Friends, I am so on fire with what this past Thursday, Friday, and Saturday held for me as a Catholic educator and mother. I've written about classical here all year, but I can't express it enough that classical liberal Catholic education model that strives to walk in line with Catholic Church teachings on what Catholic education should be. And what should Catholic education do?
It should educate the whole person.
""Holy Mother Church must be concerned with the whole of man's life, even the secular part of it insofar as it has a bearing on his heavenly calling. Therefore she has a role in the progress and development of education." (Gravissimum Educationis, Preface)"
Culture today pushes the Church to the side, relegating it only Sunday mornings and the occasional holy day. But the truth is, while an overarching separating of church and state as entities protects a country from dissolving into tumultuous theocracy, the family and the church have become so misaligned that the Church is no longer able to support families and families no longer support the Church. As Mark's Gospel warns us, a house divided cannot stand. The Church and family, which was created to protect and provide for one another, cannot stand without the other,
We, as the primary educators of our children, need Mother Church to help us. Just like our children, we require help discerning right from wrong and best from just okay. And good educators, committed to the Catholic faith and its teachings, can help moms and dads who labor daily to provide the best for their children in all areas (not just the material) in a way that is so clearly lacking in greater communities across the United States.
As I look at my own toddler, I am thankful knowing that I am not alone in the development of his character and morality. He is not punished as school for biting; rather, he is disciplined and taught. They remind him that biting hurts and it is never okay to hurt our friends. He placed kindly in a safe space, removed from his friends but not shunned from the group until he is ready to play gently again. And, more importantly, every day, he enters his school with warm greetings and big smiles that he returns eagerly. His school is just as much a home to him as our own home is. And that is only possible because of his teachers' commitment to partnering with us, his parents, to educate our little one with the dignity and respect of the whole person deserves.
Classical is likely to become an educational buzz word in the coming years, similar to differentiation or spelling to learn to read or blah blah blah... but the truth is, if classical education is employed with a sincere marriage to the purpose and intention of Catholic education. Our mission, bestowed on us by the Church through Christ is to create disciples. At the end of the day, we have been given a sacred mission to help these little people become saints.
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.