Curriculum Review: Toolbox of Faith

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We have just finished up the Tapestry of Faith program Toolbox of Faith, with 3rd-4th graders. This was our second time using this program, and we will most likely use it again.  This program uses the metaphor of a “Tool of the Day” to talk about some quality of our UU Faith.  For instance, a hardhat symbolizes resiliency, a hammer symbolizes power, etc.

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A quick run-down of the pros and cons of this curriculum:

Pros:

1.  Active, boy-friendly content and so often boys seem left-out of Sunday School curricula and culture

2.  Engaging hands-on activities that the kids liked

3.  At times, the subject matter really did provoke some great discussions and deep thinking in this age group

Cons:

1.  The program, like all Tapestry of Faith programs, has too much content in each lesson plan.  They are just too long to hand them to teachers that way.  Even with editing down, the teachers still remarked that there was more material than they felt like they could get through, which left them feeling rushed and unable to just lean-in to each activity.

2.  This program is very supplies-intensive.  Every Saturday I was scrounging my garage for tools and prepping huge boxes of stuff to bring in to church.  It’s not that it’s expensive – most of this stuff was household stuff I owned and was able to lend to church for the day – but it was a lot of work to gather it all up every week.

3.  Several times we felt like the kids didn’t get the “point” of what the tool was supposed to symbolize.  Of course, that isn’t just up to the curriculum … but I think at times it is a bit of a stretch for the kids to catch the symbolic meaning when they are in the concrete-thinker stage of development.

For us, the Pros definitely outweigh the Cons for this fun, active, engaging curriculum, and we’ll do it again in a couple years!

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Lay Leadership as a Spiritual Practice

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Our congregation’s leadership team is using this inspiring little (really little – short enough that everyone has time to read it) book as a group study guide.  Serving with Grace: Lay Leadership as a Spiritual Practice by Erik Walker Wikstrom is written for the general lay leadership of Unitarian Universalist congregations, and he uses the term lay leadership very broadly.  This is a book for the Board, but also the program council, the committees, the RE teachers, the Ushers and Greeters, the Hospitality Hosts, and anyone else engaged in teh work of the congregation.  And then he suggests that the point is not the work, the budget, or attendance numbers, but is instead the possibility for personal and communal spiritual growth and wholeness.  

We’ve had our first group discussion about the book, and it generated some good ideas about how this flip would benefit us, and where we would also feel some resistance to this.  I’m interested to see where we go with it.

Looking Back, Looking Forward – It’s Our Turn to Have a Dream

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So we have tomorrow off school and work, for a holiday in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.  What will you do with that day?  Catch up on chores or sleep?  Go see a movie?

What is the point of the day?  I believe the point is in this quote above by MLK – What are you doing for others?  King had a dream, and he made things better for all Americans (and beyond) as he worked for his dream.  But while the arc of the universe may be bending toward justice, we are not there yet, and there are more dreams to be dreamed and more work to be done.  We cannot sit back and congratulate ourselves on how it’s all better now.  There is work to be done.

It’s not much, but one day of service is a start.  My family will be planting trees tomorrow.  Check your local UnitedWay websites, to find a family-friendly service project of your own.

And as a family, talk about the legacy and the calling.  The past, and the future. Do you have members of your family who were engaged with civil rights during the 1960′s? Interview them and ask what they remember from those days. Think about what civil rights look like today.  Talk about human rights, economic justice, equal access, and beloved community.  Ask yourself what you have done to effect change. Talk as a family about what you could do in the future to effect change.

In these ways we can honor the legacy, and truly celebrate this holiday.

Beauty Tips For DRE’s

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(My professional look on Sunday after I let some 2nd graders play with my hair after service. Sometimes it’s hard to maintain one’s dignity and work with children – but there should be a dignity inherent in the work whether it is with children or adults.)

With a hat tip to Beauty Tips For Ministers, here is my version for religious educators.  Embrace the whimsy every now and then.  We are still professionals, but professionals who work with children and are approachable and fun.

So here are my Top Ten Beauty Tips for DRE’s on Sunday:

1.  Remember you may get involved with a messy arts or crafts project.  Keep a change of clothes and a nice apron at church for those times, and avoid really expensive dry clean only clothing.

2.  But simultaneously remember that the adults need to see you as a professional. Dress a teensy bit nicer than the norm in your congregation.  In my congregation, I can where a chino skirt in the summer, but not during the church year, and never ever denim, and I end up aimed dressier than the congregants.  A dressy teacher outfit, here.  Some congregations though, you might need a suit to be dressed nicer than the crowd … judge your context.

3.  Limit yourself to one item of whimsy.  Wear the necklace a child made for you, but not the same day you let them put pipecleaners in your hair. 🙂

4.  Shoes – you are going to have to walk a lot, and stand a lot.  Can you in these shoes?  If not, but you simply must wear them because they are so fabulous, better bring along another pair for the clean up shift when everyone else has left and you are cleaning up the classrooms and your feet are killing you.

5.  Any chance you’ll sit on the floor in any classroom?  Can you do that in that skirt without wildly inappropriate flashing of leg?

6.  Any chance you ‘ll hold a baby?  Will your jewelry hold up to yanking?  Do you want the dangly earrings ripped out of your earlobes?

7.  OK – you’ve almost got an outfit picked out.  Now look at it and imagine what a teenager will think of this outfit?  If you get an intuitive cringe, back to the drawing board.

8.  Add a UU touch. You are modeling a UU Identity, and what does that look like?  Be classy about it (chalice necklace or pin, not slogan T shirt), and when folks ask where you got it encourage them to order one too.

9.  I like to consider the season and the liturgy, and try to match my colors accordingly.

10.  Now, lay it all out the night before, because you’ll be rolling out of bed way too early in the morning to decide then. 🙂