the pages to see if my sophomore self had left me any nuggets of inspiration, when I stumbled upon an annotation that read:

Love means to commit oneself without guarantee, to give oneself completely in the hope that our love will produce love in the loved person. Love is an act of faith, and whoever is of little faith is also of little love. The perfect love would be one that gives all and expects nothing. (p.96)

Clearly, Jesus feels that we should be able to do this, otherwise, He wouldn’t have given us this directive. Typically, one does not ask of others what one would not do themselves. God loves us. We are to love one another.

I was recently reminded of the phrase “To love another person is to see the face of God,” notably coined in Les Miserable. Do you take time to reflect upon your relationships with this in mind? As I think about it, parents are the first teachers of love. As a parent, I vividly recall the moment I first laid eyes on my children and the overwhelming love that existed in that moment. I can truly say I saw the face of God. I still do. The love of a parent for a child is the closest thing in our human existence that compares to the love that God has for us. A parent would lay their life down for their child. That is what God did for us through Jesus – the ultimate sacrifice. In turn, we must love one another like that.

To all of the moms out there who make sacrifices, take “abuse,” give love, share smiles and tears to show your children the love of the Lord through your face, thank you.

 

Jill Fischer is the Principal of St. Dominic Catholic School

 

The Directions are Simple

Listen. Pay attention. Follow directions.

These are words and phrases regularly heard throughout the day in any school environment or any home.

In the Acts of the Apostles, it seems that these phrases are being directed at all of the faithful and not just to the apostles and early disciples of the time. The directives are still very real and very profound, especially as we consider that we do not know the time when Jesus will come again, as He has promised. We must listen, pay attention, and follow directions.

As a teacher, Jesus provided us with much to remember and as a teacher, He modeled the expectations. While He didn’t really give us a rubric to follow, we do have the Ten Commandments as a set of standards. Regardless, He gave us two very specific directions to follow in order to pass the test when the time came:

1. Love the Lord with all your mind, heart, and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself. (I love the genius use of the compound sentence.)

2. Do this in remembrance of me – participate in the Eucharist.

How well are you listening, paying attention, and following these directions? This should be a piece of cake, right? If these two things were what comprised the final exam, have you prepared appropriately?

Listen. Pay attention. The directions are simple.

Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. – Mark 16:15-16.

 

Jill Fischer is Principal of St. Dominic Catholic School.

 

God is Speaking to Me

Do you remember your First Communion? I do. I wore my mother’s first communion dress and my aunt’s veil. I wore a necklace that I received on my baptism and brand new white shoes. I vividly recall my excitement and how special the day felt.

While I don’t remember much of the Mass, I remember when I took Jesus into my hands for the first time. I was totally excited. I remember moving very quickly to return to my seat upon receiving the precious Body and Blood so that I could say my rehearsed prayers. I also remember thinking, “That was it?” anticipating something more. I don’t know what I thought would happen. “They” said I would be changed. Did I change? Did something happen that I couldn’t see, but others could?

Do you get that feeling too, like there should be something more? In our heads, we know what is going on, but has the rote nature upon which we receive communion made it something less spectacular than what it is?

As I helped at the First Communion retreat this past weekend, I couldn’t help but be reminded about the magic that it holds. I want to reclaim that—the wondering if I’ve been changed because I have received Christ. I am truly one with Him. I should be changed each time. Am I? Are you? Are we?

As I head to Mass with the First Communicants this weekend, I will be paying very close attention to that, and engaging in Mass with a renewed focus of my place in the Body of Christ.

I will be asking myself, “How is what this Mass holds for me today changing me and inviting me closer to Jesus?” God is speaking to me just as He is speaking to you and he speaks to us all the time through one another.

I pray I don’t miss the message.

 

Jill Fischer is the Principal of St. Dominic Catholic School.

 

Eyes of Faith

Jesus, I trust in you. Jesus, I trust in you. Jesus, I trust in you.

I learned a long time ago that trust is difficult to come by and equally as difficult to maintain. I also learned a long time ago that there are only two beings that can be trusted implicitly and in all situations. Two beings that will never disappoint when trust is placed in them.

Can you guess whom they may be? I’ll go so far as to share that even though I learned this long ago, I still find it difficult to completely trust them. Any guesses further? Of course, it is Jesus (God) and His mother, Mary.

My faith story has evidence all over the place that Jesus and Mary are the only two individuals that, when asked to assist me, never disappoint. Granted their time frame is not my time frame, and their way of coming through for me is not always what I anticipated, but they ALWAYS come through. Eyes of faith have allowed me to see it. To place one’s trust in Jesus and Mary can have the most profound impact on how a person approaches life and appreciates what life offers.

Even still, I like to be in control and think I have it taken care of. I usually make a mess of it when I think this way. Eyes of faith tell me the “mess” is God saying “Give it to me. I’ll take care of it.” After all this time, you would think I would have learned to just trust. One would think by now I would just instinctively “let go and let God” as the saying goes. I don’t. I don’t automatically give it to God to handle things, unless I know I can’t really handle it.

I wonder why that is. Do I enjoy suffering? Am I a glutton for punishment? When I learned and used the Divine Mercy Chaplet, I expanded my appreciation for how the power of God in my life can change the outcome of troublesome situations. I have other such prayers in my arsenal, but this one, for some reason, works the fastest. Holding in my head the troublesome situation while praying brings peace, and therefore clarity. God answers through my prayer. I am able to “see” what needs to be done. The Chaplet blends Jesus and Mary, as the image of the Divine Mercy allows Jesus’s saving grace to shine upon the situation, while hands move feverishly on Rosary beads. It is one of the perfect formal prayers of the Catholic Church. Thank you, St. Faustina, for sharing it.

I would highly recommend it if you are dwelling on a situation that seems overwhelming and out of control. I would recommend it if you find yourself hurt by the actions of others or if you are needing the opportunity to find mercy from someone you hurt. I would recommend it when you feel lost. Here’s a great resource: www.praydivinemercy.com

Jesus, I trust in you. Jesus, I trust in you. Jesus, I trust in you.

 

Jill Fischer is Principal of St. Dominic Catholic School.