Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Home Sweet Classroom- Part One

If you missed my big St. Joseph announcement, you should know that I am currently trying to set up a brand new classroom for a set of 30 Fifth graders.

Preparing a classroom to be a creative, inspiring, organized, and functional space for that many people for eight hours a day can be a daunting task, so I thought I'd share some of the adventures that I have along the way.

Home Sweet Classroom- Part One- No classroom is a blank slate.  It comes with its own treasures.  There are pros and cons to inheriting a new classroom.

Pro- I have an entire wall of windows.  Natural light + fresh breezes = lovely.

Con- The windows must have curtains.  These are the curtains I inherited.

 Con, part 2- There are twelve panels of curtains that look just like that one.
Pro- I know how to sew (thanks, Mom!) and can make new & beautiful curtains.

Pro- The former fifth grade teacher told me that she cleaned out a lot of stuff before switching rooms.  I'm sure she was right, because there was not a lot of extra junk that I had to sort through.

Con- She elected to leave behind this buffalo nickel.  Hanging above my classroom door.  It has to go...but I am afraid that there is some significance/connection/importance...I need to talk to her. And then remove it from my sight.

Pro- I have lots of available technology in my room.

No, I am not talking about this portable record player.
 I mean my bank of new computers.

And my SMART Board.  Would it be bad to admit that this school stayed as my top pick once I found out my potential classroom had one?

Pro- Someone left behind lots of fifth grade level novels.  Literature is my favorite subject to teach, so more resources are always welcome.  However, this book would not make my lesson plan list.  The Incredible Journey?  Inspiration for the movie Homeward Bound?  Do you remember my hatred of talking animals?  Not going to happen.
Con- It happens to be one of the literature sets that I can use.  Ugh. Oh, there are only 25 copies.  (Snap) Too bad.
More adventures to come!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Beatitudes & Modern Saints

I created this game for a program...that no one showed up to.
It happens sometimes in ministry, and I have learned to not get frustrated about it.
Besides, I have a game ready made for another opportunity, and something new to stash on the soon-to-be labeled Saint shelf in my new classroom.

The topic for the night was the Beatitudes.  I decided to make a game that followed the same rules of Old Maid while giving info about the Beatitudes.  I also wanted to tie in some modern day Saints.  Most Catholic kids can tell you about St. Francis, St. Peter, and St. Patrick.  But do they know St. Edith Stein, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, and St. Gianna Molla?  I looked up info on Saints that lived sometime in the past hundred years or so.  I then tried to match each of them to a particular Beatitude that they particularly exemplified... and it was very difficult.  I think that I could have used any of these Saints as a model for any of the Beatitudes, which makes sense.  The Beatitudes were Jesus' New Law.  These men and women were living out lives of heroic virtue, so it makes perfect sense that they would be examples of everything found in Matthew 5.  I actually found out that Blessed John Paul the Great referred to Blessed Pier Giorgio as "A Man of the Eight Beatitudes."

The game includes a set of directions and a standard sheet for the back of the cards.  A full deck of 53 cards is needed for the game.  There are pairs of 26 different cards based on the Scripture of the Beatitudes, the Saints, biographies of their lives, and virtues/vices that correspond with the Beatitudes.  There is also one "Beatitude Bad Attitude" Card- which is the equivalent of the Old Maid card.

Click on the picture of the eight Saints below for a link to download the game. Have fun playing and learning about the Beatitudes and these awesome Saints!

***Update: The printable game has been edited to reflect JP2 and Mother Teresa's canonizations :)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

What’s in a Name?

If you asked a kid this question what answer would you get?

“Who do we come to Church/CCD/Sunday School to learn to know better?”

Would they say Jesus?
The Lord?
The Messiah?

All of those answers are right, of course, but I think that the many names of Jesus can be a little confusing for younger kids.  There is a wealth of knowledge in those names, though.  Their meaning, what they tell us about the person of God, what truths they point to in Scripture, how they connect the Old Testament and the New Testament…the possibilities are endless.

Here is an activity focusing on the names of Jesus.

You could couple it with a Bible Study on “Who do you say that I am?”(Mark 8:27-30)

You could teach the kids the meaning of each title and have them each look up one of the scripture references to go along with the name.

Or you could just make a colorful craft with any age of kids.

First, print off one of each of these pages for each kid doing the activity.  I copied the first page (Jesus is the…) on white so that they could color in the letters.  The second and third pages I copied on various shades of colored paper.
For the activity I was planning, I knew that I would have various ages of kids and a short amount of time, so I cut out the various titles ahead of time.  (I was able to cut through 3-4 sheets of paper at once, so it wasn’t too bad, but I would not want to have to do this for a very large class).  If I was doing the activity with older kids, I would have them cut out their own and then trade with others if they wanted various colors.  This time, I set up a table with the words, and the kids took turns coming to pick up their color choices.
Then they glued them on collage style onto a 12x18” sheet of black construction paper.
Finally, they colored, cut out, and glued on the title of the project.

And they completed this quick craft.  Because I had cut everything out ahead of time, all of the kids finished in about a half an hour.  We paired this with a discussion on the names of Jesus and we watched the movie Jesus: He Lived Among Us, which was created by The Voice of the Martyrs.  The sale of the DVDs goes to fund the sending of this same video (in many language translations) to nations that need to hear the Gospel.  You can also request a free copy for your church here.  I tried to ask them if they liked the movie, but considering I didn't here a peep out of them after I started it, and they frequently stopped working on the project just to watch, and some asked if they could borrow the DVD to watch it at home, I think that they liked it :)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Warm Fuzzies

Want to feel all warm and gooey inside and encouraged in your current line of work?

Have a 4th grader come and sit next to you and wistfully say:

"I wish there were a thousand of you."

I think that it was the best compliment I have ever received.

What are some warm fuzzies that you have had lately?

Friday, June 8, 2012

How to Find Your Wife in a Movie Theater

Yesterday my sister E and I went and saw the movie For Greater Glory.  About a dark time in recent Mexican history and a fight for religious freedom, it was interesting and very relevant to today. 

Quick assessment:
-Casting: A+
-Acting: mmmm, sometimes great, sometimes not so much.
-Message: Awesome.
-Costumes and sets: Loved them.
-Plot: Moving and engaging for the first half, but kind of lost direction in the second half.
-Ending: Abrupt.  There are too many characters and storylines that are left hanging.
-Historical Accuracy: I dunno, but I am inspired to do some research now.
-Saint Connection: Movingly portrays the story of Blessed Jose Sanchez del Rio.
-Appropriate for kids?: It is rated R for good reason.  There is a lot of killing.  And torture.  And gruesome murder.  I would think twice for use even with older kids, and maybe only use excerpts to illustrate certain parts of the story.

I am glad that we went and saw it, and I have been thinking about it ever since.  However, you are probably wondering about the title of this blog post.  What does this historic drama have to do with finding your wife in a movie theater?

Em and I were sitting in a theater watching this movie on a Thursday afternoon with three other people.  In the whole place.  Shocker.  So we were a little distracted when a couple walked in at about the hour and a half mark of the movie (only halfway through...).  They entered during a particularly intense scene in which my second favorite character was being killed.  (My favorite was Father Vega- Confession-hearing-priest one minute, guns-blazing-warrior the next.) It was more distracting because the couple was very elderly (God love them) and could not see anything, nor hear each other.  This is what the conversation looked like:

Husband to wife: "Can you see anything?" (More like "CAN YOU SEE ANYTHING???")
Wife: (Feeling along wall.) "NO! Where are you?" 
Husband: (Arms outstretched in opposite direction.) "Where are the seats?"

This went on.  Very loudly.  Unfortunately there were not two seats available in the handicapped access in front of them.  They would have to go either up or down steps to find seats.  So I got up to help them.

Katie to man: (quietly) "Sir, may I help you find a seat?"
No response. (Sound of brutal murder on screen.) (Wife is walking away along wall in opposite direction.)
Katie: (a little louder, tapping on his shoulder.) "Sir, may I help you find a seat?"
No response. (Wife: "Where are you?")
Katie: (Taking  much louder over the battle in the background.) "SIR, I AM GOING TO HELP YOU FIND A SEAT."  (Taking his hand, placing the other on the railing, guiding him up the steps.)

Emily and I were sitting in the first row of the steps on the end, so I told her to move over so that he would not have to go up any more steps then necessary.   She moved to the middle of the row.  I pushed down a seat and invited him to sit.  He just kept walking.

Man: "Where are the seats?"
Katie: "Here sir, sit here." (Ends up sitting almost on top of Emily before I can stop him.)
Man: "WHERE'S MY WIFE?" (grabbing me as I try to get by.)
Katie: "I am going to go get her, sir." (Wife is still working her way in the opposite direction.)
Woman: "Where are the seats?"

I went and got the woman, and with more loud talking I convinced her to let me take her arm and help her up the steps and down the aisle.  She eventually sat next to her husband and let me pass to sit by my sister.  I later found out that the man got a little handsy with Em, and was fiddling around with my purse in the seat next to him.  Emily thought that it would make a great scam- fake elderly vision and hearing loss and swindle unsuspecting folks who come to assistance.  Don't worry- my wallet was still there.

So we all settled back into the movie.  I couldn't help but wonder what this pair of 80+ers were doing at such a graphic movie, and why they came in 90 minutes late.  But I focused instead on the death of Eduardo Verastegui, which was very sad in my book.

However, just as I was immersed in the movie a few minutes later, we were interrupted again.

Husband: "WELL, I DON'T KNOW."
Wife: "LET'S LEAVE."
Husband: "WHAT???"
Wife: (Already making her way out the door.)

And with that, after all of the time just getting them into the seats, they just up and left.

I suppose they realized they were suppose to be next door at Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.

Planning Confirmation

So, as a DRE, there are some things that I love to do and some things that I don't particularly love to do.  And there are also some things that I dread doing, procrastinate doing, and then end up actually enjoy doing.  I am rambling.  But there is a point. 

Every year, I work with my catechists and parents to prepare students for their First Reconciliations and First Communions.  I have helped do this with 2nd, 3rd, and even 4th graders.  After four years, I have a pretty organized file, reusable handouts, and a format for the programs that I can come back to each year. However, one Sacrament that I don't have many resources on is Confirmation.  One reason is that I have only been the DRE for one Confirmation class. Another reason is that there are fewer resources out there for Confirmation- I think because not as many people enjoy teaching it.  Middle & High Schoolers are intimidating, they only view it as "graduation", it is hard to make the faith relevant to them...I have heard it all.  It is tough to find catechists willing to teach Confirmation.  I thing that the Catholic community can be doing more to build up people who want to work with that age group.  To tell them that the kids do need to learn from them. That they do care about their faith.  That they deserve to be given the tools and knowledge and relationship to stay a part of the Church. 

Sorry, I am rambling again.

The point is that I was surprised when my priest recently told me that he wanted to have Confirmation this year.  I was surprised because we have a small upcoming class, and last year we waited an extra year to increase numbers.  So when he told me that he wanted me to get the ball rolling on Confirmation, I admit, I groaned a little inwardly.  I then I checked myself.  I need to work on my attitude and start praying that we can provide the best Sacramental preparation for these kids during such a critical time.

So I have started my preparation by pulling out files from our last Confirmation class, and I was excited to see that many of them can be adapted or used again.  And I thought that if I was going to update them, I would share them with you.  So your reward for reading this rambling post are these resources: (Coming soon are some Confirmation lesson plans!)

Parent Support Letter

General Confirmation Requirements
Sponsor Requirements
Confirmation Service Project Record Sheet
Confirmation Saint Name Report

St. Augustine Holy Spirit Prayer

Confirmation Penance Service Program

Confirmation Penance Service Reflection for Adults

Confirmation Penance Service Reflection for Students

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Novenas Are Not Magic Spells

Novenas are not magic spells, but they work.

You may remember that back in this post I shared that I was going to be starting a novena.  A novena is just a fancy word meaning that you are going to purposefully pray for a specific intention for nine days.  Well, the nine days part is negotiable- sometimes it is fifty four days, sometimes it is until the prayer is answered…but the point is that you are focusing your prayer, dedicating time every day to a concern close to your heart, and often times including the intercession of a certain Saint.

I understand how some people might think that this sounds a bit superstitious or repetitious or artificial.  I imagine that there have been occasions when novenas have been abused as such.  However, if the petitioner’s intent is genuine, the results are amazing.  My experience with novenas (and the stories I hear from my friends) is that novenas work, usually quickly and with a strong and clear result.

Now I just said that they work- I did not say that you always get what you want.  If you are genuinely praying a novena, it should be that God’s will be done, period.  Novenas are not effective because pounding on the gates of heaven for nine continuous days makes God change His mind.  (Although there is that story of the persistent widow…) Novenas are effective because repeatedly seeking God’s will changes our hearts.

Ever present on my mind and in my prayers over the past year has been seeking God’s will for my future-specifically as I decide what my next job would be.  So many possibilities, so many choices, so many other people’s opinions.  I needed some clarity.  So, on May 1st, which is the feast of St Joseph the Worker, I started praying this novena not only to help me find my next job, but to work with more dedication and care in my current jobs.  I also included several people who are also job seeking in my petitions.

I chose to start praying this novena because the prayer is not about finding a job.  It is about working like St. Joseph did, with patience and perseverance, with care and thanksgiving, with petition and sacrifice.  It is how I want to view my work, as an offering to God and a service to the people around me.  So every day since May 1st, this prayer has been on my list.

It certainly got the ball rolling.  More people than ever asked me about my job search.  More suggestions/connections/networking flew my way.  I had five job interviews.  There also were three or four unsolicited job offers.  This novena helped me to know how to turn down jobs, when to stop the interview process with two potential employers…and when to finally accept a job offer (exactly a month after starting the novena, btw!).

So, I am excited to announce to my blog readers…

(this is an appropriate place for a drum roll)

…that in the fall, a classroom of 5th graders will be greeting me as their new teacher!

And the name of the school that I will be working at?

St. Joseph, of course.


Monday, June 4, 2012

And Baby Got a Ring

A couple of weeks ago, I started receiving emails full of military lingo with a subject line of "Operation Green Grass."

You might think that these emails were sent to me by mistake, but you would be wrong.

They were the secret communications between my baby sister's (then) boyfriend letting me know the part I needed to play... in his proposal to her. 

He did a great job surprising her, being romantic, and including the things that she loves, like her home and her family.

While he went about distracting her with a photo scavenger hunt, we all hid inside snapping pictures, until this happened:

She has several hundred pictures chronicling the story, but at this point she was saying something like, "Are you serious!?!  Is this happening?... Did you ask my dad?"

It was really cute, and we got it all on film.

So now we are planning two weddings between sisters in less than a year.  I think we should make a movie about it.  I would call it Violinist on a Barntop

Nah, sounds too familiar.

Concert Scavenger Hunt

Last week we kicked off our summer of random Youth Group events.  We have lots of fun doing all kinds of things that we don't have time for during the school year: game nights, movies, ice cream, concerts, trips...

We started the summer with a free concert with local Christian bands at a small town festival.  We love free concerts, and we have gone to lots over the years with our Youth Group.  This one was a typical summer concert that was outdoors.  Usually not a problem, but on the night of the concert, it was windy, rainy, and in the low 50s.  Not the best night to sit outside with a group of teenagers.  But, we toughed it out, and made it for (most of) the concert, complete with about 10 umbrellas, tarps, and blankets.
Yes, I am wearing a scarf, and this was on the last day of May...

This was the first event that our new class Youth Group members were invited to.  I don't know about you, but it can be tough to make those new kids feel welcome while still supporting the friendship of the older kids.  This is what I planned for this particular event, and it worked out great:

Step One: Count seats in the cars that you have going on the trip.  In a cup, put one crayon the same color of the car for every seat available.  For example, there was room for five kids in the white vehicle we had going, so there are five white crayons in the cup. 
Step Two: When the kids arrive, hold the cup over their head and have them pick a crayon.  I didn't tell them what we were doing or why, and they were very curious why I was passing out crayons.  It took a little problem solving, but they figured it out.  (Side note- the teams that they randomly picked using the crayon colors were EXACTLY the ones that I would have assigned based on mixing the kids up in the best way- and it happened completely randomly.  Go Holy Spirit!)

Step Three: Hand each team their Christian Concert Scavenger Hunt form.  I just came up with a list of things that you commonly see on road trips and at Christian concerts.  It gave them something to work on as a team, and made the ride and all of the sitting down time at the concert a little more fun.  It also helped the new kids and the "old" kids work together, talk, etc.  In our case, it was also a great distraction from the fact that it was so cold and wet that our faces and feet were going numb.

Step Four: Go over the rules-be honest, be respectful, work as a team, etc.  I had to add more rules later in the evening that none of the items could be completed based on anyone from the group we were with (no, you  cannot wave your cell phone around and check it off the list!).  I also gave random bonus points for silly things.  For example, after we got dinner, I gave each kid a bonus point if they bought their food from the Knights of Columbus stand instead of the other food vendors :)

Step Five: Because the concert was practically rained out, the kids had a hard time completing the hunt.  So we compromised and stopped at Walmart on the way home- when in doubt on a Youth Group trip, fill time with Walmart!  We gave the kids 15 minutes, and additional rules about proper behavior, and sent them off.  Each group had a camera to document their finds.  They reported back and we hung out in the attached McDonalds as the kids shared their pictures and I scored their sheets.

Step Six: Give out ridiculous prizes. I always save random junk for "fabulous" prizes for games like this.  Every kid got a prize, but the winning team could "steal" at any point.  The prizes ranged from lanyards,  a rubber duck, holiday themed pencils, a honey-do dry erase board, shoelaces... you get the idea.  They love it, and it costs me no money.

So there is the basic idea for a Youth Group themed Scavenger Hunt.  Below is the link to the one we used for the concert, but you could easily adapt the idea for any other kind of trip.