Monday, July 30, 2007

Help Needed

Recently I’ve been receiving feedback about my blog articles both through the comments section at the bottom of each post and via my email address. I welcome these comments. Often what you say sparks new ideas for columns, so please, let’s make this an interactive blog – or if I wanted to be cute in my use of alliteration – a dialogue blog! Some of my future posts will be based on the ideas readers have shared with me.

Recently a friend emailed me in response to my column about my use of time out. It made her recall one of her early attempts at teaching. Rhonda writes:

“I was teaching 2nd & 3rd graders, or thereabouts. One boy in this class was terribly ornery, I mean TERRIBLY, continually disrupting the class and making me nervous & upset. He was uncontrollable. To top it off, he was a son of one of the teachers at the Jr. High School! So as this went on Sunday after Sunday, I finally got help. Mr. Spence (who was the High School shop teacher) started coming down to our Sunday School class, and he just sat in the classroom while I taught. That really helped. That boy knew better then, and he settled down a lot, and I was able to get through a lesson! Mr. Spence even made good comments on my teaching, which was encouraging. So having someone just ‘be there’ can also be a help when there's a rowdy kid, and it gets ‘beyond bad.’”

Some teachers would be embarrassed to admit they needed another adult to help control a class or a particular student, that they would be seen as an inadequate teacher because they needed someone else. What Rhonda did was not out of her inexperience. It was just smart and,frankly, biblical too.

When Jesus sent his disciples out to proclaim the Kingdom of God, He sent them out two by two. Jesus recognized our need for support and encouragement. He knew that workers would be stronger if they worked together as a team rather than solo. I believe Jesus’ principle applies to teachers as well. Ideally, every class, no matter how small, needs two workers. One person can still be the main teacher, but the other person is available to help, lead smaller groups, organize supplies, take children to the bathroom, handle discipline problems while the main teacher continues teaching, and pray.

I broke this rule myself yesterday. I thought I was organized and had everything I needed, but halfway into my lesson, I realized I had not made copies of my final activity. I couldn’t leave the kids to go make copies and no other adult was around. I had to forfeit my final application activity and adapt my lesson on the fly. My lesson fell flat because I didn’t do that activity. If I had had a helper, I wouldn’t have run into that problem.

Another biblical reason why Rhonda was smart in her request was because it modeled the hierarchy of church leadership to the children. Mr. Spence was one of the elders or deacons at the time. Kids need to know how the church operates, that there are leaders and there are people teachers answer to as well. I remember when I was in second grade, my Sunday School teacher wasn’t sure how to pronounce the biblical name, “Easu.” She said to us, “I’ll ask G.W., who is one of our elders. That’s one of the things our elders do. If you ever have a question about the Bible, you can ask an elder of the church and they will be able to help you.” That made an incredible impression on me and as I grew in my understanding of the Bible, I realized my teacher was exactly right. The elders of the church are the keepers of sound doctrine. They are also, as Rhonda portrayed to her class, the top authority figures of the church as ordained and commanded by God. I’ve been teaching for nearly 30 years and even as recently as three months ago, I asked one of our elders who was passing through Junior Church to “have a word” with an out of control student.

So it’s not a sign of weakness at all if you ask for help in your classroom. You are, in fact, following God’s best plan for teaching His Word.

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