As part of our accreditation process, the staff at our school has spent a lot of time over the last year talking about our school culture. We agreed that there were many ways we were promoting the culture we wanted at our school, but also some ways we were falling short. As a result of our discussions about school wide culture, I have spent some time thinking about the culture of my individual classroom and the ways I can permeate even more of the day with our school’s Catholic identity.
In my post If these walls could talk I talked about the importance of visible signs of faith on the walls of your classroom. While my bulletin boards are pretty similar from year to year, this year I completely changed the area around my desk to reflect more of my own personal faith. I included pictures of my family, my icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa and other reminders of my faith and vocation. During these first weeks of school I am going to encourage my students to do the same with the inside of their lockers- bring a symbol of faith, family and something that is just fun.
One easy way to create an obviously Catholic classoom is to have a saint spotlight bulletin board. This is something I have in my classroom every year, but I’ve gotten a bit fancier in my presentation. Like many classrooms will spotlight a student of the week with a form poster that the child fills out at home, I create a board for one saint each month. Now that I am writing this, I think it could be a really fun idea to fill out one of those student posters for the saint too.
Another way to create a Catholic classroom culture is to celebrate students’ baptism days or saint days. Because some of my students have not been baptized, finding a saint with their name or a similar name gives those students a similar type of celebration. This year I am going to make a calendar celebrating the saint’s days and baptism days of all my students and provide a small treat for the class on each of those days. While you could certainly do this instead of celebrating birthdays, I am choosing to do both for a few reasons. 1: families already have many special traditions for their children’s birthdays, and I don’t want any child to feel like they can’t celebrate their birthday the way they would usually. 2: more celebrations and snacks means more student buy-in for the whole thing. I can’t wait to see how it goes this year.
Of course there are many routines and actions that also clearly create a Catholic classroom culture. One of my coworkers has students stand and start every class with a short prayer using a Bible verse. By the end of the year, they have memorized scripture and hopefully internalized that you can pray anywhere, even in math class! When I was in middle school, one of my teachers had us say a prayer to the Holy Spirit before each test and quiz. There are all sorts of ways to make your classroom Catholic, but before school starts, the easiest way is through your decor and planning.
Because my school is currently undergoing a huge renovation, I haven’t been able to start setting up my classroom yet. When I am able to, I will post pictures of this year’s super awesome Catholic learning environment. Let me know in the comments if you have any other ideas to share with us!