Every year in the fall, our middlers spend Tuesday mornings at local Lutheran elementary schools. In those classrooms, these second-year seminary students learn how to teach catechism class to seventh and eighth graders.
Professor Tom Kock, who oversees the program, believes this is a great opportunity for seminary students. “This is one way–one of the few ways–that our guys can get real world experience as part of their training. It’s one thing to teach them the mechanics of putting a lesson together; it’s quite another thing to teach a lesson to real students,” he says. “We greatly appreciate the time and effort of the pastors, teachers, and staff ministers of the Lutheran Elementary Schools who allow us to come into their classroom for eight Tuesdays.”
Two students are assigned to one congregation. The first two weeks they simply observe the local pastor. The next six weeks, they alternate teaching so that each student ends up preparing and teaching three lessons.
Jared Natsis, who taught this year at Loving Shepherd, Milwaukee, Wis., said, “The best part about getting into the classroom is how real and practical it is. We’re not just giving a presentation to our peers or doing a simulated class experience; we’re actually getting to teach real 7th and 8th graders their real Catechism material. It’s like a little taste of what vicar year will have in store for us in a few months.”
The age group could pose a challenge says Natsis, “because they will tend to tune out if they don’t perceive that what they’re learning is relevant. Of course God’s Word is always relevant, but if you don’t constantly and consistently tie the biblical truths back to the day-to-day life of an American teen, you run the risk of losing their interest. We study a lot of abstract concepts when we dig into God’s Word, so making the abstract concrete—and not only that, but concrete for someone ten years younger than you—is tough. But it’s a challenge worth tackling.”
The other benefit is that these future pastors are thankful for all the work that Lutheran elementary school teachers do. “Seeing the Lutheran Elementary School at work from the teacher’s perspective is showing me how much of a blessing our schools are,” he says. “I can make a reference to Moses in my lesson, and the kids immediately have a concept of Israel, the Exodus, the Plagues, the Burning Bush. That doesn’t happen everywhere.”