Saturday, September 26, 2009

My First Day Teaching Confirmation Class

“So God is a stalker?” a boy commented after our reading of Psalm 139, “That’s kind of creepy.”

This was just one of many thought-provoking comments in the stimulating discussions that took place during the hour I had charge of my eighth grade Confirmation students. I tried to explain that God was there in a loving and protective way; but he stubbornly refused to understand and I had to move on by telling him he would have to wrap his head around the concept on his own.

I had to work outside the book today because I had been given the wrong book over the summer, and not enough time to prepare based on the new book that was given to me two days ago. I was upset at first but decided that we had a great deal to talk about to introduce the year anyway. So my plan was to have them introduce themselves, tell me why they want to be confirmed in the Catholic Church, and tell me one thing they really like to do. From there we would talk about Community Service and help them come up with ideas about what they could do that utilized their individual passions.

I played “Make My Life a Prayer to You” sung by Melodie Green (2nd Chapter of Acts, Mansion Builder) while inquiring in the office about getting Bibles for some of the kids. When I got back and asked why they thought I had played that selection, the answer I got back was, “To torture us?” which led on to a discussion of torture, warn, and injustice in the world. A boy mentioned his uncle was in prison for something he didn’t do. I talked about the injustices done to Joseph and Job, and the rewards they reaped in the end for remaining faithful to God.

We returned to the question of life as a prayer. I told them that “praying without ceasing” didn’t mean saying Hail Mary’s out loud all day. If you’re good at softball, I said, doing your best and going for those homeruns is giving glory to God by making the best use of your talents. Psalm 139 was read to start the discussion of how God had a plan for each of us before we were even born. That led to the stalker comment.

“What if I don’t want to go along with God’s plan?” asked one boy. Which made me happy that I had read the part of the Catechism that talks about free will. I talked about what happened to Jonah when he tried to thwart God’s plan for him. “You can be difficult with God,” I said, “but it will make your own life more difficult and He will find a way to use you for His purpose in the long run.”

The two girls in my class kept exchanging looks as the boys kept coming up with these “weird” questions. Actually, they were quite good ones, and I’m happy they were intellectually involved in talking about scripture and theology.

I was happy to hear that each of them did have something they were excited about doing, whether it was a sport or a hobby. (“No, hunting and skinning squirrels probably would not make a good community service project,” I had to explain to one boy.) Why they wanted to be confirmed varied.

“So I don’t have to go to religion class anymore.”

“Because it is important to me.”

“Because I believe in my faith.”

“Because my whole family is Catholic.”

“Because my dad couldn’t get married in the Catholic church because he wasn’t confirmed, and he never went to college, and I want to be able to do all the things my parents never got to do.”

And the last one, who never spoke a word, was spoken for by his cousin, “He doesn’t care about Confirmation and wants to go back to Brooklyn.”

So you can see I have quite the assortment of students to deal with here. There are more to come, as a third of the parish’s children have yet to register.

“But Mom, they’re going to hate you!” my daughter had exclaimed when I told her on the way over that I was going to assign homework. But no one seemed to have a problem when I told them to (1) buy a notebook; (2) write up a community service idea); and (3) thumb through the Bible and find a scripture they like.

I think I am going to enjoy this class, with all the challenges it brings.


Karen said...

Sounds like you are in for an interesting year. In a way, your post makes me a little thankful that I decided to teach the kindergarten class as opposed to the 6th, 7th or 8th grade options I was given for my preferred time to teach.

I taught my first class last Sunday, and it took nearly 15-20 minutes for me to get my class of 8 petrified 5 year olds to speak. But I have two little boys who I am sure will keep me on my toes. After being redundant and adding that God made llamas after he had said that God made animals, I was informed that he covered that when he said animals, and that I need to think of new things to teach them since they all already knew this.

Tomorrow should be an interesting day. I'll be really happy if I can get all of the children to talk.

Oh, and the religious ed program also threw me a curve ball for the first class. Not as big a deal as yours with the wrong text book, but they copied the wrong worksheet for my class and totally screwed up my lesson plans for the first class. I'm so happy that I don't have to worry about not having what I need for tomorrow.

Loren Christie said...

Keep your positive approach. You never know how God will use your words and actions as a teacher.

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

I teach first-year confirmation, too, but my kids are freshmen and sophomores in high school -- and they can make some good attempts at outlogicing the most logical. I enjoy them, too, and am sure you will learn a lot this year. I always do.

Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold-Miller said...

I rememember at that age coming up with questions to stump my teachers. It is such a blessing to be able to help guide them through their thinking processes at this crucial age. I don't want them to think of these classes as boring Church History lessons from a watered-down textbook. The stimulating discussions will never be forgotten.