Every new year presents its own challenges. Not only have I switched grades this year, but I also haven’t been assigned an aide, and I’ve been asked to move my class from a classroom into the open worship space to teach. My parish only has four actual classrooms. The remaining faith formation classes meet spread out in the open worship space. While I’ve taught in this space before, it’s not an ideal teaching environment. Until our building campaign is completed in 2018, this limited teaching space is a reality for our growing parish.
At the beginning of our first class in the new space, the children were extremely distracted by our relocation. They had many questions for me: Why did we move? Who got our classroom? What are the other classes doing that we can hear them? I tried my best to answer and deflect as best I could in order to get the lesson moving.
When we were finally underway, I realized how badly I needed an aide. Part of my lesson included helping the children find Scripture verses in a Bible, and I found myself running around the tables trying to help each child individually. By the time I’d help five kids, the next five would get distracted by the noise or seeing other classes. I couldn’t help all 20 students in a timely fashion.
The noise level was another obvious problem. The children took turns reading aloud from the textbook, and we could barely hear one another. This resulted in the students tuning out the entire lesson. I made a note to myself that I needed a better table configuration for all 20 students to keep them engaged.
These difficulties left me extremely frustrated. I felt like giving up on the class at least twice, but I knew I couldn’t. Desperate for a solution, I gathered the children in a circle on the floor; we were able to hear one another and not see any other classes. Thankfully, we were able to finish the class pleasantly in our huddle.
After the class was over our elementary education coordinator asked me how it went. I think she was expecting me to say “Good!” I think I was expecting myself just to shrug it off and say “Fine.” But I didn’t. I was honest about my struggles. The open worship space was a challenging environment to hold class, and I needed an aide. She listened to me and promised to make improvements for the following week. At the very least, she would find an aide to assist me.
It was difficult to be honest about the difficulties I had in the classroom. Sometimes I feel that as a more seasoned faith formation teacher, I should be able to use whatever I am given to make for a good lesson. As a volunteer, I don’t want to complain. I know we are all doing our best. But I have also learned to recognize when I need help and ask for it. I know that if I want to improve the situation, I must ask for what I need so I can provide the best experience I can for my students.
What are challenges you have faced when teaching? How have you overcome them?
I have had the advantage of being a regular classroom teacher for years. I think you. Red to get the kids on board helping each other. Explain to the kids that since this is where you need to have class, you will need everyone to cooperate. Once everyone is given instruction, one step at a time, the children who find it first can be told to help anyone else that needs help. Talk about how showing kindness to others is a great way to be like Jesus. Children love to be helpful when given the opportunity. I hope this helps.
Thank you Barb for the suggestions. I love the idea of reminding the children we are called to be followers of Jesus, and as followers we are to treat each other with respect and kindness. I definitely will use that in the classroom.
Lisa, I am the CRE at our parish. This summer we started a capital campaign to finally raise $ to build a faith formation building and do some renovations in our church. SPACE is always our issue. We have only 1 classroom with actual walls…the others have expanding ones. This is my 9th year as CRE. Some years I have had to teach one of the grades. This is the case this year. The reason I share that is once again when I was put in the trenches it certainly raises my awareness to the struggles catechists deal with. One thing we have done hear is to create videos in which other parishioners can see and hear what it is like in our teaching environments. You may want to share that with your director. Prayers for your situation. An aide is a great start. I would be curious to know what your parish is doing for fundraisers. Thank you.
It helps me to hear that others struggle with the space issue as well. Being in an open environment does make it more challenging. Thank you for sharing the idea of making videos of the teaching environments! We are starting our capital campaign for our current building phase and that would be a great way to share the challenge of our current space with parishioners who aren’t at faith formation. I will share this with my director and parish administrator today. Since I wrote the piece, I was given an aide and she is just wonderful. It is amazing the difference an aide can make in the classroom. I appreciate your prayers