My three kids are back in school and I’m preparing to head back to the parish classroom as a third-grade catechist. It would be easy for me to overlook preparing for the class since I’ve been teaching the same grade for a few years, but I know that this would be a huge mistake. Just because I am familiar with the age and curriculum doesn’t mean I don’t need to prepare. Preparing to teach religious education isn’t just about reading the curriculum and planning activities—I also need to prepare my heart and mind.
As I return to the classroom, I need to check in with myself and see where I am in my own spiritual formation. Did I take a summer break from my personal faith journey? Do I need to get my brain and heart back in gear so I can help lead my students to Christ? The answer to both questions for me is yes. Like most people, my summer was fun, busy, and a bit crazy. While my family and I attended Mass and celebrated the sacraments during the summer months, I still need to grow in my faith life to be the best catechist I can be for the children.
How will I prepare my heart and mind for the new year? First, I’m taking the time to be still and quiet. All I need is just a few minutes each day to pray and think about why I teach. In that stillness I try to be honest about my strengths and weaknesses in the classroom and my fears about starting another school year. I also envision the smiles on the faces of the children and their excitement as we do a fun activity.
Second, I return to my favorite books about teaching religious education and review a few chapters that I think I’ll need. This year, I will review two chapters in The Catechist’s Toolbox by Joe Paprocki: Chapter 10, “Sandpaper: Smoothing Out Discipline Problems,” and Chapter 9, “Extension Cords: Plugging into the Power of Prayer.” Discipline is my biggest challenge every year, and I absolutely love helping children learn and experience new ways to pray.
Third, I explore new ways to grow in my faith. It is easy to neglect yourself when you are serving others. This year, I’ve selected a new spiritual book to read, and I’ve registered for a weekly Bible study at my parish that is about the Blessed Virgin Mary. Teaching fuels my desire to learn more, and that fuels my passion to teach. Learning and teaching go hand in hand for me.
Finally, I pray for my aides, students, and their families, even though I do not know their names yet.
How do you prepare for the faith formation classroom?
If discipline is a challenge for you, download the free tip sheet and audio presentation Ten Tips for Maintaining Discipline.