I’ve been a catechist for 11 years. I remember how each first session used to bring me a lot of anxiety because I wanted so much to make a good first impression. After a couple years, though, I realized that a good first impression comes naturally with just a little bit of preparing—and being myself. I’ve developed this checklist to help me plan for and carry out the first class session.
Use bright colors in the room and arrange seating in a circle.
I pick up brightly colored drapes/curtains and pots of plastic flowers at yard sales and hang/place them around the room to create a sense of spring, new beginnings. Do not cover windows. Natural light is good!
Arrange prayer area/table.
Drape the prayer table with a green cloth (Ordinary Time) and place on it a Bible, a crucifix, a textbook, and a vase of bright flowers.
Greet students and parents outside the door of the learning space.
I have found that a greeting outside the door gives youngsters an advance good first impression; it conveys my enthusiasm for their arrival. Actually, I greet the students outside the door all year long.
Engage students in a name-learning activity.
Surf the internet for some exciting and creative ideas for this, or check with your DRE. He or she might have some old, fun, and tried-and-true ideas. Keep in mind that icebreakers can be great name-learning activities.
Introduce yourself with enthusiasm.
Corny as it might be, I write my name very large on the board or on newsprint. Then I say three things about myself: I love my Catholic faith. I love sharing my Catholic faith with others. I look forward to our learning about our Catholic faith together.
Have children introduce themselves.
Have each student write his or her name in large print on the board, with yours, or on a separate piece of newsprint. Then have the child say three things about himself or herself. (If using pieces of newsprint, have each student hang his or her name with others, in a collage pattern, on the bulletin board at the end of the exercise.)
Introduce the room and special areas and supplies.
This is simple housekeeping. Show the children where craft and cleaning supplies are kept, where reference materials are shelved, and where audio-visual equipment is stored. Introduce these areas with enthusiasm, building a sense of excitement for activities to come throughout the year.
Develop a Class Agreement.
Invite each child to write one statement about conduct/behavior (such as “Listen carefully and respectfully when others are talking.”) Collect them, combine them, and develop a Class Agreement for behavior. Before the next class, type up the Class Agreement and have each child sign it. Place it on the prayer table where it will remain all year.
For your opening prayer, bless one another, your learning space, your textbooks and reference items, and the prayer table itself. Involve students in every aspect of the prayer.
Address each child individually as he/she leaves.
Too often we forget that it’s as important to bid farewell to each child individually as it is to welcome each child individually. After all, the last moment with you is as important as the first.
G. Johnson loves being a catechist. She and her husband have been married for 18 years and are the parents of three teenage sons.
This article first appeared in Catechist magazine, September 2002.
Photo: asiseeit, istock