“Sweet Jesus, is it June again? 10 Ways the Gospels Can Help You Fight Teacher Burnout and Rediscover Your Passion for Teaching” by Amy J. Cattapan. Ave Maria Press (Notre Dame, Indiana, 2021). 160 pages, $15.95.
Burned out, burnt out, underappreciated and underpaid teachers, take note. It’s finally time to ditch the overly clichéd, obtusely obtuse, and not-so-inspiring Pinterest quotes and Teachers Pay Teachers tools. Your administrators, school board, and teacher mentors can also rest with their professional development nonsense.
It’s time to give up and give in to the gospels with “Sweet Jesus, is it June again?” 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 for overcoming fatigue and burnout.
With topics ranging from asking for help and knowing when to let things go, Cattapan uses the Gospels and its solid storytelling to help weary teachers pause and take a moment for meaningful reflection. Cattapan listens to its audience and is well aware of the difficulties of the profession. A seasoned educator herself, she has taught in just about every classroom – urban, rural, suburban, miscellaneous, small, large, Catholic and public.
Cattapan started his profession without the strong support of his family and is very familiar with the many roles a teacher must play to effectively educate a student. She is also the author of several books, holds a doctorate in curriculum and instruction and loves grammar. Teachers would be right to be impressed by his resume and his stamina in the industry.
In his book, Cattapan rightly points out that Jesus, too, knows perfectly well the difficulties of teaching. Jesus taught students who challenged him, despised him, drove him out of town, and finally cheered on his crucifixion.
But his teaching mission and the impact of his teachings have 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 refugee child. When it was his turn to assume his teaching mission, he entered his first days in difficult circumstances. His cousin has just been arrested, and it’s off to work.
Cattapan offers these stories of Jesus’ simple beginnings to remind us that examples from his life are accessible; Jesus’ experiences are reminders that he taught under pressure, with unpleasant pushbacks and daunting deadlines (his imminent death and resurrection). But Jesus’ resilience and focus on his mission brought his ministry to fruition.
Cattapan, with his Gospel passages, personal reflections, and engaging discussion questions, reminds readers that Jesus’ first weeks of teaching sowed the seed of his ministry. He did not perform a miracle that first day. Today’s teachers need to remember that they too might not perform educational miracles on their first day of teaching…or the school year. Those days are for general chaos, class procedures, lists and schedules anyway, right?
But little by little, Cattapan recalls, Jesus steadily progressed. And little by little, today’s teachers can too. His example, Cattapan points out, teaches patient perseverance.
Along with thoughtful Gospel excerpts chosen to help readers learn from the examples of Jesus and the early disciples, Cattapan candidly and intelligently shares his own professional experiences.
She writes honestly and has a knack for telling stories well. His refreshing and positive conversational style contrasts nicely with the negativity all too prevalent in teachers’ lounges where complaints and gossip reign. She shares true stories of situations she herself has creatively survived, providing teachers with simple survival messages.
And yet, Cattapan does not hesitate to offer uncomfortable points to contemplate. For example, she challenges teachers to remember to put students before bureaucracy, their education before school tradition. The examples she draws from her teaching and the gospels connect an overarching reminder that teaching is first and foremost about educating students.
If the purpose of writing this book was for Cattapan to achieve her title, she undoubtedly did. Perhaps it also saved the shortage of substitute teachers and stopped the bleeding of teachers from the profession. Time will tell us. Either way, new teachers and seasoned educators alike will find meaningful moments of reflection and inspiration to keep coming back to work…at least until the end of the school year.
Lordan, a mother of three young children, has a master’s degree in education and political science and is a former assistant international editor for Catholic News Service. She currently teaches and is a court-appointed advocate for foster children.