When I think about how I teach my class, I tend to highlight those lesson plans that were spectacular or sessions when I left feeling confident that that my students truly understood the lesson. I tend to forget—or ignore—those times when I felt “off,” when I didn’t prepare as much as I would have liked, or when I lacked confidence in my own understanding of the material. However, I have found that those classes are usually hidden gems in which the Holy Spirit met the least resistance and was the most effective.
One such class immediately comes to mind. I started off on the wrong foot by forgetting to bring the students’ Gospel coloring activity. I knew that I had planned way too much material to cover, and my anxiety about not covering all the material left me feeling out of sync.
As usual for my class, we started in our prayer space. I took a few extra seconds of silence to turn over all my concerns about the class to the Lord. As we prayed, I said aloud my intentions, and I welcomed students to share their special intentions for the day. While we had done this in the past, this time felt different, as the children really seemed to open up in their conversation with the Lord. When we were done, I found myself worrying that I was off schedule and had even less time to cover the material. But a sense of pervading peace prevailed, and I continued trusting the Holy Spirit and his plan.
The class was uneventful as we covered the main points of our chapter. One of the children interrupted the lesson by raising his hand and asking what it was really like to go to confession; he wondered how people really felt afterward. I started to answer when an idea occurred to me. I realized that I had a guest speaker: my son, who is five years older than my students, happened to be assisting in class that day. I thought a question and answer session would be enlightening. I placed two chairs in the front of the room, facing each other. I brought my son up to the front of the room and sat him in one chair, leaving the other one empty. I let the boy who asked the question sit in the empty chair and encouraged him to repeat his question. I explained to the students that their questions might better be answered by an older kid with whom they could relate. Each child in the class got to ask my son two questions about the sacraments, the Mass, or what it was like to be a young disciple of Christ. The children seemed to come alive and were excited to ask their questions, and my son felt honored to answer their questions. When it was necessary, I offered a few clarifying points, but for the most part, this class forum went seamlessly.
From forgetting my handouts, to feeling overwhelmed, to not coming close to finishing the planned lesson, it was clear that the Holy Spirit had a far better plan for how to conduct the class that day. Perhaps it started with the sincerity of prayer or my willingness to completely hand over the class to my son. We will never know how the Lord will use us; whether the class seems spectacular or tedious, we always have to remember that God is in control.
When have you surrendered your lesson plans to the Holy Spirit? What gems did the Holy Spirit hide in those classes that didn’t go as you had planned?