About this time of year, we catechists might be feeling great about how the year is going or frustrated that things aren’t going as expected—probably a mix of both. We find ourselves in the middle of Lent, wondering whether our efforts will bear fruit. This is an excellent time to pause and reevaluate the year’s plan and make adjustments where appropriate.
I am in a program that allows the catechists the flexibility to arrange the order we cover the topics. I appreciate this, because it means that instead of following a book’s arrangement, I can plan lessons that match the liturgical year. It also means that as I get to know my group, I can spend extra time in certain areas and move more quickly through others. This flexibility also comes in handy when a class is canceled due to inclement weather, which it was for us a few weeks ago—we have the ability to hold a chapter for a few more weeks or combine it with something else.
Now, some catechists, especially those newer to the ministry, might not want to plan the arc of lessons, and that’s perfectly fine. That’s one of the many things the catechetical leader can help with. In some cases, the DRE schedules all of the lessons, but the flexibility to move things around when needed is essential. If we want faith formation to be more than one-size-fits-all, we cannot be rigid in our planning.
I don’t have a formal method for evaluating the successes or need for changes in my classroom; I just review what we did and identify those things that seemed to work well and those I might want to do differently. Here are some of the things I discovered when reviewing my class:
- The lesson on parables and the Beatitudes worked better broken into two sessions to give each of those topics more depth with my students.
- Combining two similar lessons made for a better session introducing Lent. This allowed some extra ideas about Lent to be sprinkled through the season. This way the children don’t think Lent is over because we talked about it once, and they can find encouragement in their Lenten commitments.
- My class seems to respond to skits, so we’ll do a few more before the year is out. I’m surprised I hadn’t tried this technique with the young people earlier in the year.
- My class has struggled with prayer time the last few sessions, so we’ll practice a few other techniques for developing a relationship with Jesus through prayer and for respecting each other during quiet time with God.
- They don’t respond as well to small group work, unless the groups are out of their seats filling out charts on the board.
- We’re getting mixed reviews on Scripture work. I’ll commit to presenting different approaches with using the Bible to allow the young people time to practice Bible look-ups and to become familiar with the Gospels in particular this seventh-grade year.
- I moved the lesson on the Eucharist from early in January to mid-Lent. While the move was prompted by a snow day, the timing works out as we can now talk about the institution of the Eucharist at a calendar date closer to Holy Thursday.
Take some time to evaluate how your catechetical year is going. Are there topics you haven’t addressed yet that you need to? Are there teaching techniques you want to practice? Have you noticed which methods the group in front of you responds to or doesn’t? Is it time to reiterate the classroom rules? Are there opportunities to partner with another catechist to trade ideas? If we are open to growth in our own teaching styles, we do our children a great service in recognizing them as the individuals God created them to be.