The new year is always a great time to establish your catechetical goals for the rest of the year. Even though we are half way through the year in educational terms, we are in a much better position to know our weaknesses and our strengths and recognize where we need to improve.
So, how can I become a better catechist—a better religion teacher—for the children I teach?
My Catechetical Strengths
I am very methodical about my approach to religious education. If you’ve read my e-book The Religion Teacher’s Guide to Lesson Planning, you know how I feel about being strategic as religious educators. Taking the time to prepare well-articulated objectives and using relevant assessment tools is essential. You can see this approach in the training videos on the resource page for the e-book.
My Catechetical Weaknesses
I can get students to reach the objectives and perform well on assessment. I have no problem there. However, like many teachers I need to improve the way I grab students’ attention. Teaching CCD to children who have been in school all day is an added challenge in that they don’t want to go to school for an extra hour and a half. How do I grab their attention and make the lesson relevant to their daily lives?
As a Catholic school teacher, communication with parents was a given. Many parents are very interested in their children’s grades, so I didn’t have to go out of my way to communicate with most of them. I did make the occasionally email and phone call to provide positive praise or request for improvement, but most of the time the parents came to me. This is not the case in parish catechesis. I have met some parents briefly, but I have not established any consistent forms of communication so far.
My 2011 Catechetical Goals
Some educators advocate the need to include an “attention grabber” with every lesson. I will admit that I considered making it a big part of The Religion Teacher’s Guide to Lesson Planning, but to be honest I feel it is challenging to do this with every lesson. One of my goals this semester will be to really get students interested in the lesson for the day. Some of my initial thoughts on strategy include:
1. Integrating more audio and video into the lessons
2. Focusing on “big ideas” that connect with the students’ lives
3. Developing authentic and meaningful assessments
4. Better use of Advanced Organizers
5. Providing more time for personal reflection
6. Using artificial teacher role-playing (for lack of a better term)
2) Establish regular communication with parents.
A recent study put out by the NIAC confirmed what we already know: parents have the greatest impact on the faith formation of young people. Parents are the primary religious educators of their children and catechists should be assisting them in their children’s catechetical development. But how do we get on the same page with parents? I am very blessed to have students who clearly have faith-filled and committed parents. The challenge is to work with them rather than separately. Some thoughts I have to make this goal a reality:
1. Sending out a weekly email update
2. Calling parents to compliment their children
3. Sending home a handout or letter with the students to give to their parents
3) Get students excited about being Confirmed.
I teach eighth grade and the bulk of this semester is dedicated to Confirmation preparation. My hope is that I can get students to truly appreciate the power of the Sacrament in a personal way. If they are just going through the motions and getting Confirmed because they have to, then I have failed. Some thoughts:
1. Participate in the Confirmation Retreat (again)
2. Connect Confirmation to their daily lives
3. Connect Confirmation to their personal goals
There you have it, my goals for 2011. I will be updating you on the progress to keep myself accountable this year. I will also be delving deep into each one of these goals and strategies on the blog, so check back here for some explanation about tips and techniques that relate to each one of these topics.
So what about you? Have you set any goals for the rest of this school year?