Tag Archives: Catholic Church

Not feelin’ the love

As we finished up our final CCD class of the year last week, I was reminded of a quote from one of our US senators on the state of education in the US.

“The biggest problem with education in this country is a bad case of PDD – Parental Deficit Disorder.”

He wasn’t talking about our 5th grade religion classes, but it seemed to fit our situation.

As I whined a couple of weeks ago, we are never quite sure how much of an effect we are actually having on our students. And we know the children don’t really appreciate our efforts. Heck, they would much prefer to be home watching TV or out playing with their friends. So would I at their age. (Or even at my current age!)

However, my co-teacher, Mrs. R, and I are a little disappointed in the lack of  participation and/or acknowledgment by the parents, for whom we give up 26 Wednesday nights to teach their children.

–We have 25 sets of parents who we have repeatedly invited to sit-in on an occasional class to see what we are teaching their children. So far not a single parent has taken us up on the invitation. We could be teaching their children straight from the Book of Mormon, and they would probably never pick up on it. (Not that there is anything wrong with the Book of Mormon, if you are an LDS, but we’re Catholic.)

–I maintain a second blog that I update weekly so parents can see what we are teaching and discussing. Of 25 sets of parents, my blog count averages around four to six hits a week.

–At the final pick-up last week, one, but only one, parent came up to Mrs. R and me and said, “Hey, I want to thank you for all you have done this year. You’ve been here every week teaching this group, and I want you to know my husband and I appreciate it.” One other student brought us a “thank you card.” We weren’t expecting a ticker-tape parade, but a few more “thanks for teaching my son/daughter” would have been nice.

Of course, we don’t teach the class for the parents or for recognition. We do it because we think it is an important job that someone needs to do. All the same, some acknowledgment from the parents would have been appreciated.

That’s enough of my whining. I’m on religious education vacation until September.

Right to the point

Last Wednesday, Mrs. Poolman and I attended the Ash Wednesday evening Mass at our church. Normally on Wednesday evenings, we have CCD class, but last week,  that was replaced by the Ash Wednesday Mass. Since I had strongly encouraged my students to ask their parents to take them, I figured it was a good idea if I went also.

It was obvious that our pastor, Monsignor C, was trying to keep down the length of the Mass. The distribution of ashes alone took at least ten extra minutes.  So when it came time for his homily, Monsignor walked to the pulpit and had this to say:

“I’ll try to express my homily in as few words as possible.

It’s Lent.

Shape up!”

As he turned from the pulpit, he got a rousing round of applause. Way to go, Monsignor!

Back to normal

I haven’t posted in a week, but I really haven’t had much to write about. After spending two weeks gallivanting around Europe, everyday life seems very pale by comparison.

Actually, I am really very glad to be back to normal life. I am a home-body at heart. I missed Mrs. Poolman. I even missed our pets.

It seems I spent the first week home just recovering from two weeks of travel and catching up. I really didn’t have any jet lag to speak of. I got a good night’s sleep my first night at home, and that was all it took.

Savannah was at “high spring” when I returned. That means lovely weather and tons of biomass in my yard. This week it was oak seed pods, or “fuzzy-wuzzies” as we call them. Apparently their assigned role in the great scheme of the universe is to clog up the skimmer basket in our pool. They do their job well.

Fuzzy Wuzzies in the skimmer basket.

Mrs. P and I spent both weekend days working around the yard, cleaning the pool, etc. Much of that biomass is now in bags at the curb. There is also some fresh topsoil over one of the sandy patches in the front yard.Saturday evening, we grilled some steaks and rented a movie – “Love and Other Drugs,” with Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal. It was a pretty good movie, with a slightly different slant on the boy-meets-girl. romantic comedy formula. Plus, Anne Hathaway spends about half the movie in the buff, which was just an added benefit from my standpoint. On Sunday, I went to return the DVD to Blockbuster Express, only to find that all THREE of the kiosks closest to our house were out of order. What’s that all about? I sent the company an email, so they wouldn’t charge me for an extra day. Not that $1 is going to break the bank, but it’s the principal of the thing. I should not have to pay a fine for their broken machine. I don’t anticipate a problem. (Late note: All is cool. No late fine.)

We had our last CCD class of the year last Wednesday. In some past years, I really regretted the end of the year, but not this year. We had some really great kids in the class, but the hyper-active attention seekers made it a difficult group as a whole.

A regular work-week is ahead this week. Mrs. P is working next weekend (Easter), so I’ll have the holiday duty. For the foreseeable future, there will be a lot more of that kind of weekend. The hospital where Mrs. P works has eliminated its “weekend program” and has placed all the nurses on an “every third weekend” rotation. Mrs. P isn’t happy about it, and neither am I, but there isn’t much we can do about it.

Entering the home stretch

Our CCD season is in the home stretch, and it isn’t coming any too soon. I think both the volunteer teachers and the students are starting to burn out.

I was a little concerned about how last night’s class was going to go, but it worked out fine. We covered the sacraments of Holy Orders and Matrimony. Each year, I worry about teaching the Church’s position on marriage. Officially, the Church looks at marriage vows as a life-long commitment, and does not sanction divorce. The trick is to get this idea across to my 5th graders as something they should strive for without seeming to take any  shots at their possibly divorced parents, siblings or other relatives.

At the beginning of the year, I sent a note home to all the parents, asking them to advise me of any family circumstances of which I should aware, so I did not say anything to present a difficult or embarrassing situation to one of my students. I mentioned that we would be covering both the Ten Commandments (ie: adultery, coveting your neighbor’s wife, etc) and the Sacrament of Matrimony.

One mom sent me an email saying that she was relatively recently divorced and remarried and she had some concerns about the effect of those class sessions on her son.  We communicated back and forth throughout the year. Last week, I sent her an email to advise her that the class on matrimony would be this week. She would be most welcome to sit in on the class, or alternately to hold her son out for a week. I was really very flattered when she responded that, based on the information she had received from me and her son, she would be comfortable having her son participate in that class.

In any case, we got through last night’s class without any major bumps in the road.

We have one more regular class session, and then an end-of-the-year party. It’s too bad 10 and 11 year olds can’t drink margaritas. I think we’ve all earned it.

Another good class with “my kids”

It’s been a busy week. Let’s see if I can catch up.

We had another really fantastic CCD class on Wednesday.

Advancing from last week’s lesson on the Sacrament of Reconciliation, our class this week was on rules, evolving into a discussion of the Ten Commandments.

Not surprisingly, the students were quite familiar with the concept of rules and were able to cite numerous examples of rules they need to follow in school and in their family.

We discussed briefly the story behind the commandments and read a passage from Exodus that outlined them. We discussed them in generalities and pointed out how the first three pertain to giving offense to God, while the last seven address offenses and behavior pertaining to our fellow man.

We also distributed a chart indicating how the various Christian and Jewish religions count the commandments. The same material is arranged slightly differently. For example, most Protestant faiths spread the God-related commandments into four while Catholics summarize them into three. We explained how this can be confusing when they may hear public discussion of a Protestant’s FIFTH commandment “Honor thy father and mother” when that is a Catholic’s FOURTH.

Once we got to #5, “Thou shall not kill,” it opened the door to a wide ranging discussion of all the permutations of that rule. The discussion included war, comparative evils, accidents, acts of the mentally ill or young children, capital punishment and abortion. Although just 10 or 11 years old, this is a pretty quick group. The discussion was lively and engaged. Lots of fun. We ran out of time long before we ran out of material.  I guess that’s a good thing.

Easter Weekend

We had a furlough day on Friday, so this was a three day weekend. That was fortunate, because we never would have been able to cram it all into two days.

Mrs. Poolman worked on Friday, gave me a day at home alone, which was a nice break. I love my wife, and I love doing things with her, but sometimes having a day entirely to myself is a nice change of pace. I didn’t get as much accomplished as I intended, but that is the same song stuck on re-play. I started with a trip to the doctor’s to get an antibiotic for my three-week old cold-turned-bronchitis. Having taken steps to get rid of the bacteria in my chest, I then spent the better part of the afternoon trying to clear a virus off my home computer. I also fixed the garage door opener.

As non-mechanical as I am, I am, as always, proud of myself for fixing the garage door opener.  The problem was that the door kept “bouncing” back open and it usually took three or four tries to get the door to stay down. We had our handy guy install a new opener about a year ago. I have no idea whatever happened to the directions and trouble-shooting guide. So, knowing as little about automatic garage door openers as I do, I thought about the problem.

“Suppose the door ‘thinks’ the end of its track is actually an inch or two lower than it is, and so when it hits the floor, it actually ‘thinks’ it is hitting an obstacle,” I thoughts to myself.

Lo and behold, when I examined the door, I discovered an adjustment screw. I adjusted the screw back about an inch. Now the opener ‘thinks’ it is at the end of its track when it hits the floor. It stays down. Someone who actually knows how garage door openers work would probably say, “duh, dummy.” For me however, I have once again fought the mechanical dragon and prevailed. A moment of triumph!

I made Mrs. P a dinner of saute’d tilapia filets, sweet potato fries (frozen) and a salad for dinner, for which she was most appreciative.

On Saturday, despite still trying to cough up a lung, I attacked the incredible amount of biomass that has fallen in our yard. We have a fairly large corner lot, with a number of sweet gum and oak trees.

Just a few of the piles, before bagging

An unsuccessful attempt to add an extra layer of protection against a blister under my work glove.

With the amount of crap that falls from those trees in the spring, we really could go into the alternative energy business. Poolboy came over and helped a little. Mrs. P did some work in the back yard. However, it was mostly Poolman vs. The Leaves. I ran out of both steam and time before I ran out of leaves, but there are still 41 bags of leaves stacked by the curb and awaiting pick-up later this week.

A solid day's work

Earlier this year, a friend of mine who is joining the church asked me to be his sponsor. It didn’t require much on my part, bit it did require our attending the Easter Vigil mass Saturday night. It was a very nice liturgy, and a big event for David and his family. But it was also more than two hours long. No big deal.

On Sunday, Mrs. Poolman and I had been planning to drive to Jacksonville for a lunch with her two sisters, along with various other family members. Somewhat to our surprise, Poolboy, Writer Princess and SIL wanted to come along. All five of us crammed into my Accord and made the trip. We had beautiful weather; a very nice lunch; and lots of “visiting.”  We got back home around 9 pm. I took a half-dose of Nyquil and hit the bed.

Sometimes you get lucky

Sometimes things work and sometimes they don’t. Last night at CCD class, we made a connection.

Most of the class was fairly routine. This was the first class we’ve had since mid-November, so it took a little bit of effort to get things rolling. And the material in this particular chapter wasn’t particularly interesting. Finally, the last section of the chapter was a fictional story about a parish that got together to provide a shuttle van system for elderly who couldn’t drive to the grocery store. The point of the story was to show how, as Catholics and Christians, we are obligated to look out for and care for others.

That got us into a discussion of just exactly who we are supposed to care for. The answer, of course, is “everyone.”

Before dismissal, we were supposed to give the students a flier on next week’s class, which will be a special Christmas program. The students are being asked to support the Interfaith Hospitality Ministry (See this earlier post.) by bringing in something to help homeless families who are being sheltered by the IHM. They suggest things like schools supplies, toiletries, towels, diapers, etc.

I challenged the “little darlin’s” to join this effort, but not to take the easy way out. Don’t just ask Mom or Dad to buy something for them to contribute.  I asked them to use a part of their allowance or to do extra jobs around the house to earn money to buy something to contribute to the project.

I am always amazed when a message seems to get through. They actually seemed to “get it.”  We had a good discussion about what they should buy and how they could get the cash to do so. I jokingly suggested they could come over and rake the leaves in my front yard, but I backed out on that when half the class jumped on the idea. I don’t need a gang of 10-year olds showing up at my front door on Saturday morning.

Next week, we’ll see how we’ll see if the message actually translates to action.

Need a few more helicopter parents

I went to a “stewardship meeting” at our church earlier this week, and a subject came up that hit home. Essentially, the question was, “How good a job are we doing developing the next generation of Catholics?” If my anecdotal experience is any example, the answer would be “not very good.” However, the problem, as I see it, is not so much at the parish level as it is in the family.

I have heard stories of “helicopter parents” who hover over everything their child does. I wish the parents of my 5th grade CCD students were a little more rotary-winged.  Instead, they are more like remote controls.

It can be frustrating. We have the kids for only about 45-50 effective minutes per week. That is not constitute sufficient volume or repetition to have any kind of meaningful or lasting impact, if there isn’t some spiritual support and development also taking place at home. In too many cases, it is very obvious there is little or none.

This is not a blanket indictment. There are exceptions. However, in general I can see the signs of this vacuum in several ways.

1. I see a few of my kids at mass on weekends with some frequency, but if you toss out that relatively small handful, it is a extremely rare treat to see any of my current or former students there. Regular Sunday mass attendance is not a common practice among my students’ families.

2. In the 5th grade we spend a lot of time talking about the sacraments. In the Catholic Church, most of the kids received the Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession) in the first or second grade. Their parents SHOULD have been taking them to confession at least a couple times a year since then. When we talk about the sacrament in class, many of my students barely remember the first and last time they received Reconcilation.

In an effort to try to engage parents this year, I created a blog for my class. Each week, I write a few paragraphs describing what we talked about. I told the parents about this in our first introductory meeting and also sent the information home in a “welcome letter” after the first class session. I suggested that it would be a good idea to check it on at least a weekly basis, if for no other reasons, to make sure they are informed of any class schedule changes.

This week we had a class cancellation. Last week ago the county public schools were out on our CCD day for a furlough or planning day of some sort. That night we had only six of our 16 students show up. The following Wednesday (this week) would be Veteran’s Day, another school holiday. So the CCD leaders decided to go ahead and cancel CCD class on that day. We announced it in class, but there were only six students there to hear it. I also posted it prominently on the class blog. In past years, I have personally phoned the parents of each of the students to inform them of the cancellation. This time, I figured that the blog and the Sunday bulletin would cover any who had been missed. How silly of me.

Last night, I ran into one of my friends, who is the father of one of my students, and he chastised me about the class cancellation. Apparently, he packed up his kids and drove them to class, only to find the “class cancelled” sign on the door.

“Poolman, it was on the calendar!”

I bit my tongue to hold back my “snappy retort.”

You don’t send your child to class the week before, so she missed the announcement.

You don’t take your child to Mass on Sunday, so you miss the bulletin.

You don’t check the blog to keep in touch with what we are teaching your child, and so you missed the announcement there.

But it’s my fault you didn’t know of the cancellation.

I guess it is. Sigh.