Post-Easter Sunday excitement, wiggles and sugar-hangovers made the Good News Club a little more challenging last week. After a few songs and teaching about the resurrection via the account of the two disciples who met the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus, it was craft and review time. The room divided up by grade to work on a few peel-and-stick crafts and see who could remember a few things from the story that day. Conversation and laughter filled the room, but everything remained under control — except for a few boys in the second grade group. The adult working with that group could have used a few dogs from the herding group to help corral those nine children. I was done teaching for the day so I tapped the four boys on the shoulder and said, “You guys come with me.”
We are down to just a few more weeks of confirmation instruction. One more lesson to go on the third article or the creed (resurrection and everlasting life), and then a review week for three students to be confirmed in April.
This will be the thirty-first time I’ve taught the catechism to seventh- and eighth- graders (with a few high schoolers tossed in from time to time). In some ways it gets easier the more you do it. In other ways it gets harder. But after all those years, I am still learning myself, and I thought I’d share some of those lessons.
- With ten students all together, all of whom are busy with lots of other activities, I broadcast my classes on Facebook live. I learned how to use this convenient platform that saves the feed to watch later. Plus, I usually had about 75 assorted people tune in to watch a few minutes of the class, from all around the world.
- I learned a lot, again, about how much young people grow and develop from the beginning of seventh grade and the end of eighth grade. This is the time when they discover who they are. They learn new skills, work together with new teams, ride waves of failure and success, and make me laugh in endless ways.
- I learned that there are some I just cannot teach. I had to cry, “Uncle” when confronted by some of the behavioral challenges dumped into my class. I felt completely helpless when teaching students who were completely uncooperative and disruptive yet were intriguing in their comments. There are no seminary classes in special ed.
- Kids have an appetite that just does not end. I brought pizza, Girl Scout cookies, fried chicken, and chips and salsa. I never brought enough. They will consume everything in their path. Like locusts.
- I am getting old. The gap is widening. These kids are programming robots, living in virtual reality worlds, and communicating in so many different ways. I’m not. I’m just barely treading water in their world. RPGs? I’m not there. I don’t follow any You-tubers. I’m a dinosaur.
Teaching young people keeps me young – as young as I can be for now. I’m thankful for that little bit of eternal life!
So here’s what I learned in bible class yesterday. I am teaching a class on Dr. Howard Hendrick’s book Teaching to Change Lives, previously titled The Seven Laws of Teaching. It is part of our ongoing effort to quip our bible class leaders to become better teachers.
Yesterday’s class on “the Law of Education” encouraged teachers to involve students in learning, teaching them how think and learn rather than just simply sitting there hopefully absorbing material. I used a suggested exercise and gave each person a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. Each was to draw a picture on the paper, make something with the paper, or do something with the paper to symbolize the statement “How does a person learn?” I knew it would be a challenging exercise, but I was surprised at how effective a lesson it was.
There were as many creative ideas as there were people in the room, everything from a paper airplane to a “cootie catcher” to stick people learning in some way. The exercise actually primed their creativity for further exercises in the class, and will probably be the thing they most remember about that hour.
So what did I learn? Give my classes more things like that to do! I’ve done it from time to time, but it may be worth adding to every class. One activity per lesson each week is well worth the time spent to encourage discussion, questions and creativity.