Saturday, December 29, 2007

Teacher Training

Today I conducted teacher training for new teachers for our preschool worship program. After I finished my agenda, I asked if there were any questions. One lady said, “I’m just afraid I won’t be a good enough teacher.”

The vulnerability I showed in my answer surprised me, yet my words were heartfelt, true and echoed by the other veteran teacher in the room. Here’s in part what I said.

Every week, I walk away from teaching, feeling intimidated and like a failure. I wonder if the kids got anything out of what I said. Were they listening? They didn’t seem to be, the way they ran around or wiggled while I was trying to teach.

Two months ago a member of our church brought her grandchildren to preschool worship and stayed with them so they would comfortable. I especially felt nervous with her in the room. One of her grandchildren stared at me the entire time. The other ran around and acted like he was totally out of touch with what was happening. Yet, just last week, the grandmother told me, “I’ve meant to tell you this for some time. That week I stayed with my grandchildren in Wee Worship, I was so impressed with what an excellent teacher you are. You had my grandchildren spellbound. When they came home, they repeated the entire story.” This came from a lady whose husband taught for years, one daughter is now a grade school teacher, and another daughter is an assistant principal. She knew what she was talking about and I was touched by her comment.

Another child has been a problem child for all of us. She always wants to play with the toys. She resists whatever I tell her to do. Yet, early in December, I was working with a community group to sponsor a “Breakfast With Santa” at a local restaurant. This child came in with her mother, spotted me and called in a loud voice, finger pointing in my direction, “There’s my teacher!”

They do listen. They do remember. And more important than the stories, they will remember you. “The best thing you can do for these children,” I told my fledgling recruit, “is to love them.”

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

It's a New Year

Have you ever watched two children having an argument? You want to step in and settle the fight for them, but before you get a chance, the two kids are back playing together as if nothing happened!

Watching that scene always humbles me. I think of how, as adults, weall too often carry grievances into the next day, the next year, never letting them go. Would that we could become like those kids who so easily forget the sharp words spoken only moments before.

I’m so thankful our heavenly Father purposely has a short term memory when it comes to my failings. No matter what I’ve done to Him today, His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23). If I repent of my wrong doing and recommit myself to trying again, He gives me a clean slate. Every morning. Another chance to try again. Because of His compassion for us, we are not consumed by His just wrath – like we deserve (Lamentations 3:22).

As you look toward the new year, look at the children in your life, the people in your life, for that matter, who have rubbed you the wrong way. Follow in Jesus’ footsteps, by giving them the gift of compassion. Give them a second chance to be the best they can be. Even as your Heavenly Father lifts you up and gives you new mercies every morning, extend your hand down to those in your life who need a touch of His grace. When you show the children in your life that you believe in them, they will be better equipped to believe in themselves.

Like Paul in Philippians 3:13,14, let’s forget what was behind and strain forward to what is ahead, pushing forward - and helping others push forward - to receive the prize of eternal life.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Waiting For Christmas

One of my favorite childhood poems was “Jest ‘Fore Christmas” by Eugene Fields. This was one little boy who had his year planned out! “Most all the time the whole year round/There ain’t no flies on me/But jest ‘fore Christmas, I’m as good as I kin be!" Throughout the year, this little guy acted like any normal ornery boy. But, in anticipation of Christmas, he put on his best behavior because he knew what was coming.

Do you remember how, as a child, you waited for Christmas? Did it seem like Christmas would never come? Are the students in your class or in your home getting antsy and hyper with anticipation? As adults, we’re waiting too. Most of us are waiting for Christmas to be over!

There are two adults in the Bible who waited for Christmas. They waited longer than any child of today has waited. They probably waited with more anticipation yet more patience. Not wanting to miss a moment of the coming event, Simeon and Anna frequented the Temple. When the moment finally arrived, the moment Jesus’ parents brought him into the Temple, there was no big let down, only great joy and peace. Simeon took the baby in his arms and proclaimed, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised/you now dismiss your servant in peace/for my eyes have seen your salvation/which you have prepared in the sight of all people/ a light for revelation to the Gentiles/and for glory to your people Israel (Luke 2:29-32).” Anna met the event with praise to God and told everyone she met that the Event had happened.

When Christmas Day comes, will your children feel let down that it’s over? Will you praise God by saying, “Thank God that’s over. Now we can get back to normal life!”? If our eyes are focused on God’s gift that He has already given instead of what we might get, like Eugene Field’s ornery boy of his poem, or on what we have to give others out of obligation, if we wait in anticipation of the celebration of God’s greatest gift, then we also will celebrate on that Day with joy and peace.

Instead of trying to tamp down your children’s hyperactive anticipation of Christmas, this year, channel their enthusiasm toward the celebration of God’s gift to us, His promised Son, Jesus, the Savior of the world.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Children's Christmas Craft

Three years ago, I had eye muscle surgery to correct a lifelong eye disorder. As I was packing my overnight bag, my younger daughter came into my bedroom, holding her favorite stuffed animal, a Clifford, the big red dog. puppet. “It’s time I let go of this,” she said, “And I figure you need him more this week than I do.”

I had to turn my head so she wouldn’t see my face crumple. Clifford had been her life long bed buddy. Clifford went everywhere with us. We even backtracked ten miles on a vacation because Clifford had been left behind at a motel.

Why was Christine willing to give up her favorite stuffed animal for me? I suppose because Clifford was so precious to her. It was the best she could give me to show her deep love and concern for me.

That’s what Christmas is all about. God loved us all so much, He gave the best He could give us – the irreplaceable life of His one and only Son, Jesus. If our Christmas celebrations end at the manger, we’ve missed the point of Christmas. Christmas is about a baby who grew to be a man who threw his life across the beams of a rough hewn cross. Jesus gave his best – and his all – for us. As you wrap your gifts for those you love and unwrap the gifts you receive, may you remember the gift of a baby and worship Him as the King of Kings, your Savior and your Lord.

Here’s a Christmas tree ornament craft to remind you and your students inside the classroom of the meaning behind this holiday season:

3 inch Styrofoam balls
Straight pins with colored ball heads
¼ inch ribbon.

Stick the pins in the pattern of a cross, keeping the pins close together. Cut a 4-6 inch length of ribbon and attach the ends to the top of the ball with a straight pin, looping the ends together so you make a loop with the ribbon that will hang on a tree.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Christmas Crafts for Children

Here’s an easy, fun Christmas craft you can use Inside the Classroom.

Plain colored glass ball ornaments
Fingernail polish or acrylic paint
Lots of newspaper
Cups of water for cleaning brushes

Your kids can paint designs and Christmas motifs on the balls with the fingernail polish or use paintbrushes to apply acryllic paint. Show children how to carefully hold the ball with one hand while painting with the other. Devise a place to set the balls or hang the balls so they can dry without getting smudged.

This is a great project that lends itself well to all ages, individual creativity and is non threatening for the artistically challenged. If a child does nothing more than paint silver dots all over a blue ball, it will look beautiful. I’ve also seen teenagers paint intricate nativity scenes or Christmas trees. With patience, you can also write words but keep it simple. Our church made these ornaments last year to give to the elderly in the provided fruit basket, so on many of the ornaments, we simply painted the initials of the church.

Either acrylic paint or fingernail polish work well – each give a different effect. You can involve the adults of your congregation or the parents of your children by asking for donations of ready to discard bottles of fingernail polish. Believe me, you’ll be overwhelmed with unwanted colors!

Here’s some ideas of what to do with your ornaments:
Decorate a class or church Christmas tree
Give to shut ins, nursing home residents or the elderly in your church.
Give as a thank you gift to teachers and church leaders.

What’s a simple craft for children you’ve discovered? Leave a comment below or email me your idea at I may be able to include your idea in a future post.

Have fun!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Christmas: Children's Service Project

Visiting nursing homes with your class of children is always a much needed appreciated service project. This year, add an extra touch by making homemade Christmas cards.

We did this yesterday at our church. Instead of letting the children make up their own ideas, I designed two sample cards for them to copy. This way, we kept cards consistent in their message, I had more control over what art supplies were used, we were able to put a specific message in each card that proclaimed Jesus as the reason for the season, yet the cards allowed for some individual creativity. We had 96 cards to make. That’s a lot for a small youth group so we had to have something was fairly easy for the children to put together.

Here’s what we did:
1. For the high school class, I had them cut out a snowflake from a folded 4 inch square of white paper. They folded a blue piece of construction in half, glued a four inch piece of red tissue on the front, then glued the snowflake, slightly tilted on top of the red tissue. They used glitter glue pens to decorate the snowflake. On the inside, they wrote, “May Jesus give you a beautiful Christmas. (signed, name of church.)

2. For the elementary class, I had precut 2 inch wide piece of green paper that fit eon the front of a folded red piece of paper to look like ribbon on a package. I allowed children to put a tuff of tissue paper in the center. On the inside, they cut and glued small squares of construction paper to look like presents. They glued small loops of yarn on top of the presents. They wrote, “Jesus is the best gift of all. Merry Christmas. (Signed. Name of church.)

Why didn’t I let the younger kids use the glitter? Years of teaching experience have taught me glitter, glue and young children are a toxic mix, especially when you don’t have much time! Yet the high schoolers loved it and added some creative touches I didn’t expect.

Why glitter glue pens? I adapted this idea from a craft idea on a website that suggested mixing glue, glitter and water together, then paint the mixture onto the snowflake. In my sample card, I found out very quickly – this doesn’t work.

Why the sample cards? As a curriculum writer, I know how easy it is to suggest activities that you haven’t actually tried out. Unless you have experienced making a craft a certain way before, always, always, make a sample of the craft project. Some children do best by looking at what you want them to make. Also if it is an idea that just won’t work, you find it out in the middle of the week, not in the middle of the class session.