By Mary Lou Rosien
"Ahhhh, Mom, I don’t want to get up for religion. It’s Saturday, I wanna sleep." Sound familiar? If you haven’t heard it from your own kids, you have probably felt it from your Faith Formation Class students. To kids, going to religion can seem like one more day of school. The question becomes, "How do we motivate our children to want to learn their faith?" To answer this question I asked myself an important question, "What motivates me to teach?" The answer may present some insight into how I can translate this my own desire into that of my students.
* Love. I really love teaching the faith and I love my students. Can I effectively communicate this feeling to my students? People naturally want to be where they are loved. If my students feel comfortable and valued in my presence they may have an increased desire to be at religion class.
* Participating in something bigger than myself. If my students can see themselves as part of a larger community they will feel a greater attachment to that community. Planning projects (car washes to raise money, making prayer cards for a sick parish member, assisting with the younger religion classes) will foster community in these students. A feeling of community makes us feel valued, less stressed and inspires us to do good for others.
* An increasing understanding of the Faith. I am very motivated by a love of the true faith of the Catholic Church. The more I understand my faith, the more I am drawn to it. By explaining the Faith in a way that shows our own excitement about it, we will motivate our students to want to understand it to. Finding out what their questions are and answering them, or helping them find the answers, can help develop a love of the faith and motivate our students.
* Fun. I enjoy teaching. How can I help my students to enjoy their religion class experience? Introducing games, movies and other fun things increase a student’s motivation to come to class. The little children love the videos about the saint’s lives. The older kids like to play religion jeopardy. "I’ll take ‘famous councils’ for 300." Whatever we can do to make faith formation entertaining, while still maintaining the importance of what we are teaching, will help our students to enjoy coming to class.
* Food. Okay, it’s kind of lame, but I love it when we have food in class. If little toys or a sweet treat (given the okay by parents, of course) can be used to inspire our students, why not? Hey, on a Saturday morning I’ll do almost anything for a cup of coffee. If my students respond the same way to treats as I do then I will use those to encourage them. It’s not all about the ‘bling,’ but it might be about the "Ding-Dong."
Seeing our students the way we see ourselves may help us to meet them on their own terms and find new and creative ways to motivate them. God bless.
Mary Lou Rosien enjoys teaching religion while drinking coffee in North Chili, NY. She is the author of, Managing Stress with the Help of Your Catholic Faith. (OSV Publishing, 2006)
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