A friend I hadn’t seen in years called to say she was coming for a visit. I was so excited….until I looked around. Suddenly my beautiful home didn’t look so beautiful. I saw my house through my friend’s eyes. The scuff marks on the wall, the dirty trim, the kids’ toys in the hall. When did my house get so messy? Why had I not noticed this before?

We grow accustomed to the day-to-day messes and the appearance of our homes. It made me question whether I needed a fresh perspective on myself as badly as the trim needed a fresh coat of paint?

After deciding the answer was a resounding, “YES,” I set about looking at myself with new eyes. The beginning of our religious education year is a perfect time to apply this reasoning to our performance in the classroom.

1. Video tape yourself. Look through the camera’s vantage point at how we act when we teach, when we are stressed out, or when we are enthusiastic about something. Reviewing the tape can help us to see ourselves objectively and identify our strong and week attributes.

2. Ask those around you. I sometimes think my husband should just go into the confessional for me, right after I say, “These are my sins….” He could identify them very clearly. The people around us know what our strengths and weaknesses are, they can be helpful to us by clarifying these. A formal way to accomplish this is to provide your students and their parents with an anonymous evaluation form after a few classes. What do they like about your teaching style? What things could be improved upon? We are all works in progress and should not be intimidated by constructive advice.

3. Examine your conscience. A strong and honest examination of our shortcomings helps us to improve and grow closer to God. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal your shortcomings to you.  For assistance, check out pamphlets available through OSV (How to Make a Good Confession) or others available online. Use these aids to look deeply into yourself and see what changes you would like to make. Follow this up by going to the sacrament of Reconciliation and asking God for the grace to change the behaviors you find undesirable.

4. Keep a journal of times you felt that you had done a good job and times you felt that you could have done a better job in your classroom. After a month or so, look for patterns and identify the things you struggle with. Consult your parish priest for help in these areas. Pray for God’s guidance and ask other teachers to support you in your efforts.

I just finished painting the trim in the hallway and now I’m working on the pile of laundry. The house is starting to look beautiful. As I do my busywork, I am contemplating the changes I need to make to refresh my own soul, so it too can be beautiful.