Walking through the Season of Lasts
“I just played my last high school soccer game” our son, Jonathan, said amidst tears and hugs from teammates, classmates, parents, and coaches. Tis the season of lasts for our youngest son as he finishes his last year of high school. Being a 4 sport athlete and highly involved in the life of his school, Jonathan knows he has some more lasts before his year’s done. So based on the sadness he felt after his last soccer game I think he’s already dreading the next major last.
So on our way home from his last game I reminded Jonathan that a season of lasts doesn’t last forever. In fact a last of something means a first for something else. Though I acknowledged to him that early in the season of lasts it’s not always clear what the new first will be. For example Jonathan knows he’ll be going to college, which is comforting at a certain level, but he doesn’t know where. And not having a clear and specific picture of the first can make the season of lasts most difficult.
Yet once there’s clarity about the new first – in this case where Jonathan will be attending college, it’s easy to move from the sadness and loss to excitement about the promise that new first brings. But the key is finding that new first, to have a real and tangible plan beyond the last last. The more specific the plan, the easier it is to have the lasts feel like they’re giving birth to the new first instead of bringing an end to all things good and happy. That’s why this week Jonathan, Denise and I are making our first official college visits. Not to run away from the lasts but to put them into a different light, a light of a new first.
Now this all sounds really good as I’m saying it to a 17-year-old but here’s the real test of my fatherly advice – with Jonathan being our last child it also means Denise and I are also experiencing a season of lasts. After nine high school soccer seasons as a parent, Jonathan’s last game was also our last soccer game, his last basketball game will also be ours, his last day of school will be ours. I’ll admit I’m very sad about it all and already feel the loss that having no kids in school will bring to our lives.
Yet now it’s time for Denise and me to heed our own advice and have a plan and envision a life as “empty nesters”, and to discover our next first. What will it be? I don’t know but I’m excited to find out.
The Secret Ingredient in an Outstanding High School Education!
What is the secret ingredient in an outstanding high school education?
Could it be cutting edge academic, athletic and fine arts facilities? A curriculum loaded with options comparable to a small college? Maybe it’s a large student body that creates intense competition in the classroom, on the sports field and in the auditorium? Or the ability for students to specialize in a particular academic pursuit, sport, or fine arts discipline? Maybe the secret ingredient is as simple as parental involvement or small class sizes?
Now based on our four children’s experience, I can say with certainty, that most of these ingredients aren’t necessary to create a life transforming education. I also now believe it’s likely that some of these ingredients can actually stand in the way of one.
So then what is the secret ingredient? To answer that question, take a look at the above photo of our school’s conference and regional men’s and women’s 4×400 championship teams. They represent the secret ingredient. But to see this ingredient you need to know a bit about these eight students.
- 5 seniors, 2 juniors and a sophomore
- Six 4 sport athletes and one 5 sport athlete
- The valedictorian and salutatorian of the senior class
- Leads in the school plays and musicals
- 7 students (with the other next year) who participated in an overseas mission experience
- Members of the:
- School band and choir
- State runner-up Quiz Bowl Team
- MHSAA Student Advisory Council
- Student Council
- National Honor Society (6 students)
Now do you see the secret ingredient? It’s the ability for students to participate, in a meaningful way, in a wide range of life developing activities both inside and outside the classroom. As a result these eight students and their class mates will graduate as well-rounded, versatile people prepared to enter an ever-changing, complex world and to be a difference maker in it.
But what about getting into those top-tier colleges and universities? Well these seniors received acceptance into and will be attending nationally acclaimed colleges and universities. There is no doubt, because of all of their educational opportunities, these seniors were able to create impressive and persuasive college applications.
And here’s the real secret –the only kind of school that creates the opportunity to participate in a wide range of life developing activities, and to do so within the context of a small, supportive community of facility, staff, coaches, parents and families – is a small school.
And this is what our four children have experienced in their education at Northern Michigan Christian School. We have no doubt their diverse educational experience, combined with the people and community who provided it, have set them up not only to be successful in their careers but to be difference makers in the world. .