After being out of the teaching rotation for some time, due to the needs of my now deceased mother, I was almost “fearful” as I took my first turn in about three years. I heard how difficult this particular class had been. So, to my precious books I turned for help as I prepared to meet these little people head on!
One of my favorite books on teaching is: Becoming a Treasured Teacher by Jody Capehart. (There may be a newer edition, but the old one can be found on Amazon.com.) This book appeals to me because I realize that we cannot replace the home environment in the two hours or so a week that we may have our students. However, our pupils can remember us as being special in their lives, and perhaps that will be as meaningful to their development in the Lord as what we teach.
Because of various factors, there are problems in the Bible class. Unlike the public or private school situation, we have these children such a short amount of time each week. We have little clout to “make” our pupils behave. And we have the sensitivity of some parents who cannot endure any constructive criticism. This is not to say that teachers must be doormats to endure any kind of behavior that a child wants to demonstrate. Disrespect and violent behavior cannot be allowed, even if the student must leave the classroom.
Many teachers express dismay at the increased challenges they now have in teaching. How could we expect fewer issues, when there are more problem homes now than in the past? All we can do is the very best we can to try to find a way to reach such children. We cannot replace the home. (See: Jason Jackson, Will Our Children Trust In The Lord?, http://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1221-will-our-children-trust-in-the-lord and Research Shows Parenting Approach Determines Whether Children Become Devoted Christians, http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/15-familykids/106-research-shows-parenting-approach-determines-whether-children-become-devoted-christians?q=family.
It is my opinion that one of greatest challenges teachers face today is that of some children being unable to focus upon any one thing for long. Why is this? Of course we know that many children are labeled with Attention Deficit Disorder. But who knows how many of these are truly physical problems (cf. The Myth of the A.D.D. Child: 50 Ways to Improve Your Child's Behavior and Attention Span Without Drugs, Labels, or Coercion, by Thomas Armstrong). The author does not discount true cases of Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. But he raises questions concerning over-diagnosis. He gives helpful suggestions for overseers of children with attention problems in this book. Some of these can be used in our Bible classes.
If a child has so many distractions in his life, from toys, to games, to problems at home of every possible kind, how can he learn to focus? If he is rarely (if ever) read to, if he seldom sits quietly with a book, intrigued by the story and the imagination of his own mind (instead of being entertained by some fast moving visual media outlet), if he never has to sit quietly for a longer prayer at home, and many other similar circumstances, how can he learn to sit still? As teachers, we must really "rev" up to be able to catch as much of the minds of these children as we can.
In our attempts to be effective Bible class teachers, it is of great importance to keep learning styles in mind. Jody Capehart suggests that a wise teacher will vary her methods to provide something for every learner in each lesson. This challenge is not an easy one, when you only have about 45 minutes. However, such a goal is worthy of our efforts. She breaks learning styles into five categories. Ms. Copehart recommends that you have a form for your lesson plans which includes:
For the Looker (Visual) learner I will provide:
For the Talker (Auditory) learner, I will provide:
For the Toucher (Tacitile) learner, I will provide:
For the Doer (Kinesthetic) learner, I will provide:
For the Fact Finder, I will provide:
Recognizing these different styles of learning and personalities will enable us to think more carefully about how we teach. We are all a combination of these styles, but we may lean towards one or another. Perhaps our learning styles will be different from time to time, depending upon our varying circumstances. The same will be true of children.
To become a treasured, remembered teacher, we must “redeem the time” (Ephesians 5:15-17). The window of opportunity is now.