So, I was asked to teach 7th and 8th graders Catechism for two weeks. I will be entering seminary in the fall and my vocation director thought this would be some good experience for me before I enter seminary. I have never done anything like teaching kids before and I was wondering if anyone had some experience or advice they could share to me. I just have this fear of teaching kids about our faith and them not having interest or me not knowing everything they want to know. I know this is probably common, but just want to see if anyone has any advice. Thank you.
One thing I can say about that age level is that you either love them or hate them. I am a DRE and I don’t do well with that grade level. Even when I was a regular school teacher I hated teaching those grades. I have a coordinator for that level who loves that age and can deal with them much better than I. Their hormones are raging and they are very influenced by their peers, but they can be very introspective and want to know about religion mainly because it fascinates them and they are searching for meaning. Lecturing them bores them so try to get them talking and discussing things. Two weeks isn’t a long time to get to know the kids. It usually takes them awhile to figure a person out and get into the material.
Teaching is a vocation in and of itself. You may know your faith very well, but not be able to impart the material in a way that it can be received easily. Use you own best judgment. If you are not comfortable with the idea of being a teacher first off, then add in the difficulties that are inherent teaching the early teenager at this stage of their, I would take a pass. If you are able to comfortably address a group of teens, then by all means go for it!.
Relax! You will be fine. One thing to remember, you must first set the guidelines for your classroom at the beginning of the year. If you do not set the ground rules at the beginning, they will eat you up. Be firm and tell them your purpose for being there. I have taught all grades and with those grades one has to be firm, but also be understanding of their age group. I basically tell them I am not baby-sitting anyone in 7/8th grade.
I taught 8th graders for the first time last year, and will be doing so again. I absolutely had a great time, thanks to the Holy Spirit. I can tell you with certainty that I was NOT alone:p
I had never taught in a classroom before, but I had coached boys and girls hockey and other sports, plus Boy Scouts. So I had plenty of experience with kids in that age group.
On day one I told them that they were now young adults and would be in high school soon, so I was going to treat them that way, not like little kids. It worked!
I had twenty two Sunday mornings @ 90 minutes each and wish I had more. Preparation for Confirmation was the ultimate goal. Unfortunately, most of my class knew nothing about their faith, or the Bible, or the Church. About half attended mass regularly, the others less so.
By the end of the class, we had about 90% success with a good foundation for these kids to have Christ in their life. Still not at the center of their lives, or even close to it, but such a vast improvement from day one when God was the old man in the sky and Jesus a loving hippy from 2000 years ago.
Not sure what you can accomplish in two weeks, unless it is a daily class. But of course you can do anything through the Spirit. I’m happy to offer more insight if you like.
Tell your story of spiritual formation. Tell how you wish it had been (if you had difficulties). Tell about your prayer connection with Jesus. Tell about your call to a religious vocation.
Bring some homemade flash cards on:
-Ten Commandments - discuss Formation of Conscience and preparation for confession
-The mysteries of the rosary- mix them up and have them put each one under one of the four categories. Practice a decade with them.
-Review prayers and see what they know. Give them prayer cards or handouts so they can learn them.
-Review the five Precepts of the Church.
-The Spiritual and Corporal Acts of Mercy
-The Fruits of the Holy Spirit
-The Seven Sacraments and what form they take. Example: Baptism-water, priest, godparents…
Have them stand up in groups or pairs and sort these out on a table or floor, LARGE muscle activity.
-Explain the true presence in the Eucharist and attend an Exposition of the Holy Eucharist to teach them how to behave and behold the Eucharist.
-Talk about the saints and how to choose confirmation names.
Much of your work will be remedial so be patient and try to have fun handouts. Pass no judgment because many kids aren’t taught to pray or to learn much of anything. It’s not their fault. You can tell them that kids used to be taught and expected to learn and memorize much more catechism than they do now. Some like the challenge; some are intimidated; some are bored. Emphasize that knowing these things can strengthen them to do great things AND can keep them out of deep trouble.
Help them learn to understand the Holy Spirit and grow in their faith.
I agree with this completely. One of the things that we did was discuss the “ground rules” on day one. It was basic, but once it was communicated, I had each student sign off that they had read and agreed to the specifics. Then I made a copy for each student and the very last note on it said “this can be changed by mutual consent of the teacher and class at ANY time.” I brought it up once a month in class, but never had to amend it.
The other thing that I distributed to the class on day one was a “survey” in which I asked a whole bunch of questions about family, school, interests…and of course I snuck in a few questions about “when is the last time you went to confession” and a few others. the answers gave me tremendous insight as to how these kids are BOMBARDED by the culture/media. Overwhelmingly, I learned that the Kardashian sisters were the greatest influence on the girls (ugh).
You’ve received great advice so far … just wanted to add two tidbits
Please don’t take any particular reaction personally. While growing, they aren’t grown-up - and can still have the occasional episode of taking out on you, what they feel about something else.
So if someone doesn’t follow a lesson, is distracted, or silent for one class, etc. - remember it probably has nothing to do with how excellent or how awful you or your lesson is. It’s just part of the age and I don’t want you taking every reaction personally
Second - if you don’t know. Simply say you don’t know but will find out. Kids seem to have a built in detector for when an adult is faking it.
But in general, kids this age really are awesome - I’m sure you’ll be great!
Get hold of a copy of Youcat - it’s a youth catechism written especially for kids at about that age level.
Thanks for the advice everyone. I just graduated with my BA in religion so I remember being in middle school just 10 years ago. I kind of remember how 8th graders thought about religion and things like that in general. I will be teaching in Monday thru Friday from 9 am to noon for two weeks so it won’t be a very long time. I was just curious on some advice to help me get through the first day, and hopefully after that it will be more easy.
As a DRE I am curious, is this 2 week program in lieu of attending faith formation classes during the year? I have heard about some parishes doing this. It surely makes it convienient to “get it over with” in two weeks but I question how well this works.
In addition to all the other remarks, remember,……teaching, teacheth the teacher!
If you are teaching teens for that long, you are going to need a different strategy. Many of them are going to look tired after twenty minutes. Stay fresh, take advantage of breaking things up with skits, being outside, walking to the nearest church, etc. Three hours in a classroom in summer (if this is to happen soon)-- when they want to be outside-- is going to be a challenge in itself, regardless of the catechism.