Sometimes schools and students need a motto, a succinct catch-phrase that captures core truths about the culture and orients everyone toward right thinking and action. “Have Fun, Do your Best, and Be a Blessing” is a great place to start. Each component represents both a standard for behavior and a claim on a different aspect of the student’s soul.
Have Fun. Every Christian school, but especially college-preparatory schools, need to promote widely the idea that school can be fun. Hard work does not have to be spiritless. Learning is not by nature, dull. Going to school does not have to fill students with dread. They can have fun. They can discover that learning is fun too. Even drudgery can be met with a positive mindset. Unfortunately, fear and stress have become the normal expectations. Both conditions should be countered with sound counsel about: 1) making good choices each day (the virtue of sound judgment) and, 2) striving for a balanced life when choosing activities (the virtue of discretion). Fun with their friends, fun with teachers, fun with classes, and fun with activities—in a culture of hard work, intense study, and difficult challenges—is not only possible but expected. School will not always be fun, of course, but the attitude and disposition that enables students to enjoy learning, to enjoy their classmates and teachers, and that encourages them to love challenges, while not taking themselves too seriously is the idea.
Do Your Best. To do one’s best requires a healthy self-concept, good judgment, and a realistic view of life’s circumstances. It also requires the right mindset. The standard is never perfection, but always excellence with the proviso that although circumstances change and sometimes students are able to devote more time to their studies than at other times, doing their best is all they are expected to do. Generally, the result will be exemplary; at other times it may not be. Balanced students know that setbacks and disappointments are not the end of the world. Of course, learning is the goal, not performance. Consistent application, self-discipline, hard work and a teachable spirit will produce excellence in both. Students will do well to also keep in mind the great prayer from Daniel 1: “To these four young men, God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning.” This prayer, offered in faith, asks God to provide the knowledge or expertise students might lack. It is a prayer for all students but especially for those struggling with a subject area where performance is below expectations and potential.
Be a Blessing! We are all so hyper-focused on ourselves. Training students to consider others before themselves frees them from the disease of introspection, so common among young people today, and spreads encouragement, joy and honor throughout the school community. Unanticipated gifts are a kind of honor; they surprise and delight. Giving itself is certain to generate joy in the giver. Who has not felt wonderful after bringing a meal over to someone who is bedridden, or giving a secret gift of money to one in need? Giving to others is a good addiction and blessing others is good medicine. We all share in the blessing given to Abraham. We are called to turn every wasteland, every valley of trouble into a place of springs. We are called to be a gift-giving people! Encouraging students to be a blessing can absolutely change their lives and dramatically revolutionize the spirit in a Christian school.