By Lance Bailles
It’s not easy to teach children’s Bible classes. We all owe a very great debt of gratitude to those kind and talented souls who sacrifice their time and sometimes their sanity to open young hearts to the message of Jesus Christ. Let me explain why these teachers deserve more than ordinary credit.
First, they have to deal kindly with rude children. Many parents are unaware of how disruptive their children are behind the closed doors of the Bible class. There is picking, hitting, and ridicule between the students. Some children get up and begin playing with objects in the room, writing on the board, or taking “R & R” trips to the rest room. Every time this happens, the teacher has to stop teaching in order to put the class back in order. Sometimes, there is so much chit-chat and playing around between the students, that the teacher spends more time trying to keep order than he does teaching.
Second, they have to deal with shabby curriculum. Much of what the church gives to the teacher in the way of class books is not worth the paper it’s printed on. Frequently, the material is totally out of proportion with the age group it was supposedly meant for. Sometimes it can be so simplistic that the whole lesson can be done in five minutes, and other times it can be so complex that it is impossible for the student to do (like some of the reading work I have seen for K-1st grade). This forces every teacher into the position of having to invent learning activities, not just to supplement their given curriculum, but often to completely replace large unusable portions of it.
Third, they have to be understanding with hard-headed adults. Some of the most disruptive children in Bible classes have parents who will defend junior no matter what. To tell a parent that his child is disruptive in class often times invites nothing but abuse onto the teacher, so that on occasion the teacher is asked to apologize to the trouble maker, instead of the other way around. Other parents are so fragile in their faith that if they were told that their child is disruptive, they will leave the church altogether. Frequently, these dysfunctional parents put teachers into a situation where they have to weigh the possibility of losing an entire family by refusing an unruly child into class, or admitting him at the expense of not being able to teach the other children. This happens more than you think.
Fourth, they have to deal with unrealistic expectations from the church. On occasion, a teacher may find himself teaching in a church where parents, the preacher, or the elders are harboring extreme views, like, only “adult songs” should be sung in class, or they think that the teacher shouldn’t use crayons, or that the pictures in the curriculum are harmful to young minds, or a myriad of other petty and paranoid things that occupy the thinking of some brethren. Often, the teacher is expected to agree with the scruples of every child’s parent, which is impossible. Worst of all, the preacher and/or elders may have never taught anything but high school and adult classes, with the result that their rules and expectations for the younger classes wind up being silly and absurd, sort of like how management is depicted in the comic strip “Dilbert.”
There are a few things we can do to improve the situation for our teachers: First, don’t wait for the teachers to tell you that they are running out of supplies. Check the classrooms regularly and restock them with new supplies. This includes buying new desks or chairs when they are broken. Secondly, encourage the teachers to decorate the classrooms. Being stuck in a dark, cramped, mildew smelling room doesn’t make anybody exited to go to class. Third, the next time your preacher writes curriculum for the primary grades, drop it in the garbage. From this rule, you should only accept those who have taught those grade levels for many years, or older preachers and elders who have spent decades dealing with these problems through their wives. Fourth, if you’re one of those good churches that teaches your teachers how to teach, make sure you include a session on how to maintain order in the class. What good is it to know how to teach if the class is so unruly that they are unable to learn? Fifth, quit buying workbooks that your teachers can’t use, and start finding workbooks that they can use. Call your bookstore and browse over some of the more recently published stuff..Finally, praise your Bible class teachers over and over again. They endure a lot of stress in order to teach our children, and we are told to give honor to whom honor is due (Rom. 12:7).
Guardian of Truth XLI: 5 p. 1
March 6, 1997