Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Confessions of a Confirmation Catechist: the Post-Mortem

I went down to the parish yesterday and had an end-of-year interview with the DRE. It's helpful, mostly, to look back at the year and see what went right and what went wrong, and what can be done better next year. I had a trying year, myself, for reasons that are obvious: large class, single teacher, technology that failed me at every turn. That my year was not harder was thanks to my gracious DRE, who shielded me from what would certainly have demoralized me at my low point: it seems a group of parents got together and complained to the bishop about my class, particularly that there should have been more teachers. The bishop, bless him, doesn't care for channels being bypassed and sent the complainants back to the parish level where they should have taken it first, where it went nowhere because there's nowhere for it to go.

I told the DRE that I couldn't even take offense at that, and as I was driving home, I said aloud to myself, "I am not going to process this right now," but I'm processing it here. I had a single volunteer during my tenure this year, a fellow teacher who had taken a well-deserved year off and graciously stepped in during the last month of class. She lifted a great burden off my shoulders, bringing in craft projects and just being another adult in the room. She was the only parent who offered to help me and followed through.

We are not a tiny country parish. We have over 2000 families. Even so, volunteers are are few and are spread thin, too thin. We do not have hidden reserves of PSR teachers we are locking away so that I can lord it over the Confirmation program. I do not teach for my own amusement, or because I think I know everything, or to ward off other teachers encroaching on my territory. I teach because God has called me to it, and I teach alone because no one else is doing it. There were no offers of volunteer help I rejected; I gratefully accepted the only offer I received. I never heard from parents unless they wanted to ask me if we had class instead of looking at the class schedule or bulletin, or check if their child could get out of class because sports, or was it okay if the form was turned in late.

A criticism I made of myself in my exit interview was that I wasn't good at communicating. I never sent out a parent email or added anything to the official office communications. I didn't have a list of parent emails or phone numbers, but I never asked for one.

It is taking all my filters and my critical thinking skills not to write in bitterness or to extrapolate from sketchy details. Perhaps many parents feel that they aren't qualified to teach religion. Perhaps they were genuinely concerned with their child's education and safety, and thought that the diocese could just send in backup at will. Perhaps they never contacted me as I never contacted them, because it felt like just one more thing. Likely it wasn't about me at all.

I felt rather at loose ends yesterday afternoon and unable to concentrate on any one thing, as I often do in moments of stress. I considered whether I should talk about this with Darwin, as I didn't want him to be annoyed on my behalf. But I recalled that nothing is worse than feeling like I can't talk to Darwin, so we discussed it that evening. I still don't feel entirely settled about it, but there's not anything I can do about an incident in the past about which I had no knowledge and over which I had no control.

I'm still on the roster to teach next year, this time with the help of a dear friend. We're having turnover in staff, so there will be a new DRE next year, who has the final say about who teaches what class. I'm perfectly fine with that -- if she finds someone more qualified and willing to teach confirmation, then God be praised!


Jenny said...

I am outraged on your behalf. They went to the bishop?!?

As one who is always vaguely guilty because I never volunteer for Sunday school because it just seems like more one step towards drowning, there are things I don't love about my kids' classes, but I keep my mouth shut because they are volunteering and I am not.

They went to the bishop to complain about a lack of volunteers, but wouldn't volunteer themselves? Much wow.

Douglas Naaden said...

lol, they must be some very entitled folks to go to the bishop. This is RE, and not the whole program, just one slice of it.
Why would this need to go higher than the pastor?

That's the equivalent of going to Steve Jobs if you iPhone is broke. Like, huh? (And stop with the seances.)

mandamum said...

I'm with you Jenny - I have volunteered in the past, and expect I will volunteer in the future, but right now I just can't. Our family situation is such that any volunteering would probably require hired babysitting and all the prep that goes into THAT, as well as the actual class prep. So as far as I can, I teach my own at home, but when programs are required, I try to be a helping hand if possible and not complain about anything less than heresy otherwise, while trying to balance the lessons learned (even if they aren't the ones intended) through discussion afterward.

"You want to help improve the program? Great! What week(s) can you be here?"

Perhaps the parents, entitled as they sound, don't realize this is a volunteer position? Perhaps they thought the parish just didn't feel like hiring some more staff, so the bishop would need to step in and tell them to do it already? Many people seem to be of the opinion that "since I give" (or even, "since I am expected to give, even though I don't, so I know others are giving and the parish has money to spend") "the parish (faceless entity that it is) must take care of ALL the THINGS," and can't wrap their heads around the personal, volunteer nature of most or all of these programs.

Foxfier said...

Whoof, that is nuts-- I'm guessing your parish doesn't have rules like ours, where it's a week long during-the-work-day required class, then a full weekend retreat to qualify as a volunteer, you probably would've mentioned.
That is seriously entitled.

Flipping it around, I can sort of feel bad for the parents, since when they DID go through the proper channels, nothing happened, and that's usually the story that goes with "and so we switched churches." I hope that the DRE gave them the feedback that was basically "We'd love to have more teachers, but there simply aren't any!"

(No, I am not joking about the requirements; I have no freaking clue how they expect that to work and yes they complained about a lack of volunteers and offered to waive the $100 fee for the class to get more folks to show up. My husband was teaching at our last parish, and I figured I could at least do the "distract the little at the back of the class" type stuff with the secondary intention of making sure that they weren't getting the mush I got for RE, but that is seriously not an option for us.)

Michael said...

after that introduction, I expected you to say the parents complained about the class being too orthodox, teaching uncomfortable truths, mentioning sin, and generally expecting too much. Perhaps there was some of this, too, the DRE or bishop left out?

We only have five little ones but opted out of teaching catechism; after having initially signed up we decided we needed the evenings at home. Perhaps when the littlest are less little. God bless you!

Banshee said...

(Hugs) I would have loved to have had a CCD teacher like you.