PRAXIS magazine, published 3 times a year by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, is a wonderful resource for Orthodox Christian Sunday Church School teachers. Every issue can be ordered by subscription, and is full of articles useful to Orthodox educators. (Interested readers can subscribe to PRAXIS here: http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/religioused/praxis_subscription_form.)
To better serve Orthodox Christian educators, many back issues of the magazine are available to the public. These can be found online at http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/religioused/praxis. Every magazine has a specific theme, ranging from prayer to pop culture to icons to adult education to teaching difficult topics. Each issue contains a variety of articles, most relating to the theme, and all useful to an Orthodox Christian educator. “PRAXIS is THE magazine for professional catechists,” says Carole Buleza, Director of the Antiochian Orthodox Department of Christian Education.
For example, let us look at the PRAXIS issue “The Ministry of Teaching,” Volume 11, Issue 3, published in the spring of 2012. Articles include “Christ, the Teacher of Teachers;” “The Role of the Priest in Christian Education;” “Why They Teach;” book reviews (including one of Jim Pierson’s Exceptional Teaching: A Comprehensive Guide for Including Students with Disabilities, for example); and “Religious Ed Basics: Achievement and Incentives;” and much more. Each article focuses on a different aspect of Christian Education. Not all articles will be applicable to each reader, but every reader is sure to find articles that are helpful in any issue.
To further investigate PRAXIS’ helpfulness, let us look closely at the last article mentioned above, “Religious Ed Basics: Achievement and Incentives” (pp. 24-25). This article recounts the incentive program that is carried out at Holy Trinity Church of Dallas, TX. Their Sunday Church School rewards students for attendance, achievement, and graduation. Students who have attended at least 80% of their Sunday Church School classes receive the attendance award, which varies from year to year (ie: a lapel pin or a necklace), and comes with a promotion certificate. For the achievement award, each age group is assigned an age-appropriate test/task. Tasks range from making the sign of the cross (age 3) to raising money for Support A Mission Priest or speaking in the church’s Oratorical Festival (grade 12). Students who successfully complete the task(s) for their grade level are awarded an icon, different for every age level. By the time the children graduate, they have a collection of beautiful icons to keep for the rest of their lives. Graduates who have successfully participated in the program are given an icon, an Orthodox Christian Study Bible, a prayer rope, and a variety of useful books and pamphlets. The PRAXIS article includes graphics such as an achievement award chart showing the age groups, the achievement they are expected to accomplish, and the icon which they are awarded. The article is inspiring, and can help Sunday Church Schools of all sizes to think through their program and consider what incentives they may want to offer to students in their program.
Articles such as “Religious Ed Basics: Achievement and Incentives” are what PRAXIS is all about. The word “praxis” means (according to http://www.merriam-webster.com) “exercise or practice of an art, science, or skill;” “customary practice or conduct;” or “practical application of a theory.” This magazine is aptly named, as its articles take the Orthodox Church’s Traditions and offer practical applications that enable Orthodox Christian educators to practice their skills in the classroom in effective ways. Orthodox Christian Sunday Church School teachers and directors will find this magazine to be an inspiration and a help to their goal of educating students in the Faith.
Some quotes from PRAXIS’s “The Ministry of Teaching;” V.11 , Issue 3, Spring 2012:
“We can teach as Jesus taught. By taking a closer look at Jesus’ teachings, we begin to discern a distinct ‘style of teaching’ that we can imitate in our own ministry of teaching.” ~ Anton C. Vrame, PHD, “Christ: The Teacher of Teachers,” pp. 6-8
“…the whole Church has the responsibility for Christian Education.” ~ Rev. Dr. Peter G Rizos, “The Role of the Priest in Christian Education,” pp. 9-12
“Sometimes the students teach the teacher, even if they’re only four years old.” ~ Rosemary Shumski, “Why They Teach,” p. 15
“The ministry of Sunday Church School teachers is central to the life of the parish, but they cannot do this task alone.” ~ Anton C. Vrame, PHD, “Recognizing Teachers,” p. 40
“When children see adults taking matters of faith seriously, children will begin to take it seriously.” ~ Anton C. Vrame, PHD, “Recognizing Teachers,” p. 40