Here I go again! I’m starting my twelfth year of teaching third grade. Each year produces new challenges, joys, and adventures with my students. Even though I approach the new year knowing that my class will be different from previous ones, I always prepare in the same way.
I always begin by praying for my new class. Over the summer I make rosaries out of twine for my new students. I learned how to make them from Greg and Jennifer Willits and their website Rosary Army. As I make each rosary, I pray for my new students. They receive their rosary on October 1.
After making the twine rosaries, I begin planning my year by searching for new and interesting ways to teach my third graders. During the summer, I spend time looking at Pinterest. I’m pinning anything and everything that catches my eye. I find that pictures and websites on Pinterest can easily get my creative ideas flowing. Brainstorming before the new year begins prepares me for those times when I need new ways to reach my students when my previous strategies fail.
I also like to brainstorm with other catechists. Earlier this year, another catechist and I were invited to present at a catechist conference sponsored by my archdiocese. We presented on how to use technology in the religious education classroom. As we prepared our presentation, I found working with another person who teaches the same grade level to be really helpful. We faced the same worries, concerns, challenges, and joys. It seemed like we spoke the same language! During the conference, I was able to meet other catechists and share ideas. I love sharing ideas with other catechists—they can be a source of inspiration and support.
After brainstorming, the grunt work of preparing for the new year begins. Setting up the classroom each year is a lot of work. My co-worker Lynn said to me, “It’s like unpacking and setting up a second household!” First, I set up the must-have items for my wall: a rosary and a poster with the Ten Commandments. Then I unpack and arrange my many saint statues. Every year it feels like I’m unpacking my friends. Next, I unpack my large collection of Catholic books and section them off from my regular classroom library. I have found that having this little “annex” makes it easier for my students to find and look up information. Finally, I set up my prayer space with a Mary statue, a Mary and Child icon, and a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Ready or not, the new year is around the corner! I’m ready to welcome a new group of students to help them grow in their faith and their relationship with the Lord.
How do you prepare for the upcoming year?