Here are some reflections on it this past semester:
- When I met with the director of the school last year and she asked us to come and teach Religious Ed, she told me that years ago some Catholic priests used to come to the school to teach, but they stopped coming because they couldn't handle the kids. When I heard this, my first reaction was to assume that they probably just didn't like the kids because they were gypsies, or maybe their program was so boring that it didn't hold the kids' attention.
However, I must admit that there were many times this semester when I found myself thinking: "I totally understand why those Catholic priests stopped coming to this school..."
Almost all of the kids are really poorly behaved - they are disrespectful and run around and curse and fight during class - and it is very tiring to work with them and keep things in order.
BUT - sometimes there are breakthroughs. And the breakthroughs are what makes it all worthwhile. When you see some kid understand the basic truths of the Gospel, and you realize that there is no one else in their life who tells them about the things of God or even simply that they are valuable - that is what makes all the frustration involved with teaching them worthwhile.
- MUSIC is the best method I found to reach these gypsy kids. I could have talked until I was blue in the face, and they wouldn't have remembered anything I said - but as soon as I pulled out a guitar and taught them some songs, they immediately memorized them, and the lyrics stuck with them.
Charles Wesley wrote literally thousands of songs, which in his time, in the 18th century in England, were "Contemporary Christian Music". He said that one of his main goals in writing music was to teach the uneducated working class the doctrines of the Bible. Many of them couldn't read, and many of them wouldn't sit through a long sermon and retain all the information - but if they could easily learn doctrine through songs. So Charles Wesley wrote music to teach the poor of England the truths of the Gospel.
I found that this is the most effective way to teach these gypsy kids about Jesus as well. At the beginning of the semester I taught them a song called "Ó Én Hiszek Jézusban" (I believe in Jesus). The song is really just a very succinct statement of faith - and it is catchy. And for the rest of the semester, whenever I asked them a question about Jesus, most of the time they answered by quoting the lines of that song! That means that they remembered it - and it stuck in their minds. MUSIC is a wonderful resource for teaching the deep truths of the Bible.
- One thing I will do more next year is kick more kids out of class if they misbehave. Because there are some kids who want to be there, and some kids who think that they are doing you a favor by being there, and so they just do whatever they want, and they are a drain on the entire class.
- Another thing I would like to do more next year is to do more big programs. We had a group come from New York, who did a big program for the entire school, and it was a great success. I would love to have groups come who do puppet shows and stuff like that.
- It seemed to me that a lot of these kids had problems at home. Some seemed neglected and some had a lot of anger. There comes a point when you stop being frustrated at these kids for being so badly behaved, and you start feeling compassion for them because most of them are products of the environments in which they are raised.
- I think the opportunity to teach Religious Ed is a great thing, and I would like to do this in more schools, and I pray we will have open doors to do so.