My journey as a teacher has always been in Catholic schools and in fact, I spent the last 14 years at Waukesha Catholic in Waukesha. I have taught everything from K3 to fourth grade.
One of my favorite activities is growing seeds from seedling to plant and discussing the various stages. We discuss how a plant needs soil, water, seeds and the sun to thrive.
I teach them that without the sun, nothing can grow. An unequal amount of this foursome significantly changes the outcome. The plant may grow smaller and weaker. It could very well start out strong, yet with the imbalance of the components, it could stop growing and just exist as a plant that didn’t complete the life cycle.
This analogy can also be used with the most precious plants of all … our children. Children need many things to thrive, but in their spiritual life, they need the components much like a plant.
A child is the seed, parents are the soil and Catholic education is the water. Out of necessity, God is our sun. Put the four together and there is potential for amazing growth. If you look around your parish and school, you will see the evidence of many plants growing at different stages.
It is evident in the respect given to others when these little plants know to help a friend. They jump at the chance to help a schoolmate by helping to pick up 64 crayons that leapt off a desk as well as helping a first grade church buddy find page 349 in the song book for Mass.
It’s evident in middle school when a classmate helps another get over that little glitch in the algebra problem, to a high school student opening the door for a harried mother carrying cupcakes for the bake sale.
Respect is evident when a sapling wins a prize in a contest and gives it to his little seedling. It’s the personal hellos and thank you’s that kids utter automatically, not rehearsed or reminded … it’s just there.
These sprouts, seedlings and saplings know the meaning of the word altruism and service. They remember the field trip to the homeless shelter and want to help out by donating something as a class.
They experience what it is like to live in a cardboard box during an awareness event and want to help further. Our older plants know the meaning of “pay it forward” by selflessly giving their time and talents to create a haunted house that collectively raised over $80,000 for veterans’ causes.
No matter the plants’ stage, they learn it is better to give than it is to receive – a characteristic slowly fading out of our society.
Our plants know reverence. They genuflect at Mass, they pray openly, they observe the beauty in life and of life. When they hear the words “please pray for……. ” they pray. They have reverence for Mary because they know that she is our Spiritual Mother. They show reverence as all the participants in a middle school track meet paused and stood completely still as a funeral procession passed.
Yes, these sprouts, seedlings and saplings are truly an amazingly beautiful gift.
However, they didn’t come to be this amazing alone. They need the root foundation of their parents, the soil, they need the energy and warmth from God, the sun, and they need the guidance from the water, Catholic education.
Their journey as a plant will expose them to the harsh environment called life. They will get blown around, experience frostbitten leaves, and even will be stepped on from time to time. They may wither and want their leaves to fall off. But they know their support system of soil, sun and water has given them the strength that allows them to grow into strong plants.
This balance allows every plant to stand taller and sturdier to be able to weather the storms of life.
(Campbell, a mother of three, is a teacher at Waukesha Catholic School, Waukesha.)