Over the course of years of training and experience, I have come to a conclusion about teaching.
One of the most important things -- and some experts believe THE most important thing -- to learn as a teacher is classroom management. You might have the best curriculum in the world, but if you can't manage your classroom and maintain an environment where the curriculum can be learned, it doesn't matter.
While normal school (public, private, Christian, etc.) and Sunday school are different on a variety of levels, teaching a class is still the same. The leader has a goal for the kids to accomplish to the best of their ability by the end of the day. The goal of my Sunday school class every week, no matter the topic, is that kids leave knowing more about God, and are either closer to having a relationship with Him or have a better understanding of their current relationship with Him.
Riviera Baptist Church is a small congregation. The majority of our students were raised in Christian homes, and many of them have made confessions of faith already. However, every child is a work in progress -- whether they are 8 or 80! We often have visitors and new students from previously unchurched homes, too, especially in our mid-week program.
One of the benefits of Sunday school is that we have the Holy Spirit as our helper and the Word of God as our guide. Sometimes the kids learn valuable lessons that we didn't even plan!
However, this does NOT mean we get to ignore the value of good classroom management.
In all of our children’s programs -- Sunday school, worship, and our mid-week RK2 program -- we strive to follow the same classroom management model. As a part of signing in and taking attendance, we have a chart with two important items: the child’s name and the question "Am I behaving?"
As the children enter the classroom, an X is placed in the “Yes” box. If they are able to follow the three simple rules of the classroom, their X remains, and the next week they are give their choice of candy from the candy box.
The three simple rules that we ask the children to follow are:
Do your Best
If they choose not to follow the rules, they are asked to move their X to the “No” box. They have until the end of class to show they can follow the rules. If their behavior improves, there is a chance to move the X back to the “Yes” box. If not, there is no candy awarded the following week.
If the child’s X remains in the “No” box when the child is picked up, we have a conversation with the parent or guardian about the poor behavior. We also take a chance to talk with them to see if they have a method for improving behavior next time.
This method is adjusted for our mid-week program, RK2. On Wednesdays, tickets are awarded in each rotation for following the same rules, and those tickets may be exchanged for small prizes that evening, or saved and exchanged for larger prizes during later weeks.
We also provide a list of very clear actions the children should follow, so they know they are following the rules. Those actions are:
Raise your hand and don’t shout
Keep your hands and feet to yourself
Use respectful and appropriate language
Walk in the hallways
Pay attention and participate
Each quarter, when the new curriculum starts, we go over the rules and expectations. Additionally, each time a new student visits, we allow the kids to show and explain the rules themselves.
This system is not perfect. There have been times when students have become openly defiant, even endangering themselves and those around them. These are very rare occurrences, but there will always be times when children don't have the ability, the capacity, or the desire to work within the lesson plan. In those cases, we involve the teachers, director, pastor, and parents or guardians to come up with a plan that ensures the safety, security, and edification of everyone involved.
Perhaps the biggest key to success with this model is reasoning, practice, and reminders.
Kids need to know why we are asking them to behave the way we are. They should be given a chance to practice those rules, and should be reminded of them frequently, as we only see them one or two hours per week.
At RBC, we explain that we're all seeking to be disciples of Jesus. The original disciples would eagerly sit and listen and watch what Jesus did in order to be more like Him. For everyone to learn their best, we all follow these behavior patterns that will help us start on the right foot!
If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to send Michelle an email at: RivieraBaptistKids@gmail.com