Monday, December 30, 2013

What I learned by attending a Christmas Novena

I hope that, for those fortunate to have a vacation, that they are enjoying the time away from work. I know that during the last week of school, I was really tired, but it wasn't because of all the Winter Concert preparations. From December 16-24, 2013, I participated in a Christmas novena.

A novena, as explained succinctly here, is a series of prayers that lasts for nine consecutive  days. Christmas novenas run until Christmas Eve. Christmas novena traditions differ from parish to parish. This link describes a Christmas novena practice my husband is more familiar with, but at the Roman Catholic church we attend, the Christmas novena is a full Mass - at 5:30 a.m.

Let me tell you something about myself. I am NOT a morning person. Now, I've read that some of the most successful people in the world are early risers. I'm okay with not being one of the most successful people on the planet if it means I don't have to open my eyes before 7:00 a.m. However, I really wanted to challenge myself and I thought this was the way to do it. This is, ostensibly, supposed to be an education-themed blog, so let me explain what I learned about education by attending a Christmas Novena.

If there's a will, there's a way.

I had some significant doubts that I would be able to attend all nine mornings. Thankfully, I had help. My husband came with me every day and he woke me up in time.

Some extra obstacles were thrown into the mix to test my resolve - especially a rather large tree that partly fell onto my sidewalk and street at 7:30 p.m. Saturday night and partly fell onto my driveway at 3:30 a.m. Sunday morning. The Toronto Ice Storm of 2013 would have made a perfect excuse to discontinue my novena attendance, but I can be pretty stubborn when I want to be, and I was determined.

Stage 1 of tree collapse - Saturday evening

Stage 2 of tree collapse - Sunday morning 
Thankfully my neighbour recommended that I move my car up the driveway on Saturday night, and I'm so glad I did, because that's where the second big branch landed. It would have hit my car, but instead it just blocked my car. My husband and I called a taxi to collect us and transport us to church. Some friendly parishioners brought us back home.

This links to school because if someone is truly determined to do something and committed to the cause, almost anything is possible.

Having positive support helps.

I would not have been able to accomplish this novena without

  • my patient husband, who woke me up daily and came with me
  • the priests who said the Masses
  • Tony and Kathleen, who drove us home when we had no available car
This links to school because goals can be met if a group of people are working together to make it a reality and they all believe it's possible.

Change takes time and old habits die hard.

My usual bed time is around 11:00 p.m. but I knew I wouldn't be able to maintain that practice if I wanted to still function during the day. I began going to bed between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m., which still gave me nine hours of sleep. I thought that this alteration wasn't affecting me, until a teacher at school asked me during an assembly what was wrong. I was puzzled and I said that I was just being quiet and modelling proper assembly behaviour for the students. She whispered that she noticed I was looking extra tired and run-down and I clued in that the early rising was still taking a toll, despite getting the same amount of shut-eye.

I wasn't a very pleasant person to be around those first few mornings - I was cold, and tired, and became hungry about 2/3 of the way into Mass - so I'd sit in the pews, shoulders hunched, only able to mutter or mumble half-coherent sentences when spoken to. I asked my husband for his honest evaluation of my attitude and he reported that by the end of the novena, I wasn't AS crabby or grumpy as I was at the beginning, but I was not up for any Miss Congeniality awards.

This links to school because we assume that if we've taught something once or twice, the students should internalize it, but it takes a lot longer (and willpower) to make good habits stick. It's not easy and we should acknowledge that fact. Just because something's good for us doesn't mean we have to like it!

You aren't alone.

This connects with the "positive support" idea, in a way. When my husband and I attended the first day of novena, we expected a very small group of people to be there with us. This was far from the truth - the parking lot was PACKED. We had to park in the school lot next door. Many people, like me, still had to go to work after Mass, and having us all in the same boat was very humbling for me. If they could do it without complaint, then so could I.

This links to school because others have walked the same path before you and others are going through the same thing you are academically (be it struggling with concepts, or managing school projects). Take inspiration from them.

This is my last blog post for 2013 (and hubby has promised, as a belated Christmas gift, to turn my blog into a book for me), so I want to wish everyone all the best for the upcoming year. Readers = thank you for reading and occasionally commenting. Self = keep teaching, learning, reflecting, and blogging.

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