Looking for ways to become a better religious educator? You can find 31 days of easy tips and strategies to improve your teaching approach, your classroom management skills, and even your spiritual life in Jared Dees’ new book, 31 Days to Becoming a Better Religious Educator. Jared Dees is the creator of the popular website TheReligionTeacher.com. His book’s valuable advice stems from years of experience teaching religion both in parishes and in Catholic schools.
31 Days’ first challenge encourages us to remember why we became catechists in the first place. According to a recent informal poll of faith formation professionals, most people became catechists because of a spiritual awakening, or feeling of being called. This feeling can become lost in the day-to-day struggle to make a difference in students’ lives. Jared urges us to renew our commitment, and to let it inspire us going forward.
The book’s excellent advice is organized into four separate sections on becoming a better disciple, a better servant, a better leader, and a better teacher. “Only as disciples and servants can you become a great leader,” and ultimately a great teacher, the book states. The section on discipleship guides readers though a deeply spiritual and personal journey to reconnect with the workings of grace in our lives. The section on becoming a better servant counsels us to develop one-on-one relationships with our students so we can discover how best to help each one as an individual uniquely loved by God. The last two sections provide nitty-gritty classroom and teaching strategies to aid us in communicating the faith more effectively.
Each short chapter is designed to take only ten to fifteen minutes. First, a Scriptural quote sets the scene. Then, Jared explains the topic and why it’s important, and assigns a task to accomplish that day. Each chapter ends with an invitation to go deeper in prayer or spiritual reading. Jared’s website — www.thereligionteacher.com/31days — provides additional resources, like an online reminder to stay on schedule during the entire 31 days.
As a pre-Cana instructor, I benefited most from the first two sections of the book. The section on becoming a better servant, for example, stresses that identifying our students’ top needs is the key to helping them in ways that matter. Much to my dismay, I have seen that many engaged people don’t understand why God and the Church are relevant to their married life at all. Their deepest need is to realize how God and the Church can help them to fulfill the desire for soul-satisfying, long-lasting love that burns in every human heart. If I forget that, my students’ attention will vanish in an instant.
CCD teachers or Catholic schoolteachers might gain the most from the last two sections of the book. In these sections, Jared covers techniques like streamlining classroom procedures, using textbooks effectively, and assigning long-term projects that require parental participation.
At the end of reading 31 Days, religious educators should feel spiritually renewed and refreshed and better equipped to take on the awesome task of bringing Christ to souls through educating them in the faith. Teachers and students alike can benefit from that!
To purchase this book from Amazon, click here.
For Marc Cardaronella’s interview with the author, click here.
Many thanks to Ave Maria Press for providing a free review copy.
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