Archive for February, 2011

I’d like to start off with a big “thank you” to all our parents who had a chat with their child about classroom behavior. I heard back from several of you. Your efforts were very obvious. We had a very good class. They were well-mannered and engaged – even though this was not one of the most compelling lessons in the curriculum. We have just a few more weeks of classes. Hopefully, we can keep up the momentum. Please feel free to give your child some positive feedback and encouragement. Also — a big thanks to Mrs. Rudolphi for her assistance!

The primary thesis of last night’s lesson was the infinity of God’s love and mercy. Following up on our discussions of reconciliation, forgiveness and the Commandments, we pointed out that there is no wrong they can commit that that is so bad that God would not welcome them back. God’s arms are always open to those who seek him.

This prompted some interesting questions.

What about the time God killed off nearly everyone on Earth with the Great Flood?

What about the souls who are in Hell?

We talked about the differences between the image of God presented in the Old Testament, especially the older books, and the New Testament. We discussed that Jesus was the instrument of change between the angry, vengeful God of Exodus and the gentle, loving God of the New Testament.

Regarding the souls in Hell, we talked about humans having a free will and those who elected to turn away from God.

We read a paraphrased story about the Pharisee and the tax collector.  The Pharisee went to the temple and boasted to God and thanked God for making him so wonderful. The tax collector approached God with humility and asked forgiveness for his sins. It ended with Jesus’s saying “The exalted shall be humbled and the humbled shall be exalted.” We noted the differences between the two men. We also talked about the concept of humility before God and the meaning of Jesus’ statement.

On a side note, we talked a little about why Jesus frequently used hated tax collectors in his parables. I pointed out that the tax collectors of today are entirely different from the provincial tax collectors of the Roman Empire, who were little more than government sanctioned thieves. The niece of Chatham County’s tax collector is one of our students and I didn’t want her to think her uncle was cut from the same mold as the tax collectors of the Gospels.

Since things were going fairly well, we finished up with a small group, brainstorming activity. (This would not have been possible last week.) We divided the class into groups of three and asked them to work together. They should come up with two examples, real-life or imaginary, of situations where they, as fifth graders, have the opportunity to show mercy. As you might imagine, some of the stories were pretty good.

Next week, we are going to jump ahead and tackle our remaining two sacraments (of service), Matrimony and Holy Orders.

Important note to parents: In covering the Church’s teachings on Matrimony, it is very easy to sail very close to a sensitive family situation. (ie: divorce, separation, etc.) I try very hard to teach the lesson with that in mind, and I emphasize how important it is not to make judgments of another’s situation. In my five previous years of teaching this lesson, I have not had a problem. That having been said, if you have a family circumstance of which I should be aware, or you would like to talk to me, please feel free to give me a call or email me. And as always, you are most welcome to sit in on the class.

Work: 598-2325

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Dear Parents—

I’m disappointed and discouraged this morning. I hate to admit that I am being bested by a group of ten and eleven year-olds, but it is happening. Our discussion about proper classroom behavior several weeks ago has worn off.

Last night was a rowdy and difficult class. Mrs. Rudolphi was hung up in traffic due to a traffic accident on one of the bridges. She did not arrive until class was nearly over, so I had the class to myself. Initially, I was not concerned. We had only nine or ten students and the lesson was one that, in the past, has been interesting and engaging for the students (and me.) I was overly optimistic.

Problems began before we really got started. I had to remove one student from the class, when, after two direct warnings about his behavior, he walked across the room to hassle another student during our opening prayer. (Mrs. Hubert later brought him back with an apology.) That made an impression on the class that lasted for about ten minutes. The rest of the class session was a struggle against a tide of side-talk, cutting up and a lack of focus or attention span.

In the past five CCD classes I’ve taught, there have always been a couple of students who were the “rowdies.” In this class, the rowdies are the vast majority.

By the way, I have to accept partial blame for this problem. If I had better classroom management skills, I would probably do a better job controlling the mayhem. However, I’m not a professional teacher, and I can only use the skills I possess.

The sad part is that this makes the class sessions considerably less interesting and compelling for the students. I’m sure that, when asked, many would say that their CCD classes are boring and they get nothing out of them. I understand. The kind of questioning, open-discussion format that works well with religion classes does not work when the class cannot or will not focus on and participate in the group discussion.

It’s really too bad, because the last night’s lesson, as well as the last couple of weeks, contained lots of interesting questions for thought and discussion. Here are some of the points we tried to discuss last week and last night.

–The first commandment warns us to not worship false gods. Here in the 21st century, what are some of the false gods that some people worship? (ie: money, celebrities, fame, drugs, alcohol, etc.)

–What does it mean to take the Lord’s name in vain?

–Why do Catholics celebrate the Sabbath on Sunday rather than Saturday?

–What are Catholics’ obligation to honor the Sabbath?

–Why do most Protestant religions count the commandments different than Catholics?

–Why would God make it a commandment to honor your parents?

–Regarding the commandment “Thou shall not kill”, what about war, self defense, accidents, negligence, mental illness, etc?

–What is adultery? Does it also apply to boyfriends and girlfriends?

–What does it mean to “bear false witness? Does it mean any lie?

–Who are the “neighbors” it refers to?

–What does “covet” mean? What is the difference between admiring something that your friend owns, and coveting it?

–What is our conscience?

— How do we know what is right?

–What is the difference between a mortal sin and a venial sin?

We got through all those, but it was a struggle. And I suspect very little of it “stuck” with the kids.

I really hate to lecture or just read from the text book. I much prefer to ask questions; get the students to think and brainstorm; and try to guide them to their own answers. (When I’m asked a question, I frequently respond “What do you think?”) Unfortunately, this really isn’t working well with this particular group. Starting next week, I am going to have to reconsider my approach. We have just a few weeks left in the season. If it means reverting to a more boring lecture-read-written exercises format, in order to get through the year, then that’s what we’ll have to do. Ugh.


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This is a late posting. Sorry ‘bout that. Last week was a very busy week in “Mike’s World.”

Our class Wednesday evening was a good one. We had a very small class. Apparently May Howard 5th graders had a field trip to Jekyll Island and that took out about half the class.

We started the Ten Commandments. As expected, we made our way halfway through the fifth commandment (Thou shall not kill.) when we ran out of time. Among the various discussion points were:

The story of God giving the commandments to Moses.

The new concept put forth in the first commandment that there is only one God.

We discussed the differences between the concept of false gods or idols at the time of the Exodus and what might be a false god today (celebrities, sports, play, money, etc.)

The differences between the way Catholics count the commandments, compared to many Protestant churches. (Catholics combine the God-related commandments into three. Protestants usually spread them out to four. Catholics separate the commandments against coveting into two separate commandments, while most Protestant churches combine them into one.) We pointed out that the material is all there. It’s just that different churches count them differently.

We discussed what it means to take the Lord’s name in vain.

We talked about the Sabbath and why Christians celebrate it on the first day of the week.

The importance of honoring your father and mother, and why God even needed to include that in the list.

We spent a fair amount of time discussing some of the “what if’s” in the commandment against killing. Self defense. War. Etc. We still have some to cover this week.

Because we had so many kids out last week, we will take a few minutes to review last week’s class. Then we will move on to the second half of the Commandments. Should be interesting. If you’re free, come and join the fun.

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What a difference a week makes. We started last night’s class with a discussion (lecture) on proper classroom conduct. I simply told the children that their collective behavior has not been acceptable and we would no longer tolerate it. As mentioned in last week’s posting, we told them that if anyone was either unwilling or unable to conduct themselves properly, we would simply call their parents and ask them to come pick them up. Mrs. Rudolphi offered her observations. She said she could tell when someone was going to act out, because they always look at her first to see if she was watching. Mrs. Hubert was also there and also supported our effort.

The result was we had a very quiet class. It was a relatively small group – only eight students. After our “come to Jesus” lecture, I think they were properly intimidated. It took a little while to get them involved in discussions, but that is OK. We got through the lesson without any disruptions.

In terms of subject matter, we finished off the Sacraments of Healing with the Anointing of the Sick. I really expected this to be a totally foreign concept to the 5th graders, so imaging my surprise when two of the students told us that they had received the sacrament when they were younger.

We talked a little about the changes in the sacrament over the past decades, from when it was “Last Rites” and typically was administered only to those on their death beds.

We talked some about the spiritual aspect of physical healing.

We reviewed both Sacraments of Healing (Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick) and attempted to reinforce the concept of forgiveness and reconciliation – both in the Church and in every day life.

Next week we tackle the Ten Commandments. In past years, this has taken at least two class sessions to complete. The lesson generates many, many questions and much discussion. When 5th graders start thinking about all the “What if…?” possibilities, you never know where the discussion will go. It’s a lot of fun. As always, parents are welcome to sit in.

See y’all next week.

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