Just a Little Off

You know how it is when you go bowling and you’re just a little off? I’m not talking about throwing lots of gutter balls. I’m talking about attempts that start off looking fine but before long you realize that it’s gonna miss the sweet spot and leave you with a split.

Image:Ten-pin bowling.jpg

That sums up my class last night! Just a little off. It was one of those nights when I just felt like the words weren’t coming out of my mouth the way I had hoped. The kids were pretty antsy (holidays, I’m sure) and I think they’ve just about had it with Church history (thank goodness we move on to a new topic starting next week!).

It was one of those nights when I kept asking myself, “Is anything I’m saying getting through to them?” I felt like the teacher in the Charlie Brown TV specials whose voice is never really heard except for “mwah-mwah-mwah-mwah.”

Anyway, enough whining! It wasn’t all bad. We had a nice Advent prayer to begin: I had the kids “process” around the room (to an a capella recording of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel) with each of the items that makes up the prayer center, including the Avent wreath. Also, during the last half hour, they asked for more time to go to their sacred space saying, “you never leave enough time for that.” So we ended with a nice reflective prayer time during which I introduced them to St. Ignatius’ Daily Examen (we had just discussed St. Ignatius of Loyola in our Church history lesson). They were pretty good during that.

In all, I suppose it was a pretty typical class that we catechists experience on a weekly basis – one or two strikes, a couple of gutter balls, and a number of spares and splits!

About Joe Paprocki 2742 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at www.catechistsjourney.com.


  1. That’s all right, Joe we still love you anyway!

    I heard some awesome news today; you’re coming to Spring Enrichment in Albany, NY next spring!!!
    I can’t wait! I’ll be volunteering to “work” that day to guarantee me a spot right up front. LOL

  2. Joe,
    Thank you so much for all you do. Your sharing of some of your weak moments is the best medicine I could receive. It cures me of my self-doubt of whether I am capable of the task of standing before a class for one and a half hours a week with the hope that these beautiful students will walk away with some knowledge of God’s love for them. You see, I am not a teacher by trade, have no college degree. You may or may not remember me. I am the Grandma of Blake who in recent years have followed him as his teacher from 3rd, 4th,5th, 6th, 7th and now 8th grade. I am the one who is learning so much. I continue to learn even though I started teaching a class of 5th graders when I was 26. This year I started out with 16 students, but the other class of 16 lost their teacher after the second week and I couldn’t say No when asked to take them, so now I have 32. I am blessed with a wonderful aide and so it is working out. The downside is that I knew all my students by name and I am having difficulty learning the new ones. I remember your telling me last year that a class shouldn’t be larger than 15 students, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.
    I rely on your website for ideas. I click on it practically everyday to see what you have to share. I really like all the additional sites you provide especially Loyolapress. I just wanted you to know I really, really, do appreciate all the time and effort you put into you website. It is very useful.

  3. Don’t give up the ship! I have been a catechist for over twelve years. Part of that time I was a coordinator of religious education. what i have learned is that you just don’t always know WHAT will light a spark with the kids. I have had students years later comment on how much a particular lesson or word meant to them and i didn’t even remember it! It is discouraging sometimes. I am currently and 8th grade PSR catechist and we are experiencing the students who won’t come back after Confirmation. They think they’re “done”! This is very frustrating, but I put it all back in God’s hands. You can only take something so far and then the Holy Spirit has to take over! God bless you! Never, Never, Never give up! susanm

  4. Susanm, thanks for the great words of encouragement! It is very helpful to me and I’m sure to so many catechists out there who experience those “off” days that bite us once in a while!

  5. Ann Shuman, it’s good to hear from you again and thanks for your encouragement and your wonderful story! I’m amazed and inspired by people like you who take on such challenges with such a wonderful attitude. Teaching 32 kids is no small task for a professional teacher! You are doing something quite extraordinary and you sound like you’re enjoying it and that’s what is so inspiring!

  6. Joe,
    I love the anologies to bowling…wow can I relate to this !!! Thanks so much for sharing your experiences. This is becoming my favorite place to go for ideas and support in my role as a catechist.


  7. Diane, thanks. Knowing that few of us have bowled or ever will bowl a perfect game (I know I never have!), I figured it was an analogy that would work!

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