Cover Image: Sweet Jesus, Is It June Yet?

Sweet Jesus, Is It June Yet?

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Member Reviews

It's been a rough couple of school years for teachers, and the upcoming school year may be more of the same. Sweet Jesus, Is it June Yet? - even from this non-teacher's perspective - encourages teachers in the profession the way only another teacher who's been in the trenches can. Amy Cattapan draws from experiences in the classroom and out to relate her successes and failures to the lessons gleaned from the teacher of all teachers, Jesus Christ, as shared in the Gospels.

Chapters are short, easy to read, and eminently practical. If you're a Christian teacher, you'll find understanding, support, and gentle encouragement in these pages. And, I think, a fresh perspective that might help counter the burnout you've been feeling.

This will make a great gift to the wonderful teachers who help to educate my children.
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First, I love the title!  Anyone in Catholic education knows the sweetness of Jesus, our Savior, and of June, that magical start of summer vacation away from school and mostly all of its responsibilities!  

While the custom of summer break originally began due to the needs of an agrarian society, the significance of escaping from school and returning refreshed is still important today to combat the issue of high teacher burnout, which the author names and addresses.  From her own experience, she herself has sometimes questioned her calling to be an educator and witnesses how her faith has helped her restore her passion for teaching.

Using scripture readings as a lens for perspective, the author identifies ten gospel lessons that follow Christ’s life as a compassionate rabbi, teacher, to learn some practical and spiritual examples to stay the course.  Using her experience as an English teacher, the author uses active-reading strategies to help the reader work through the content, including helpful reflection questions at the end of each chapter.  

Finally, the author weaves in humor to ease our journey through sometimes parched career landscapes.
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This book couldn’t have come at a better time for me. After one of the craziest school years of my life, I was feeling discouraged and utterly exhausted. Reading it this summer energized me to return to the classroom and was a wonderful reminder what a privilege it is to be His hands and feet. While this is told in a Catholic perspective and I’m a Christian, this will work for any denomination. Rich is scripture and truth, this is wonderful tool to keep in your arsenal and go back to it when you need a boost. My thanks to the publisher for the advance reader in exchange for my honest review.
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Sweet Jesus: Is it June Yet? is an absolute delight. Subtitled 10 Ways the Gospels Can Help You Combat Teacher Burnout and Rediscover Your Passion for Teaching, this book absolutely lives up to its billing. 

In lively, engaging prose, author Amy J. Cattapan offers a spiritual lesson plan for educators in order to rekindle their love of the art of informing young minds.

Cattapan uses the words and example of a great teacher, Jesus, to help illustrate key points. As Cattapan writes, "Let's see what we can learn from Jesus. Let's study his life and his teachings--what he taught and how he taught it--and pull out ten golden nuggets that might help us face our next day with the kiddos. In our hearts, we know our kids are worth our time, our talent, and our treasure. But remember, too, that you are a precious child of God. He loves you, and you are worth his time."

This incredible resource would make for a terrific back-to-school gift for the favorite teacher in your life. Cattapan is to be commended for using her significant talents to help her colleagues in the classroom. It seems like five stars represent an insufficient rating for this fine work!
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"Sweet Jesus, Is It June Yet?" is a superb read for new teachers and veteran teachers. While sharing examples of the not-so-perfect teaching moments we all experience, Dr. Cattapan provides Gospel passages to encourage us through these moments. In addition to the Gospel passages, she imparts sound pedagogical advice on how to care for our students to fulfill our mission and our love of teaching. I love the conversational tone and humor of this book. I will be to purchasing multiple copies for my colleagues.
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I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley for an honest review.

I have liked Cattapan’s fiction, and was very excited to hear she was coming out with a nonfiction about teaching. In learning the title, I knew I HAD to read it because I was wishing it was June when we were knee-deep in COVID restrictions and uncertainty about the future a possible vaccine would bring--so in December.

Although I teach at a public school (though have taught at a very small Catholic school, and was raised in the Catholic school system), Cattapan’s words work for all teachers (though things like prayer may always have to be done in silence). Still, she understands this as she has taught at both public and parochial schools; large and small ones; schools that were diverse in culture, gender, or socioeconomic status and ones where she had to constantly be on the lookout for gang symbols.

This is a book about how to teach like Jesus, and focuses mainly on the gospels to do so. After all, very few historical figures “can say their teachings are still being passed on two thousand years later.” Each chapter ends with reflection questions that are pretty fantastic.
This is also a book about how to face and hopefully combat burnout, though the majority of the tips center around a ‘breathe, reach out for help, and reflect on your own experiences as a kid’ mentality. Yet she truly understands the “paper” work, lack of resources, administration and parents to continuously communicate with, and the teaching itself that we all face in the job.

As a side note, her pointing out socioeconomic diversity made me think a lot about the school I currently work at and a discussion I had with colleagues during a meeting about our vision statement. I definitely have students in the same class from million dollar homes, trailer-style homes, and huge farms where they come to school late because they were up late helping a cow birth her calf.
And while I’ve never had to look for visible gang symbols, some of my former students worried about brothers in gangs and I have been on suicide alert too many times in the past 4 years that my entire school community is still reeling from being heartbroken.

I digress. But I didn’t expect to tear up from Cattapan’s book. It hits very close to home, and most of it in a very good way.
(By the way, Amy, I also cried nearly every night during my first year of teaching. Why does no one prepare us for this)!?

I do feel like Amy and I would have been best friends in school if she wasn’t older than me, and by more years than I realized. (She studied to be a secondary-school English teacher in the 1990s; I was only realizing I wanted to teach then, and wasn’t even solid about the math). I would have much rather read in the corner than do anything else, I’m a control freak who’s learning to let go a bit each year, I’ve always been a rule follower, and I like to get things done early. I knew I would enjoy this book but I found myself thinking more often than I thought I would, “Preach!”
Though she teaches middle school and I wouldn’t touch that with a 10-foot pole if I could avoid it. All the freaking power to you 7th grade teachers because dealing with high school hormones is rough, but 7th grade was my worst educational year for people reasons.

I would love to read her dissertation on culturally relevant literature!

Here are my additional takeaways as I read:

~ Teaching is a mission that we share with Jesus. He had a first day too. He had students/people question his words and authority. He had apostles constantly interrupt with “what?” statements and questions. And he got tired.

~ Like Jesus (and the apostles), there are many ways in which teaching allows us to have “first days.” When a lesson slogs because we’ve done it 4 other times already in the past day or two, we have to remember that a new class is receiving it. If it’s the same content year after year, although we mature we have to remember that each new class is the same age as the students the previous year.
But we can also have “first” opportunities in how we arrange the classroom or activities.

~ Jesus was clear in our purpose; so too do we have to be about ours. This is not only with the students but with ourselves. We may not have realized that we “signed up” for knowing how to administer an EPI-Pen or attend to a student having a seizure; that we would have to face gang and suicide watches; that we would have to ‘deal with’ the emotional problems of the students. But we knew we were signing up to work with and teach /people/ and doing so means that we definitely signed up to be involved in more than just our discipline(s).
Because “teaching requires recognizing the whole person, as best we can.” (Chapter 2) This also means we have to remember that we won’t reach every kid, just like Jesus didn’t reach anyone. We still however have to always show compassion.

~ In Matthew 9:9-13, Jesus is admonished for dining with a tax collector. Cattapan reminds us that this is similar to the person who no one wants to work with because of their behavior and/or they force their partner to do the work. These students typically feed teacher burnout due to how exhausting they are. But we have to strategize to welcome them in and help them grow and be better people.

~ Like Jesus, we have to spend time building a teacher-student relationship in order for them to trust us, and sometimes that trust takes a lot of time to develop.

~ I love the idea of adding a video aspect of a GTKY assignment. With about 100 students each year, I don’t know if I’ll ever require my students to do this, but I still really like it. 

~ I like the notion of Jesus having formed a professional learning community in the apostles.

~ In chapter 5, in the section “Outside Resources,” Cattapan empathizes with us in cold climates where in Feb and March “we are all sick of the frigid temps and snow.”
In all honesty, I first read that as “friggin temps and snow,” which I would also agree with.

~ Ugh. Everyone--parents, politicians, textbook companies, business leaders, policy makers, and more--definitely tell teachers how to teach. It’s highly annoying, and one reason why I’ve considered going into the DOE for my state even though I hate high level bureaucracy and can’t comprehend the politics of things. Like Cattapan though, I prayed on it--and God told me I’m meant to stay in teaching (and just teach, nothing at the admin level) which is actually a relief. But I’ll still complain!

~ There are some great reminders about what fairness means to different students, and not only for those with educational plans. We can’t be rigid rule followers all the time but have to look at the bigger picture like Jesus did. What is best for the /students/? Even Jesus bent the rules (like healing or eating on the Sabbath).

~ Sometimes teaching is like the parable of the scattered seeds. Sometimes we plant seeds in the minds and hearts of students; sometimes we prepare the soil; and sometimes we are the sun and water to help a student grow. No matter what point of the journey they’re at, we have to be ready to reap the harvest of their learning.

~ Jesus got frustrated. Jesus needed alone (desert) time. 
So if we get annoyed at the “why” of Times New Roman, 12-point font (oh my goodness, I get this as a math teacher too and I just want to yell out “WHAT TEACHER WANTS ANYTHING ELSE?!”) yes we have to breathe and find a way to be kind about our response (often this is found through a quick prayer), but we can also remember Jesus had his annoyances too.

~ Cattapan says that sometimes teaching means we have to sacrifice our pride. I think that my pride flew out the window once I became a teacher, and I very quickly became okay with that.
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I would highly recommend this book for my principal and my teachers at St. Emily.  I totally enjoyed Ms. Cattapan’s down to earth and easy to read style of writing.  The connection  with her text and the Bible passages was simply amazing  to me that you could interpret them in such a remarkable and succinct  manner. It was so uplifting!  I have been teaching for 45 years and having taught many Religion classes over many of the grade levels.  I only wish I could have had Amy’s book way back then!!!  That’s one of. the reasons I want to purchase her text for my staff.  I also loved her great sense of humor intertwined within her book.  All I can add is what a talented and inspiring writer Amy is and I’m positive she brings that knowledge and enthusiasm to her students and colleagues. That’s why I give her 5/5 stars !!!   

                                                             Diane Mullins   
                                                             Assistant Principal 
                                                             Director of Special Education 
                                                             St. Emily School
                                                             Mount Prospect, IL
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Great title! Captured my attention right away. I enjoyed learning about the author's experiences at various schools and how she applied the Gospels to her work and approach as a teacher.
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This last year in education (CoVID , politics) has been incredibly rough. So much so, that many are leaving the profession altogether. This makes me so sad. While many of the things covered in this book, I already know and do, I did find it refreshing and needed to read and have it lay out in front of me. There couldn’t have been a better time for a hope infused book specifically for teachers. Thank you! 
** huge thanks to NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review
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I found this to be a nice reminder to any and all teachers who get burned out, discouraged, or just not sure what to do next.

I taught in a Christian school and this book was written from a Catholic teacher's perspective but really none of that matters. As teachers we can all learn lessons from the gospel to help us overcome hurdles.

I felt that all of the author's thoughts were relatable and give encouragement. I would highly recommend this to teachers, no matter what the time of year.

I was given this book by NetGalley and Ave Maria Press. All opinions are my own.
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I have been teaching for almost 20 years and did not really find anything new within this book to ignite any fires.  I still love my job, but I think all teachers are feeling a little burned out after over a year of pandemic-style teaching.  This book might be better for teachers earlier in their careers, but I feel like I already do the things that the author talks about.  I know the value of relationships, I talk to my colleagues, I do try to reach the kids who are difficult, etc.  I had high hopes for the book and was ready to buy several copies for my teacher friends, but it did not live up to what I was expecting.
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Wow, what an incredible read. This was an excellent volume. Now I need to be up front, I am not a teacher, at least in the classroom sense. Though I did debate it 35 years ago. I have been a TA at university and in college. And in my current role in IT I teach or mentor both up and down. But once I started reading this book I could not put it down. There were so many good stories in this volume. Cattapan in this volume writes from her 25 plus years’ experience in the field. The chapters in the book are:

1. Jesus Began Small 
2. Jesus Had a First Day, Too 
3. Jesus Knew Who He Was Doing It All For 
4. Jesus Set the Stage for Learning 
5. Jesus Asked for Help 
6. Jesus Knew When (and How Far) to Bend the Rules 
7. Jesus Knew the Power of a Good Story 
8. Jesus Took Challenges in Stride 
9. Jesus Trusted God’s Grace to Do Divine Arithmetic 
10. Jesus Knew When to Stop and Just Let It Be 

I picked this up for several reasons. First I have read the 2 novels and a published short story by Cattapan and enjoy her fiction. Second I have several friends who are teachers. Some in Catholic Schools and some in public schools and even a few in private schools. I thought about all the great teachers I had, and some of the amazing teachers my children have had. And I wanted to read this and if it was as good as it looked, recommend it to many of those teachers I know. And I have already ordered a copy for the teacher resource shelf in my youngest children’s school. 

The introduction begins with these words:

“I have been teaching for more than twenty years. And since I’m Catholic and guilt would only gnaw at me if I weren’t honest, I’m going to tell you the truth: I have thought of throwing in the towel numerous times. This is not the result of any one bad school or bad administrator or bad set of colleagues or frustrating group of students or parents.”

And further she states:

“The burnout I’ve experienced over the years has not come as a surprise. While studying to become a secondary-school English teacher in the 1990s, I heard grim statistics about teacher retention, and the implication was always that teachers quit because they were burned out. In 1997, Linda Darling-Hammond reported that more than thirty percent of beginning teachers leave within their first five years of teaching.1 More recently, Charles M. Payne stated that 44 percent of new teachers in New York are gone by their fourth year, and about 40 percent of new teachers in Chicago are gone within five years.”

And yet further:

“If you’re like me, you felt the Lord call you to be a teacher at a young age, but at times you’ve wondered if you misunderstood what he was trying to tell you. Some of us went into teaching with grandiose ideas of being the next Mr. Keating from Dead Poets Society, inspiring our students to “Carpe diem!” Or maybe we thought we’d be like Michelle Pfeiffer’s character in Dangerous Minds and stride into an inner-city classroom in a leather jacket, teach some karate moves, and somehow unlock the potential of a group of students nobody thought was worth their time.”

And also:

“The answer seems to be to keep finding ways to reinvigo¬rate my love for teaching and reenergize my approach in the classroom. That’s what I hope this book will do for you. As I mentioned before, I’m Catholic, so my guilt won’t let me lie to you on this point either. I need this book right now. Over twenty years in, and there are still days when I ask God, “Are you sure you still want me doing this?” (Maybe it’s a result of my Jesuit education, but ongoing discernment seems to be a way of life for me.) So I am writing this book to reinvigorate my own teaching and to reenergize my own approach to the classroom, but I think that it will also do the same for you.”

I hope those few quotes from the introduction will help you see how engaging and honest this volume it. It is wonderfully written and I am certain it will benefit any teacher who picks it up or has it gifted to them.

The book is engaging and entertaining. Once you get going you will have a hard time putting it down. And for those of us not in the profession many of the lessons are transferable. I know that several of the pieces of advice transfer to working on a team and working in IT. This is a great read and valuable resource for the teachers in your life. I highly recommend it.

(Note review will post on my blog and amazon on release date.)
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This was a sweet book to remind a tired, worn out teacher of the purpose of teaching. The author had a Catholic background that I did not realize before reading but I still could take away truths and be encouraged. The author was relatable and encouraging to keep teaching and ringing hope to our schools.
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