We go to a public elementary school, which means religious education is a family choice, and it is done outside of school. Our church offers it, but apart from the staff at the church, the classes are conducted by parent volunteers.
My kids love it when I volunteer in their classrooms, and I do it as often as I can. It doesn’t involve much — I show up and do as I’m told, and then I’m done for the week and I do it again the next week. The one thing I never thought I’d do would be a Religious Ed volunteer. No particular reason — I just, never thought about it. Plus this year, with both Jamie and Sam in class at the same time slot, I was going to have an hour in the middle of the week all to myself. It sounded so — divine!
Maybe “divine intervention” had other plans for me because we attended mass one Sunday when they called for more parishioners to volunteer due to the volume of students that were coming in. Sam heard and asked me if I would do it for her class.
Earlier in the year she had just taken her first communion, and I was told that a lot of parents stop sending their kids after that. They come back when it’s time to get the sacrament of Confirmation. I felt very strongly about a continuing religious education for my kids, no matter how sparse it felt as compared to mine in a Catholic school, and so I took the plunge and gave my name as a volunteer.
I was nervous and apprehensive at first — because I have no background in education whatsoever. But according to Carrotte, the Religious Ed representative of our church, the only requirement they had was for the desire to share our faith with the children in the class.
And so week after week, I show up to a group of 10 third graders, all at different places in their faith formation, and all of different personalities. It is unnerving to think about what to expect from them, but at the same time I remember, they are looking at me too to learn and hopefully grow. I don’t pretend to know everything, and an inner voice just always tells me — just be present. It’ll work out.
There is a book that we follow as a guide, but they are not strict about following it to the letter. “It will depend on what the kids need, and sometimes that’s not in the book,” they said at the Cathecist’s briefing. So we learn to go with the flow.
I’d have to admit that it is this part of my week that stresses me out the most. The group I’ve gotten is very smart, and also very active. It’s hard to contain them in their chairs every afternoon in the middle of the week right after a long day of school. Most of them would rather be outdoors running around. I am challenged each week to think of a creative way to teach the lesson.
It’s more work than I bargained for, and it’s also not something I need on my already full plate. And while it’s quite the roller coaster ride each time, surprisingly it’s also one of the more fulfilling moments of my week. So far, after each class there is a sense of inner peace, with the hope and prayer that something good came out of this particular session with me.
I email the parents after every class as to what we have done and covered, and I have heard back from a few of them who appreciate the effort and tell me that their kids are having a lot of fun, and I do appreciate the feedback.
I am learning too. I’ve learned a lot about these kids and their families and knowing their stories, I feel has made me a more compassionate person in such a short span of time. I’ve learned a lot from them just by being around them. And it’s because I’ve opened myself to this opportunity that I feel I’ve found — dare I say — a vocation, and a sense of purpose in the larger community.