But as I stepped away from the teaching for the last couple of weeks, it occurred to me that I've been sharing about my own experiences on this blog, and not really telling you what I'm learning from my fellow catechists. It's a real disappointment to me that in trying to share so much in such a short period of time, I really don't have enough time to chat with my new friends afterward. It's either too late at night, or we're hurrying off to our closing Mass [which I wouldn't miss or want to delay anyone for, believe me], and I don't often get to say, "So, what helped? What are you doing differently that's working? Do you have any inspiring, funny, or touching stories from the classroom that you'd like to share? Any cool lesson plan ideas, or tips on teaching a difficult concept, or favorite classes to teach?"
Fortunately, from time to time, someone catches me just for a minute or two and shares something valuable that helps me grow and gives me more to share; or just affirms something that I'm doing in a new light. For instance, a lovely catechist at St. Agnes let me know, after we did the on-our-feet portion of the program where I act out Bible stories with participants, that it was the first time she had experienced a classroom acting technique that was simple enough to be useful. Most programs that advocate "acting out" lessons recommend assigning parts, props, costume pieces, etc. But my technique is to let as many children play each part as want to -- no props, no costumes -- just the words of Sacred Scripture, some fun, a little guidance, and lots of imagination. If it feels a little chaotic, but joyful, you're doing it right.
Another catechist at St. Mary's mentioned that she is always lugging in great plastic tubs of stuff to teach her lessons with. She is so brimming over with creativity! My kind of gal! She sometimes wonders what others are thinking when she's carrying all her stuff into the parish! This brings me to an important point that I hope I'm making at all the workshops: you have to find your own style. This teacher has found a way of teaching that is fun and engaging for HER, so her enthusiasm bubbles over to the children. That's key. Yes, you want to use all three learning styles -- that's absolutely a necessity -- but you want to identify your own style and make sure that it ignites a spark in YOU. This lovely young woman has done that, and it shows in her face when she talks about it. She's all lit up and ready to win hearts and minds for Christ!
Another catechist from St. Agnes, a lovely Italian fellow who's been teaching middle school kids for several years, does something that makes me laugh every time I think of it: he cooks for the children every single week! He's a very funny, intelligent retiree who loves to share good Italian food. He brings that gift right into the classroom and fills their bellies along with their hearts! Think how many times Jesus shared a meal with someone He was trying to teach! The loaves and fishes, dining with public sinners, the last supper, that miraculous catch of fish followed by breakfast on the beach. Whenever Jesus healed someone or brought them back to life, what did He tell that person's loved ones? "Give her something to eat"!!! He loved to feed people. It just tickles my funny bone to think of all that pasta; the steam rising like a prayer, the aroma a benediction.
Catechists! Make a joyful noise. And while you're at it, make a nice lasagna.
God bless you all!
And remember to give every morsel of glory to God!