Tag Archives: ten commandments

Good news and bad news

Our CCD director, Pamela, had some good and bad news for me on Wednesday evening. Apparently I have been working from an old schedule of classes and thought we still had two more class session remaining. I was wrong. We had class on Wednesday, but then our next class on April 18 will be the final class of the year. That means that this week’s class was really the last one that we would realy be able to teach anything.

Last year, I would have done a “happy dance” up and down the hallways, but this year,  I was actually a little disappointed.

First, I really like this class of 5th graders. They have their moments, but they are generally fun to teach. They are energetic and have good attitudes. We have some interesting discussions.

The second reason for my disappointment was that I had scheduled a two class-session to cover the Ten Commandments. This subject was not actually in our curriculum in the new texts we began using this year. However, it was such an interesting topic and generated so much discussion in past years, I decided to include it anyway.

Among the questions that usually come up are good meat for discussion like:

–The first commandment warns us to not worship false gods. Here in the 21st century, what are some of the false gods that some people worship? (ie: money, celebrities, fame, drugs, alcohol, etc.)

–What does it mean to take the Lord’s name in vain? Does “Oh, my God!” count?

–Why do Catholics celebrate the Sabbath on Sunday rather than Saturday?

–What are Catholics’ obligation to honor the Sabbath?

–Why do most Protestant religions count the commandments different than Catholics?

–Why would God make it a commandment to honor your parents?

–Regarding the commandment “Thou shall not kill”, what about war, self defense, accidents, negligence, mental illness, etc?

–What is adultery? Does it also apply to boyfriends and girlfriends?

–What does it mean to “bear false witness? Does it mean any lie? What about gossip or rumors?

–Who are the “neighbors” it refers to?

–What does “covet” mean? What is the difference between admiring something that your friend owns, and coveting it?

And so on. Anytime I can get the kids to maybe think of something they haven’t considered before, I hope I’m having some impact.

So on Wednesday, we had a pretty interesting class, but there was the pressure of getting through all ten of the commandments in the roughly 50 minutes we had to work with. Before next year, I’ll learn how to read a calendar.

Feeling beat up today

I’m disappointed and discouraged this morning. I hate to admit that I am being bested by a group of ten and eleven year-olds, but it is happening.

I teach a 5th grade religion class (CCD) on Wednesday nights at our church. Classroom “crowd control” has been an issue with this particular group of students since we began last September. Early on, I had to miss one class, and they brought the substitute teacher to tears.

Last night was a rowdy and difficult class. My helper was hung up in traffic due to a traffic accident on one of the nearby bridges. She did not arrive until class was nearly over, so I had the class to myself. Initially, I was not concerned. We had only nine or ten students and the lesson was one that, in the past, has been interesting and engaging for the students (and me.) I was overly optimistic.

Problems began before we really got started. I had to remove one student from the class, when, after two direct warnings about his behavior, he walked across the room to hassle another student during our opening prayer! His removal made an impression on the class that lasted for about ten minutes. The rest of the class session was a struggle against a tide of side-talk, cutting up and a lack of focus or attention span.

I have to accept partial blame for this problem. If I had better classroom management skills, I would probably do a better job controlling the mayhem. However, I’m not a professional teacher, and I can only use the skills I possess. In my defense, I have been teaching 5th grade CCD for six years, and this is the first class with whom I’ve had a problem anywhere close to this.

The sad part is that this makes the class sessions considerably less interesting and compelling for the students. I’m sure that, when asked, many would say that their CCD classes are boring and they get nothing out of them. I understand. The kind of questioning, open-discussion format that works well with religion classes does not work when the class cannot or will not focus on and participate in the group discussion.

It’s really too bad, because the last night’s lesson, as well as the last couple of weeks, contained lots of interesting questions for thought and discussion. Here are some of the points we tried to discuss last week and last night.

–The first commandment warns us to not worship false gods. Here in the 21st century, what are some of the false gods that some people worship? (ie: money, celebrities, fame, drugs, alcohol, etc.)

–What does it mean to take the Lord’s name in vain?

–Why do Catholics celebrate the Sabbath on Sunday rather than Saturday?

–What are Catholics’ obligations to honor the Sabbath?

–Why do most Protestant religions count the commandments differently than Catholics?

–Why would God make it a commandment to honor your parents?

–Regarding the commandment “Thou shall not kill”, what about war, self defense, accidents, negligence, mental illness, etc?

–What is adultery? Does it also apply to boyfriends and girlfriends?

–What does it mean to “bear false witness? Does it mean any lie?

–Who are the “neighbors” it refers to?

–What does “covet” mean? What is the difference between admiring something that your friend owns, and coveting it?

–What is our conscience?

— How do we know what is right?

–What is the difference between a mortal sin and a venial sin?

We got through all those, but it was a struggle. And I suspect very little of it “stuck” with the kids.

I really hate to lecture or just read from the text book. I much prefer to ask questions; get the students to think and brainstorm; and try to guide them to their own answers. Unfortunately, this really isn’t working well with this particular group. Starting next week, I am going to have to reconsider my approach. We have just a few weeks left in the season. If it means reverting to a more boring lecture-read-written exercises format, in order to get through the year, then that’s what we’ll have to do.

Ugh.

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.

Married forever, or not

The issue of marriage and divorce seems to be a very delicate subject in Catholic circles. Fortunately for us, Mrs. Poolman and I have been married just once and to each other for 33 years, so we haven’t had to deal with the issue personally. Officially, the Church doesn’t recognize divorce. However, there are plenty of divorced Catholics out there. I see them receiving and distributing the Eucharist at Mass on Sundays. And again, fortunately, I’ve never needed to figure out exactly how that whole annulment thing is supposed to work.

Although, I don’t have personal experience with divorce, I do encounter the issue from time to time. As I mentioned before, I have been teaching 5th grade CCD (religion) classes at our church for the past four years. The 5th grade curriculum deals primarily with the seven sacraments and the Ten Commandments, with a few side excursions towards the Apostles’ Creed, the story of Creation and other material. You would think this would be fairly harmless, vanilla religious material. Mostly that’s true, but….

10-commandmentsOne of the seven sacraments is matrimony and we cover the Church’s teachings on the institution. Also, among the Commandments is that “Thou shalt now commit adultery.”  (“No, young 10-year old, adultery isn’t something that adults do. Or, well, maybe it sometimes is.”)

There is hardly a child there who doesn’t have a friend or a family member affected by a divorce. Some of the students’ parents are divorced themselves. So the challenge is to teach the Church’s views on marriage without seeming to condemn the students’ parents, relatives, family friends, or whomever.

Knowing this can be a touchy issue, I always let the parents know that we will be covering this subject, and ask them to advise me if there is a family situation of which I should be aware. I have already heard from one divorced and remarried mom who is concerned how we would treat marriage and divorce in class. We will talk before we get close to that chapter.

Interestingly, the Gospel this past Sunday was directly on-point to the Church’s position. In Mark 10:2-12 Jesus is asked directly about divorce.

“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

Not much ambiguity there.

Our pastor was presented with a very teachable moment, but, for whatever reason, decided not to pursue it in his homily (sermon.) Interesting. I wonder what his thinking was.