After observing Ash Wednesday to start Lent, we have been thrust into a season of intentional reflection and prayer. As a Catholic educator, I feel called not only to prepare lesson plans and materials for my students in these 40 days but to also curate opportunities for my students to reflect on the season of Lent in the classroom. The first of these opportunities for students was one that is a staple among Catholic school-teachers across this country. I had students write down their Lenten promises on small purple pieces of paper and posted them on a bulletin board.
As a first-year teacher, it is often easy laugh at yourself. Handing out the little purple sheets, I could see that my students found my choice of activity both unoriginal and pedestrian. Nevertheless, they obliged my request–though with no shortage of loud exhales and some eye rolls. As they worked quietly under the pressure of the timer projected onto the board, I gave them some privacy. These promises were theirs–a window into their souls. My timer beeped. Time was up. The purple sheets were consolidated by table and then collected. I stacked them on my desk to be posted later. We moved on to our biology lesson for the day–the life cycle of eukaryotic cells. My stated objective for our Lenten activity – SWBAT reflect on your promise to God as we enter the spiritual desert (no pressure) – was filed away with all our other classroom objectives.
Frankly, the activity and the purple slips of paper fell out of my mind until I began the work of making the bulletin board. Wielding my Swingline stapler, I awkwardly pinned each promise to the cork-backing of the board. Despite their morning grumbles, I began to see my students had really taken the time to reflect. Some stuck to the classics: cuss less, drink less soda, eat less candy, etc. Yet, many sought to give themselves up for others. Help mom around the house with chores. Be more present with my friends. Be more giving of my time to those less fortunate. Put myself last. These little purple sheets were a record of Christ acting through my students as they poured themselves out for others. They desired to commit acts of self-giving love, small manifestations of Christ’s love for us.
In my short time as an ACE teacher, I have witnessed my students and fellow teachers commit similar acts of self giving love time-and-time again. In fact, many of these acts are often woven into the fabric of our daily routine–much like our Lenten activity. Each day, either my housemate Marco Ordoñez or I will rouse the other with a knock on the door and a “Good-morning, sir.” The announcements always begin with prayer at 8 a.m., crackling over the PA and waking often half-sleeping students. Peers work together in groups and learn from one another. Coworkers rib each other but also help build one another up professionally. The one I relish the most is watching the face of a student as gears of their mind fall into place and they come to some greater understanding. The light of Christ shines strong as we go through the very routines that bind us together as a school community.
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