Organization is one of the key elements in becoming a successful catechist. When we are organized, it helps us to feel more in control and enables us to focus on what we have been called to do: share our Catholic faith with children. Here are three tips to help you get organized.
1. Plan Your Space
Whether your “classroom” is a partitioned section of a large hall, the family room of your home, or a traditional space with desks, chairs, and chalkboards, take time to consider how you can best utilize the area. Ask yourself the following questions:
• Where will I have the children sit as we work in our texts?
• Where will we pray?
• Where will the class gather to work together on arts and crafts projects?
Ideally, you should have enough space for the children to sit on chairs or the floor for the formal part of a lesson; an area they can gather around, sitting or standing, for prayer, and an easily-cleared space for projects—with furniture and flooring that can be wiped clean in case of spills. If you don’t have the space for movement between these areas, keeping in mind that even the smallest change of venue helps to keep the children alert, plan how you can adapt the area during class—by sliding tables or chairs against the wall or shifting quickly to a nearby room more suited to your next activity.
2. Prepare a Prayer Area
If there is an empty desk or tabletop in your space, you’re all set. All you’ll need to do is add religious symbols appropriate to your chapter theme and the season. If you don’t have a flat space suitable for a prayer table, you’ll need to be a bit more inventive. A portable TV tray is perfect for creating an instant prayer area—it’s lightweight, folds easily, and can be stored in a corner of a cloak room or closet.
Basic items for the prayer table include a Bible, a crucifix, a candle (lighted or not, depending on fire regulations), and a fabric cloth in seasonal or liturgical colors. Add and delete objects or symbols as appropriate throughout the year that relate to your lessons—a bowl of water if Baptism is your theme, a loaf of bread for a lesson on Eucharist, a paper scroll inscribed with the Ten Commandments if you are teaching morality. Some catechists prefer to have the prayer table completely set up before the children arrive for class each week, while others find that children are more responsive if they have the opportunity to take turns “setting” the table each week with the symbols you provide.
3. Pack Your Tool Kit
Your catechetical leader will usually provide a supply box stocked with many of the basic items you’ll need for class sessions: pencils, crayons or markers, lined paper, masking tape, a stapler and staples, and chalk and an eraser. You will need to request specific items for different projects called for in your lesson plan—things like construction paper, index cards, yarn, watercolors and brushes, a video, music tape or CD, and so forth.
However, you will also need your own “tool kit” to transport back and forth from your teaching space to your home. You might prefer a large canvas tote bag, but a plastic milk crate or banker’s box with handles works just as well. Keep the resources you need each week in the kit—your Catechist Guide, a folder with your class list, family contact information, any important forms or policies regarding teaching in your parish, a notepad, and several pens. From week to week, you can add specific items called for in your lesson plan—magazines to make a collage, for example, and your prayer table supplies. You may also want to include a few “goodies” in your kit—colorful stickers, prayer cards, a bag of sugarless candy, a pad of post-it notes, and other items you want to have on hand. Keep your kit in a specific place, so you’ll always know where it is. That way, on class day, you’ll be “good to go!”