Off to a Good Start!

I was very pleased with my first session of 6th grade religious education last evening! 🙂

Here’s a rundown of highlights and lowlights:

  • Since I teach in the later session and someone is in the room before me, I don’t have much time to set up (15 mins…if I’m lucky) so it is a real whirlwind trying to get things ready. I have this notion that the kids will walk into this very serene and prayerful setting…not even close! In the midst of last second preparations, all of a sudden, they all showed up…time to teach, Joe!!!
  • I have 14 students…I think (2 on the list did not show up and 1 NOT on the list did show up)
  • Last minute glitch: can’t find the textbooks! Lil, the program secretary to the rescue!
  • Met my aid, a high school freshman named Alex…fine young man, very helpful and very reliable. I kept him busy from the get go.
  • The kids were were cordial and friendly and at ease. They come from 3 different schools so they don’t all know each other. They were all well behaved…one of them may be a handful but only because of abundant energy!
  • I taught a lot of “procedures” last night: the procession to set up the prayer center, the opening prayer, the Scripture reading, the presentation of the textbooks, the ball toss for reading from the textbook, signing the classroom covenant, and so on. They all went very well.
  • Best moment: after the procession to set up the prayer center, I asked “what did that feel like…what does the prayer center speak to us?” One of the boys said, “church.” Thank you, Jesus!
  • I felt scattered occasionally because there was nowhere for me to place all of MY materials so I was literally scattered. I’ll need to figure out how to better utilize the space and designate a central location for my stuff. Also, if the other 2 kids show up who were absent last night, I’ll need a new seating configuration because they won’t all fit as I have it set up now. 
  • Bible with Cross ShadowThe lesson went well and we introduced the Bible as the place where God reveals his plan for us, emphasizing that God keeps no secrets.
  • The kids adapted well to the guided reflection…for the most part. A few of them were fidgety but they were very eager to get into their “sacred space” and have me dim the lights. Afterwards, I asked them if they want me to do this each week and they shouted, “Yes!!!” I also asked, “for how many of you was this your only quiet time today?” and all the hands went up. I told them that we will enjoy the gift of quiet each time we gather.
  • We ended on a prayerful note and I look forward to next week when we have an opening liturgy in church. That will leave me with 15-20 mins in the classroom…not much time to do much but I’ll come up with something!
  • I left a note for the librarian, introducing myself and giving her my contact info in case she finds anything out of place after our sessions…always good to establish a rapport with the person whose room you’re using.

Let’s hear about your first session! 

About Joe Paprocki 2736 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

7 Comments on Off to a Good Start!

  1. I’m subbing this year, so I won’t have a “first class” until someone gets sick or takes vacation, but I enjoyed hearing about yours. About halfway through, I thought — “Wait a minute, I think I’ve taught this class before–” I was having flashbacks (happy ones) to the time I subbed 6th grade early in the year. [Using LP’s _Finding God_, so the Bible was the big topic.]

    Meanwhile I’m enjoying being the student for a change. The kids & I are doing Fr. Robert Barron’s Catholicism DVD class. First session this morning was excellent. Loved it, and loved the chance to have another teacher be the leader, and learn from her how she handles discussion, difficult topics, and so forth.

  2. Thanks, Joe, for these updates. I will be following you as I, too, am teaching a 6th grade class this year. I have most of the planning elements you propose, along with your Bible Blueprint, and my lesson plans from prior years. We start next Sunday and I’m very excited about getting started.
    Thanks Again, Jaynne

  3. Joe,
    When you mentioned having quiet time with your class, it reminded me of when I asked the same questions years ago. I received the same reply so things haven’t changed much. We’ve been having great classes too. Thank you God!

  4. Joe,

    I’m teaching 2nd grade. This is my fourth year. I have 14 students this year and, like you, that leaves little space for my “stuff”… needless to say, I got a little out of sync at my first class Sunday morning. Most of the kids already know each other from having been together in 1st grade last year. That’s a blessing, but… boy did they want to chat! Classroom management has never been my strength. So I’d love to hear how other catechists manage to keep the kids from holding side conversations while you are teaching or others are supposed to be speaking. I’m hoping the chattiness was due to the kids seeing each other for the first time in awhile, but I think I better be prepared to rein them in before this becomes a habit! Overall though, the class went well and God has blessed me with 14 more beautiful children to help prepare for First Reconciliation and First Communion this year!

    • Therese, sounds like a wonderful group. My quick advice is to keep the kids on task. Teaching does not always mean that you’re doing all the talking while they listen. Make sure the pressure is on them to be “performing” for you!

  5. I really am enjoying all that you are sharing with all of us!! I look forward to receiving your emails. They inspire me!! At the end of this month, I will begin teaching 8th grade!! It will be a very challenging year for me. I am very thankful that my high school son will be co-teaching with me. He has been my assistant for the past 3 years and I can’t imagine getting through this tough year without him!
    Thank you for all that you do!!
    PS: Anything you can share with me to help me through this grade would be most appreciated!!

    • Thanks, Adele and I wish you well with your 8th graders. Be sure to go back through my posts to find my lessons when I taught 8th grade a couple of years ago.

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