New book offers hope for tired teachers using Jesus' ministry as guide
"Sweet Jesus, Is It June Yet? 10 Ways the Gospels Can Help You Combat Teacher Burnout and Rediscover Your Passion for Teaching" by Amy J. Cattapan. Ave Maria Press (Notre Dame, Indiana, 2021). 160 pp., $15.95.
Exhausted, frazzled, underappreciated and underpaid teachers, take note. It is finally time to ditch the overly cliched, obnoxiously obtuse and not-actually-inspirational Pinterest quotes and Teachers Pay Teachers tools. Your administrators, school board and mentor teachers can also take a rest with their professional development nonsense.
It's time to give up and give into the Gospels with "Sweet Jesus, Is It June Yet?" In her book, author Amy J. Cattapan offers the most appropriate Gospel stories to remind teachers of their true purpose and to offer inspiration and hope to overcome fatigue and burnout.
With topics ranging from asking for help and knowing when to let things be, Cattapan uses the Gospels and her solid storytelling to help tired teachers take a breather and a moment of meaningful reflection. Cattapan relates to her audience and knows well about the difficulties of the profession. A veteran educator herself, she has taught in just about every classroom setting -- urban, rural, suburban, diverse, small, large, Catholic and public.
Cattapan began her profession without robust support from her family and knows full well the many roles a teacher must play to effectively educate a student. She is also an author of several books, has a doctorate in curriculum and instruction, and loves grammar. Teachers would be right to be impressed by her resume and stamina in the industry.
In her book, Cattapan rightly points out that Jesus, too, knows full well about the difficulties of teaching. Jesus taught students who challenged him, despised him, chased him out of town, and eventually cheered on his crucifixion.
But his teaching mission and the impact of his teachings prevailed, generation after generation. How did Jesus do it? Yes, he is God, but Cattapan offers his life here on earth as a model for teachers to follow now.
Like many in the teaching profession, Jesus did not come from an esteemed background of award-winning educators. He was born in a stable after all, a child refugee. When it was his turn to take up his teaching mission, he enters his first days under dire circumstances. His cousin had just been arrested, and off he goes to work.
Cattapan offers these stories of Jesus' simple beginnings to remind us that his life's examples are accessible; Jesus' experiences are reminders that he taught under pressure, with nasty pushback and daunting deadlines (his impending death and resurrection). But Jesus' resilience and focus on his mission steered his ministry to its completion.
Cattapan, with her Gospel passages, personal reflections and interesting discussion questions, reminds readers that Jesus' first few weeks of teaching planted the seed of his ministry. He did not perform a miracle in that first day. Present-day teachers need to remember that they too might not perform educational miracles their first day of teaching ... or the school year. Those days are reserved for overall chaos, classroom procedures, rosters and syllabi anyway, right?
But little by little, Cattapan reminds, Jesus persistently made progress. And little by little, present-day teachers can too. His example, Cattapan emphasizes, teaches patient persistence.
In addition to the thoughtful Gospel excerpts chosen to help readers learn from Jesus' and the early disciples' examples, Cattapan candidly and cleverly shares her own professional experiences.
She writes honestly and has a knack for good storytelling. Her refreshingly positive conversational style is a nice contrast to the all-too-prevalent negativity in teachers' lounges where complaining and gossip reign. She shares true stories of situations she herself had creatively survived, offering teachers simple messages of survival.
And yet Cattapan doesn't shy away from offering uncomfortable points to contemplate. For example, she challenges teachers to remember to put students ahead of bureaucracy, their education ahead of school tradition. The examples she pulls from her teaching and the Gospels thread together an overarching reminder that teaching is about educating the students above all else.
If the goal of writing this book was for Cattapan to achieve its title, she undoubtedly has. Perhaps she has also saved the substitute teacher shortage and stopped the hemorrhage of teachers from the profession. Time will tell. Either way, rookie teachers and veteran educators alike will find moments of meaningful reflection and inspiration to keep coming back to work ... at least until the end of the academic year.
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Lordan, a mother to three young children, has master's degrees in education and political science and is a former assistant international editor of Catholic News Service. She currently teaches and is a court-appointed advocate for children in foster care.