Here are a few videos you can use in your classroom when teaching about New Religious Movements and Cults. These videos talk about People’s Temple, New Religious Movements within Ireland and Heavens Gate.
When you teach you can’t plan for everything.
What is classroom management?
It is all about creating an environment an atmosphere in which learning takes place.
Who is the most important person in creating this positive learning environment?? You, Me, Us as a teacher. The ultimate objective is not to make friends. The ultimate objective is that learning takes place. Students are not always going to be willing participants. Classroom management and discipline go hand in hand. You are responsible for disciple and the main objective is learning.
A few guidelines that you might find helpful:
Always ask for help. When you ask other teachers for help it shows the school that you care about the responsibility that they have given you. Don’t assume that things will settle down. It shows that you are willing to go the distance to help them learn. It is a STRENGTH.
Reflection on ‘The Changing Cultural Context of Religious Education’ by Dermot Lane, ‘Challenges Facing
Religious Education in Contemporary Ireland,’ (Dublin, Veritas, 2008) pg 11-22
The above book by Dermot Lane analyses the changing culture of modern Ireland in which Religious Education must take place. In the chapter mentioned above Lane identifies six cultural changes that as he says ‘have real significance for Religious Education’. This blog will reflect on these cultural changes and discuss briefly while drawing from my own experience as a teacher the implications they have for Religious Education today.
The first change that Lane discusses is the concept of modern society where the emphasis is on the individual as an autonomous and self-sufficient person. This in turn he writes has impacted on how religion is practiced. Faith he says has become privatised and removed from the domain of public discourse. A second development that he contributes to making the teaching of religious education difficult in Ireland is the increase in scientific method and ‘the emerging dominance of scientific rationality.’
He continues by reflecting briefly on the scandal within the Irish Church that came to light in the 1990s that we are all too aware of that have done serious damage to the Catholic Church. This scandal within the Church became an obstacle with students in the classroom. From personal experience teenagers are looking for an answer to such a difficult and huge scandal within the Catholic Church. It has called many young people to question their faith and the leaders of their faith community. As a religious educator searching for the right answer proved difficult and simply dismissing the questions asked by students is not the correct response. Through my own personal research as an educator I found an article entitled ‘The Judas Syndrome’. It allowed me to use scripture, the story of Judas betraying Jesus to explain to the students about the recent scandals within the Church. It gives students a chance to reflect on the current situation in the Church from a faith perspective. Judas, chosen by Jesus betrayed him.
We are confronted by the same scandalous reality today. We can focus on those who have betrayed the Lord, those who abused rather than loved the people whom they were called to serve. Or we can focus, as did the early Church, on those who have remained faithful, those priests who are still offering their lives to serve Christ and you out of love. The secular media almost never focuses on the good “eleven,” the ones whom Jesus has chosen who remain faithful, who live lives of quiet holiness. But we the Church must keep the terrible scandal that we are witnessing in its true and full perspective.
Thirdly, he highlights the era of the Celtic Tiger that was marked by ‘a frenzied consumerism, and the demise of ethical values.’ An interesting point that Lane makes here is that during this period education’s priority is to benefit education rather than the student, where the focus is on educating students for the work force rather than on educating the whole person. During my studies and teaching practise, many of the mission statements that I have read advocate a holistic approach. That is to say that the development of the individual is central in education and this involves providing pastoral care and an appropriate and balanced curriculum and being aware of the whole person (body, mind and spirit). At the same time it is important to be conscious that the school is also a living community. I whole heartedly agree with Lane that Religious Education can play a pivotal role and in my experience is playing that role already in expanding on an education that ‘creates an information society and a knowledge economy,’ to impart ‘religious values and wisdom.’
Lane proceeds by discussing the fact that another changing face of religion is the effect that violent acts have had on how religion is perceived. He makes reference here to 9/11 and that countries like Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East that are at War have religious connections.
Lane also writes that it is not only violence that has brought a re-emergence in religion other developments such as migration due to easier and more relaxed movement between countries, and new technologies in media have created what many say is that the world has become a ‘global village.’
As a result of migration, many countries worldwide are now accommodating people from many different cultures. While countries like United States and Great Britain have been multi- cultural for many generations now, Ireland has only become multi- cultural in the last twenty years or so.
As a teacher it is very evident in the classroom that students can come from many different backgrounds and cultures. Even within the native Irish student community there can be elements of cultural differences. This aspect of multiculturalism is challenging for the teacher and she needs to be creative, knowledgeable as well as flexible in the classroom. It is a challenging area for the religious educator as culture is not always easy to define. However, I do concur with Lane that religious education has a role to play in promoting interculturalism, as religious beliefs can have a significant influence on a group’s cultural ways. Some advances in recent years have been successful, such as the National Directory of Catechesis. Also during my own years as both a second level and third level student learning about other faiths and religions made me consider my own religious beliefs on a deeper level, but more importantly I now have more respect for others values and their beliefs.
Finally Lane discusses the term ‘Spiritually’ which has become increasing popular. He writes that this is rather a vague term and that some describe ‘spirituality as the emergence of a ‘vague religiosity’ but he also acknowledges that spirituality has a place within religious education, but needs to ‘addressed explicitly by theology and Religious Education’ so that it can remain connected to Christianity.
In conclusion, Lane presents a structured and thought provoking chapter that gives the religious educator an outlook into the reality of religious education in our current climate. Our society is changing and our subject content must change with it. As a faith community we are constantly questioning and changing our beliefs. In a economic driven world education has drifted towards preparing young adults for the work place yet as Lane highlights we need to remain focused on a holistic approach to education. He reminds people how religion as a subject, although quite often moved aside and labelled as a subject of no value, can contribute to this holistic education of young people today. In a world of terrorism, in a community with no religious dialogue where religion is associated with violence religious educators must move forward to promote inter religious dialogue and foster a new awareness and understanding for students own faiths and others in the world around them.
 Dermot Lane, Challenges Facing Religious Education in Contemporary Ireland, (Dublin, Veritas ,2008) p. 11
 See page 12
 Lane, Challenges Facing Religious Education in Contemporary Ireland page 12
 Fr Roger Landry, A Crisis of Saints, Catholic Answers, http://www.catholic.com/documents/a-crisis-of-saints accessed 20th March 2013.
 Lane, Challenges Facing Religious Education in Contemporary Ireland page 14.
 Lane, Challenges Facing Religious Education in Contemporary Ireland page 15.
 Lane, Challenges Facing Religious Education in Contemporary Ireland page 15
 See page 16.
 See page 19
 Lane, Challenges Facing Religious Education in Contemporary Ireland page 21
 Lane, Challenges Facing Religious Education in Contemporary Ireland page 22
Reflection on work by Aiveen Mullally (Joint Managerial Body/Association of Management of Catholic Secondary Schools
Ireland has become a more religious, multicultural and diverse society since the 1990s, Catholic Secondary schools have been called to serve the needs of this religiously plural society. The teachings of Vatican II encouraged Catholics to ‘acknowledge, preserve and promote’ the spiritual and moral goods found among the followers of other religions and the values in their society and culture.
This document was compiled in answer to the rapidly changing face of the education population in Ireland. It seeks to address some of the challenges facing Catholic Secondary Schools in a diverse twenty-first Ireland. One of the questions addressed in the document is how can Catholic schools educate and accommodate these diverse groups and at the same time maintain their Catholic identity and mission. The document offers both guidelines and support to schools in helping them to make students from other faiths feel welcomed and the school environment more inclusive.
The concept of providing a common prayer area or interfaith area open to all is one way in which the document suggests to bring students of other faiths into a more inclusive environment. Although it states that the prayer room should be predominantly Catholic the addition of prayer mats, cushions and chairs allows for students to pray in their own particular style. Providing an interfaith corner that contains images of the Buddha and the Qur’an for example could be placed on a table also including examples from different scriptures from other world religions. 
I was particular struck by the recommendation that parents should be informed on enrolment. Enrolment into a Catholic school especially for parents from different faith backgrounds should be acknowledged as a vital component when deciding to send your child to a particular school. It can clarify issues raised by parents such as uniform, subject withdrawal, physical education, religious education and more. 
One aspect of the document that I found significant was the section dedicated to music. As a music teacher it highlights religious dilemmas that I had never considered or thought about in terms of the curriculum. It states ‘The concern from Muslims is often about ‘modern’ pop music that may include obscene language, encourage or promote sexual or violent behaviour or the consumption of intoxicants and drugs’ Music by many is seen as a universal subject suitable for any student yet this document raises questions that are sometimes forgotten about or considered to be inoffensive. On a personal level it opened my mind to consider other areas of the school curriculum and policy that are at times over looked or believed to be harmless to students who are participating in a Catholic school from other faith backgrounds. 
In conclusion I believe that it is fundamental that a Catholic remain faithful to its religious beliefs and characteristics. Maintaining its Catholic traditions add to the spirit and unique atmosphere of a catholic school environment. In addition to these essential components promoting an inclusive and welcoming school to those of other faiths and of no faith is also necessary. It promotes aspects of the Catholic faith such as love and kindness and places it right at the centre of our children’s education.
 Declaration on the Relation of the Church to non-christian religions, Nostra Aetate, par 2, http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decl_19651028_nostra-aetate_en.html accessed 19th April 2013
 Aine Mulally, Guidelines on the Inclusion of Students of Other Faiths in Catholic Secondary Schools, (JMB/AMCSS Secretariat Emmet House, Milltown, Dublin) page 14.
 Aine Mulally, Guidelines on the Inclusion of Students of Other Faiths in Catholic Secondary Schools, (JMB/AMCSS Secretariat Emmet House, Milltown, Dublin) page 9.
 Aine Mulally, Guidelines on the Inclusion of Students of Other Faiths in Catholic Secondary Schools, (JMB/AMCSS Secretariat Emmet House, Milltown, Dublin) page 17.
 Aine Mulally, Guidelines on the Inclusion of Students of Other Faiths in Catholic Secondary Schools, (JMB/AMCSS Secretariat Emmet House, Milltown, Dublin) page page 17.
The trip to the Synagogue in Dublin was very informative and interesting. After learning a great deal about the Jewish faith in lectures this trip gave me an opportunity to find out about Jewish people in Ireland.
From reading one of the signs on the wall I discovered that the building itself was home to Rachel and Samuel Brown form 1922 to 1931. They were emigrants from Czarist Russia. They met in Europe and by the end of world war one had eventually settled in Dublin. Samuel Brown was also a garment manufacturer.
The main focus of the talk given to us in the Synagogue was based around Jewish origins in Ireland. To my surprise there seems to be numerous accounts and historical evidence to suggest that there was and still is a great deal of Jewish people situated in Ireland. One point I found extremely interesting was that as far back as 1079 Jews were arriving in Ireland. Also, evidence has been found that dates back before biblical times to suggest that some tribes got lost and landed off the west coast of Ireland. Anthropologists were digging on the Arainn Islands where they found skulls, which upon further research were found to match skulls found in Israel and Lebanon.
One point that was made very clear to us during our visit was that Jewish people were not victims of persecution in Ireland. A Jewish man from Portugal even became a Mayor in Ireland. One interesting fact about him was that he was forced into Christianity but then confessed to being a Jew. The lady who gave us the talk, her father in law was also the first Jewish mayor of Dublin in 1957. His son also became mayor of Dublin after his death. One point she made was that these mayors were not elected by only Jews, which, she said proves that “there is religious tolerance and very little anti Semitism in Ireland“. This remark I believe reflects on the history of the Jewish people throughout the world. They are a people who have suffered persecution throughout history. Her remarks about religious tolerance highlight to me just how important the aspect of being accepted in society without prejudice is to the Jewish community.
One interesting legend she told us about was about a young Jewish princess who married an Irish King. One day a year she would disappear up a mountain to fast for about 24 hours. This was known as Yom Kippur in the Jewish faith. Right to this day this mountain is called Mount Kippur.
Overall, the visit to the Synagogue was very engaging and interesting. The main points made during our talk that stood out to me where how Judaism arrived in Ireland many years ago and how it has survived and grown in this small country without any persecution or prejudice. This would make a very enjoyable and educational day trip for any RE class.
The visit to the Buddhist Centre was a very relaxing and educational experience. It is a religion that has always stirred great curiosity within me. So, this trip was very appealing on a personal level.
Upon arrival at the Buddhist Centre in town the building itself blended into the typical architecture of Dublin City and lacked any Buddhist characteristics, which you would expect to see. The room itself resembled a normal classroom. On the walls there were big pictures of Tibetan Buddha’s, full of fabulous color and designs. These pictures and other Tibetan decoration made this simple small room look very authentic and traditional. There was a television and flip board in the room, which showed that this place was also a centre for education. One point presented by our Buddhist guide, Bruno, was that Buddhism does not need a temple for it to function, a simple room like the one we were in will suffice.
He then went on to highlight two points about Buddhist teaching:
1) Tame the mind and open the heart
2) How to integrate peace of mind into everyday life.
The main teaching is to bring the peace inside each of us and engage it in the world. It is not simply meditating with our inner self. It is about enabling us to function in the world with a more peaceful frame of mind.
To begin with we sat on cushions around the room with our backs straight. We were also asked to begin meditating with our eyes open. This technique contrasts with the Meditation we are used to experiencing in the Christian tradition. Keeping our eyes open is used to help keep us aware of our surroundings and what is happening around us. Tibetan Buddhist believes that being able to see our surroundings keeps us in the present moment. Many people associate mediation with relaxation however, in Buddhism mediation is used to keep us alert and awake.
Also in contrast to Christian meditation Tibetan Buddhist hardly speak during meditation. The only noise we heard was the ringing of a Bell. Bruno hit this bell at the beginning of Meditating to draw our focus to something and also he rang it at the end to signal the end of meditating. The sound of the ringing bell was surprisingly soothing and peaceful.
He then went on to describe the artwork around the room. Buddhism as stated before by Bruno is about connecting with our inner self and “unleashing” it on the world. Why then do they need such elaborate artwork in the room? The artwork itself is traditional Tibetan Thangka paintings. The painters themselves dedicated their whole lives to painting this image. This is their form of meditation. The middle picture depicted the Buddha who discovered Buddhism in India 500 years before Jesus. The centre of the painting is called the Me lung which symbolizes a mirror. This reflects back to the individual and who they really are.
One aspect that was very interesting was the different pictures of the Tibetan Buddhist around the room. Bruno went on to explain that these were teachers of Buddhism. One female master or teacher passed away this year. She passed away meditating on her bed and she died still in her meditating position. According to Bruno her body never decayed even up until the day she was cremated. This along with reincarnation both contrast greatly with the beliefs of our Christian faith.
Overall this visit to the Buddhism Centre was enlightening and fascinating. It opened my eyes to a different approach towards meditating and a new frame of mind, one of peace and openness.
As teacher’s we are seen as educators and leaders in society. If you ask any teacher why they decided to follow this particular career path a few will say “for the long holidays and short work day” but there are also those who decide to become teachers to make a difference in the world, the become role models, to inspire, to help and to care. These teachers make teaching a life mission and strive for greatness not solely in themselves but in their students. We dedicate or lives to serving our students.
Yet how can we as teachers provide an environment for our students to grow, mature and flourish? I believe it all stems from how we perceive and develop our leadership style. I believe that educators show many characteristics of the leadership style known as servant leadership.
A servant leader strives to devote themselves to the wellbeing of those he or she has chosen to serve. Servant Leadership was first introduced by Robert K. Greenleaf. He spent 40 years working for At&T as a manager of research, development and education. When he retired he spent his time pursing ways to create a more caring society. He himself describes leadership as “servant first…It begins with a natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first’. I believe since the role of any educational system is centered on serving the needs of their students and therefore promoting the model of servant leadership is the key to a successful school system.
We as teachers dedicate our lives to serving our students and are natural servant leaders who strive to make a deeper connection with our students.
In order to become successful servant leaders I believe teachers need to follow one simple term: Humility.
Servant leaders are humble in nature. We must push aside our own ego and provide an environment where the importance of others is placed above oneself. Yet do not feel this in an impossible task. As educators we do not enter our field of work to become world famous, have great power and great wealth. We become a teacher to help and serve children, a reason that highlights a clear humble character within all of us. Elevate you students with praise and admiration. Motivate them to learn with connections to their own lives and always be a model of the Golden Rule.
Servant leaders are devoted to serving others right to the point of personal sacrifice. As teacher’s I am sure many of us can relate to late nights correcting homework and planning lessons trying to create new and innovating ideas and resources. We are constantly looking to improve our teaching style to provide the best education for our students. However, although a servant leader will sacrifice a great deal in order to serve others, they do not seek gratitude for their service. Satisfying the needs our our students and becoming witness to their own development is satisfying enough.
We nurture and heal. As educators we operate on the premises that students’ needs always come first. Our mission is to use our knowledge and talents to serve children to help them create their best future. We nurture and heal by getting to know our students and building relationships, understanding their pain and finding ways to help them. A successful servant leader can therefore provide the building blocks for the next generation and therefore need to instill these values that improve relationships in our entire world.
We are visionaries. As educators we have great dreams for our students. These dreams provide direction and purpose for our leadership in the classroom. We guide our students through their school years. This is not an easy task but it can be accomplished through a positive outlook.
We empower students and we thrive to inspire students.
When trying to implement our role as a servant leader it is important to remember however that we are human. Human nature will always interfere when trying to strive to become the perfect teacher. Moods and spirits of us and our students are constantly changing. There are moments in the classroom when we feel a true connection with out students and there are moments when are students could not seem further away. There are moments in our own lives when we are more optimistic and open to this ideal vision of a servant leader.Servant leadership is a unique style of leadership ideology, which flows against the grain of self-interest human behavior. This quote highlights how servant leadership ‘flows against’ human nature. There are many who suggest that Greenleaf’s servant leadership model is too passive for today’s world and question whether it is a practical and applicable approach to leadership in real world scenarios.
It is important to remember that we are human and we do make mistakes. However simply dreaming and trying everyday to become a better person and a better teacher are constant steps in the right direction to becoming a servant leader.
Before reading this blog it is important to remember that not every child responds to every tactic. Choose the best strategy for the individual child. It is also important to realize that these ideas can be used with children who have other needs such as intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Here is a quick practical list of useful strategies for teachers wishing to work successfully with a student who has autism and other special needs:
Before Class Begins
The list I have provided is a quick insight into the range of possibilities you as a teacher can use when planning an inclusive learning environment. The information used is based on the guidelines provided by the National Catholic Partnership on Disability Autism Task Force. See http://www.ncpd.org.
The behavior traffic light system is used for addressing behavior problems in the classroom. It is a level systems which works on allowing the child to earn privileges for good behavior rather than punishing for bad behavior. In this system levels of behavior correspond to a color-red, amber and green.
Red: The class is engaging in severe and disruptive behavior and needs to stop
Amber: Minor disruptive behavior. Used a a warning to prevent heading to red.
Green: Class is behaving well.
I was recently introduced to this behavior technique by a fellow teacher on twitter. I teach religion to 6th and 5th class students from an educate together school. I have the class once a week for an hour so establishing class room rules is quite difficult and with no school working with me providing other forms of behavior management is quite difficult. This method however works really well. It is simple and effective.
One aspect I quite like is that the whole class have to pull together and work as a team to reach green by the end of the class. If they reach green they get a prize. However, if one student is misbehaving the whole class feel the consequences. It gives the students who want to learn a voice to stand up to the student who is the chatterbox and the disrupter and leaves you the teacher to carry on with your lesson. The whole class become the enforcers of good behavior and not you.
It also can be used in an inclusive classroom for example if you have a child in your classroom that has autism. This is a great reward system for them. Check out this link for more details: http://www.positivelyautism.com/downloads/BehaviorTrafficLight.pdf
Here’s a picture of my own Traffic lights I created:
As a teenager I was bullied. 3rd year in secondary school is one I do not remember with pleasant memories. I have found over the years being open about my own bullying experiences not only helps me move on from the experience but also helps me to help others. Today I have the unique opportunity to face my bullies. A reunion has been organized between old friends and amongst these are the girls who ‘bullied’ me.
All week I have been in a state of panic with a maze of questions running through my head, should I see these people and bring back all these negative feelings? Will they even remember what happened all those years ago? If I go do I rekindle old friendships or get some sort of closer?
All these questions then led me to think about all the teenagers and kids I will and have taught as a religion teacher. As a person who was bullied at just 16 years old I can relate to my students who have been or are being bullied. There is one difference….I got bullied in school. My home was my safe place. For students today home is not their safe place anymore. The internet with all its social networking sites provides teenagers with a constant battlefield for the bullies and victims alike. Bullying of young people is constant. This new wave of bullying is called Cyber Bullying.
How can we deal with this problem head on as teachers? How can we help each student to understand the impact cyber bullying has on their lives. How can we help our students understand that the bystander has a role to play too?
Recently I watched a movie called Cyber Bullying: A teenage girl (Emily Osment) falls prey to online bullying and retreats from spending time with her family and friends. Soon the tormenting pushes her toward the edge, and her mom (Kelly Rowan) takes the troubling issue to authorities. ~ Jennifer Sankowski, Rovi. This movie takes a realistic and thought provoking approach to online bullying. There is some strong language used throughout so I would recommend showing it to senior classes. Even though it deals with the harsh realities of online bullying it also carries a positive message about tolerance, standing up to peer pressure and turning the tables on adversity. It is a great jumping point to start conversations on the very real dangers that exist online.
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