I teach in a classroom that is in a school that closed a few years ago. While this means I can leave some things at the school, the room is still shared space among two sessions of religious education and a few other groups that use the building during the week. I also like to have my textbook, worksheets, and other learning materials with me when I plan sessions, so aside from the prayer table items and the supplies box provided by our program (pencils, crayons, scissors, paper, and so forth), most of what I use to facilitate sessions I transport with me each week. I have a tote bag for the purpose.
I have a bad habit of not cleaning out my tote bag—which I sometimes laughingly call my catechist’s “bag of tricks”—until right before the next year starts. Only then do I take the time to clean out what I’ve collected over the course of a year. I find the cards I invited the young people to complete on the first day of class, with their names, interests, and questions for the year. I throw out extra copies of notes that I sent to families at the end of the previous year, telling them about the May Crowning. I decide whether to keep unused worksheets that we might use this year or toss them because they likely won’t be brought back for another year.
Cleaning out my catechist’s bag from last year right before I meet my new group gives me an opportunity to consider how I might organize for the new year of faith formation. I make sure that I carry:
- A binder with my weekly lesson plan sheets and copies of the blackline masters (BLMs) and art print lessons for working with our Finding God curriculum. Some years I type the lesson plans and other years I write them longhand, but I like to keep the entire year’s plan sheets to reference as needed throughout the year. I try to make notes after sessions as to where time may have run out or modifications were needed, which becomes helpful for future planning this year and next. The BLMs make copying materials before class easy.
- A copy of my student book. I am fortunate to be able to keep a copy of the catechist’s manual at home and have access to another copy at the parish to avoid carrying the heavy but helpful book back and forth. I also like to plan sessions by reviewing the student book first.
- A pencil bag with writing instruments, index cards, and other small things that I might need for a particular session, such as prayer cards or small prizes for a game.
- Music and guided reflection CDs for Finding God, so I can preview the materials as I plan sessions.
- A calendar of readings for the liturgical year. Sometimes if a class runs short, I can reference the calendar to do a brief Scripture study activity with the group in advance of the next Sunday.
- A calendar of the catechetical year, to know when special events might be happening, such as a prayer service or parent meeting, and to remind young people of holiday schedules.
- A small stress-relief ball that looks like a globe. This comes in handy if I want to lead a discussion or prayer with the technique of tossing a ball to a student to give him the floor and then he can pass it on to the next student so it’s her turn, and so on. Bonus idea: the fact that the ball looks like a globe makes it a great visual aid when we do a session on care for Creation.
- Liturgically-colored prayer cloths when it’s time to switch them out each season or other seasonal materials as appropriate, such as materials for the Advent Prayer Grab Bag.
- Other materials as needed throughout the year that won’t stay in the bag for more than a week, because they are only needed for a specific activity or demonstration.
What do you carry with you to each session to be prepared and to help you stay organized? Are there ways you might resolve to be a better-organized catechist this year?