Recently, I picked up a copy of The Emergency Teacher. The author of the book, Christina Asquith was lured out of the world of journalism and into the world of teaching through a “Make a Difference” poster hanging in a subway train. She headed into one of the worst schools in Philadelphia with high hopes and no experience. Two months into her undertaking, Christina was exhausted, broke, and disillusioned with the educational system. She had hoped to impart wisdom and knowledge to her students, but she was barely keeping her head above water. She wanted to connect with the kids in an impactful way. Instead, she spent all her time wrangling kids back into their desks and trying to stop behavior problems from spiraling out of control.
Photo via Flickr, Joanne Johnson
Perhaps your experience in Children’s Ministry has a similar theme. You are excited about Jesus and want to share the good news of Scripture with the young impressionable minds at church. You sign up to teach Sunday school and fall asleep on Saturday night with high hopes and a happy heart. On Sunday morning, you stroll into your classroom, armed with goldfish, curriculum papers, glitter, and glue, determined to make a difference in the lives of the kids on the class roster. For the first few weeks, everything goes great. Your emotions soar and you begin bragging about what a great classroom you have at the coffee booth in the lobby. Then, one week, the kids in your class start chattering a little more than normal and engaging in the lesson a little less than usual. Before you know what has happened, you’re starting to do more behavior management and a little less teaching. The dream of sharing the exciting stories of the Bible seems out of reach. You keep at it a few more weeks, but finally decide you’re not cut out for Children’s Ministry after all.
In many ways, teaching in the church is not like teaching in a school. Your authority is limited. Your consequences are limited. There is no principal. There is no detention. There is no mandatory attendance. Kids are required to attend school. At church, we want to maintain control in the classroom, but we also want to have fun so kids will keep coming back (and invite their friends!). In school, a class roster will fluctuate by perhaps two or three children during the course of the year. In your Sunday school class, you could have 3 kids one week and then 9 kids the next, with three totally new faces in the mix. Or perhaps you teach Children’s Church with kids with ages ranging from 4 to 9 and you have to find activities that will engage them all! It’s a tall order, I know.
In his book, The First Days of School, Henry Wong explains
“What you do on the first days of schools will determine your success or failure for the rest of the school year. Knowing how to structure a successful first day of school will set the stage for an effective classroom and a successful school year”.
How does this advice translate for Sunday school teachers? Do we have an official “first day of school”? What if you’re only planning on teaching for one year – did you already miss your chance to have a successful year?
What about the additional obstacle of rotating teachers? You might wonder, “Will the procedures I work so hard to establish in September be maintained in October when a new teacher takes over the class? “