It IS Possible to Have a Normal Conversation with an 8th Grader!

I was absolutely delighted to have an enjoyable 10-minute conversation with one of my 8th graders before class last night! This doesn’t happen often for me. For one, the kids usually don’t arrive early or stay after class. Second, I don’t usually seek out conversations…it’s just not my style. Third, I’m very careful about not presenting myself as their “buddy” – I’m not seeking their friendship, just their apprenticeship. So, needless to say, I was […]

Unforeseen Distractions

Interestingly enough, one of the problems that I ran into while walking my class through the Bible on Monday evening was the unforeseen distractions that occurred while they were reading aloud…and these distractions came from the text itself! What am I talking about? Here’s what I mean: Exodus 20:10 – “No work may be done then either by you….or by the alien who lives with you.” Had to pause and explain that this was not […]

My First Session – Part 3

So far, I’ve summarized the first 45-50 minutes of my first session with my 8th graders this past Monday evening, detailing the Engage and Explore steps of my lesson. Today, I’ll detail the REFLECT step which is designed to lead the young people to pray from within the truths they are learning. Here are the details: Before class began, I had set up on my prayer center, a circle of battery operated tea light candles (I […]

Discussion Starters/Breaking the Ice

When we gather with our young people for religious education classes, it’s not always easy for them to make the transition from their day into “the sacred.” One strategy is to emply some discussion starters to break the ice: questions that are non-threatening, fun, and substantive. I recommend a product created by my friends Tom McGrath and Bret Nicholaus called The Meal Box. The Meal Box is a set of 52 cards featuring questions designed […]

A Summary of Last Evening's Class

I was very pleased with last evening’s class, for a variety of reasons. Here’s a summary of what transpired: A number of 8th grade students were in church rehearsing for the Living Stations of the Cross (next Monday). I was missing 4 of my students but picked up 4 from my colleague Jim’s class since he had taken the night off to do a college visit with his son. His other students went to another […]

Their Little Wheels Were Turning

Last night’s class was very gratifying. We are looking at morality and focusing on the Ten Commandments. Last night we focused on the first 3 Commandments that call us to love of God. As the evening went on, it was interesting to see their “little wheels” begin turning as they grappled with some moral dilemmas. Here’s a summary: I began with a “song of the week” – this time playing a song by Shakira called RULES. […]

Helping an Eleven-Year Old Understand Evolution and the Catholic Faith

I received a plea for help from my colleague and friend Sr. Julie Vieira, IHM, (be sure to visit her blog, A Nun’s Life) who is seeking an effective response to an inquiry she received from a mom trying to help her 11 year-old son understand the relationship between the theory of evolution and the Catholic faith. The mom writes: My son is 11 years old attending Catholic School and he has been asking questions […]

"What If I Don't Pass the Exam?"

This is the question I have heard and will hear again on Monday evening when the young people take their Confirmation exam – I like to call it an assessment but to them it’s an exam! I explain it this way: This is not a matter of passing or failing to see if you’ll be allowed to be confirmed. If you don’t do well, that means that you and I have some work to do. […]

My (Our) Struggles – Not to Be Confused with Mein Kampf

What a shame that an idiot like Hitler ruined such a good phrase: “my struggle” (of course you know that is the translation of Mein Kampf, his notorious autobiography/statement of his twisted ideology). I bring this up because I am always amazed and also amused (and of course, touched) at the fact that I get more feedback on my blog posts in which I share my struggles or moments of weakness as a catechist than […]

Delightful Banter

I have to admit that for me, making “small talk” does not always come easy. When it comes to interacting socially with students, I’m not necessarily the “warm and fuzzy” type, at least not right off the bat. I’m professionally pleasant and cordial but it takes me a while to let my guard down and just be myself. Last night, I was pleasantly “disarmed” by one of the young people who asked at the outset, […]

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