Saturday, October 20, 2012

My first atrium

Our prayer area.
Prayer table low down, against the side of a dresser.
Behind the dresser: rocking chair, tabernacle, alternating artwork
(quiet prayer area)
The dresser drawers held additional supplies
(prayer table cloths, candles, etc)
We had a small closet - for storing large items and
items used less often. 

The year I finally made it into level 1 formation was an interesting year to say the least.

I had recently switched parishes away from the local college chapel to the actual city parish. For many reasons, I needed a new dynamic.

I offered my services to the then-new DRE as catechist and I was placed as an assistant in an 8th grade class. Not counting the years I subbed for all levels, I had assisted 1st grade, taught 5th grade, 3rd grade, then preschool for several years. So it was good to get back to working with middle schoolers (I had done scouting work with adolescents previously, not church related).

My son, then age 1, was invited to "join" the preschool class. The preschool and kindergarten classes both met in what used to be the nursery - the largest room in the old school building, with built-in shelving - all the toys were still present, as well as storage bins of items that belonged to an old MOPS group that no longer met there. So lots of toys and two classes meeting in the same room. The DRE figured that my son could play with the toys while two teachers (about age 18-19) taught Kindergarten and one lady (a mom) taught the 3 and 4 year old preschoolers.

Our original altar (left) and Good Shepherd (right)
I later made an altar of appropriate height; adding boxes
for a sacristy cabinet to the bottom side of the old
changing table (far left edge)
Well, at the end of the first class, the preschool teacher said it just wasn't going to work. It was her first time, she was doing it because noone else had stepped forward; her husband taught the 1st grade class and she figured she could swing it. She had two sons in the class.

Did I mention all the nursery toys and TWO classes of young wiggly children in the same room at the same time? With two teaching styles? And singing when one class is praying quietly, vice-versa???? Yeah.

The DRE asked me if I would co-teach, based on my past experience. Sure. The 8th grade teacher could get by without an aid.

What became the parables shelf. Small areas for the materials.
Narrow areas for tracing packets
(NOTE: tracking packets should now be placed in ART)
(mini-Legoboy is 1 in this photo and stood in that
spot for about 20 minutes - at one of the infancy narratives)
Somewhere in those first few weeks, I did a fresh search for CGS formation and found one IN my own state! It would be one Saturday per month for the entire school year. I could send my son with my mother for the day and it would be a lot of driving, but it was accessible! Well, I'd missed the first session already :( But I called anyway - and the very lovely Sr. Nancy welcomed me whole-heartedly. I set up a time to meet with her before the second session so she could go over with me what I had missed and I could see her atrium. I was able to observe one session with older children (level 2 I *think* - at the time it was so all new, I don't even KNOW what I saw!!). For that session, I think I left my son with friends at home and made the 3 hour drive myself. I think. I really don't remember! I just remember being there and thinking, "This is SO RIGHT!"

Backing up from the prayer area view.
The changing table became our sacristy. I later added
pegboard and screwed on priority mail boxes to create
a sacristy for the articles of the Mass. The slats
hung the chasubles and all folders were placed inside
at first - later moved to a work table with all altar extensions.
See the chairs facing the chalkboard?
Those were the first chasuble stands!
You can see the extension work on the chalk board sill. 
So each month I made the trek from south-east of the state to the middle of the state for a day and a half, my mother picked up my son after work on Friday evening and took him to the northern part of the state; I stayed with my grandma overnight and went to the east side of the state myself for the course; then drove northwest to my son; spent time nursing and reconnecting; then time in the basement wood-working room to make materials; and drive back home Sunday morning. I usually did not teach that Sunday, coordinating with my co-teacher what she should do on those days. A couple of times I did come back in time to teach. And then slept all day Sunday!

I slowly introduced CGS presentations in those first months, presenting as I received presentations and made materials from that month's session, but mostly I was working with my daycare children at home.

My first city of Jerusalem.
It now resides (sans walls) in a brand-new level 3 atrium.
8 years later. Notice the HUGE error I made in that first map?
Yep. No wonder I was confused as I made it ;) 
Altar extension work and pasting boxes.
We later picked up "shoe shelves" at Wal-Mart to hold such items.
Now (years later) these items should be found in the art area,
per latest recommendations. 
Then things really came to a head with the kindergarten teachers; they arrived 20-30 minutes AFTER class started ROUTINELY. We had their children joining us, so that they weren't playing with the toys and distracting us. Since I was adding in CGS, it worked out great for the k-ers anyway. They usually ignored their teachers when they were there anyway and craned their little necks around to find out what we were doing on our side of the room! They remembered our lessons even when they were on their own side of the room, and the Kindergarten teachers would get angry with them (inappropriately angry). It was a nightmare. Then the day came in mid-December when the two girls didn't show up at all. The DRE called them and said that he was not expecting them to come back. He asked me to officially transition into atrium and asked my co-teacher if she would mind being the assistant in the atrium. The girls did show up in January, arriving late and acting as if they did not know they were not supposed to be there; they made some comments about the changes in the room (not the most friendly or appropriate) and we let them know they needed to chat with the DRE. We never saw them again. I pray for them regularly.

My first chasubles and stoles!
(now in local parish's level 2 atrium)
Hanging on cardboard stands (now defunct)
You can see the shoe shelves added to the altar work
in the background (these photos were taken at many
different times)
But. I was given carte-blanche on the room. I cleared it OUT. We re-purposed items; were able to use a small budget to purchase items (Mass articles mostly); I cleaned and got the children to help in re-decorating (practical life!). It was a year of observing, responding and observing some more.

My co-teacher stayed for the rest of the year, but decided it wasn't for her after all. She was uncomfortable with the lit candles despite having additional helpers in the room specifically for the candles; and we had an authority issue with her two boys and my son. So the following year I had a different assistant who took over when I left.

The children had so many amazing responses. I will share them on this blog here and there.
Our original art supply area. 
And the 1st grade catechist commented on the difference of the incoming children who were k-ers the previous year. Half a year in an incomplete atrium, with some atrium presentations for the first half. It was truly a wonderful experience in so many ways.

My first atrium. So incomplete - and so perfect. Oh to go back to such simplicity - and a fair amount of innocence and naivete. It was pure observe and response. So beautiful.

Opposite (better) view of the sacristy,
before it got it's boxes/shelving on the right side of it. 
I do not remember the date of the enclosed photos. I know that we added an art section in the middle (behind the altar area) providing a hanging space on the back to place a hanging cross and the like. I know we had a baptism area, but I see no photos of it. It was a movable area - we were trying to find just the right place for it.

We also had coat-hooks along the front wall; and a couch with a small reading selection for free reading. There are another 2 built-in shelf sections that are not shown here either. These photos show about 1/3 of our available space. It was big and beautiful!

Infancy Narratives (see the parables to the right and
second practical life section to the far left)
Tracing packets above right.
Sorting art images of the Narratives above left.
My son is intently working on SOMETHING with the Nativity. 

At 2 1/2, he set it up all on his own - with our first homemade
altar - wrapped in marbled contact paper to match that
parish's altar. You can now see the art shelves behind it.
We eventually added a hung crucifix.
(and we had the wall chart there - it should NOT be so obvious)

So proud of his work

Sample extensions given by a nearby atrium to get us started. 

I still have this chart somewhere.
Not as pretty as the ones I make now!
But all handmade - no photocopying!
No printing.
Those were the days.... 

The beginnings of practical life.
There was no practical place for this work, so the
corner of the room sufficed - we laid out a clear vinyl
mat during class for the children to work with water. 

For some reason, the geography area was the best developed
area right from the beginning. The children just loved this area.
Control maps to the far left on the narrow shelving; working
maps on the regular shelving, with paper work below.
The globes are on the top shelf kind of hidden in this photo.
I have not idea what else is along that shelf.
The stained glass window the children helped
decorate with torn tissue paper on clear contact paper.
A box of natural materials of the earth are above the world map
(this was a child's choice of placement).

The original cardboard vestments stands. They held up the
light-weight fabric used. When I tried to duplicate at another
atrium, until the woodworkers were freed up to make them,
they didn't work- the priest had asked to have his leftover
vestment material used - a bit heavier than my original fabric!  

No comments:

Post a Comment