Tag: children

Pope Francis Stands for Family and Education

The New York Times recently had an Op-Ed piece asking “Has Pope Francis Failed?”  There was enough response to the contrary of the Op-Ed that there was a follow-up piece asking “Has Pope Francis Helped Reform The Church?” Listing several reader’s responses  including this one:

“Re “Has Pope Francis Failed?” (Op-Ed, Sept. 28):

Matthew Schmitz feels that Pope Francis is a failure because he has failed to “speak of the way hard disciplines can lead to freedom.” He longs for another, different, better pope who would hew to the Catholic Church’s fundamental doctrines.

But Mr. Schmitz fails to see that mercy, the great theme of Francis’ papacy, is not only hard, but that it is also the most fundamental of Jesus’ teachings. Pope Francis’ greatest failure would be not to recognize that.

JAMES MARTIN

New York

The writer, a Jesuit priest, is editor at large for America magazine.”

While there are many ways to feel about Pope Francis and the stance that he has taken, there is nothing left to the imagination when it comes to the strength of His Holiness’ words on family and Catholic education, topics clearly close to my heart.

One of the greatest things about Pope Francis is that he addresses the issues of the world which the elite try to hide through their power. He turns to the world and tells how the few people, with the power of money, have been able to turn education into a business. It has become limited to a few “supermen” who gain access to it with the power of money.

The most beautiful thing which has been pointed out by him involves the lack of spirituality which is being promoted by the current curriculum. People are deviating from the path of empathy and compassion which forms the core of the religion. The dimension of transcendence is being eliminated with people driving their focus away from faith.

He said, “We must prepare hearts so the Lord can manifest himself.” This is the thing which the modern education misses: making people realize the power of faith, incorporating in them the love for humanity, and strengthening the bonds of love and friendship.

He points out the confusion which people have between teaching religion and teaching values which will help in restoring the lost affection between people. The basic purpose of education is to bring people more towards humanity and teach them how to live tolerantly in the society. Unfortunately, the modern educational standards are working in exactly the opposite direction.

Supposedly, education was supposed to eliminate hierarchy from the general public but in reality, it is dividing the society into classes. Pope has said that this education is creating distances between the rich and the poor and even between different cultures. This is alarming because it is leading the world towards extreme divisions.

Pope Francis talks about humanity more than he talks about religion which makes him stand out and likable by people belonging to a different race, cultures, and parts of the world. He attributes this inclination towards modern education a fault of parents as well who are reluctant to send their children to catholic schools. Actually, the catholic schools focus on not only imparting education but also on the character building of its students. The parents fail to miss this part and find that the contemporary education is better for their children because supposedly, a child from a catholic school will not be able to have a successful career.

All these notions are false. 99 percent of students of a catholic school graduate high school and 85 percent of them attend college and come out with degrees in their hands. The added quality in them is that they pray daily and hold love for the humanity and the people surrounding them.

With the world facing so much threat just because of the hatred of a few, it has become essential that the rest must work on loving each other a lot more than they did before. This will help in standing together against all the odds. The foremost thing to do in this regard is to promote the uniformity of education and incorporate spiritual, humane values in it as well.

Keeping Kids Healthy in the New School Year

It’s that time again, with summer’s days dwindling and back-to-school items stocked on the shelves. As an educator, keep in mind the health of you and your students as you plan for the upcoming school year. As a parent, you prepare for fall clothes and school supplies to send your child into the new school year prepared, it’s vital to remember your child’s health as part of the complete package, along with faith and education.

 

Not only should parents schedule the child for their annual physical before the start of the new school year, it is important to remember that health education is equally taught and implemented at home, and should start before sending your kids out to classrooms full of germs. And for teachers and faculty, you know how often you can get sick or have children out with illness during the fall and winter months. So for both parents and educators, here are some health tips to start out the new school year:

 

Parents and Teachers: Stay positive. When cold and flu season is upon us, so are shorter days, cooler weather, and the potential onset of the winter blues and cabin fever. A good attitude is important for mental and physical health. A gratitude journal can be a great idea, and keep godliness in mind as well as thankfulness for the blessings around you. This is a practice that teachers, parents, and children can benefit from. From wnycatholicschools.org: “To stay positive, try keeping a gratitude journal. It’s a place where you and your family can write down five things each day that you’re grateful for that day. This is great to keep students of Christian schools humble and thankful during the holidays as well!”

 

Parents and Teachers: Hand-washing is vital. Talk about it whenever you can. Teach younger children to sing “The Happy Birthday Song” while they wash their hands to ensure they wash for an adequate amount of time. Teach good technique. This is important to encourage at home as often as it is encouraged at school. Education on germs and the spread of disease should happen in both places as well.

 

Parents: When conducting an annual physical for your child, make sure that questions about vaccines and immunizations are answered, and scheduled to take place if needed. Ask about emotional or physical warning signs that you should be monitoring for in your children. Make sure that you understand your child’s BMI in conjunction with weight and age, and if your kids fall into a healthy spectrum there. If you child is an athlete, make sure the pediatrician knows, and that you have all appropriate care/questions/protective gear covered in the checkup.

 

Teachers: Keep a baseline healthfulness in your curriculum. Can you incorporate activity into your classroom activities, even if it’s just kids standing up from their desks while answering questions? Perhaps a 2 minute yoga break to keep minds and bodies active? One quick relay race to perk up student energy? The more you can keep them active, the healthier their minds and bodies can be. If your budget does not include room for items like tissues, sanitary wipes or hand sanitizer, you may want to consider petitioning parents at the start of the school year for small objects to help keep the entire class healthy.

 

Parents: Make sure your kids eat nutritionally. A healthy immune system comes from a consistent diet of the right nutrients and vitamins. If you are concerned your child is lacking adequate vitamin intake, consider chewable (or even gummy) vitamins that kids may view as a treat.

 

Teachers: Ensure your classroom stays clean. Desks, door handles, and other heavily-touched surfaces need extra care from you or janitorial staff. Eat nutritionally and consume plenty of vitamins yourself, so as to not take cold and flu germs home with you. Educators are a role model for our children not just in moral and intellectual ways, so make sure that your habits match those you wish to see in the children in your classroom.

 

Parents and Teachers: Children should not be in the classroom while ill. Communicable diseases spread fast in closed environments, and a compromised immune system from a common cold might not seem like a big deal, but could mean a child contracts something even more serious if exposed. Parents need to manage care and stay-at-home options for children and not send them to school ill. Teachers need to send children home, or to the nurse’s office, at the first signs of illness, and make sure that parents know the rules of your classroom are firm.

 

Parents: Children need plenty of sleep. Ensure all throughout the school year that your children get enough rest. They need this for brain development and physical growth as well as a healthy immune system. The SleepFoundation.org lists child needs as:

 

Age Recommended May be appropriate
Toddlers 1-2 years 11 to 14 hours 9 to 10 hours/15 to 16 hours
Preschoolers 3-5 years 10 to 13 hours 8 to 9 hours/14 hours
School-aged Children 6-13 years 9 to 11 hours 7 to 8 hours/12 hours
Teenagers 14-17 years 8 to 10 hours 7 hours/11 hours

 

Teachers: You need plenty of rest as well. Stress and sleeplessness can wear you down emotionally and spiritually and make you more vulnerable to illness yourself. Take care of your physical needs of sleep and rest.

14 Tips To Help Teachers Maintain The Beauty And Luster of  a Vocation as a Catholic School Teacher.

For the next month teachers and school leaders will be preparing to welcome young scholars and saints in formation at Catholic Schools throughout the country. Forming Saints and Scholars is hard work, I hope and pray that our Catholic school leaders and teachers will be rewarded greatly for the days and nights they spend toiling in the ministry I like to call Our Father’s Business.

 

Last week I had the opportunity to welcome new teachers to the to their ministry in a Catholic school  – many of them will be first time teachers. I spoke to them about the Trinitarian aspects of a Catholic School and how successful Catholic schools are about relationships – relationships – relationships.  By the time the day was done, the cohort of new teachers adopted a  mantra of “Not Under my Watch.” Imagine several hundred new Catholic school teachers being asked:

 

  • Will it be said that in your classroom children were denied an opportunity to encounter the Risen Christ?

 

  • Will it be said that the test scores of your children declined during the 2015-2016 school year?

 

  • Will students in your classroom withdraw from school because parents are dissatisfied with your willingness to partner with them on behalf of their child’s education?

 

And all responding with an unequivocal – “Not Under My Watch.”

 

Teaching is a noble profession! Nobility includes in its meaning the very notion of beautiful. Therefore, noble work is beautiful work. But what is beautiful can be sullied. While working at the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education Program I was often presented with opportunities to talk to new Catholic school teachers. Below are some of the thoughts I would share with them in an attempt to help each new teacher maintain the beauty and luster of his/her own vocation as a Catholic school teacher. I share them here today so that Catholic school leaders across the country can use as appropriate and share with new teachers.  Some of the thoughts might be good for veteran teachers to hear again as well.

 

  1. Stay close to the Lord. Throughout your career, you will experience crises of confidence, exasperation, frustration, unreasonable parents, troubled students, bad classes, poor liturgies. You will be misquoted, misrepresented and for some periods of time, mistrusted. But you will also get the unparalleled gift to see the world with wonder again, through the eyes of young people. You will be made a confidante by a young person seeking advice, feel the joy of a weak student who does well on an assignment, cheer for your students in athletic contests, beam with a near parents’ pride as your students graduate. To keep yourself rooted, to keep your ideas fresh, to be the kind of faithful person our young people need to see firsthand, stay close to the Lord, both in your daily prayer and in the reception of the sacraments. If you do, the Lord will bless you in your work and you will go to bed each night exhausted, but with a smile on your face. 
  2. Be yourself. If you’re young, you’ve probably never been called Mister Jones or Miss Smith, and that will take some getting used to.  But you can be yourself within this role. I have never agreed with the maxim “Don’t let them see you smile until Thanksgiving.”  The fact is, students respond better to authenticity. It’s OK to laugh at something the students say which is amusing—in fact, it’s quite disarming to them. It’s OK to let the students see you having fun. 
  3. Admit your mistakes and learn from them. Zero in on your strengths, not your weaknesses. (Remember — nobody’s perfect!) Principals also suffer from human frailty and need time to learn. School leaders need to be supported not weakened by behavior which is destructive to the Catholic School community.
  4. Remember, it’s not about you; it’s about the students. So learn how to spell the word “concupiscence”. Concupiscence is a tendency to put yourself first. Only divine grace enables us to rise above it. But unless you declare war on it, you are bound to succumb to the illusion that teaching is all about you.
  5. Be professional. Model desired attitudes and behavior. Make sure you dress in professional attire. Remember that you teach students first, and then you teach whatever academic discipline you learned. You are a role model for the children and partner with the parents in the formation of each child.  
  6. Empower your students and engage them in the teaching/learning process.  Listen — both to what the kids are saying and to what they’re not saying. Make sure  that assessments are frequent and fair, that work is graded in a timely fashion, and that classes are well prepared and taught from beginning to end  – every minute matters!
  7. Don’t “go it alone.” Get to know all the teachers in your school and make friends with the cooks, custodians, aides, and secretaries. We are all formators of children, just each with a different role to play. Volunteer to share projects and ideas, and don’t be afraid to ask others to share their ideas with you. Understand that the learning process involves everyone — teachers, students, colleagues, and parents — and get everyone involved. Seek the advice of your colleagues, share your frustrations with them, and ask questions. Remember we are promised that whenever two or more are gathered in His name that he will be with us to enlighten and guide us.
  8. Dive in! Don’t be a person who clocks in at 7:30 and clocks out at 4 each day. Come to afterschool activities. Nothing connects you with your students faster than to be able to say “Nice hit,” or “great singing,” or “I was impressed with your artwork at the show.” You can’t be at everything; but make a point some days to just stop in at after school care to say hello.  You’ll see kids in a whole new light, and I think you’ll enjoy it, too.
  9. Consider your roll book a prayer book – Pray for your students and their families. Your most important work is to bring a piece of heaven into the classroom with you.
  10. Think before you speak; if you do, you won’t speak very often, for there is a great deal to think about in education. Have the courage to try something else if what you’re doing isn’t working.
  11. Thirty plus years from now, your students will not remember all that you taught them, but they will remember who you were and how you treated them You have a choice to become a minister of justice or an angel of peace. Be an angel of peace.
  12. All the knowledge we give our students is in vain if they receive it without knowing they are good and loved by God. Each day is an opportunity to channel the divine love. Don’t waste an opportunity to do so. Every minute counts!
  13. Keep a journal and take pictures. Some highly regarded Catholic school teachers share excerpts from their journal and images from the week with parents in a weekly email blast.
  14. Remember that a good day is not necessarily smooth, painless and hassle free.

 

Summertime Children and Reading

The current school year is winding down quickly. It seems as if the first day of school was yesterday and here we are getting ready for summertime. I get most excited about summertime as it is a good time to establish an amazing connection….summertime, children and reading should be like peas and carrots….things that go well together. Reading for young scholars can always open up galaxies of possibilities, but, reading in those lazy days of summer invites play, the unexpected and encourages an unbridled imagination. Every book is a possibility.

Ensuring free time to read and imagine is perhaps the best of summertime opportunities: a wonderful companion to any program, camp or class.

But not all great summertime reading should be done by a child in isolation. Sometimes there is nothing better than reading together. Sharing a story with your child means sharing language, life, and perspective. Characters’ decisions, good ones and bad, morph into complex conversations outside the pages. Funny moments become inside jokes, and travels to exotic lands an inexpensive possibility.

I wish you all parents and young scholars a summer filled with opportunities to make family memories as well as lots and lots of books.

The Pope Visited a Catholic School

Perhaps you should as well. You’ll find that that the school is still Our Father’s school, but not your father’s Catholic School anymore.

pope-francis

While many Catholic schools have closed, more than 150 schools opened during the past 10 years. Hardly a diocese in the country exists that does not have plans on the drawing boards for new schools and additions to others. Catholic parents in suburban parishes are now the prime movers behind the opening of new schools. From California to Virginia, from Florida to Indiana, examples exist of new schools opening with capacity enrollments and waiting lists.

The best way to understand what is happening in Catholic schools is to take a good look at the following four traits:

1. ADHERENCE TO CATHOLIC IDENTITY

2. MODERN CLASSROOM ARRANGEMENTS

3. NEW ADMINISTRATIVE SETUP

4. CHANGES IN FUNDING

CATHOLIC SCHOOLS…

1) Have a proven record of academic excellence;

2) Recognize you as the primary educator of your child(ren) and partner with you for the good of your children;

3) Continue the religious formation of your children begun in your home;

4) Offer a rigorous curriculum

5) Provide a challenging environment;

6) Maintain a secure environment;

7) Deal with the issues of today and show students the application of Christian principles to them;

8) Have educators who believe that all children can succeed;

9) Provide a Christian value-centered education; and most importantly

10) Prepare students for not just college, but heaven too!

If you are not a parent but a Catholic parishioner, I ask you to examine with me the following reasons for helping the renaissance of Catholic schools throughout the United States: 1. At Baptism we joined the family of God and were charged to become evangelizers. We do this chiefly by acting in a Christ like manner. Because we are charged to be evangelizers, we need to assist those who do this on a full-time basis. We need to support our Catholic schools.

2. Catholic schools are good for America. Large numbers of Catholic schools provide a top-quality education to very poor children thereby treating the disease of poverty and social injustice as opposed to just the symptoms.

Catholic schools have done more for evangelization than any other American Church institution. For more than 200 years, they have been the most effective means of helping youth grow in their faith. Catholic schools have been a great gift to the nation. They have educated millions and millions of students who became productive citizens intensely loyal to their country.

Thank you for reading!

Steve Virgadamo