Need Some Help- Children Asking Questions


#1

Hello,

I am a catechist at my local parish. I am a university student and I have no kids of my own (unmarried).

I was teaching this morning and my hour with the kids was... well someone might have taken something away from it... oh, who am I kidding? It was a disaster!

I started out finding out that the other catechist who shares the position with me was away. I was supposed to lead this week so I was ready but we still have a class of 23 and I am not yet a teacher. It is hard to supervise 23 kids.

So first I notice that two boys who were told to split up by my co-catechist last week were sitting together. Not wanting to seem undisciplined, I reminded them, and two moved to the front of the room.

From that moment on, I was constantly interrupted to answer questions about...Q: "how do we know that Jesus was God and that he really preformed miracles and lived?" Me: :eek: A: "The Church and the Bible tell us. They are historically accurate" Q: "How do we know?" (I'm supposed to whip out proof of their accuracy?) "Well I don't have the documents here" I explained. "But I assure you they exist"

I also asked why such questions were being asked: "who here doesn't believe?" I thought I could pinpoint who needed help to understand. About a quarter of the class (all male) raised their hands. "Why don't you believe?" "Well you can't prove it"

I also got Q: "Jesus doesn't make sense. How could God(Father) send God(Son) to earth using God(Holy Spirit)?" A: "The immaculate conception is not something we can explain scientifically. Some of your questions don't have answers! The best scientists in the world can't explain it!" I even had to explain the Trinity ("Wait... One God in two people" "No. one God in Three people") We covered the Trinity (A whole hour) less than a month ago.

Another, Me: "Nobody's perfect. Every human makes mistakes. God only is perfect." Them: "But Jesus was human" Me: "Jesus was fully man and God, so He didn't sin because God Himself (by His nature) determines what's right and wrong." Them: "But you said no human is perfect" Me: "That's right. No one but Jesus" Them: "You're contradicting yourself" One boy grabbed a bible and tried to find proof that Jesus wasn't perfect. He claimed to find proof to. Something about bread and how Jesus didn't take it. I don't know. He wouldn't tell me what book let alone what chapter.

Yet again: "God couldn't have existed always!"

Sigh. All these questions. And they're ten and eleven years old! I tried to explain that A) Some things you just have to take on faith B) You are not ready for explanation of the questions that do have answers. I applaud them for curiosity but this is ridiculous coming out of a grade 5!

How do I discipline them the only way I'm allowed (sending them out to the hall) without making it seem like I'm avoiding questions I don't have the answers to? There are a number of them who believe and I don't want them thinking their catechist doesn't.

They may have just been trying to cause trouble, but if they really are questioning, they need answers for questions that can be answered (told them to go to their parents as I am only with them an hour a week). I get the impression they are not well taught at all at home and I hope I don't seen judgmental of the parents. I can only teach so much.

It took all my efforts not to run screaming from the room. The Holy Spirit inspired me by making me recall how that might shake the faith of my other students.

Is it normal for kids this age to ask these questions?:confused:

I want to be a teacher, and I will hopefully be able to homeschool any kids I have in the future. Am I a bad teacher?:blush: How can I improve?

Any advice, prayers, and consolation would be welcome and appreciated.

God bless,

AT


#2

Well, first of all, some of their questions are diversionary tactics to get you off of your lesson topic.

Set ground rules. Questions can be asked at the end of the lesson. Then set aside some time for them, 5 to 10 minutes.

This is a very important age not to dismiss questions or say "because the Church says so." So answer their questions. BUT you don't have to answer them on the spot.

You can say, "what a great question, and it deserves a complete answer. Since we just have 5 minutes left, we will pick this up next week and devote some time to it." OR "That's a great question but it doesn't have anything to do with our lesson. We are going to cover XYZ topic in 4 weeks, and we'll talk about it then." Then park the question on a piece of poster board or something. Then go research it and come back with a sound answer.

If you avoid their questions they will tune out. Always come back around and answer them eventually.

Make sure the questions get answered, but you don't have to cover them all at once and on the spot.

And, invest in the Beginning Apologetics series of booklets. I think there are 8 of them now. They are EXCELLENT for explaining these topics. And, the tracts available on the main Catholic Answers site in their "library."


#3

Well, congrats on surviving - tell them - you will be happy to answer their questions at the end of class. When in doubt - see the CCC- it has all the resources you will need. Many do not know this but initially the CCC was written to be used for Bishops as teaching tools not lay people. Now thanks to VII we all have it so lets use it.


#4

Was it the boys or the girls asking the tough questions?
How many of the kids come from single parent families?

It is quite hard to believe in religious morality when experience tells everyone that feelings are more important than authority.


#5

OH MY! Good for you just for making it through…

Well, sometimes when people get into asking about scientifically proving things… and that YOU can’t explain it.

I usually ask back… Ok, GREAT! Explain gravity to me… use the formulas and diagrams and all that. Or something like that…

And they say, well, I can’t explain it… Then you say, well, if YOU can’t explain it right here and right now, then it must not exist…

OR MAYBE, we need to sit down, start from the beginning and take it from there! It’s going to take longer than 5 minutes…

Even your top scientists who teach STUDIED for YEARS DAILY! So let’s get to work…

Please write down all of your questions, and we will get to each of them over the course of this class…

If the answers took 5 minutes, we wouldn’t need these classes…:wink: Maybe you need EXTRA classes… We should talk to your parents afterwards… :eek:


#6

[quote="AngelTears, post:1, topic:217241"]
From that moment on, I was constantly interrupted to answer questions about...Q: "how do we know that Jesus was God and that he really preformed miracles and lived?" Me: :eek: A: "The Church and the Bible tell us. They are historically accurate"
Q: "How do we know?" (I'm supposed to whip out proof of their accuracy?) "Well I don't have the documents here" I explained. "But I assure you they exist"

[/quote]

Well its encouraging that the kids are actually interested and want to ask questions, when I was in CCD a lot of kids in my classes really didn't care sadly =/

you may want to consider referencing some extra biblical historical accounts and historians in general. Renowned historians like Josephus have written about Jesus from their perspective noting how people believed he was the messiah, and how people flocked to him because he could perform miracles and heal them. Now believing in the miracles is always something that requires faith, but proving that he existed is quite easy since we have history itself as a witness, history that is not confined to the bible. You could also talk about Messianic prophecy, and how Jesus fulfills these prophecies, and for the jews during the time of Jesus, this is how they were converted! They saw the writing on the wall, they could see how Jesus fulfilled these prophecies and that ignited their faith.

[quote="AngelTears, post:1, topic:217241"]
I also asked why such questions were being asked: "who here doesn't believe?" I thought I could pinpoint who needed help to understand. About a quarter of the class (all male) raised their hands. "Why don't you believe?" "Well you can't prove it"

[/quote]

You could tell them, that every day of our lives we accept things that aren't proved, but we believe them simply because they make sense, we can't see gravity but we accept that it exists because we see how this force acts in our every day lives, no one has ever seen a black hole and they cannot be seen, but astronomers consider them a logical necessity, and they are. And how view God is similar, we have faith He exists, because everything cannot come from nothing, and the physical world had to have had a beginning, every effect has a cause until you come to the uncaused cause, or the unmoved mover, and this is God.

[quote="AngelTears, post:1, topic:217241"]
Sigh. All these questions. And they're ten and eleven years old! I tried to explain that A) Some things you just have to take on faith B) You are not ready for explanation of the questions that do have answers. I applaud them for curiosity but this is ridiculous coming out of a grade 5!

Is it normal for kids this age to ask these questions?:confused:

[/quote]

I'd say its normal, kids are naturally curious, and I was curious in my CCD classes as well.

I really think you should try and look up the Baltimore Catechism, its comes in 4 volumes, doesn't cost more than a few bucks per volume, I know its free as an ebook and you can probably find it on the internet. If you are not familiar with it, it presents the faith in an easy question and answer format, which is good for both kids an adults, I pull it out from time to time to get a concise answer to a question.


#7

This is totally normal in kids this age. They are just developing the ability to really think logically, and that is a huge focus now - everything they knew before is being put under the microscope of that logic. This is a good thing, it will make them better thinkers if they really develop that capability. They haven't yet got the higher thinking skills though that let them see how logic fits into the larger picture of human understanding, or to consider things like feelings, or may other important parts of life. Their logic is very linear, black and white, and relentless.

(As an aside, Dorothy Sayers has an essay where she mentions this stage of growth - she says something to the effect that you know your child has entered it when you want to bludgeon them 20 times a day.)

I would agree with the poster who said that questions need to be saved until you ask for them on what you have covered (except perhaps direct clarification of something.) Then you should either address the issue on the spot, or wait till later. It can also be really useful to help them clarify the question and put it in the best way possible.

As to the idea of mystery and the unknowable nature of God: I would approach this directly. Why do philosophers (not just Christian ones) say this about God? What kind of knowledge can we have or not have about him, and what does it mean?

Many of the other things they asked are good questions, and they actually have good answers. The ones I find most satisfying though begin not talking about Christianity (or Catholicism) but about pre-Christian pagan ideas. The Incarnation and the Trinity are answers to very real problems in philosophy. The kids need to know the questions before they can understand the answers. Unfortunately, most church run programs don't have the time or resources to give the kids much background in this, but it would be well worth it to look into it for your class.


#8

I agree with the poster who said they were subverting you from the lesson plan. 5th graders are good at that. They will ask all sorts of off-topic questions and sound really curious when actually, they are stalling for time and keeping you from giving them homework! They can seem so sincere and yet, at the end of the day you realize that they achieved their goal, you are frazzled, and the lessons didn't get taught. Grrrr!

It's a tough age/grade level.

Do as suggested, either have them write down one or two questions each, and then you can answer one at a time, at the end of each class. You will learn all the tricks as you keep training to teach. And you will learn a lot more on the job.

:wink::juggle:


#9

Send someone to get the DRE. Don't worry about hurting feelings or seeming like a rat. You are a volunteer and in no way deserve poor treatment. I am the Asst DRE at our parish and am responsible for pre-K through 7th. I am occasionaly called to get a class/student to be more respectful but more often called to answer questions. Whenever we have a newer/younger catechist flying solo I try to find a substitute to work with them (not your responsibility) but many times I will just spend the hour in that class.


#10

I have a couple of different thoughts here.

First, I am not terribly surprised that kids that age are starting to ask the more difficult questions. We live in SUCH as secular society. How often do we see Christians portrayed in any kind of positive light in movies, tv, media, news, etc? Not often. Add that to the fact that, like you suspect, many of them are probably taught that faith at home or have any kind of example of what a practicing Catholic looks like, questions are bound to come up.

As to how to deal with questions so the don’t disrupt your class… One good idea I’ve seen is give everyone an index card at the start of class. Have them write down any question that isn’t directly related to the current topic on the card. Then you can spend the first 10 minutes of the next class answering some of the questions. This will allow them to get their questions out without being disruptive, get them some answers, and allow you some time to research the answers before next weeks class.

Also remember though, that questions, and even going off topic, aren’t bad. There are times when it may be good to follow the “rabbit trail.” I know one of my most memorable classes last year, we had a long conversation about heaven, purgatory, and hell. None of that is something I usually talk about, but they started asking questions and we had a good conversation. It just takes some experience and guidance from the Holy Spirit to discern when questions are genuine and should be answered then and when they are just trying to challenge you and disrupt the class.

I also agree with what some other posters have said, blowing off the questions or answers like because the Church says so, are not helpful. Theses kids are getting to the age where their faith will be challenged more and more. We want them to know that there is a place for logic in our faith and there are reasons to believe. Of course, you don’t have time to go in depth here, but a few short explanations or examples can help set them on the right path. That way as these questions come up, they will have a bit of direction in that they can ask questions and find good answers instead of just blowing off that faith all together.


#11

I am guessing these students were in grades 6 through 9
they were testing you because they know an inexperienced teacher when they see one.
we all go through it, part of our education
you did great under the circumstances.

23 is actually an average class size. if our rooms had more desks I would have larger classes, but 24 is the limit here.

this experience btw will be invaluable later in life no matter what your profession, in any circumstance where you have to communicate and inform a large group

do not allow students to de-rail a class, invite them so submit off-topic questions in writing, and promise (be sure to follow thru) to answer at the next meeting. keep the answers short and sweet.

work strenuously for better communication with your co-catechist and the coordinator so you don’t get put into these situations unprepared.


#12

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