A Month of Mondays: Spiritual Lessons from the Catholic Classroom by Karen Eifler. ACTA Publications (Chicago, 2011). 135 pp., $12.95.
Will There be Faith? A New Vision for Educating and Growing Disciples by Thomas Groome. HarperCollins (New York, 2011). 348 pp., $15.99.
After a long day of molding minds and grading papers, Catholic schoolteachers can find motivation and solace when reading two new books from Catholic educators Karen Eifler and Thomas Groome. While Eifler’s Month of Mondays: Spiritual Lessons from the Catholic Classroom is a quick, anecdotal read for tired teachers needing a literary boost, Groome’s Will There be Faith? A New Vision for Education and Growing Disciples is more for the scholarly type.
Eifler, an educator in the Diocese of Oakland and Archdiocese of Los Angeles for 15 years and professor at the University of Portland in Oregon, wrote her book with the busy educator, catechist and administrator in mind. It is a compilation of separate humorous, touching and meaningful reflections about the grace she discovered in her students and fellow teachers. The 30 true stories, which add up to a month of Mondays, open with a chocolate bar fundraiser heist, which clearly sets the stage for an interesting book.
Eifler’s stories might just be the jolt that many weary teachers desperately need on a hectic Monday. The stories, many of which have universal themes and characters (the "world’s best kindergarten teacher" teaches lifelong lessons, the troublemaking eighth-grader actually does have a soft spot), will encourage readers to remember that students and peers are examples of grace that continually change perspectives and teach the teachers.
For the educator or parent looking for philosophical and pragmatic ways to implement strategies for religious education in the home or classroom, Groome’s Will There be Faith? is the book to read. Groome, director of the Institute of Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry at Boston College, is the primary author of religion textbook series and several other books and publications related to religious education.
In this book, Groome fleshes out today’s problems and practical solutions to teaching faith at home, in the community and in school to Christians. Today, he asserts, many parents and educators feel embattled in their own faith, so passing on Jesus’ story and message is particularly challenging.
Throughout the book, Groome offered reflection questions to help readers apply his discussions to their lives. For example, Groome asked, "How would you describe Jesus’ pedagogy, his overall approach to teacher?" and "How does Jesus’ approach compare with your own?"
Groome’s book would be best appreciated if read and discussed over several weeks or months and perhaps with a group of other parents or teachers. If read quickly and without time for reflection, the material presented in the book might seem exhausting and overwhelming. However, when read a chapter at a time, the book will more likely result in an exhaustive discussion and analysis of its main themes: Will there be faith on earth and how can we pass it on to future generations?
Lordan is former assistant international editor of Catholic News Service and a former contributor to Catholic Radio Weekly.