Monday, June 14, 2010

Little Lads and Lasses Love Learning

...at least that's what I pray for every morning.

Since last time I've finished training, had an immersion week and am in the beginning of a 'normal' week, the second of 8 weeks of the program. The immersion week was the first one after training. All four teams were in Stillwater along with some people that had previously been Totus Tuus teachers. The 'returners' and previous staffers were the leaders that planned everything and basically held the hand of the new people through our first real Totus Tuus experience. Stillwater, even with serving 2 parishes is small enough to be handled by one, 4-person team. 16 people was overkill but it made the immersion process very low stress. We could observe and learn from example in stead of trial and error. By the end of the week we were teaching classes on our own.

Notes on teaching in Stillwater: It was weird to be in a place that feels so much like home but not really able to be 'home'. Obviously I wouldn't be going to the Lodge and I spent maybe 2 hours over at St. John's total for the whole week. (Normally I would exceed that several times over in any given normal day.) Also, I had to keep remembering that in parishes for the rest of the summer I won't know the priests/youth directors/parish customs etc as well as I do in Stillwater. I'll have to be more careful about asking before I don things or presuming things will work a certain way.

About the children: The style of the program is grades 1-8 in the morning and high school at night. I wasn't worried about teaching high school since they're old enough to mostly keep up with my style of explanation. It's the little kids that terrified me. I was really not looking forward to teaching a class of 1st and 2nd graders. That is totally out of my element. My general comfort at the idea of teaching increased with that group's age. I was wrong.

The 7/8th graders were obnoxious and generally hard to get things across to because they wouldn't stay focused unless you happened to hit upon a topic that were interested in that day. They weren't on the whole bad, but weren't as good as I hoped. 3/4th grade was a pleasant surprise. They were a bit hard to keep focused but sometimes they had some pretty good answers. 5/6th grade was awesome! Everyone loved these kids. A bunch of little theologians. They had trouble sitting still and quieting down if you let them get going, but they also had some of the most profound and deep answers to some pretty intense questions. They ruined my lesson a couple times by spouting out the 'thesis' of the lesson in the first 30 seconds of the class when I had planned on taking 20 minutes to work around to it. The total surprise was the 1st/2nd graders. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to keep their interest at all and would have to just resort to coloring to fill time. However, when I started talking about St. Francis while sitting in our little circle on the floor they all stopped talking and sat quiet and still and listened for 15 minutes. I hadn't even planned to talking that long, but since I had their attention I just kept going. It was great!

The high school program runs Sunday through Thursday night and grade school Monday through Friday daytime so after cleanup of Friday we were free until the before the Saturday evening mass at our next parish. I took my team to dinner at Joe's as none of them had ever been and we relaxed with some reading at a coffee shop later that night. Saturday morning I had breakfast with a friend at IHOP and then headed out for St. Benedict's in Broken Arrow, OK with my team after lunch.

At St. Benedict's there are only 3 teams instead of 4 and about 4 times as many kids. This is no time for figuring things out anymore. Each of us teaches 4 classes per day among other responsibilities like choosing kids to read and serve during mass, leading pump-up at the beginning of the day or managing lunch and recess. Sunday night I gave a 20 min talk to the High School kids on "What is Prayer" and today I taught 5th-8th grade classes various topics. Not too much adventure, but I'm still not quite as good as I need to be at managing a classroom by myself. I'm not worried though. They'll be plenty of time to improve my skills as the summer continues.

I get about 5 hours of sleep a night which works just fine for me. If it weren't for all the prayer it wouldn't work though. We start at 7:30am with morning prayer followed by a rosary, mass at noon, evening prayer followed by a chaplet of Divine Mercy. At the end of the high school program we close with night prayer. (morning prayer, evening prayer and night prayer as part of the Liturgy of the Hours) When you talk to God that many times a day I guess he tends to help you out a lot. I'm honestly surprised at what we get done in a day with how much little rest we get.

Speaking of rest, I still need to plan my lessons for tomorrow and get some rest before that alarm goes off at 6:30. There were some epic quotes from the children last week that I really want to share but I've already gone on too long tonight. Since I got the basics out of the way this time I'll give more interesting/funny details on my next post.

"Protect us Lord as we stay awake, watch over us as we sleep, that awake we may keep watch with Christ and asleep rest in his peace. Amen"

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