By in Personal

Teaching Catechism was Tougher than I Thought

Years ago on a Friday, a friend and I were assigned to teach Catechism at a local public school. I was, at first, hesitant and scared. I had only agreed to volunteer because my friend was okay with it, and because the one who recruited us was also a close friend.

It was our first meeting and I had so many things on my mind. There was our research paper about preschool education pre-service teachers, the thesis papers on Systemic Functional Grammar and Discourse Analysis, and a play for the final term. I really wondered why I agreed to adding my bulk of responsibilities with teaching a class of energetic - and, let's admit it, noisy - high school students.

It was then a blessing that my friend and I were to teach together a first-year secondary class. You could just imagine how nervous I was seeing all those children milling about, surrounding us and staring at us.

We started the class with a prayer, then proceeded to present our classroom policies. We then divided the class into 4 groups and had them write down their expectations of the class/subject on a 1/4 Manila paper. Of course when you group them together, you'd have to expect all hell to break loose.

The pieces of Manila paper and marker were passed around, each student afraid to touch such things as if they were contaminated. They kept passing the responsibility of writing down to other students. Though that was the part of the class time that was so hard to control. That was also the part I was very interested in.

While the leader of group 3 was busy writing expectations, some of the other members were drawing aliens on their notebooks, fiddling with their phones, and just roaming around punching one another. That was the time that I so wanted to reach out to them, to help them participate and cooperate. I knew that it is during group activities that we can really see who participates and who doesn't. There was this student who was drawing Ben 10 characters on his notebook. I tapped him on the shoulder and asked him what his expectations were. He immediately stopped drawing and tilted his head, trying to give out a convincing performance of seriously thinking about expectations. His classmates kept teasing him about filling the pages of his notebook with drawings of cartoon characters. Then, I suggested, "Would you like drawing activities?" At that, he perked up and told the leader about it. He was so happy! As if he had just realized something he really wanted!

At my left, some boys were punching one another, and then pointing one another out as the culprit when I told them to stop (Of course I didn't shout at them. The teachers would have my head.). Though the room was small, cramp, and stuffy, the students didn't seem to mind. So neither did my friend and I. She was doing very well, helping the other groups and handling the rather hyper-energetic boys at the front row.

After the group discussion came the really scary part: reporting what they wrote down. Standing in front of jeering classmates and talking about feelings is rarely a welcomed situation in the classroom. It was hard to encourage volunteers from each group to report on their expectations, and several times my partner and I had to cajole some students to participate. Sadly, we were not able to do persuade anyone to report for group 4.

My friend had really tried her best to encourage someone to report, but when we tried to ask them, they ran from us. It was a heart-wrenching experience to the point that my friend was moved to tears when she told the whole class about her experiences in school in the past. We knew that using force would be counterproductive, and handing out rewards would just invite jealousy and fighting. We had to appeal to their mercy.

I had always thought that teachers had to show they were strong by always being the Boss - friendly, but never one to bend to depressing situations. My friend told me that she swept the trash strewn on the classroom floor aside during the end of the group discussion, and one student took a pity on her and volunteered to do it. She told me that we really had to appeal to the students' pity and heart.

That showed me how hard it really is to teach, especially if you love your pupils - for every teacher must be a parent, guardian, elder sibling, guidance councilor, and friend. And sometimes, we have to show our weaknesses so that we can reach out to them.

It was a daring but loved experience, one I cherish to this day.

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BarbRad wrote on August 24, 2014, 3:36 PM

I think too many do not know how hard it is to be a volunteer teacher, especially to students who may not have wanted to be there. I know just what you are talking about. Of course, school teachers also have to face this, but most of them have more training. A lot of that training doesn't help all that much with some classes.

Rhymis wrote on August 27, 2014, 4:38 AM

So true, Barb! When I became a teacher, it was till difficult and I still had so many things to learn. Well, that's life, always full of challenges.