Maria Montessori passed away before she was able to develop the adolescent curriculum fully. However, she did outline the important concept of work of not only the mind and hands, but of the body as well for these teenagers. Her original intent for adolescence is for them to reside at a boarding school to run a farm as well as run some sort of general store that sells the produce and crops that they generate on the land. This would involve executive planning for the crops, physical work for planting and harvest, as well as financial and interpersonal skills in running a small business.
This philosophy directly relates to the A1 classroom's emphasis on Community Service and our working to implement a Micro-Economy in our classroom.
Our community service, as much as possible, involves the whole adolescent - their planning (mind), their effort and physical labor (body), and then a processing and a discussion on the importance of what we did (heart). While some may say that painting an office or demo-ing a bathroom is not as valuable of work as other academically oriented learning, Maria Montessori would advocate that it is equally as valuable for the development of the whole child. Our emphasis at the Way of the Shepherd is not only sharp and curious minds, but also a focus on the whole of the child, the development of their character, virtue, and the shaping of them to become a contributing member of society.
The second piece that relates to Maria Montessori's original philosophy is a Micro-Economy. Not only is this a requirement of every adolescent classroom, it teaches them valuable planning, teamwork, and math and finance skills. As we are brainstorming and generating ideas for this, I ask for your support in these endeavors with the forethought of how much fruit it will bear in the formation of your student and the development of their academic and moral character.
On Friday we attended the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and hid from the frigid cold amidst sculptures, artifacts, and paintings. The students broke into pairs of two and completed a scavenger hunt task with which they needed to use the MIA map and their spatial skills (no Google maps) to find the designated artwork and complete the designated task to invite wonder and study. From dishes in ancient China to tribal masks to European Impressionist paintings, the adolescents ventured amidst the galleries representing various cultures and expanded their worldviews and their knowledge of history.
As they wandered amidst the 2nd and 3rd floors, I wandered around and observed them. They had a competitive fire and interest as they searched and looked at room numbers and asked the security guards and docents for assistance. One security guard told me he had never seen any students as well behaved as ours!
After about 3 hours of scavenging, the students came together and discussed the hi's and lows and what new and interesting pieces they came to learn about. Although they may not readily admit that the MIA was their first choice of places to be, I sensed a feeling of accomplishment (amidst sore feet) for what they did and how intensely they studied and hunted and worked together.
Leaving for the day, I saw a maturity in the group that I hadn't seen before, a sense that they can handle being in a "real world" environment and behave in an ordered and grace-filled way. I saw them understand that the MIA may be boring but that many students aren't able to see first-hand some of the beautiful artwork that they were able to walk by that day. I saw in them a self-awareness and a self-composure that was new and profound. What a beautiful day.
Its 2019. What does that mean?
Mrs. Goodwin will enter into her 3rd year of teaching and finish her certification.
The A1 classroom will usher out its first graduating class of 8th graders.
The A1 program will have lived through its second year.
There are many things to expect in the New Year and already we should be thanking the Lord of his goodness and blessing.
The classroom will tighten its belt with its own resolutions - higher standards for writing and reading content - higher expectation for behavior and a culture of kindness - a greater encouragement to enter deeper into prayer through Litanies and Lectio Divina. There will be more encouragement to push forward, try new things, and explore creative abilities. There will be more opportunities to explore new things, experience new situations, and stretch awareness and abilities.
Instead of living for when school gets out, when your work is done, when its Friday, let's beg for the grace to live each moment intentionally and beautifully. Instead of looking at to do lists, homework packets, and unread emails, let's first look at the face in front of us. Let's make 2019 a year that glorifies Jesus Christ. I think that is a resolution to stand by.
The first Annual Adolescent Advent Retreat was on December 6th, 2018, the feast of St. Nicholas. The adolescents drove to St. Paul to receive what the Holy Spirit had in store for them that day.
They began the day with community and donuts! Then they opened with the Liturgy of the Hours Morning prayer and praise and worship led by a guest, Luke Gion. There were two talks given: one on the origin and definition of Advent and one on What do we do during Advent. The guest speakers were John Lucke and Catherine Wessel, whose authenticity and love of the Lord radiates from their persons.
Catherine shared about the three comings of Christ (nativity, prayer, 2nd coming) as well as how we need to WAIT and PREPARE during Advent. She advocated for not being an Advent purist but allowing the good of Christmas to assist us in pursuing the joy of Advent. She talked about how we are truly happier to receive something after we wait for it, and the same goes for the Advent season.
John spoke about what we should do (or not do) during Advent. He talked about the Little Drummer Boy who didn't have any "gifts to bring" except himself and his talents. He talked about how the Little Drummer Boy parallels John the Beloved who really wasn't featured much in Scriptures but always remained close to Christ - laying his head on his chest at the last supper and being at the foot of the cross on Calvary. John advocated that Advent is a time for us to just BE - to sit in silence with the Lord and allow him to do his work in us - to make room in our hearts. He encouraged the students to practice saying no to certain things so that Christ can fill up their hearts even more.
After lunch and community time and small group discussions, the adolescents convened in the Chapel where Jesus was exposed in the Blessed Sacrament for an Hour of Adoration and Praise and Worship. They were invited to write their gifts and things they are grateful for on a sheet of paper and place it in the empty manger in front of the altar. It was a beautiful, sacred time to just sit and BE in front of the Lord and to prepare our hearts for his coming.
The adolescents seemed to have a good day and left the retreat with a joy and sense of community renewed. Many of them were encouraged and reminded of the beauty of this liturgical season and that its more than just changing to purple vestments - that its a time to take seriously for Christ's coming and Christmas.
Last Tuesday, our two campuses came together to celebrate our Thanksgiving Feast with the elementary and adolescent communities. It was a beautiful sight to see and there was so much joy and laughter present.
In the week preceding Thanksgiving, I encouraged the adolescents to share to the Lord what they were grateful for during morning prayer. As this became a habit, I saw small changes in the environment - a deliberate choice to love, a small act of kindness, positive words of encouragement instead of sarcastic jokes. This lens of gratitude was changing these teens.
When I announced to the adolescents that they had been asked to serve the Thanksgiving meal, there was a few who grumbled, or who were bummed they would eat last. I encouraged them that the last will be first and that it was an awesome opportunity for their servant hearts to grow. And on Tuesday, I saw their servant hearts grow THREE SIZES in one day :)
With each serving of turkey, ladle of gravy, and piece of pumpkin bread, I witnessed a smile, a joke cracked, and a joyful leadership in each of my students. In their humble serving, they seemed so much more themselves, developing their characters through virtuous service. It was truly beautiful and a wonder to watch. What the adolescents were unaware of as I took photos and encouraged them, is that as they were serving the other students, they were making it onto my gratitude journal that night. How blessed am I. How blessed are we. God is good, all the time.
I pray you had a beautiful Thanksgiving.
On Friday, November 2nd, the Adolescents began a beautiful tradition in the classroom by praying for the poor souls that have gone before. Connected to our religion lesson on the three levels of the church: militant, suffering, triumphant - the adolescents learned that the poor souls in purgatory do not have anyone to pray for them. As a community, we began praying the Eternal Rest Prayer daily at meals which grants a partial indulgence for the poor souls in the month of November.
We also are completing a plenary indulgence by attending Mass, praying for the intentions of the Pope, visiting a cemetary (on Friday), and going to confession.
As we made our way out to the cemetary on Friday, I encouraged the adolescents to take it seriously - to reflect on the people who have gone before and whose remains were buried beneath us. We prayed a prayer of St. Gertrude where Jesus told her that every time she prayed it, 1,000 souls were released from purgatory. Then the adolescents meandered through the cemetary, kneeling in front of tombstones and praying for the souls of the faithful departed. Some said it made them sad. Others said it made them reflect on our mortality. Others said it made them reflect on how each person was special to someone - a wife, mother, father, sister - that each person belonged to someone and suffered a loss because of their death. It was a beautiful reminder of the temporary nature of this life and the beautiful promise of the Eternal life.
Please join us at home in praying for the poor souls with the Eternal Rest prayer and the Prayer of St. Gertrude.
Eternal rest grant unto them,
O Lord, and let perpetual light
shine upon them. May the souls
of all the faithful departed, through
the mercy of God, rest in peace.
I offer You the most precious blood
of thy Divine Son, Jesus,
in union with the Masses said
throughout the world today,
for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory,
for sinners everywhere,
for sinners in the universal Church,
for those in my own home,
and in my family. Amen.”
The Holy Spirit was invited and HE CAME. Yesterday, the E2 and A1 groups went with 10 WOS adults to the U.S. Bank Vikings Stadium to attend the CSCOE Mass of the Holy Spirit. The students displayed their extraordinary leadership and witness amidst 13,000 other Catholic School Students through leading the rosaries on our bus rides, enacting grace and courtesy with others, and showing exemplary reverence during the Mass. I was so proud to see our school represented as such!
Archbishop Hebda presided over the Mass along with Bishop Cozzens and about 80 other priests! Communion took half an hour! As we prayed "Lord, I need you," "Holy Spirit, you are welcome here," and praised the "overwhelming, never changing, reckless love of God," I felt the Spirit come and wash over all those present. The Lord is so happy with the work done by all of these schools, and I am confident he is so pleased by the work of WOS. There was a sense of pride and camaraderie as the students left the stadium, unified by their Way of the Shepherd uniforms, standard of behavior, and Christ-like love that is so clearly fostered and present. I pray and will continue to pray for the deeper conversion of each student at Way of the Shepherd as we are so blessed to live out our universal call to holiness through our Catholic identity and Montessori pedagogy in our school. How He loves us!
On Monday, October 1st, the adolescent community traversed to Ramsey and were hosted by the Turner family. The Turners had a huge problem - they were up to their eyes in APPLES! They enlisted the aid of the adolescents to clean, peel, cut, and boil the apples in order to make a vat of applesauce.
Two adolescents washed and distributed apples, a few more peeled them, a few more cut them, and a couple boiled them on the stove. After a bit of scuffle, each student found their place on the team and were determined (competitively so) to do their part. From singing songs, to arguing about how many apples there were, to competing about how many apples they peeled, the students were undoubtedly valorized by the work and the joy and leadership skills were visibly present.
Not only was this a beautiful way to see the work behind apple preserving, but it brought about communication skills, teamwork, and just sheer joy! The Turners kindly gave the adolescents some of the applesauce they made as a thank you - and we are grateful to them for the opportunity to work with our hands, as Maria Montessori always encourages.
Another year, another piece of pizza....
That's what it looked like on Friday during our outing to Pizza Ranch. The students celebrated the end of a hard-working week at Erdkinder and the birthdays of three of their classmates: Ben, Sarah, and Matthew O. Not only was this a time of fellowship and community, but the adolescents were able to witness their grace and courtesy to the staff at Pizza Ranch, and witness their faith by standing up and praying together before the meal.
Near the end of our lunch, there was a time of stories where parents and students shared funny, embarrassing, or sweet stories about Ben, Matthew, and Sarah. We all went around and told them what we were grateful for about them and shared many laughs and jokes as we exited the restaurant.
I was reflecting on why we do this in the adolescent community on my way home on Friday afternoon - yes, it is important to celebrate each student, and yes, the teenager years present a whole new phase that needs to be welcomed and hurrahed. But what I saw as we left Pizza Ranch was community, joy and friendship. I saw joy in celebrating the other and forgetting about themselves. I saw unity in their interactions, joking, laughing, and giggling during our group picture. This is a witness - to other schools where the norm is bullying, sarcasm, and swearing. To other teenagers who may spend their time in less reputable fashions. To the secular culture at large who are unable to put down their phones to actually interact and be present to each other in relationship. What a beautiful way to send these students into years of turmoil, change, and intensity. What a beautiful community of students to have for the 2018-19 school year. God is so truly good.