When you volunteer to be a catechist you must take it seriously, it is not a job to be taken lightly. By becoming a catechist you have made a commitment to teach students the best you can and that doesn't mean being a slacker and only doing a mediocre job. When you volunteer to be a catechist at your parish it says you will be responsible for that class for the year. That means you need to have lesson plans and activities ready each time your class meets. That also means a catechist will be on time and will know the material. All too frequently some take a nonchalant attitude about being a catechist. Remember you volunteered to be a catechist and they are counting on you to be there and do your job well.
What makes a good catechist?
• When a catechist needs to be absent you follow the procedure for being absent that is written in the catechist handbook that you signed to verify that you understood what your responsibilities are and the rules that you must follow. Contact the appropriate personnel when you find out when you will be absent ASAP. When you are absent and you do not notify others this causes disruption and poor learning with the students. When you notify the DRE and co-teacher prior to being absent it allows them to make other arrangements. Nothing is worse than not having a teacher show up and a lesson has not been planned. Other volunteers who are supposed to be doing something else and not your job will have to scramble and try to come up with a lesson and teach your class. Utter chaos will result and your students will suffer the consequences from your inconsiderate actions. The catechist should also have all necessary items and suggestions (lesson plan, Substitute Teacher Packet, tips, etc.) ready for the substitute so they can do their job efficiently and effectively.
• Always arrive at least 30 minutes before your class starts. To enhance your students learning prepare your classroom. A well organized catechist and classroom is a must. Without it, your students will not learn to their fullest potential.
• Use a wide variety of engaging activities that enable all your students to be actively involved in the class. Do imaginative and creative activities that add excitement to your lessons. Make sure the activity fits your students and emphasize the lesson and the objectives of what you want your students to learn.
• Use the textbook as a resource, not as the sole source of learning. No curriculum is perfect and teachers need to supplement with activities to help teach their students. Using various resources provides your students with a variety of activities that helps enhance the lesson and allows them to understand more and have a lot of fun in the process.
• Engage in efforts to deepen your knowledge of the faith and grow spiritually. No catechist can know everything and by going to workshops, retreats, classes, studying Catholic literature, etc. can help broaden your understanding and learn new ways of teaching.
• Be prepared and know the material. Know your subject. Read, study, and learn. A good lesson depends on how well the catechist understands the material.
• Have prepared and well planned lesson plans. Before you do anything you must plan and prepare. Having a well planned and prepared CCD class is essential. Without this your students cannot learn to their fullest potential. A well planned and prepared lesson plan will also help to avoid possible behavior problems that could arise in your class as well. A thorough and thought out lesson plan should include various elements to promote good learning.
• Consistently model the behavior you expect of your students. If you want your students to be good Catholics, you must act accordingly. By modeling and living the Catholic way of life it will reinforce proper behavior for your students.
• Teach what you are supposed to teach. The subjects should include the Church’s liturgical and sacramental life and moral teachings. You should also cover the topics that are in your curriculum so your lessons will flow accordingly with next year’s class activities.
• Have Class Rules and keep disruptive behavior down to a minimum. Go over your Class Rules thoroughly with your students so they will understand them. Having a well behaved classroom is critical for proper learning. For the students to learn to their fullest potential they need an environment that is quiet, without distractions, and organized. To achieve this is to keep disruptive behavior down to a minimum.
• Be fair. Never show favoritism. Treat each student the same.
• Work well with others. That includes the priest, DRE, teachers, helpers, parents, students, etc.
• Obtain information from parents and have training for all personnel if you are having a special needs child in your classroom. When a special needs child is assigned to your classroom, be sure to gather information from the parents about their child before they come to class to help with the transition of their child into the classroom. Seeking the advice and assistance of the child's family is the most important factor in learning how to teach a child with special needs. A training session of all personnel that comes in contact with the child should be conducted before the student starts CCD to focus on identifying supports the student needs and how to implement them.
• Get parents involved in CCD. Without parent involvement in CCD their child will not learn to their fullest potential.
• Assign homework that reviews previously learned material and is relevant to the objectives of the lesson. Homework should not be busy work, it should reinforce the lesson.
• Explain what you want your students to learn in ways that they understand the material. Take into account the unique needs of your students or how they learn best to make your lesson as effective as possible.
• Use technology in your classroom that enhances the lesson and learning of your students. What is effective and needed for your classroom depends upon your students and what is available for the catechist to use. Whatever equipment you are using it must achieve your learning objectives for your lesson. Always have the equipment ready before class and know how to use it.
• Catechists keep all information confidential. Anything you know and hear that is personal about anyone, including the students is kept confidential.
• Catechists follow and sign the guidelines and rules set forth by the diocese and/or DRE. If there are not any, the DRE should write up some guidelines for the catechists to sign to verify that they understood what their responsibilities are and the rules that they must follow. Be sure include in it an absenteeism policy and what they are supposed to do when they are absent.
It is a good idea to have a Catechist Handbook to acquaint volunteer catechists with the policies and procedures in the Religious Formation Program. The Catechist Handbook will clearly define what the responsibilities are for the catechist and the procedures that they are to follow.
What kind of catechist are you?
Copyright 2010 Laura Grace
About the Author
Laura Grace was a special education teacher years ago and has taught CCD for 16 years. She has been a contributor at catholicmom.com since 2006, is part of the Gospel Reflections Team, and creates lesson plans for religious education and homeschooling. In 2008 Laura started her own blog, The Catholic Toolbox where she posts activities, crafts, games, worksheets, puzzles, lesson plans, classroom tips, etc. for all ages.