October 14, 2006: ~2.5 hours, 7 children, ages ~6-10. A good class to start off our new year of classes. We had encouraging turnout: 5 of last year’s core group of children attended, plus two more. The class started out slowly as we waited for some of the children to arrive, so we played a number guessing game in the meantime. Maybe not the most original game, but the kids got into it. We started (late) with prayers; they were quite beautiful. About half the children were shy and didn’t want to say prayers; the others did. I noticed it was the usual ones who didn’t want to say prayers. Still struggling to find ways to open up the desire to pray in these kids. Afterwards, we started with one prayer (O God! Guide me…), discussed it and asked what the words meant. We worked on memorizing it, with several children leading in a repeat-after-me style. Once the memorization was done, we opened up with some get-to-know you games; we played a couple of versions of Jump-Up and Greet & Switch. One of the kids, as was his habit last year, became distracted during the games and began to disrupt the class. I think all of us lost some patience with him, which I personally regret. After the games, we took some time to work on our new prayer books – after that was all done, we had snacks and went outside to play more active games. All in all? As I said, not too bad, but we could have done better. We didn’t mention “Allah’u’abha” as a particular Baha’i greeting, which is an important oversight. I think we probably all got panicked because it had been a while since we had done the class, and we weren’t as prepared (spiritually? materially?) as we could have been. It was a nice little jolt starting the class again – stressful, but doable. I still feel very confident about this year’s class and know that, once we get back into the rhythm of the class, things should go just fine.
so after an evening of consultation about the children’s class, we’ve come up with a plan of action to help the class mature and grow. it’s simple, and, if we pray for confirmation and put the effort into it, it’ll be effective. in short:
Oct. 14: first class. welcome to new students, etc. parents are given written and verbal invitations to Open House on Oct. 21, taking place after the class (3:30-4:30PM).
Oct. 21: second class, 1:30-3:30PM. open house from 3:30-4:30PM. time to chat with parents, explain the class, answer questions, and ask if anyone is interested in helping out (teaching, logistics, or whatever). notice will also be given regarding other upcoming core activities organized by the Baha’i community (study circles, devotional meetings).
Oct. 22–Nov. 25: as classes continue, home visits begin with parents as follow-up, where we can create bonds and gauge their interest in deeper involvement with the class. if families are receptive, they can also be directly invited to participate in devotional meetings or study circles.
Nov. 25–Dec. 2: classes continue, and first devotional meeting begins, to continue monthly throughout the year.
What do we hope to achieve? Well, here’s a sample:
Stronger relationships with parents and families whose children attend class.
Increased parent/family involvement in the children’s class, through:
co-teaching or assisting
Increased parent/family involvement in related core activities (study circles, devotional meetings, junior youth groups)
One interesting concept that’s been suggested to us is that if we get to a point where the class has grown so much that there aren’t enough teachers, interested parents and family members can be trained as children’s class teachers by taking them through the sequence of Ruhi courses. That’s what we’re hoping to explore in the long run—whether such a model of growth and human resource development could possibly work in creating a self-sustaining children’s class.
Étoiles Brillantes, our francophone children’s class, is shaping up well for the year ahead – although there’s still a whole lot left to do. I talked with Julie (co-teacher and co-organizer) and she says that all of the families from last year now know that we will be starting again on October 14th; that’s one hurdle crossed. Now our goal will be outreach. How are we going to grow our class and increase the number of kids (and parents) involved? One suggestion, which we’ll be discussing tomorrow night, is to assemble a small group of people to canvas the neighbourhood where the class will be held, asking parents if they’d like to send their children to the class. Now, if what we’ve already experienced in other settings holds true, we can expect massive interest – and a proportionate strain on human resources. So far, Julie and I have been the core of the class, resource-wise; if the class grows beyond a certain point – as it may very well do in the coming season – we’ll have to bring in more people to help. We’re even toying with the idea of having several concurrent classes for different age groups: for example, 5-7, 8-11, and even junior youth study circles for ages 12-14.
more on that tomorrow, when we’ll meet together to take some next steps, make some calls, and put together a quick-n-dirty plan of action. also, more about curriculum soon.