Some of us are winding down our religion education programs and, with the emergence of many summer religion programs, some are just gearing up. At this time of year, it is common to spend some time in reflection and renewal. Both of these are helpful to us, whether ending our programs or beginning.

Reflection

When looking back on my religion school year, I like to ask myself a series of questions to evaluate how the year went.

1. What was my favorite part of teaching?

2. What was my least favorite?

3. Were my skills a good match for the age group I had?

4. Would I want to teach that age group again?

5. Am I still excited about teaching, or should I take a year off?

6. How did teaching the faith help me increase my own faith?

7. Did my students enjoy the experience? Their parents?

8. What did I like about the overall set up of our church’s religious education program and do I have any suggestions for the next year?

Asking myself specific questions helps me be objective about the experience. I am able to see my own strengths and weaknesses in teaching the faith. Having parents and/or students evaluate the teaching staff and the program can also be helpful. Keeping my thoughts about the year, along with the answers to the above questions in a journal will provide me with a written reflection. This can help me have a productive and faith-filled year next year.

Renewal

Getting ready for a new religious education year starts with an inward renewal of faith, energy and planning. I find that starting the process with prayer and reflection helps me move forward.

Some other ideas:

1. Start by going to Confession and Mass. Perhaps pray a Novena in preparation. It is so easy for me to get caught up in the nuts-and-bolts or teaching and forget my own personal faith journey. If I am not thinking faith and living faith I cannot teach faith.

2. Dedicate the classroom to the Lord. Consider an enthronement to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

3. Get organized. Make sure that you have a plan for the days or weeks that you will teach. Read the material your students will be reading, put posters or pictures up in your classroom that reflect the main ideas you will cover that year.

4. Have a theme for the year. Mine is the Heart of Jesus. We will dedicate the room with a picture of the Sacred Heart and a blessing. I also have a rubber toy heart that I keep in the classroom. While anyone is speaking, they hold onto the heart and no one else may interrupt. I sometimes toss the heart to a student who has something to say, while quipping, “Don’t break my heart,” or, “My heart is in your hands.” The kids love the visual and it is a good ice breaker.