100 Words

Bill Crittenberger"100 Words" serves as a self-framing for me to keep things short and sweet, an homage paid and recognition to an expression I hold near and dear: less is more. Each of these reflection pieces lands quite close to the 100-word mark and provides me an avenue through which to share with you, the O'Connell community, a reflection from week to week on any number of my thoughts, observations, opinions, takeaways, musings etc.—falling within the realm, and in no patterned way whatsoever (trust me), of the prosaic to the lyrical, the informational to the aspirational, the serious to the whimsical, the arcane to the profound, the secular to the spiritual...you get the picture.

My goal and hope is for you to get to know me as I get to know you, the members of the Bishop Denis J. O’Connell community, and all I ask from you is that you take less than a minute each week to read (more or less) 100 words. God’s Peace.


Yes, we can!

This past Saturday would have been like any other Homecoming weekend prior to a year ago, but because of the pathway initiated and the havoc wreaked by Covid—and society’s ensuing mad-dash responsive, and essential scramble—nothing should, or likely will, ever again be taken for granted or under-appreciated by any of us. So, yes, O’Connell’s recent Homecoming most certainly was not “like any other” both on its own merit, i.e. high levels of excellence, and its rightful assist in allowing each of us to exhale in response to us all, to generalize, being in a better place, Covid-wise. From any manner of framing, last Saturday was an extraordinary day for our community, marked by happiness, success, and memorable moments aplenty, and kicked off symbolically and literally by the return to campus of multiple generations of O'Connell alumni. Here, as they were, to take in, savor, and catch-up, they were to witness a whale of a football game, a nail-biter’s nail-biter as our Knights—a band of brothers who literally weathered a considerable fourth quarter storm—held on in scintillating fashion to win 15-14 over Bishop Ireton. Excitingly, Bishop Burbidge attended the game, his presence eliciting an impromptu and highly enthusiastic and deeply respectful chant of “Bishop Burbidge!, Bishop Burbidge!…” from our appreciative and boisterously jovial student section. Halftime was marked in delightful fashion by the presentation of the Homecoming Court, highlighted by the crowning of the King and Queen (who later that evening at the Homecoming Dance were seen rocking their crown and tiara, respectively)—talk about a smile-inducing slice of Americana! And then, of course, was the Homecoming Dance—beautifully appointed with just the right touches, a gymnasium magically transformed into a gorgeous dancehall and an outdoor ice cream station where those wishing to cool off or de-decibel from the dance floor found something sweet to sample as well as a sweet place to hang out, talk, and simply be together in conversation and community. Yes, on one level this past Saturday at Bishop O’Connell was a day in the life of DJO, but, critically and crucially, it was a whole lot more, most certainly a great day to be a Knight! As, in the end, we, God’s children, have the Lord ever by our side and ever loving us, how nice, refreshing, and uplifting last Saturday was for us to be together, yet again as in the past, in community, one body with many parts.

A new twist on an old game

In observing Mr. Will Iacobucci’s PE class earlier this week as part of my making the rounds to see our new-to-O’Connell teachers in action, I was delighted to witness his effective and well-delivered lesson plan. It was clear that his engaged and cooperative students benefitted from the experience AND had a great time in the process. Mr. Iacobucci ‘14 called on the 16 young men in his class to play two different versions of dodgeball, with neither version falling within the traditional (hence well-known) framing of the game. He created a setting where no one in the class was in any way an “expert.” Within this dynamic, everyone was starting from square one, having to think through all that the new formatting entailed—the rules, the strategies, etc. Prudently, Mr. Iacobucci ran each game twice, affording his students the chance to have one game under their belts in thinking through and plotting how best to execute in advancing to game two, equipped as now they were with a scintilla of “experience.” It was after round one—with a smidge of know-how in each player’s hip pocket—that Mr. Iacobucci achieved what I saw to be the most important and broader lesson of that day’s lesson plan, that of “scaffolding”—a core aspect of effective teaching. Scaffolding calls for the teacher to meet his/her students where they are vis-à-vis an existing and substantial base of knowledge, competence, and comfort and then take them to the next, and previously unknown, level. Dodgeball (existing comfort) to dodgeball with a brand new set of rules resulted in slight unease initially, and then a movement toward a degree of confidence and, over time, expertise. Well done, Mr. Iacobucci, and impressive! Whether in sports, work environments, interpersonal relationships, or family units—things can get stale if same old same old too frequently is in fact same old same old. In keeping things fresh, dynamic, lively, and with just the right level of unpredictability—and in which, importantly, no one in the group has an existing expertise—oftentimes the benefit is that a reserved, or younger, or not as “in the fold,” or—you name it—group member steps forward, steps up, and shines in an unanticipated or atypical way, which, of course, always benefits the group’s well-being and, in the case of some professional-type settings, the mission. Yes, variety is the spice of life.


Note: Keenly aware as I am of both the Sports Illustrated Jinx and the Madden Jinx, and not at all a disbeliever of either, I extend my profuse apology to Arkansas Razorbacks head coach Sam Pittman and Hog Nation for the 37-0 shellacking the Georgia Bulldogs put on you last Saturday in college football. If, in fact, the possibility of a Crittenberger Jinx (CJ) exists, I say vociferously and with consummate glee: how ‘bout that Navy Goat football team—especially as applies to the 11 December at 3:00 p.m. date with destiny! (Translation: Go Army! Beat Navy!)

The word humility, as defined by the Benedictines, is “walking in true knowledge of self in relation to God, others, and creation; recognizing limitations without losing hope, and accepting gifts without becoming arrogant.” Earlier today at O’Connell’s annual Student Recognition Assembly, tens of tens of exceedingly deserving students were recognized in front of a packed house of their student body peers, the entire faculty/staff, and invited parents for one or another aspect of demonstrated excellence—be that academic, citizenship, service, artistic, or athletic. To the students who were recognized earlier today, accept my heartfelt congratulations for all that you have done for and contributed to the Bishop O’Connell community in the arena of school life for which you were commended. I know in my heart that you will be gracious and Benedictine humble in this lovely “moment,” becoming an even better and more contributory version of yourself in moving forward. And to those youngsters in today’s assemblage who made up well more than 90 percent of the auditorium’s audience—the significant majority who were to go unrecognized—please know that we, the adults in this professional learning community, care deeply about you, think highly of you, and wish the very best for you. We have the utmost of respect and admiration for you and for what you bring to the table. In closing, I encourage each of you 1,150 fabulous youngsters, whether or not formally recognized today, to walk humbly, in true knowledge of self in relation to God, others, and creation.