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Catholic Schools Week: Educating the Heart

By Uyen Le (ACE 29, Jacksonville)

Image of a class during listening to a presenter during Catholic Schools Week

Uyen Le dressed up for Catholic Schools Week with a color dress and crazy hairAs a kid growing up going to Catholic schools, I thought Catholic Schools Week was the best. There was crazy hair day, crazy sock day, and crazy dress-up-as-your-teacher day. There were raffles where you could win giant yo-yos and ice cream socials. One year, a baby horse even made an appearance at our school! But quite possibly the best part about being a student during Catholic Schools Week (and the most anxiety-inducing for teachers) was the lack of instructional time. Admittedly, last January as a teacher in the first-year trenches, the weekend before Catholic Schools Week was laced with a thread of dread; however, as it progressed, I realized how formative this week was both for my students and for me.

Catholic schooling is all about educating both the mind and the heart, which is especially celebrated during Catholic Schools Week. I primarily feel responsible for ensuring that my students hit the academic standards required to pass fifth grade. However, though there are no standards for emotional development, the beauty of a Catholic education is being able to instill in students the values of charity, family, and evangelization.

During Catholic Schools Week, students at Christ the King (CTK) are encouraged to consider and care for those outside of their immediate communities. In the past, students have written letters to nursing home residents, veterans, and prisoners, and donated boxes of necessities to homeless shelters. Though students come from diverse backgrounds, they all give what they can. Just as Jesus praises the poor widow who contributes her two small coins as an offering, so do we celebrate a spirit of giving, especially during this week.

Family involvement at CTK is vital to the prosperity of the school, so families are rightly celebrated during Catholic Schools Week. Parents are constantly coming in and out throughout the school day, volunteering in classrooms and organizing events. Because CTK is one of the oldest schools in Jacksonville, many students have parents and even grandparents who attended CTK. During last year's Catholic Schools Week, we invited grandparents into our classrooms to share their experiences and wisdom. One grandfather recalled how, when he was in fifth grade, gas was only $0.69 a gallon. A grandmother pulled at my heartstrings when she warmly told my students to choose happiness because life is too short to live purely for the approval of others. Catholic Schools Week also solidifies how the CTK staff itself is a family. We navigate the chaos through communication and sacrifice, we say yes to uncomfortable situations (e.g. I am playing volleyball at a school-wide pep rally on the teacher team against our undefeated varsity team), and we look out for each other when life gets overwhelming. By modeling these qualities for our students, we show that though family might not be perfect, it gets us through tough times and celebrates us at the finish line. 

Catholic Schools Week culminates in the effort to evangelize, literally to share the Good News. Many families are not Catholic at CTK, but they can witness our Image of students around the flag pole as a student puts the flag onChristian mission of love when they participate in Catholic Schools Week. Our living rosary allows all to encounter Catholics' devotion to Mother Mary; our Mass, which includes student readers, altar servers, and singers, shows the necessity of youth in the revitalization of the Church; and our students are living examples of the joy and charity we preach. Catholic Schools Week embraces our Catholic identity in all its chaos, quirks, and charms. At its heart is a deep intention to unite by highlighting the power of community, an analogy for the greater Church. Yes, Catholic Schools Week is a disruption to the weekly routines of a classroom, but ultimately, it is a welcome disruption. It serves as a reminder of what sets Catholic schools apart—the education of both the mind and the heart.