June 24, 2006: 2 hours, 2 children, ages 6-7. This was a weird class! We were going to focus on another topic for this week, but one of the children brought his new pet hamster to the class so it seemed logical to switch topics. We had quite a lot of fun interacting with the hamster and talking about how we should treat animals with respect and do our best not to scare them. It was a bit disorganized and unfortunately, I didn’t have appropriate quotes with me to go over with the children. Should I put together a binder with materials we’ve used in the past, so we can go back to them at a moment’s notice? Or perhaps a small notebook with quotes we’ve studied? I guess I’m not really satisfied with my level of preparation for this class. Oh well, it’s done. One of our more difficult children (a 6-year-old boy) sang a prayer with the other boy who was present, of his own accord – usually we struggle to get him to say prayers. God bless these children – I can become so confused with them sometimes. Before going outside for the day, we worked on a craft we started last week – paper-people chains. OMG they loved this to pieces. One of them drew clothes and faces on his people, the other cut out pants and shirts from different-coloured paper. AWESOME activity (although not strictly in line with the topic). Another note – I was mostly alone in teaching this class today, which I found more difficult than usual. There were only two children present, so it wasn’t a major disaster or anything. I find that when I’m alone with the children, though, I get easily distracted. Me being easily distracted means that I lose control of the class easily. That’s why I prefer co-teaching to being on my own. I’m not sure what I can do to build up my ability to stay on top of things – maybe to build my own confidence, I just need more practice, more experience.
June 17, 2006: 2 hours, 3 children, ages 4, 6, and 7. Another class that went well, especially since I didn’t really take all that much time to prepare. Before the class, we (the teachers) had a little time to chat and determined that we should focus on having each of the children say a prayer, or at least participate in the prayers. Some of our kids don’t really like saying prayers – we haven’t quite figured out why. I’ve been wondering whether it might be related to the atmosphere we create surrounding prayers – perhaps they need some quiet-down time before starting with prayers, or perhaps we just need to be firmer. Anyway, we took advantage of the class’s theme, starting the class by telling the kids we would be talking about obedience today, and that one way we show our obedience (to God) is by praying. One of the kids was more than happy to recite prayers, but the other two (the younger ones – not sure if that’s relevant?) didn’t want to. One of them eventually lip-synched a prayer and we ended the prayers by singing a prayer together, so we left it at that. I’d really appreciate feedback from people who’ve had similar issues surrounding prayers… we’re trying to understand what we might be doing or not doing that is keeping certain children from participating in the prayers (to the point of consistently refusing!)
The other point of revisiting obedience is because this week’s class falls on Father’s Day weekend – you know, obedience to parents and all that. After reading a story about Lua Getsinger and her obedience to ‘Abdu’l-Baha and performing some skits comparing obedience and disobedience, we set to work on Father’s Day cards. These were sheets of paper folded in 4, on which the kids drew and wrote “Happy Father’s Day” type messages. We had planned several other things to work on (such as prize ribbons made by paper-folding) in case we had extra time, but ended up finishing on time without having gone into the extra activities. The activities went well because folding paper is just fun, but I think the kids found it difficult not to have an example already finished to guide them. We’ve come across this before… food for thought! All in all, the class flew by (which is a good sign, I suppose). We seem to have some pretty good luck with this topic – every time we talk about obedience, the kids are more obedient. Maybe we’re too soft the rest of the time! Actually, that’s another thing we’ve discussed – we tend to be soft on discipline and not to push too hard when the kids don’t want to do something. That can be a big problem though, especially when it comes to prayers – God tells us to pray, so we can’t just not do it.
June 3, 2006: 2 hours, 5 children, average age 6-7. Apparently, the class went quite well – I was out of town for the weekend, so I wasn’t there to take part. We had two versions of the story available to read (our class operates in French, so we had to find translations). The versions we found used language that was a bit difficult for the children to understand, so the story was read once more in paraphrase to make sure everybody got it.
Once the story was done, we made time for drama – we started by miming animals and having the rest of the kids guess what animal was being mimed. Afterwards, the children broke into groups and performed the skits as described above. It seems like they did well with these – I was afraid that there might have been problems with the kids being too rough, but that doesn’t seem to have been an issue. Once the skits were done, it was colouring time – we had prepared two drawings, one of a lion and one of a mouse, to go along with the story. Everyone in our class seems to love drawing and colouring time. They love getting their hands on the pens and colouring in different images.
There seemed to have been two main problems during this class: first was that the materials we prepared didn’t last long enough, leaving us with jumping and screaming kids rampaging around inside at the end of the class (it was raining, so we couldn’t take them outside); second was the uncooperative attitude that some of the younger members of the class displayed. The first is relatively easy to take care of – we just have to be able to come up with more activities to have on hand during the class (potentially crafts, which are popular because of the hands-on aspect). The second isn’t so easy to resolve and has been a challenge with our class from the get-go. To be honest, it’s difficult to conduct a class for a wide age range (our oldest member is going on 11 (almost a junior youth!), and our youngest member is still 4 years old). Perhaps we need to split into several groups at some point in our class, so that each group can take part in age-appropriate activities that may better stimulate them and allow them to develop the capacities they’re struggling to develop. But what’s the difference? That’s what I’m wondering. I’ve become comfortable dealing with the older children (say, 7 to 10), but I admit that I still have a lot to learn about dealing with the younger children (4 to 6) in ways that really support their development. Any comments from readers?