I was very pleased with last evening’s class, for a variety of reasons. Here’s a summary of what transpired:
- A number of 8th grade students were in church rehearsing for the Living Stations of the Cross (next Monday). I was missing 4 of my students but picked up 4 from my colleague Jim’s class since he had taken the night off to do a college visit with his son. His other students went to another class.
- We had a guest with us: a 22 year-old seminarian from Germany named Benedict! He is a delightful young man and he apparently met a lot of the kids at their Confirmation retreat a week or so ago. I invited Benedict to introduce himself to the kids and they really enjoyed meeting someone from another country and someone who is preparing for the priesthood. Benedict stayed for the remainder of the class and participated like one of the students!
- Classes always seem to behave better when a guest is present and this was no exception…they listened silently as Benedict spoke. I was then able to “ride that wave” when he was done, enjoying better attention than I am accustomed to!
- We briefly reviewed the first 3 Commandments (love of God) and then segued into the next 7 (love of neighbor), focusing on Commandments 4, 5, and 6 on this evening.
- I began this segment by showing them a 7 or 8 minute clip from the powerful film Sophie’s Choice (Meryl Streep) – the scene in which “Sophie” flashes back to the horrible moment when she was faced with her “choice” (I won’t do a spoiler here!). This scene was very powerful and reinforced for us the notion that moral choices can be very complex and often do not have a clear satisfactory solution.
- I then arranged them into groups of 3 or 4 and had them spend 15 minutes completing a worksheet on the 4th, 5th, and 6th commandments that asks them to indicate which commandment the example pertains to and whether it is a virtuous or sinful example.
- The group work went very nicely with 2 of the groups working very diligently and one requiring a lot of attention, prodding, and discipline! Typical, eh?
- We then spent the last 25 minutes going over each of the items, pausing occasionally to comment on how the example pertains to a particular commandment. I was pleased with their behavior and the maturity they showed (overall), especially when dealing with examples that pertained to sex (6th Commandment).
- Probably our best moment came when talking about how high school prom night (just a few short years away) is an experience that often brings kids face to face with the issue of sex. They listened pretty intently as I talked very openly about the fact that reserving hotel rooms has become part of the “ritual” of that evening and how they do not have to cave in to that pressure. I love when kids who often are not paying close attention lock eyes with me as I’m talking about something important…it’s one of those moments when you feel like you’re getting through.
- Probably the other moment that impacted them was when I shared an example from my own past (they love the “real” stories) – an example of how I once failed to honor the 4th commandment. As a teenager, I was with a group of friends at one friend’s house when his grandmother came in. She was a nice lady although bordering on eccentric and senile. Some of us started to poke fun at her…not laughing with her but at her. My friend pulled me aside and told me he didn’t appreciate it. He said that he knew that his grandmother was a bit eccentric but he would not tolerate anyone making fun of her – she deserved respect. I felt bad and learned my lesson. Kids love hearing that you screwed up when you were their age! But it’s good to show how lessons are learned.
Next Monday is Living Stations of the Cross. One of my students will have the role of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, one will be Veronica, one will be Simon of Cyrene, and another is a part of the “crowd.” I look forward to this experience and I hope to share photos next week.