As catechists, what is the last thing we think of all year? It is, of course, the last session of the year. For many, the last session is an opportunity to celebrate that we made it through another year and we are finished! It is also a time to look back to review all that we have covered. It may also be a time to assess understanding of the content that should have been taught and learned. Additionally, we may even briefly look at what will be covered next year.
Popular thought today, however, suggests that we should begin with the end in mind. Dr. Stephen R. Covey lists this as step number 2 of his 7 Habits of Highly Successful People. In their revolutionary framework for curriculum development, Understanding by Design, Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe build backward planning into their widespread curriculum design development system. Moreover and practically speaking, no one plans a trip without first deciding on the destination.
As Christians we recall our final destination as Heaven, and as catechists, we strive to prepare our students for the ultimate reward for faithfulness. Yet life is a journey and faith formation is but the vehicle upon which we travel. So, how do we prepare those under our care to cross the finish line? We need a vision for where we want to go, a plan to get there, and executing that plan with practical implementation.
We may begin by envisioning the last session and ask ourselves, “When the last student walks out the door what should they be taking with them?” Surely we cannot wait until the last session to begin their preparation. We realize that in one short year they cannot possibly be fully developed Christians as faith formation is a process. So within the context of a year we consider how we may prepare them to become better disciples along the way. Knowing the faith is one goal but living the faith is equally important. Keeping that balance in mind we then develop a vision for the year that offers support in both accounts.
Once we have a vision we must then develop a plan for the last session. Just as a farmer cannot plant seeds at the last moment to be ready for harvest, the last session cannot contain all that they need in the way of faith development. We look at each session along the way as stepping stones toward the end. Every step in the process of planting, watering, and harvesting is as important as the last session. Our plan then begins with the last session in mind and prepares students for that day, one session at a time.
Building on the vision and plan, we come to the execution of the plan. We have to consider whether each activity moves them closer to our goal. If we are simply making it through each session with no end in mind we are missing the point! Just as we approach the year with the end in mind, consider planning each session with the goals in mind and work in activities toward meeting the goal.
Re-plot the Course
Sailors mark their destination before setting out. If they are off even one degree they will surely miss the destination by a great distance! As we approach the mid-point of the school year, now is a good time to consider our last session and determine whether we are on track, or need to re-plot the course. By tweaking our destination and our plan for reaching it, we can ensure that our students will arrive safely, fully prepared to know and live our beloved faith! That way, we have fulfilled our vocation as catechists by activating the faith of those under our care. Let us be mindful of the last session and get busy now, before it’s too late!
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