This is the third article in a series exploring the Beatitudes as they relate to being a catechist.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5)
Happy are the catechists who meet kids where they are, for they will win over the classroom.
I had quickly lost control of a recent class.
One of the boys kept laying his head down on the table. Another boy was more interested in having a side conversation with one of his friends; apparently the events from earlier in the day were more important to him than learning about the First Commandment. One of the girls kept interrupting her classmates with her own answers.
Maintaining classroom discipline is not one of my strong suits. My tendency is to ignore the distraction and continue on with the lesson. My patience will be rewarded, I tell myself.
In this case, however, patience wasn’t a virtue—I was avoiding the distractions and interruptions by convincing myself that I was being patient. The interruptions continued as I struggled through the rest of the class. The goal of the lesson had shifted from helping young people learn about the Ten Commandments to simply counting minutes until the class ended.
Interruptions and distractions are not something I need to avoid or fight against. Rather, they tell me when I am not meeting the needs of the young people in the class. When I ignore these needs, I become another adult droning on about a subject that has little relevance in their daily lives instead of a disciple sharing the Good News.
The young people who lay down their heads, engage in side conversations, or act out with pent-up energy are all trying to tell me that I am not meeting them where they are. Instead of asking, “How can I restore order?” I have learned that a better question to answer is, “What do these young people need?”
For the young man who had put his head down, I could have asked myself, “What can I do to make this lesson speak to him in terms that he understands?” For the young people who were having a side conversation, I could have asked myself, “How do I show them that they can share their concerns with the Lord as freely as they do with each other?” And for the young woman who was interrupting the class, I could have asked myself, “How can I give her a voice in the classroom in a way that adds to our time together?”
Meekness doesn’t mean that I let the young people walk all over me; it is not an excuse for lax discipline that allows the classroom to become a free-for-all. Rather, meekness allows me to hear what young people are really trying to tell me; it allows me to see where the Holy Spirit is leading the class; and it allows me to respond to the young people with love, mercy, and compassion.
Meekness teaches me that the purpose of classroom discipline is not to maintain control and order. Rather, the true purpose is to foster respectful dialogue so that young people can understand how to live their faith in a way that gives life to themselves and others.
What tips do you have for maintaining classroom discipline? How do you respond to the needs of the young people in your class?
Read the first two articles in the series:
Beatitudes and the Catechist: Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit
Beatitudes and the Catechist: Blessed Are They Who Mourn
Use Christ Our Life, Grade 4, Unit 5, to help children learn that Jesus gave us the Beatitudes as a guide to happiness both in this life and in the life to come.