The first 10 days of training were very intense. See the last post. The schedule took some getting used to but time in college had prepared me for dealing with lack of sleep. [Later I would discover what really made it possible...] We finished training in Wichita and came back down to Stillwater where all four teams would be for our first week.
Stillwater is not big enough for four Totus Tuus teams. I don't mean that in some kind of 'we're awesome so we need an awesome town' kind of way but in that there was an amount of children that would have been appropriate for one team to handle. Had we all known what we were doing it would have been quite ridiculous for us to have all been there at once however, at this point there was only 4 experienced returners among the 16 of us. The 12 inexperienced people needed this week to be shown what to do and then slowly learn by doing. It was frustrating to have to watch while the experienced people did things but I knew it was good for me and that I would have my time to teach soon enough.
The slow start teaching also coincided with a slow moving away from comfortable surroundings. Knowing the pastors and atmosphere of the town during my first week after training made acclimation that much easier. The next week was at St. Benedict's Parish in Broken Arrow, OK. There were 160+ 1st-8th graders and twelve teachers. This was a good ratio because it meant each teacher had a usefully sized class that they taught by themselves. However, because the morning and evening programs still only took 2 teachers to run and there were 12 of us there was lot's of support for planning program.
Our first week that felt real was in Grove, OK at the Parish of St. Elizabeth. My team of four was finally on our own. Every teacher taught every period on their own and had several other jobs too. The jobs weren't necessarily hard but just took more time. Later in the summer the after we had become much more familiar everything it was easier to teach 4 classes and do music prep and plan a skit every day but this first real week it was definitely a challenge sometimes. (Especially because I was teaching 1st/2nd grade this week, something at which I'm not too good. See "Respect to the Teachers" post.)
Our fourth week was in Ponca City, OK. This was one of the best weeks of the summer in terms of team dynamic. We had just successfully finished our first week alone and were finally fully comfortable with each other and with our particular styles if teaching and doing things. At this point things just sort of seem to happen day to day. Not that we were on autopilot. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Because we had finally refined the process we could concentrate more on ministry to the kids. Once you learn how to confidently ride a bike you can really get somewhere.
The week of 4th of July we had off to go home and see family. It was good to see people and change pace a bit however I made too much of a shift. For the last 5 weeks I had had a solid amount of daily prayer but I got lax on it and just went back to only a rosary each day. A rosary each day is all well and good, but when you're used to 3 sessions of Liturgy of the Hours, Chaplet of Divine Mercy, 15 minuted of silent reflection daily mass and Rosary every day you definitely feel a difference. I was glad to meet back in Tulsa and have my team mates hold me accountable for the prayer I knew I needed to be doing.
After break we headed out from Tulsa to Atchison, KS to the parish of St. Benedict's right next to Benedictine University. The parish church is the old abbey church of the monks at the monastery of which the school is a part. The kids this week were really smart because many of them are home schooled by parents who teach at the college. It really challenged us to be better in our teaching.
From there we went to Norman, OK to the parish of St. Joseph's. Beautiful adoration chapel!
Our last parish for the summer was The Church of the Madalene in Tulsa. You might think we would be worn out by this time but that surprisingly was the case. The power of prayer is amazing. (See comments in Allright! Okay! post)
When the last week was finished, after we cleaned up from the water fight and pulled out of the parking lot I would've been fine had we been headed to another parish even after 8 weeks of the program but this time we weren't heading to a new parish. We were headed to the TU Newman center and then over to the parent's house of one of my teammates for an end of summer retreat/debriefing. It was good for us to be all back together, all 16 of us. We shared stories and laughed and decompressed from such an intense experience. We took time to share specifically with our teammates what they meant to us and how the summer went, to say the things we might not have had time for during the program itself. Everyone made sure they had addresses and phone numbers before the final mass on the 31st. After mass we gave last hugs and goodbyes and saw people off on their way home.
The mass, as the source and summit of our faith was a perfect sending off from a summer of teaching the faith. It was a good reminder that we will always be united through our Catholic Faith, through the common reception of Jesus: Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. "I'll meet you in the Eucharist."