Last evening was the last teaching session for this year with my 8th graders. Next week, we gather for Mass, some presentations, and then pizza. I enjoyed last night and overall, I feel it went very nicely, a fitting ending to a good year with a good group of kids. Here are the highlights:
- I met the young people at the door as they arrived. I was holding a tray with their little vigil candles (battery powered) on it and told them to take their candle and go directly to their sacred space.
- This was the 1st time this year that I began class with sacred space. I usually save it for the end. I thought it worked nicely at the beginning. It took some doing to get them to calm down, but I think the calming effect carried over for at least a little while into the rest of the session.
- I led them in a guided reflection (final-reflection-sacred-space) that I put together earlier yesterday afternoon. It invites them to imagine that they are returning to this room a year from now as high school freshmen, recalling their experience of religious education in this room with a focus on their sacred space and their need to designate a new sacred space now that they no longer gather in this room.
- The first few minutes of the reflection were a little challenging but eventually, they calmed down and we had some very nice periods of silent reflection. In all, the reflection lasted about 15 minutes.
- When we gathered back, I introduced them to my “last lecture.” They were relieved to know that I’m not dying (I told them about Randy Pausch and his last lecture) but it did seem to strike them when I said that, after next week, there’s a good chance that some of us will never seen each other again.
- The last lecture Powerpoint went well. They were especially intrigued by JFK Jr.’s story and the need for a “horizon” to keep us focused.
- I think that at parts of my presentation, I lost them a little bit. A lot of what I want to say to them is geared for the adult mind and, while I can see some of them grappling with what I’m saying, others just tend to get that glassy-eyed look!
- At the end of the presentation, I presented each of them with a signed copy of my book, A Well-Built Faith as a personal gift to them and as a way that I can continue to teach them even after we part ways! They were genuinely tickled and pleased with the fact that they were receiving signed copies!
- It was fun watching them read the back-cover copy of my book: “What’s a DMin?” “You’re a doctor?” “Should we call you Dr. Paprocki?” “You have a blog?” “Do you blog about us?” (I told them that I blog about the experience of being a catechist and about the class in general but that I protect their privacy and use no names).
- One young man asked, “Are we like the best class you ever had?” I told them that they were certainly a fun group with lots of energy and one of the most excitable classes I’ve had. I said that made it fun but also made it a challenge because they were not easy to calm down but that I’d rather have a class full of excitable kids then a class full of kids who were bored silly.
- I said that from my observations, they were rarely if ever bored and they agreed.
- I asked if anyone had any last comments or questions and one young man said, “Yeah, this was the best (religious education) class we ever had!” and a number of them clapped and hooted.
- It was a fun ending and very fitting because as the level of fun built, so to did their level of noise and so, over the last 15-20 minutes, I had to work real hard to keep their attention! They just all like to talk at the same time! I was exhausted by the time the night was over!
- We finished by standing and praying an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be.
- As they left, I stood at the doorway holding the bowl of holy water and they blessed themselves as they walked out. One young lady thanked me for the signed book. I hope she (and the rest of the group) read it!
- Looks like the whole group plans on being at the pizza party after next week’s closing Mass. We walk across the street to a pizza place (Barraco’s) and they have a room set up for all the 8th graders (all 5 classes are welcome to attend and we catechists are there to chaperone…around 45-50 kids. They must bring a signed permission slip and $7 next week. The pizza is ordered ahead of time and ready as we arrive so all in all the kids are occupied and the whole soiree takes about 45 minutes before they are on their way home…afterall, it is a school night).
Needless to say, I’m always a bit drained on Tuesdays! But it’s worth it!