be united!

Quote

river

“Those who are working alone are like ants, but when they are united they will become as eagles. Those who work singly are as drops, but, when united, they will become a vast river carrying the cleansing water of life into the barren desert places of the world. Before the power of its rushing flood, neither misery, nor sorrow, nor any grief will be able to stand. Be united! It is rather dangerous to be an isolated drop. It might be spilled or blown away.”

Attributed to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
Lady Blomfield, The Chosen Highway, p. 171

an idea for virtues cards

UntitledOne of our new readers came to us with a question about using Virtues Cards (nifty cards featuring different spiritual qualities, created by The Virtues Project) in teaching groups of children. We just recently bought a deck of these cards ourselves, so we’re not experts by any means—but we’ve got plenty of ideas.

One of the ways we can help people understand abstract concepts is through the use of storytelling and role play. These put otherwise abstract virtues into a very tangible context that adults and children alike can more easily understand and learn from. In fact, this is why the lessons in Ruhi Book 3 always include stories, and dramatic activities in Grades 2 and up: they model different spiritual qualities and practices, and help children to think about how they might show those qualities in their lives.

So, as for how to use the virtues cards? Here’s the “experiment” we recommended to our friend. You can try it, too!

  • Pick one of the cards and read the virtue’s definition and some of the examples.
  • Ask the participants to think of a situation in which that virtue could be used; if nobody speaks up, you can suggest one based one the examples given.
  • Then, ask them to create a story based on that situation, and ask them to break into groups and tell each other the story.
  • Finally, bring them back together and ask them to create a short dramatic skit based on the story; practice it with them, and see how it goes.
  • At the end, get them to reflect on what they learned about that virtue, and have them share any insights they may have had about using that virtue in their lives.

The nice thing about this idea is that you don’t really need to buy a deck of cards to use it. You could just as easily write down the virtues yourself on sheets of paper, or blank index cards.

Have you had any experience incorporating virtues cards into your children’s classes, or any other insights about teaching children about spiritual qualities? Let us know in the comments!

making an activity portfolio

A pile of books with a smartphone on topThe lessons developed by the Ruhi Institute for use in Baha’i children’s classes are simple and well-designed, and often stand just fine on their own. Still, there are times when teachers might want to augment lessons with different activities—for instance, if a class has already studied a certain lesson before and the teacher wants to add variety to keep the children engaged. If this often happens in your class, why not make yourself an activity portfolio—a collection of various activities that you’ve successfully incorporated, or that you’d like to incorporate, into your lessons?

An activity portfolio can be paper-based or electronic, depending on your preference. A paper-based portfolio could be a set of paper folders or binders that hold copies of different activities in paper form, or it could just be a notebook in which you write down a list of activities. An electronic portfolio could be a collection of PDFs and other documents organized into folders, an Evernote notebook, or a set of boards on Pinterest. Every time you come across a new activity that you’d like to use in your class, you can add it to your portfolio. The next time you’re feeling stuck trying to plan your a lesson, you can open up your portfolio to find inspiration.

Activities can be organized according to type (songs, games, art projects, crafts…), according to general themes or topics, or even according to specific lessons you often use. It helps to note down a bit of information about each activity, if it’s not already included: duration, targeted age or grade level, preparation time, required materials, and even notes about past experience you’ve had with it. Having this kind of information at your fingertips makes it easier to tell if the activity is a good fit for your lesson plan, and what you’ll need to make it happen.

Of course, collecting activities like this is one of the goals of this website, and you can find a variety of them in the activity section. Most of the activities we’ve featured here are ones we’ve had personal experience with in our classes, so you can read about how they went for us. Our Pinterest boards are another great source to go through to find new ideas for activities, too!

a few notes from the regional gathering

We had a wonderful regional gathering for teachers of Baha’i children’s classes recently, and I thought I’d jot down a few notes before I forget. Besides teachers from Ottawa, we were joined by several teachers who are serving in smaller towns just outside the city. Also present were our local and regional coordinators for children’s classes. The focus of our discussions was very practical, starting with a very brief review of some recent guidance from the Universal House of Justice to situate us, then jumping in right away to look at what that guidance meant for each of us.

Besides the systematic training of teachers for successive grades, institutes will need to learn about the formation of classes for distinct age groups in villages and neighbourhoods; the provision of teachers for various classes; the retention of students year after year, grade after grade; and the continued progress of children from a wide variety of households and backgrounds–in short, the establishment of an expanding, sustainable system for child education that will keep pace with both the growing concern among parents for their youngsters to develop sound moral structures and the rise in human resources in the community.  The task, while immense, is relatively straightforward, and we urge institutes everywhere to give it the attention which it so clearly deserves, focusing especially on the implementation of the first three grades of the programme and remembering that the quality of the teaching-learning experience depends, to a great extent, on the capabilities of the teacher.

(The Universal House of Justice to all National Spiritual Assemblies, 12 December 2011)

Among the questions we were asked to consider:

  • What does an “expanding, sustainable system for child education” look like to us?
  • With reference to the quote “…the quality of the teaching-learning experience depends, to a great extent, on the capabilities of the teacher,” what are some of the capabilities we must develop as teachers of children’s classes?
  • How would a focus on “implementation of the first three grades of the programme” look in our neighbourhoods?

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shifting gears for summertime

a hot day in mayAnother year of classes has gone by, and here we are, well into the summer season, looking back on what we’ve accomplished this year. Since the baby came last fall, our biggest challenge has been to adapt to the new constraints on our time and energy. That’s involved bringing in new teachers for the class, and working on creating a good team dynamic. We gathered up enough teachers to try to establish a new class in a park at the other end of the neighbourhood. We hoped starting this new class would allow us to address the issue of age gaps, since many younger siblings and cousins are now starting to follow their older relatives into the class, with often chaotic results.

We ran into some problems, though. First were the scheduling hiccups: after no new children showed up for the first gathering of the new class, we ended up having to skip the next two weeks due to other commitments, losing momentum. Then suddenly, my co-teacher for the new class had to drop out due to a change in personal circumstances. I could have continued and taught the class alone, but we all thought it would be best for there to be two teachers, both to support each other in the class and to facilitate relations with parents. With no one else ready to step in, we decided we would put the new class on hold for the time being, and regroup for further consultation.

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virtues project workshop

to give and be generousThis past weekend, a bunch of us had the chance to attend a workshop on The Virtues Project. If you haven’t heard of them, they give seminars/courses and produce materials that promote virtues—spiritual values that are independent of any particular religious tradition—in all walks of life. The organizers of a local Bahá’í summer camp arranged the workshop for their camp counsellors, but opened it to the wider community too, so there was a nice mix of all kinds of people in attendance, including plenty of children’s class teachers. I took a few notes from the presentation and thought I’d present them here in point form.

Why are virtues important?

  • Virtues are the building blocks of the spirit. We are at our happiest when we are developing our virtues. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said: “Man is, in reality, a spiritual being, and only when he lives in the spirit is he truly happy.” (Paris Talks, p.72)
  • When we cultivate virtues in ourselves, we’re not the only ones who benefit. To paraphrase the Chinese philosopher Lao Tse, cultivating virtue in ourselves has an effect on our families, our villages, our nations, and the world. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá declared: “Until the moral degree of the nations is advanced and human virtues attain a lofty level, happiness for mankind is impossible.”

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