We are over halfway through Lent as of last week and I just had to share how our Lenten journey in room 204 is going. On Mardi Gras (the Tuesday before Lent), I held a quick classroom meeting with each of my three grades. We discussed how Lent is an opportunity to grow in faith through abstaining of things and adding others, and each class reached the same conclusion: they wanted to give up put-downs for Lent and add more prayer in the classroom.
I was very impressed by this conclusion because truthfully, like any child their age, they do struggle with putting one another down, whether jokingly or unkindly. The classroom is sometimes a hostile learning environment for fear of being wrong and being laughed at because of this. As an educator, I can model the behavior expected and reprimand and correct whenever something like this happens, but I cannot control each scholar's reactions, expressions, and statements. Even at a Catholic school, kids will be kids and feelings will get hurt, regardless of intentions.
To help hold them accountable, I have three small pails filled with fishbowl stones. Each time I hear or see a put down in the classroom or wherever I am, I pull a stone from the corresponding pail. Scholars watch the stones accumulate at the literal feet of the crucifix in our classroom, just below our sacred space. Scholars may also put out stones, as long as they are not doing it in a distracting manner. At the end of the day on Friday, we make an Act of Contrition, confessing our sorrow for our sins and intentions to do better. I added this to help them remember that although we sin, we are also forgiven by Christ again and again. It can be disheartening to see our sins piling up, but seeing them wiped away through a sincere at of penance and repentance is an excellent reminder of God's great love and mercy in the sacrament of Confession.
As the weeks have gone by, fewer stones have been put out. The visual representation of their sins seemed to have really helped them realize the vast quantity of put-downs they use throughout the day. I'm hopeful that after IOWA testing (our standardized assessments) they will continue this positive change, even after the Lenten season. As teachers, we're called to teach but most importantly, help these young people realize their potential to be holy. I think that this small, simple activity is definitely helping our little future saints to obtain their promise of the Kingdom, one small stone at a time.
First year Catholic educator in the Classical curriculum style. I teach middle school English-Language Arts.