Our year of faith formation has ended at my parish. It is both a happy and sad time for me as a catechist. I’m thrilled to see my class of third graders move on, but I’m also sad to see them go after our year together.
Our DRE asks us catechists at the end of each year to commit to teaching again the following fall and allows us first choice on the grade level. Before I make such a commitment, I need to discern if I am doing God’s will: Am I being called to return as a catechist? The end of the year is a great time to check-in with God, to see if I am doing what God wants me to do.
Discerning whether I should continue teaching isn’t a hard decision for me. I’ve written about being called to teach the faith and about how teaching children in elementary school challenges me in good and bad ways. Despite the challenges, however, I find that being a catechist at my parish is extremely rewarding. Teaching the faith to children has brought immense benefits not only to my own faith life, but to my family as well.
Am I as effective a catechist as I wish? Do I have the skills and talents to serve in this ministry? I decided to use Joe Paprocki’s Catechist Self-Assessment Checklist to review my year. Joe’s assessment breaks down teaching by area to help discover what I have done well and identify those areas where I need to improve my skills as a catechist. It was a great place to start my review of the previous nine months.
After completing the assessment, the areas I need to improve were not a surprise to me. I struggle with classroom management and discipline almost every year. There were also some classes where I know I was underprepared for the lesson and times the class spiraled out of control.
One of the items on the assessment made me laugh out loud: “I got to know my students’ names quickly.” I readily admit that I am pretty terrible with names. I pick up most of my students’ names right away, but there are always a few that I get mixed up for several months. Even at the end of the year I might have to pause before calling on a student because I have to think about his or her name. While most of the kids think it is funny that I mix up names, this is an area I need to work on. I want to make my classroom as welcoming as possible, and knowing the names of my students is an easy way to make the kids feel welcome. Plus, I don’t want to hurt a child who might not find it amusing that I cannot remember his or her name.
Some of my strengths for the year included making a connection with the students, trying out new technology, integrating Scripture into the lesson, and feeling comfortable with the lessons and textbook.
The last item on the assessment was, “I effectively assessed the progress of my students.” Not every assessment has to be a test. Throughout the year, I used games and competitions that the students thought we did for fun. In reality, they helped me assess their knowledge and progress. For the quieter children I used activities that involved writing or drawing something in relation to the lesson. Overall, I was pleased and sometimes surprised (in a good way) at how much a bunch of eight- and nine-year-old kids had learned and understood.
After the assessment and prayer, I decided that, yes, I will be returning as a catechist in the fall. I’ve made notes on what I should work on over the summer to be a more effective catechist and what went well so I can build on those strengths for the fall.
How do you review your year of teaching the faith?