Now, this probably won’t apply to you. You’re so organized, and you’ve stuck perfectly to the lesson plans you made at the beginning of the year. Plus, your students never missed a class, and everything’s run like, well, clockwork. Yesss!
But JUST in case you feel like you’re a little behind and you’re running out of time to cover everything you need to…I feel your pain.
A confession: I’m behind. Actually, if you’ve ever met me (or had the misfortune to be my student), this is not news. I always seem to end up a few classes behind where I need to be. This year, we’ve also had a few interruptions that we don’t usually have – a class canceled because of a historic football game (which I actually was okay with), a few “family nights” where we all came together, and then I missed a class because I didn’t have a babysitter. That’s just the way it goes, but still – I’m a little behind.
So, with two classes left (our final class in December will be an Advent ceremony), I have three choices:
For me, I’m probably going to go with choice 3, although choice 2 might actually be the better option. I just feel like, with a semester to teach Scripture, trying to stop right after Exodus and then have a class that’s “Okay, then stuff happened, and then Jesus came. Ten things to know about Jesus” will leave them with the impression that the rest of the Old Testament isn’t all that important. Plus, I think most of the kids (and most adults) are more unfamiliar with the Hebrew scriptures than with the New Testament. So I’m going to try to cover through the Royal Kingdom and give them a fifteen-minute “everything else up until Jesus’ time.” That’s just me.
But when it’s time for us to assess the kids, the most important thing is to be honest with ourselves about what they should know after X number of weeks with us. The Test, if you’re winding up with a big test, is not a chance to ask about every minor detail of the past nine class sessions because they SHOULD know this stuff. Maybe you mentioned in passing back in September that the Flood prefigures the sacrament of Baptism; that doesn’t mean they remember it. The saying is, “If they didn’t learn it, I didn’t teach it.” Now, that’s a great way to stress yourself out if your students don’t do well on their quizzes, isn’t it?
It’s not that you should give your eleventh graders a 10-question matching quiz that ends with “Jesus Loves You, Now Draw a Rainbow.” Making the class into pablum means it’s not worth their time to come each week, and they get a real sense of accomplishment out of having learned more about their faith. And, of course, our ultimate goal is to draw them into a deeper relationship with Christ, so we want to make sure we are reaching their minds as well as their hearts.
I just mean – don’t decide at the last minute that Now is the time to show them all the stuff they should have learned if they’d been LISTENING, and it’s not YOUR fault if they don’t know it. Sit down and take some time to honestly assess the content of your class sessions before you come up with an assessment. Don’t just photocopy the last two section reviews from the textbook and tell yourself, “well, we read it in class, so they should be able to answer these.” If you know there’s something you haven’t gone over with them, don’t expect them to be know it anyway. Assess them based on what they should reasonably be expected to know.
COMING SOON: More specific thoughts/suggestions on types of assessment. So, lay it on me in the comment box. Am I the only one in this boat – the boat of “WHAT? Only two classes left?”
UPDATE: Jennifer Fitz of Riparians at the Gate has crafted a most excellent response to this post. So good, so detailed that I can’t just excerpt it. A snippet, though – one that made me feel better about being so behind…
The second reason go-slow works, is that as I teach I’m naturally making lots of connections. Dorian, I’m going to bet your bible study class is doing the same thing. It’s impossible to teach a chapter in the bible without naturally referring to ten other scripture passages, three doctrines, a sacrament or four, and maybe a few good pious customs and a personal story about the love of God thrown in for good measure. The reason class goes slowly is because you are covering more than what is one the page. So you aren’t actually teaching less than planned. Just different than planned.
See, look! I’m behind because I’m so good at what I do! Read the whole thing.
Catechist Chat will be an ongoing series of posts for teachers in religious education programs. It is based on my personal experience and not on any statistical evidence of the effectiveness of my advice. Suscribe to my feed to follow along, and Caveat lector, which is Latin for “your mileage may vary.”
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