Teaching can be a isolating profession, particularly if you’re the religion teacher. Even though you’re surrounded by people all day long, you hardly have a moment to collect your thoughts, and your colleagues are just as overworked. It’s also very draining to balance the classroom time, preparations, staff meetings, conferences, chaperoning, sponsoring activities, etc. with something resembling spiritual growth.
That’s why I really like this slim volume of reflections from fellow Catholic educators from Ave Maria Press – 5 Minutes with Christ: Spiritual Nourishment for Busy Teachers. The format is easily digestible – short essays on various snippets from the Gospels, tied to the life of a catechist and the call to discipleship. Each chapter was contributed by a graduate or associate of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education program, which sounds like a terrific model for formation of teachers as disciples:
Because good teachers need excellent formation, ACE prepares its teachers in an innovative Master of Education program at Notre Dame, which brings them to campus for two summers of intensive training and then sends them out into classrooms during the school year…While teaching, they live in small Christian communities of four to seven members and together share the many challenges and rewards of beginning teaching…ACE teachers develop their professional skills and personal spirituality in the context of community, sharing with one another the journey of becoming committed Catholic school teachers.
What a fantastic way to prepare teachers in Catholic schools – but of course many of us come to the profession via a more circuitous route. (I myself went through a similar cohort-based program for teaching social studies, but my career as a religion teacher began after I applied for a job teaching history at a Catholic high school.) It could be that you’re teaching a section of religion on top of your primary job as a math teacher, or that you came to the classroom from another profession and are getting your formal training “on the job.”
This series of reflections by fellow teachers and administrators is a window into the experiences of your fellow religious educators, and it’s both inspiring and frank in addressing the challenges you may face.
Four classes to prep.
Thirty-two pages to read.
Forty-eight essays to grade.
Three parents to call.
Fourteen e-mails to reply to.
…Whether it is an issue of disrespect or someone cheating on a quiz by writing answers on the bottom of a shoe, Jesus’ call to forgive without number is a challenge. It is also a constant and often-needed reminder that students deserve forgiveness and a second chance. And, just as important on many days, it is a reminder that teachers do too.
– Beth Burau, “Forgiveness”
This is a book that could be given to all of the faculty at a Catholic school – would make a nice discussion-starter for talking about the Christian character of the school and how it relates to the day-to-day responsibilities of teachers. It’s like having a little cheering section to pick you up after a difficult day, and a spiritual director to help you focus on the deeper meaning of your relationships with your students and your role in their spiritual growth.
Disclaimer: Jared Dees, super-duper religious educator, sent me a copy of this book to preview.