Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

July 18, 2011

The Summer Is "Big Picture Time"

It’s difficult to say whether students or teachers look forward to summer vacation more—perhaps a secret best kept from the students. Summer is a time for rest, but the distance from the classroom also offers a chance to step back from the everyday demands of teaching and look at the big picture. With a little breathing room, we can evaluate our classrooms, teaching, and students in a fresh light.

Meditating on the big picture questions, especially through prayer, fortifies us for the year ahead. Below are some of the questions I am asking myself during summer vacation, coupled with some lines from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Questions of Christian Witness

“From the beginning, the first disciples burned with the desire to proclaim Christ, [saying], “We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (CCC, 425).

  • What made the early apostles burn with desire to share Christ?

  • What had they seen and heard?

  • How can I cultivate this desire in my own teaching?

“Whoever is called 'to teach Christ' must first seek “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus” (CCC, 428).

  • How might Christ be calling me to deepen my faith life? (For example:studying a particular aspect of the faith, embracing prayer, fasting or almsgiving, participating in service work, participating in the sacramental life, offering my daily work to God.)

  • What gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit do I feel particularly blessed with as a teacher, and are there any that I need to pray for?

  • In what ways am I most thankful for my life as a Christian? How does my teaching reflect my gratitude?

  • Identify a successful lesson, class discussion, activity or assignment from the past year. What made it successful?

  • How do my lesson plans, activities and assignments illuminate the truth and beauty of the Catholic-Christian life?

  • How do I help my students in recognizing and cultivating their own desire for Christ?

  • How do I teach about more than information to be learned, but a life to be lived?

  • How do I incorporate spiritual, relational, moral, or vocational issues that are immediately relevant to students into the class?

“Being in the image of God the human individual possesses the dignity of a person, who is not just something, but someone. … And he is called by grace to a covenant with his Creator, to offer him a response of faith and love that no other creature can give in his stead” (CCC 357).

  • How do my interactions with students reflect that they are uniquely lovable in the eyes of God?

In Closing

Perhaps you don’t have time to consider all these questions in depth. Feel free to focus on one or two you feel are most important. Journal about them, pray about them, discuss them with colleagues, and keep them in mind in preparation for next year. Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Barbara Jane Sloan

Holy Spirit Preparatory School

Atlanta, GA

7th Grade and 11th/12th grade Theology

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