The greatest qualification one needs to teach the faith is love. Most of us have an abundance of this. However, many catechist believe they have little to no experience teaching. Let’s explore that thought.
Most catechist are parents, or have had younger siblings. They have taught a child to tie their shoes, make their beds, practice their abc’s. Catechists have a lot more expertise than they think! They are giving people who eagerly share their time and talents with others. But for those who feel they need more help in the teaching aspect of faith formation there is something we can do.
Looking at the tools and skills of other teachers may help us develop into better teachers of the faith.
1. A good teacher respects his/her students. They understand that not everyone is in the same place on their faith journey, in their home life and not even in their educational needs. It is important for teachers to get to know their students well, so that they can evaluate their particular needs. For example:
• Does the student come from an intact or broken home?
• Does the student have a learning disability?
• What is the student’s best learning style: auditory (hearing information), visual (reading information or seeing it), tactile learning (feeling it) or some combination of the three?
• Does the student already have some knowledge of the material being taught? Is the faith actively practiced at home?
Some of this information may be provided on the application sheet for the faith formation program. Reviewing information before the start of the school year can aid a teacher greatly in knowing how a curriculum might be presented in their classroom.
2. An effective teacher listens well. Using listening techniques can enhance the learning experience for the students.
• Use a listening stick (actually in my class it is a foam heart that I toss around). When anyone has the stick (heart) no one else can speak. That way each student feels they are being heard.
• Restate what a student has said. John says, “I think that it must have been easy for Jesus not to sin, because He was God.” Teacher says, “So your thought is that because Jesus is God, that He was not as easily tempted to sin as you are?” The student then has the opportunity to clarify his thought if he has been misunderstood or agree if the teacher correctly understood the nature of the problem.
• Make good eye contact.
• Support the statements of your students. “That was a really good question, John. Has anyone else ever wondered about that.”
3. Dedicated teachers can maintain discipline in the classroom. Yikes! This can be easier said than done. A few simple ideas can help in this area.
• Never criticize a child in front of their peers. This will only lead to more problems. Make sure you take the child aside privately to discuss behavior issues. Having said that, asking a child to stop a certain behavior is not criticizing them. Remember, our faith also teaches respect for those in authority. A reminder of this, with a clear and direct statement of expected behavior is an appropriate tool.
• Good parent/teacher cooperation. Get to know the parents and ask them what is the best way to contact them. Should you email, call or stop them in the hallway to discuss their child?
• Simply walk near a disruptive child or touch their desk. Kids don’t like to be singled out. Just a quiet message that you notice their behavior is often enough to stop it.
We have the basic tools to teach the faith. We possess the love, we can learn the knowledge we need and we can explore the talents of effective teachers to enhance the experience for ourselves and our students.