A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Posts Tagged ‘students

If riches are a desirable possession in life, what is richer than wisdom who effects all things?

~ Wisdom 8:5*

With a return to classes come opportunities to learn in many ways.

In kindergarten, students learn to make friends, to share, to be curious about the world beyond their family and neighbourhood. As they progress through the grades, they learn to express themselves through art, writing, music, dance and drama; to understand how math and the sciences affect our world; to see the impact of geography and history; and so on.

As theories of education come and go, we see changes in the curriculum, in the way subjects are taught or emphasized, in our understanding of how students learn. What doesn’t change is the importance of wisdom and our need to recognize God as its source, as we see in Wisdom 7:17-20:

For it is he who gave me unerring knowledge of what exists,

to know the structure of the world and the activity of the elements;

the beginning and end and middle of times,

the alternations of the solstices and the changes of the seasons,

the cycles of the year and the constellations of the stars,

the natures of animals and the tempers of wild beasts,

the powers of spirits and the reasonings of men,

the varieties of plants and virtues of roots . . . .

Our children and youth will learn in school, through extracurricular activities, at Mass and youth group meetings, and through their relationships with family and others, but they need guidance to apply what they learn. We need to pray that God would grant them wisdom, that they would want the blessings that flow from it, and that they would share their wisdom with others—and we need to pray the same for ourselves.

I learned without guile and I impart without grudging;

I do not hide [wisdom’s] wealth,

for it is an unfailing treasure for men;

those who get it obtain friendship with God,

commended for the gifts that come from instruction. (Wisdom 7:13-14)

As the school year gets under way, I pray that we would encourage our children and youth to pursue wisdom and that we would also look for opportunities within our school, parish and wider communities to share what we have learned.

continuing education calendar

We can also look at continuing education courses for ourselves…

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

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cell phone case

I like the message on this GRÜV cell phone case (seen at Amazon.ca)…

To be nobody-but-yourself—in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else—means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.

~ e.e. cummings, quoted in The Book of Positive Quotations, 2nd Edition

While reading Brené Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection early this morning, I came across a variation on the quote above. I thought to myself, “It’s hard enough to be myself as an adult; it’s got to be even harder for the kids starting school this week.”

The little boy or girl starting kindergarten, the child who’s new from another school in town or another city or another country, the teen starting high school or university: they all feel the pressure to fit in.

But they have to choose: do they pretend to be something they’re not just to belong, or do they share their true selves—the ones God designed?

They might prefer skirts over yoga pants or khakis over jeans, classical music over hip hop, reading over video games. They might enjoy being involved with their youth group and spending time with family rather than hanging at the mall. Their ideas of what’s fun and cool might be different from the mainstream.

And they should celebrate that, instead of trying to conform to the way their peers—or the media—tell them they should look, sound, behave or think.

I  believe in marching to your own drummer. When I was in high school, I followed some of the trends, but I also wore dresses and high heels when the mood struck. I ran track one year but I was also on the academic quiz team, wrote poetry and cross-stitched. At university, I was more interested in having access to a great library and learning about everything from sociology to psychology than I was in partying.

And I was blessed to have some good friends who had their own quirks—including one who laughed till she cried and another who made funky clothes out of any material she had—as well as teachers who encouraged me and parents who supported me.

As the children and youth in our lives finish their first week of classes, I pray that we would encourage them to be themselves—to pursue their God-given interests and goals and to be the people he created them to be.

St. Albert the Great, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. John Bosco, St. Gregory the Great, St. John Baptist de la Salle*: the first three are patron saints of students and the last two, of teachers.

We know students need a lot of prayer. To shift their focus back to schoolwork after spending a few months at a summer job or at camps. To choose wisely the friends they’ll spend time with and the activities they’ll spend time on this school year. To set priorities and persevere to overcome challenges.

Teachers also need our prayers that they would be able to present the course material in creative ways, notice if students struggle with their work, manage students’ behaviour in the classroom and on school grounds, and maintain a balance between completing their prep and marking work and spending time with their families.

And let’s not forget the bus drivers who safely transport our children to and from school, the early childhood educators and educational assistants who help in classrooms, the librarians who manage the resource materials, the custodial staff who keep the facilities clean, and the administrative staff who keep the schools running smoothly and safely.

That’s a lot of people to cover in prayer.

first day of school

My son’s first day of school in September 2004

With tomorrow being the first day of school, let’s take a moment to offer a prayer for staff that they would have patience, guidance, strength and good judgement. That staff and students would have a positive start to the new school year, especially those making the transition from home and daycare to school, from elementary school to high school, from high school to post-secondary education or training, or from one school to another because of a move. And that we would all be on the lookout during our travels for students walking or taking the bus so that they arrive safely at their destinations.

And for those returning to work or other routines after the summer break, I pray that September finds you refreshed and restored.

(*For more on these and other patron saints, see Saints.SQPN.com and Voices of the Saints: A 365-Day Journey With Our Spiritual Companions by Bert Ghezzi.)

Sometimes I think I should have been a teacher or a school librarian.

I loved school and still look forward to returning to routine in the fall. Poring over continuing education calendars is right up my alley; I love to learn. And I don’t mind back-to-school shopping for my son. Not that he’s so keen on hitting the books now, but that wasn’t always the case.

first day of school

My son’s first day of junior kindergarten in September 2004

I remember walking my son to school on the first day of junior kindergarten. He was excited to be big enough to go to school so he could have fun with the other kids as they counted, read, painted, checked out library books, played sports and went on field trips.

And I remember when my son had to change schools after our move back to Ottawa. He joined his new class in November and had to meet new teachers and classmates and adjust to taking the bus. Fortunately, the whirlwind of classes, book fairs, bake sales and spirit days made the change easier. And then he started middle school—and changed schools again—a year later.

Next year, my son will start high school, with its longer classes, heavier workload and greater opportunities to participate in extracurriculars and start focussing on a career choice. And before long, he’ll be in university.

Some people say the early years fly by; I find the time goes faster now as school, homework, taekwon-do, and drum lessons and practice fill the days, and we have to make time for family time.

With the start of the 2013-2014 school year just a week away, here are my prayers for my fellow parents:

  • For those with young children starting school next week, I pray that God would grant you patience if your children are anxious about making friends, spending the long day at school, or riding the bus—and comfort if, like my son, they barely wave before running into the school or onto the bus, and the change is harder for you. I pray that God would guide you in using the extra time you may now have, perhaps for volunteer work, paid work, or special time with your younger children.
  • For those with children starting at a new school, I pray that your children would find understanding teachers, new friends, and activities they enjoy to ease the transition. (My father was in the military, so I changed schools several times, and I’m shy as well, so I know how hard it can be to adjust.) And I pray that you would encourage your children to welcome new classmates.
  • For those with teens in high school, I pray that your children would keep up with their schoolwork even while they make new friends, join clubs and try out for teams. I pray that they would stay connected with the Church by attending Mass and participating in youth group activities. And I pray that their faith would help them resist invitations to cut classes or to try cigarettes or drugs.
  • For those with students headed off to college, university or trade school, I pray that your children would adjust well to their campus and professors and to life in another town and on their own if they’re attending school elsewhere. I pray that they would be responsible in attending classes, completing assignments, handling the tasks that come with greater independence (such as doing laundry, shopping for and cooking meals, and paying bills), and taking care of their health. And I pray that they would find a local church and a Catholic Christian Outreach group (or something similar) so they stay grounded in their faith, focus on their studies, and avoid the party lifestyle students can fall into.

Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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