Veteran catechist, teacher, and writer Joe Paprocki
provides practical, specific tools for religious educators of all levels of experience in this comprehensive book. Paprocki carries the toolbox metaphor throughout the book, with each chapter focusing on a specific aspect of teaching students of all ages to love and understand their faith. Rather than just provide vague platitudes and simple suggestions, he goes into detail about the various techniques and materials he has found helpful in a wide variety of situations.
For instance, in his chapter on “Drop Cloths: Preparing for Things That Can Go Wrong” (and, let’s face it, that’s why many of us will be turning to a book such as this in the first place!), Paprocki helps you anticipate all sorts of ways in which your plans may go awry, from a guest speaker who forgets to show up to a student stumping you with a particularly tough question. His reminder that organization and preparation are key to avoiding disruptions is a timely one, but he also helps you think of ways to overcome obstacles that crop up despite your best efforts. Similarly, the chapter on handing discipline problems helps catechists consider the overall manner in which they present themselves as well as speaking to particular discipline issues.
Paprocki understands that students, regardless of age, bring a wide variety of talents and attributes to the classroom. He offers manifold ideas for lesson plans that tap into those diverse learning styles and challenges educators to consider the specific needs of their students and how they can modify their lesson plans accordingly.
Leading a group of people in prayer can be a particularly intimidating aspect of catechesis, and the chapter on prayer is very detailed in addressing many of the concerns that religious educators may have about how to do so effectively. Paprocki’s reminder that “In a good lesson, prayer is not just the frosting on the cake. It is not just a set of bookends to open and close a session” is a bold encouragement for catechists to focus specifically on prayer as the cornerstone of their efforts.
This book is thorough enough that it would be beneficial for both veteran schoolteachers and new parish catechists alike. It would make a terrific backbone for a year’s worth of professional development for religious educators, one chapter at a time.