This week is Catholic Schools Week.

Festivities are in full swing at St. Joseph Catholic School as students celebrate their Catholic education. The hallways are covered in school spirit, and I am reminded of my love for St. Joseph School.

I’m not going to tell you how we are the best school, and I’m not going to tell you a list of reasons why we are better because I don’t believe either of those things. When any school is packed full of educational professionals who all have the same goal of caring for and educating a group of students, that is a great school. York is blessed with amazing schools, and we all bring a lot to the educational table.

You will never catch me telling you that St. Joe’s is the best or better than any school because I don’t think it is in the best interest of the children we serve to stack ourselves against each other. We each bring a different perspective on the educational experience.

This week, I want to bring you into our world at St. Joe’s and show you how we are different in what we offer our students.

I am not Catholic myself. In fact, I was raised southern Baptist and still practice those beliefs with my own children today. However, my time teaching in a Catholic school has brought me a huge respect and appreciation for the Catholic faith and the values this school brings to its students—one of which is my own 4-year-old son, Landon.

The purpose of St. Joseph School is to prepare students for a life that glorifies God.

So what does that look like?

Every morning after attendance and morning greetings at the front door, students and staff journey to the church for daily mass. At first, this part of the school day terrified me. It was so unfamiliar to me. In fact, I actually bought a “Catholicism for Dummies” book along with a few other informational books prior to my first day back in August 2018. I wanted to be professional and respectful in this environment, so I did what I do best—I researched and learned as much as I could. Mass is one of my favorite parts of the day. I get to begin every day with forty-five minutes of prayer and worship before beginning my day. How beautiful is that?

Last year, a colleague of mine—also a non-Catholic—told me that she takes the time every day during mass to pray for each of her students. I loved that idea, so I started doing it myself. As I sit behind my students at Mass each day, I take the time to pray for each of them. Every school day, each of my students gets that from me. I also take the time to pray for myself, and I ask God to guide me through each day as I navigate the bumpy waters of teaching.

No matter what we each faced in our morning, no matter what decisions we made before walking through the door, no matter what our night before looked like, we all—the entire St. Joe’s family—get to spend time before beginning our educational day to pray and let go of our worries.

We get to worship and glorify God.

I love that.

I teach 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grades at St. Joe’s, but I know all of our students. On my duty days, I take the time to connect with the students I don’t have in class. Nothing brings me more joy than a kindergartener or a first grader chasing me down in the hallway for a quick hug. I love that I know them all regardless of whether or not I have them in class. We are a small school, so we have that advantage.

I know what extracurricular activities my students do, what homework they have due tomorrow in subjects I don’t teach, which sticker they want out of my treasure box when they hit their next 1000 pages of reading, what types of books they enjoy and which ones they are hoping I purchase soon for my classroom library, and not to mention, all their birthdays.

I love that my small class sizes allow me to know all that. Not all teachers have that luxury. As a parochial school teacher, there are luxuries I don’t have, but my goodness, there are a lot I do have.

We are not the best. I do not believe a school can ever be “the best” because, simply put, there are far too many variables in determining something so large.

We aren’t better than any school either because I don’t think it is fair to the educational system or the children we serve to make those comparisons.

But we are different. Different in ways that I value more than my words can explain.

An education from St. Joe’s comes with its own unique fingerprint.

I love Catholic Schools Week because this is the week we get to celebrate our differences—our uniqueness.

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