Here is an e-mail I received from a catechist who is seeking support in the midst of a difficult situation. I’ve responded to her personally with my suggestions. With her permission, I’m posting it here with the hope that catechists more familiar than I am with teaching pre-school, K, and primary ages might respond. I’ve also changed her name…we’ll call her Natalie.
To respond to Natalie, just click on “Add a Comment” at the end of this post. Thanks for reaching out to help!
I have started to teach catechism lessons to 5 year old kids four months ago. I have never had any previous experience in this field, in fact I did not want to accept at first but our parish priest kept on insisting and I accepted. To tell you the truth sometimes I feel confused and I am suffering from lots of stress because I am feeling inadequate for this post. I do not have any material or any form of syllabus which gives me any form of guidance. It is true that the children love me (by the way I have a class of seventeen) but I feel that this is not enough. When I try to speak about my difficulties the person in charge always ends up telling me that catechism is about experience not about how much information we pass to the kids. He assures me by telling me that the children love so much because they are experiencing love in my class.
Sometimes I agree with this but at certain times I feel that I am not doing enough. Catechism lessons are held three times a week just one hour after school finishes. School starts at 8.30am and finishes at 2.30pm. First we have a half an hour lesson and then followed by mass which usually takes about 35 minutes. During class the children are often restless and all they seem to want is play and talk. During mass they tell me that they do not want to stay. I think that mass for 5 year olds is too much; what do you think? When I speak about this to the priest he tells me that it is good to introduce them to mass from a young age because otherwise it would be more difficult. I find all this ridiculous because I feel that first I have to try to explain to them what mass is all about and then introduce them to it. First I feel that I have to help them learn about Jesus and build a relationship with him and then introduce them to mass when they are seven years old when they are being prepared for their first holy communion.
I taught them some prayers but now I am trying to concentrate more on personal dialogue with Jesus. Even if I try to tell them stories they seem to find it hard to concentrate. They really love to draw and now I ended up making a lesson through drawing. For example if I want to speak about loving everybody I print a picture of Jesus with different people and give it to them to draw then while they are drawing I would pass on my message and ask them questions to see whether the message was delivered. This way I manage to grab their attention and concentration. They seem to like it very much but deep in my heart I keep questioning myself am doing the right thing?
It is the first time that I came across your website and decided to contact you in the hope that maybe I will find someone who understands my doubts and fears. I will really be grateful if you can find the time to give me your opinion about all this and maybe any suggestions about how to teach and what to teach to 5 year olds.