It seems most fitting to blog about what is first and foremost in my field of expertise: the Catholic faith. Oftentimes, high school students walk into a religion classroom with the expectation of receiving an "A" simply because the student is an "A" student or that the grade will reflect the student's own personal level of devotion or that religion class is for sitting in circles, holding hands, and singing campfire songs.
This is not the case.
Students, and parents, often find this out the hard way. As students progress through high school the classes they take increase in difficulty throughout the curriculum, and so it is with religion classes as well. "But religion class is supposed to be easy!" many will object. Where is that written? I got a Master's degree in the field, and there were many, many difficult concepts. Sadly, many students perform poorly in their religion classes because of some form of this type of mental "logic":
'I showed up. You're religious. Therefore, I get an "A", right?'
This doesn't work. So why wait until second semester to shed this unproductive mentality that really does no one any good?
There are two main keys to academic success in religion classes in a Catholic school:
First of all, realize that the subject matter is a science, a form of knowledge which has real principles and a distinct vocabulary. It should not be possible to do well in a religion class without making an effort. The class is worth the time. Taking this approach mentally, even if you're a non-Catholic and disagree with the material presented, will lead to academic success. If a student is not Catholic, consider the class an opportunity to learn about the beliefs of another group.
The second key is this: unplug. I tell my students, "You have to put the world out to let the Word in." The meaning is this: Catholics believe that theology, the study of religion, is in fact a sacred endeavor that is assisted by God's gift of grace. Understanding the concepts of the faith requires a stillness of soul and depth of thought. Blaring heavy metal and rap while doing religion homework will impede the divine initiative, particularly when the messages are antithetical to the very subject matter one is trying to learn. There is something refreshing and liberating about learning this material.
Try it. Unplug. There are 23 other hours in a day to plug back in. You don't have to believe in the Catholic faith to do well in a Catholic religion class. But if you choose to go to a Catholic school, keep in mind that that class factors into your GPA, too. And those who teach the class want--not to impose it on you or to proselytize you--but to share something that has had a profound impact upon their own life.
And if some of those theological concepts are difficult--three persons in one God, the divine and human natures of Jesus, the Catholic moral teachings, etc.--let me know and I would be glad to help!