Tag Archives: catholicism

Feelin’ a little discouraged

As I have written in the past, I am involved teaching a fifth-grade religion class at our church. We are Catholic, so this class is for the kids who do not attend the parish’s parochial school. Most Protestant churches would call it “Sunday School.” In the Catholic Church, it’s called CCD.

This is my eighth year teaching 5th grade, and I have noticed that nearly every year, we hit a low point around February. I don’t know whether it is the spot in the curriculum, the attitude of the kids or the way I teach. However, it seems that nearly every year around this time I wonder, “Why am I doing this?”

Classroom management is an issue for me. Part of the problem is I wear hearing aids, so keeping track of multiple voices is very difficult. I have a co-teacher who is essentially my “enforcer.” She was not able to attend this week, so Mrs. Poolman came along to help. At one point she asked me, “You don’t get paid for this, right?” When I pointed out that she knew this was a volunteer job, she replied, “I knew you were a little crazy, but not this much.” Thanks for the support, Mrs. P!

I think there are several issues involved. The biggest is the class meets for an hour on Wednesday evenings. The students have already been in school all day, and this is “overtime.” We are seriously infringing upon their leisure-fun time.

While I try hard to make the class as interesting as I can, sometimes the activities I design to break up the routine are counter-productive. This week I planned a small-group poster activity. But once the groups got together, they decayed quickly into chaos. They were much too distracted by cutting up with each other and arguing over what color markers to use, to actually complete the assignment.

The class is not homogenous. There are typically 20 students on any given night. I have a small group of very quiet kids who I have to work on to draw out of their shells. And I have a few who are not naturally quiet, but are usually engaged and well behaved. And then we have:

–One little girl who is desperately needy for attention. Her way of getting it is to stir up trouble with anyone who is around her and then blame them for the disturbance.

–A few loud, high-energy (ADHD?) boys who have a compelling drive to be the center of all attention. They just roll over the quiet kids.

–A group of socially active “tween girls.” They are not intentionally disruptive, but they are constantly “a-twitter.” They just love to chat with their friends.

Next week, we’ll try it again. Since our last lesson was a total bomb, I’ll need to recover the same material, but in a more traditional style.

I hope I’m getting gold stars on my record somewhere for all this. Sigh.

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What a difference a year makes!

Last year this time, I was moaning and whining about my class of 5th grade CCD (religion classes for kids who do not attend a Catholic school) students.

Last year’s class was quite a handful. When I was asked to come back and teach again this year, Mrs. Poolman reasonably asked me if I had lost my mind. I agreed to return for year #7, and I’m glad I did.

This year’s class is a large one – 25 students on a full night. And they have their moments, both individually and as a group. There are at least two boys, whose mothers tell me, are ADHD but they are trying to deal with it without using meds. I applaud the effort, but it can make Wednesday nights interesting.

Overall, this is a nice group of kids. They are active and full of energy, but I have been able to keep them more-or-less focused and engaged on whatever we are discussing at the time. They are full of questions, occasionally to an extreme.  Sometimes we have had to arbitrarily cut off discussion simply because the “what if…?” questions just become outlandish.

For the most part, I don’t really mind it. We don’t have a strict schedule of topics we must follow from week to week. So if they want to talk about something that is vaguely related to Catholicism, religion, God, morality, or just issues they encounter in their daily lives, we run with it.

Last night was interesting. When I arrived, the director, Pamela, handed me a sheet of paper with seven or eight guidelines to teach the class to help them avoid becoming abuse victims. (Think Penn State.) I went over these guidelines (good touch, bad touch, etc.) with the class, and then the lid came off the can of worms.

It was obvious this is something they have discussed with their parents (as they should) and their friends. Everyone had a question or a comment. It was active and rowdy, and while there were many times when three or four students were trying to contribute simultaneously, the comments and questions were all related to the main topic. What I expected would take five minutes ran on for 35 minutes, and could have gone to the end of the class.

I have an outstanding co-teacher, who is also the mother of one of the students. She is “the bomb.” She isn’t really interested in doing much teaching, but she actively participates in the discussions and is a major help with “crowd control.”

We may not be teaching the kids everything we are supposed to, but hopefully, they are learning something important. And we are having a good time.

Life goes on

It wasn’t a very exciting weekend around the Poolman house, but it was busy all the same. Mrs. Poolman has been in a death-struggle with a head and chest cold. I’ve just been trying to stay out of her way. Even in marriage, some things just aren’t worth sharing.

I started off Saturday by attending a program out our church on the upcoming change in the “Roman Missal. “ Starting the first Sunday in Advent (late November), the Catholic Church in the US will begin using a new translation of the original Latin Mass. Apparently, the general consensus is that the Church didn’t do a very good job in translating the Mass from Latin to English back in the mid 1960s. This move is an effort to correct it.

It will mean some slight changes to some of the responses and to the prayers most of us can recite without even thinking about it. No longer. I like some of the changes, but not all of them. Of course, the Pope didn’t ask my opinion. In any case, since I both read at Mass and teach 5th grade CCD, I figured I’d better make an effort to get up to speed.

Writer Princess and Son-in-Law were moving out of their one-bedroom condo and into a three-bedroom house. They are still staying close to us. They are roughly a five minute drive away, and right around the corner from WP’s best friend. Mrs. Poolman went over to help them move on Saturday morning. I check in after leaving the church session early and was dispatched to Home Depot for some blinds and to Popeye’s to pick up lunch. We spent several hours helping them move their kitchen stuff.  Mrs. P donated our collection of laundry baskets and beach towels to the cause, which was fine until Sunday afternoon when I needed to do three loads of laundry. Sigh.

I took a rare Saturday afternoon nap-on-the-couch, while half-watching the Alabama-Arkansas game. The Gators came on at seven and went to 4-0, beating Kentucky for something like the 255th straight time.

On Sunday, I was back at 9 o’clock Mass. I had received a call on Friday afternoon asking me to read at that Mass. The Knights of Columbus (of which I am a sometime member) were receiving an international award, and the Knight officers wanted as much of a showing as they could muster.

The rest of the day consisted of errands, laundry and a little yard work. Our pool temperature has dropped into the low 80s, much lower than Mrs. P likes for her soaking. We put our solar blanket back on in the hopes of pulling a few more degrees of heat into the water and maybe getting one or two weeks of pool time out of the season. Much will depend on the weather. It has been cloudy and rainy for much of September. If we get some good sun this week, I might be able to get the pool back up to around 90. Mrs. P would be most happy.

I’m back

It has been a busy three weeks and I sort-of dropped out of the blogosphere for a while. I’m back after the break and, hopefully, have some new wind.

We had a house full of family company over the Labor Day weekend. Then we capped it off with a 60thbirthday party for Mrs. Poolman with roughly 60 guests.

Mrs. Poolman opening some gifts

Actually, we called it a second 40th birthday party since Mrs. P decided when she turned 50 that she would start counting backwards. She is looking forward to her experiencing her 30s once again. We had small children the first time around. In any case, a good time was had by all and, most importantly, Mrs. P was happy with the celebration.

Last weekend, the whole family, less Girlfriend, traveled to Delaware for a family (nephew’s) wedding. The wedding was in Lewes, Delaware, an historic town on the shore of Delaware Bay – most well known as the southern terminus of the Cape May – Lewes Ferry.

The waterfront on the canal in Lewes

We rented a five bedroom house about a block from the beach and shared it with two of my sisters and their families.

"Whaler Cottage" in Lewes

It was great to get most of the family together. However, our children are all now of the age when it is nearly impossible to get everyone in one place at the same time. School schedules and jobs always seem to get in the way. We enjoyed those who did make it to Lewes. Actually, with the number of nieces and nephews on my side of the family, I suspect weddings will be the reason for quite a few family gatherings over the next decade.

The drive to Lewes was a bit longer (Mrs. P would say “a lot longer.”) than we originally anticipated. It was roughly 12 hours door-to-door. The surprising part is that when traveling north, you would think “We’re almost there!” when you got off of I-95 near Norfolk. Heck no! You’re actually just past the half-way point. Mrs. P held off getting antsy until we were well into Maryland on the Delmarva Peninsula. At that point I could honestly say, “We’re almost there!”

We ran into a major traffic jam in the booming metropolis of Millsboro, Delaware. There must be a local ordinance that at 5:20 on every weekday afternoon, everyone must get in their car and drive around town. How a town with less than 4,000 residents and, maybe, three traffic lights could experience that kind of gridlock is beyond me.

Overall, we had a very enjoyable time. The family of the bride did a great job. The best part was being able to get together with all of our widely-spread family and reconnect with each other.

The bride’s uncle hosted brunch on Sunday morning. He has an old and large house in Lewes’s historic section with a lighthouse attached to the back. The bought it and had it transported from somewhere else in Delaware. Now that is different.

CCD classes started up again earlier this month. I’m teaching 5th grade for the seventh year. Our first session was a Mass, followed by a quick “meet the parents” session. Last week’s class was mostly organizational. So last night we had our first real lesson. My friend, Sherry, is helping me again this year. We have a large class – 22 students at full attendance. We are in a classroom with only 15 desks, so we are using every stool, chair, table, etc. that is available.

At first glance, this class looks to be significantly easier to work with than last year’s group.  Actually, one of the more rambunctious kids in the class is Sherry’s son, which totally mortifies Sherry. It will work out.

A busy weekend!

Our weekend got an early start when the power went out at my work. Without electrical power, I am useless. No power? Friday afternoon in the summer? Time to hit the bricks.

We had a mini-party going on at our house when I arrived home. Several of Mrs. Poolman’s friends had the afternoon free and decided to start the weekend part early by floating in our pool and working out with some weight lifting — 12-ounce curls in sets of six. Fortunately, one of the “girls” was able to walk home, and one of the others brought her daughter as the DD.

You know what they say, “no pain, no gain.” Neither  pain nor gain were present here Friday afternoon.

On Saturday, we cleaned up around the house and yard and took care of some errands, like a run to the recycling center (See paragraph above.)

I read at 5:30 mass on Saturday evening and that was a busy experience We had a visiting priest who wasn’t totally up to speed on the local protocol. Also, my reading partner was brand new – a recent graduate of the 8th grade who needed a little guidance and support. Really, just a little. She did great. I also had two additional readings thrown my way, without any time to prepare. It was a busy time.

That evening, we went to see “Midnight in Paris,” the Woody Allen movie starring Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams. Ever since my trip to Europe earlier this spring, I have been intrigued (Mrs. Poolman would say “obsessed.”) with anything having to do with Paris. So I really wanted to see this movie, even though it was playing in just one theater, all the way across town.

I enjoyed the movie a lot. Mrs. P and our friends enjoyed it also, just not as much as I did. It makes abundant use of the Paris scenery. Mrs. P became a little annoyed because I kept poking her in the arm and saying “There is another place I was!”

Even without the scene-spotting, it is a good movie. Owen Wilson does a great job portraying a very likeable character. You can see the plot synopsis here.

Today is Poolboy’s birthday, but yesterday was his “beach day.” We headed out to Tybee with Writer Princess around 11 am, early enough to get a parking spot. The rest of our group didn’t show up for several hours. It was actually about the time I was starting to feel like toast. We stuck it out a couple more hours and had a good time. One of Poolboy’s old friends is married and has two small children – a girl who is almost one and a four-year old boy. We had a fun-time playing with the kids.

The little girl did enjoy eating sand, however.

"That sand is salty. Yum, yum!"

We have had no reports on the status of diaper changes later in the evening.

They all should be over here shortly. We are taking them out to dinner for the b-day. Should be fun.

And a week later…

What a difference a week makes.

Last week, I wrote about how disappointed and discouraged I was with the chronically bad behavior of the 5th graders in my CCD class. Well, the word got out and it had a positive effect.

I maintain a second blog that is directly primarily at the parents of the students in my class. I update it weekly with an account of that week’s lesson, announcements, etc. Last week, I posted my “discouragement rant” on that blog also in the hope that some parents might actually read it and follow up with their child. The director of our CCD program took it a step further. She printed it out; made copies; and sent it home to all the parents in my class, along with a note from her.

I heard from a few of the parents, but, apparently, even those who did not contact me had conversations with their children.

Last night, the students were well mannered and engaged. I also had the services of my assistant teacher, aka “the enforcer,” to help keep the little darlin’s in line.

We have just a few weeks left in the year. Hopefully, we can maintain the momentum.

Back to class

We kicked off the 2010-11 CCD season last night. I have a large class of 5th graders, 21 of the little darlin’s. It looks like I’ll be teaching solo this year.

Oh my, if last night was any indication, this group has a large number whose ritalin wore off at 3 o’clock and then spent the rest of the afternoon chugging espresso. Too many of them have difficulty sitting relatively still and not chatting with the child in the next seat. Attention span for some – about 10 seconds. Next week should be interesting. I’m going to have to sit on them pretty hard to get and keep them under control. It is a lot easier to start off as the hard-guy and then ease up once we reach an understanding. It is very difficult to start soft and then try to get tough.

I met many of the parents last night. In our new system of dismissal, the parents will be coming to the classroom to pick up their kids, rather than us taking the kids to the parking lot. This will give me a chance to have a quiet word with the parents of any chronic miscreants.

Typically, after a few weeks, the class gets to know me and vice versa, and we settle into an understanding. It’s just the first couple of weeks can be tough.

I understand the children’s issue. Going to their regular school is their full-time job. CCD on Wednesday nights is “overtime.” And we are seriously cutting into the time they would much more like to spend laying in front of the TV, playing on their X-box or whatever. That’s life.

I’ll let you know how it goes.