Creating a Sacred Space

Sometimes it seems as if our students aren’t aware of or don’t recognize the “sacred”. To them everything from a new pair of jeans to going to a concert is “awesome”.
In reality, the word “awesome” should only be associated with God. Only God is awesome.
To introduce the students to the “sacred”, we suggest that you create a “sacred space” in your classroom.
Start with a table or area in the room – maybe in a corner. Add a table covered with a white tablecloth. On top of this, place a runner (a rectangular piece of material) in the same color as the liturgical color of the day (purple, white, green, red or rose). On the table should be a standing crucifix, a Bible enthroned on a stand, and a candle. (Please use a battery operated candle for safety.) You could also have a picture of the patron saint of the classroom or of the school
or parish.
Additional items can be placed in the “sacred space” appropriate to the liturgical season or feast day, or connected with the truths being taught in the lesson. For example, an Advent wreath can be place on the table during Advent, or a nativity scene can be added during the Christmas season. A statue of Mary can be added when teaching about her or the rosary or if teaching the Sacrament of Baptism, a crystal bowl holding holy water can be added. Icons and sacred art can be used to illustrate the particular Bible passage to be read in the lesson.
Ideally the students should be able to gather in the sacred space for prayer but we all know that the ideal isn’t always the most practical. So, when leading the opening and closing prayer, you should move to the “sacred space” indicating to the students that it is time for prayer. As the lesson refers to a specific Bible passage to be read, move to the “sacred space” take up the enthroned Bible and read from it. This again, will indicate to the students the sacredness and awesomeness of the Word of God.
I know that those of you who teach in a Parish Religion Program and share a classroom with the Parish school, are wondering how you can do this. A dear friend of mine, who has been a nun for 50 years, suggested a solution. Using a small suitcase on wheels, place everything you want in the “sacred space” in the suitcase. If a table is not available in the classroom you are using, use a desk, or after emptying the suitcase, lay it on its back on and use it as your “table”. You can have the students who arrives first place the items in the “sacred space”. She claims that by mid-year all the students were arriving on time for class!

If you have any suggestions or comments regarding the “sacred space” please share them with us.

Another Year Starts

Welcome back to all of you who, like me, took a break in July. Before you know it, we will be starting another school year with new challenges.
One of the things I like to do before starting the year is to review in my mind the classroom rules I used in the past. How did they work? What are some new rules that I need to add to the list. We want to provide an orderly, respectful environment which promotes learning and growth in their relationship with God.

To provide this kind of environment there has to be some organization – rules. I start by explaining this idea to the students – we can’t learn in chaos.  If everyone talks at the same time no one can be heard or understood. So, our first rule is “Only one person talks at a time. Raise your hand if you have something to say”.

The next idea is respect. None of us likes to be laughed at or have our comments dismissed. So, the next rule is “There are no dumb questions. If you really don’t understand a point, ask a question.”

I think that praying together establishes a bond that is different from all others.  Pray with your students and for your students. Praying the formal prayers of the Church is a good way to help the students learn these prayers and thus be able to pray together.  In addition to the formal prayers, leave time to pray for specific needs – a good year, students to pass a test, illness in students families, etc. A very good friend of mine, prays for her students before every class by sitting in each desk and praying for the student that sits there.

I asked my granddaughter who is going into seventh grade about her class. She said they are “like a family”. They are not all best friends, in fact, sometimes they are not friends at all but they all know one another and care about one another.  They know who has learning issues and help each other.  Her response made me smile. Her teachers have done a great job establishing a respectful and charitable environment. That is what we are all aiming for – a caring compassionate environment.

Please let me know your “rules” and how you establish an orderly, respectful environment for your students.  Good luck this year and God bless you and your class.