November 1, 2015: ~1.5 hours, 3 children, average age 8. A shorter report for this week, since I couldn’t find the time to write it earlier. We repeated the class on pure, kindly and radiant hearts last week, but I was out of town and had to miss out.
This week we started a new lesson on justice, based on Lesson 3 from Grade 1 of the Ruhi Book 3 curriculum. We kept on learning “O God, Guide Me”, with a melody composed by a Bahá’í youth group from Thailand. Then we sang a new song, “A Noble Way”, which is similar to the song “Justice Is The Way” from the previous version of Book 3, but with a different, less repetitive melody and slightly different words. I like this new song, although it’s a little harder to learn than the old one. We just focused on learning the chorus, and said we would pick it up again next class. Next we learned this week’s quote, with some gestures to help us remember; we also played “hide the quote” with a quote jumble. Then we told the story of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá refusing the private carriage, which seemed to get the children thinking about what it means to be just. Then we played the shark game, in which they had to crowd onto a foam mat together (the “boat”). Finally, we ended with colouring.
So far, the class seems to be developing well. We were well-organized this week, and everyone seemed to have a good time. I’d say that all of us—children and teachers alike—are getting used to each other and to the rhythm and dynamics of the class, and so far there don’t seem to be any big issues with behaviour. Right now, I guess we really just need to focus on making sure our teaching team is working together effectively, delivering the lessons smoothly and on looking for the gems of virtue that lie hidden in our souls—children and teachers alike!
Children are asked to study and commit to memory the following prayers as they study the lessons of the Ruhi Book 3 curriculum. Page numbers for Bahá’í Prayers are from the 2002 edition, but links (where available) are to the same prayers in the 1991 edition.
Lesson 1: “O God, guide me, protect me, make of me a shining lamp and a brilliant star. Thou art the Mighty and the Powerful.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Prayers, p.29)
Lesson 4: “O Thou Kind Lord! I am a little child, exalt me by admitting me to the kingdom. I am earthly, make me heavenly; I am of the world below, let me belong to the realm above; gloomy, suffer me to become radiant; material, make me spiritual, and grant that I may manifest Thine infinite bounties. Thou art the Powerful, the All-Loving.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Prayers, p.29)
Lesson 10: “Blessed is the spot, and the house, and the place, and the city, and the heart, and the mountain, and the refuge, and the cave, and the valley, and the land, and the sea, and the island, and the meadow where mention of God hath been made, and His praise glorified.” (Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’í Prayers, p.i)
Lesson 13: “Thy name is my healing, O my God, and remembrance of Thee is my remedy. Nearness to Thee is my hope, and love for Thee is my companion. Thy mercy to me is my healing and my succor in both this world and the world to come. Thou, verily, art the All-Bountiful, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.” (Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’í Prayers, p.96)
Lesson 18: “O my Lord! O my Lord! I am a child of tender years. Nourish me from the breast of Thy mercy, train me in the bosom of Thy love, educate me in the school of Thy guidance and develop me under the shadow of Thy bounty. Deliver me from darkness, make me a brilliant light; free me from unhappiness, make me a flower of the rose garden; suffer me to become a servant of Thy threshold and confer upon me the disposition and nature of the righteous; make me a cause of bounty to the human world and crown my head with the diadem of eternal life. Verily, Thou art the Powerful, the Mighty, the Seer, the Hearer.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Prayers, p.29–30)
Lesson 1 (Set 1): “O Lord! I am a child; enable me to grow beneath the shadow of Thy loving kindness. I am a tender plant; cause me to be nurtured through the outpourings of the clouds of Thy bounty. I am a sapling of the garden of love; make me into a fruitful tree. Thou art the Mighty and the Powerful, and Thou art the All-Loving, the All-Knowing, the All-Seeing.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Prayers, p.31–32)
Lesson 4 (Set 2): “O my God! O my God! Unite the hearts of Thy servants, and reveal to them Thy great purpose. May they follow Thy commandments and abide in Thy law. Help them, O God, in their endeavor, and grant them strength to serve Thee. O God! Leave them not to themselves, but guide their steps by the light of Thy knowledge, and cheer their hearts by Thy love. Verily, Thou art their Helper and their Lord.” (Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’í Prayers, p.238)
Lesson 7 (Set 3): “O my Lord! Make Thy beauty to be my food, and Thy presence my drink, and Thy pleasure my hope, and praise of Thee my action, and remembrance of Thee my companion, and the power of Thy sovereignty my succorer, and Thy habitation my home, and my dwelling-place the seat Thou hast sanctified from the limitations imposed upon them who are shut out as by a veil from Thee. Thou art, verily, the Almighty, the All-Glorious, the Most Powerful.” (Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’í Prayers, p.167)
Lesson 10 (Set 4): “O Lord God! Make us as waves of the sea, as flowers of the garden, united, agreed through the bounties of Thy love. O Lord! Dilate the breasts through the signs of Thy oneness, and make all mankind as stars shining from the same height of glory, as perfect fruits growing upon Thy tree of life.
“Verily, Thou art the Almighty, the Self-Subsistent, the Giver, the Forgiving,
the Pardoner, the Omniscient, the One Creator.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Prayers, p.239)
Lesson 13 (Set 5): “O Lord! Unto Thee I repair for refuge, and toward all Thy signs I set my heart. O Lord! Whether traveling or at home, and in my occupation or in my work, I place my whole trust in Thee. Grant me then Thy sufficing help so as to make me independent of all things, O Thou Who art unsurpassed in Thy mercy! Bestow upon me my portion, O Lord, as Thou pleasest, and cause me to be satisfied with whatsoever thou hast ordained for me. Thine is the absolute authority to command.” (Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’í Prayers, p.55–56)
Lesson 16 (Set 6): “O Thou kind Lord! These lovely children are the handiwork of the fingers of Thy might and the wondrous signs of Thy greatness. O God! Protect these children, graciously assist them to be educated and enable them to render service to the world of humanity. O God! These children are pearls, cause them to be nurtured within the shell of Thy loving-kindness. Thou art the Bountiful, the All-Loving.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Prayers, p.28)
Lesson 19 (Set 7): “O my God! O my God! Thou seest these children who are the twigs of the tree of life, the birds of the meads of salvation, the pearls of the ocean of Thy grace, the roses of the garden of Thy guidance.
“O God, our Lord! We sing Thy praise, bear witness to Thy sanctity and implore fervently the heaven of Thy mercy to make us lights of guidance, stars shining above the horizons of eternal glory amongst mankind, and to teach us a knowledge which proceedeth from Thee. Yá Bahá’u’l-Abhá!” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Prayers, p.31)
In Grade 3, teachers are asked to choose prayers for the children to study.
July 3, 2010: Trying it yet again! Outreach again this time. A group of us have been doing outreach in Chinatown and met some families all living in one apartment building who showed interest in a children’s class. After meeting a few times and sharing Anna’s presentation with the families (through a significant language barrier), we finally had a class of sorts, with 4-6 boys (I’d say about 5-8 years old). We played a lot more games than usual for us, and they loved it. in fact the class was mostly games, proportion-wise. all the same, we worked on memorizing “O God, guide me” and the quote on truthfulness. The prayers were amazing, as the older children stayed in quiet meditation for a full minute after the prayers were done–I’ve never seen that in all my time doing children’s classes. My co-teacher suggested it might have been due to their Buddhist background… in any case, it was astounding and MOST welcome, and we’ll encourage them to continue doing this for sure. They loved the story about the Boy Who Cried Wolf, and they seemed to grasp all the concepts well. overall, a great summer class after a very uneventful spring season.
So far during the month of January, our Chinatown class has gone through four lessons on the themes of truthfulness, steadfastness, humility, and preferring others before oneself. We started off at the beginning of January (the 2nd) with a special three-hour class, which we hoped would be attended by a large number of families so that we could start off with a bang—of course, things don’t always go the way we would hope. Class size has fluctuated between three to five children each week, and due to how busy some of the families are, we’ve also run into some punctuality problems. So far, though, we’ve managed to get most of the children to memorize at least one prayer—”O God, Guide Me”—and are working on having them memorize the second one suggested in Book 3—the one that goes “I am earthly, make me heavenly”. We got together as a teaching team and discussed curriculum; the plan is to finish the lessons from Book 3, and then continue by introducing the lessons of the Furutan curriculum, given in the books Baha’i Education for Children.
The three-hour class went remarkably well; I haven’t tried to go that long with a class in a while, and was pleasantly refreshed to see that we had enough material to keep the children engaged, having fun and learning through the whole time. After praying and singing a few of our favourite songs, we plunged straight into memorizing the well-known Baha’i quote, “Truthfulness is the foundation of all human virtues”. We tried explaining it in terms of the foundation of a building; I’m not sure whether the analogy helped them or confused them. I keep wondering about how good their command of English is, since most of them have only lived in Canada for a year, and I seem to end up explaining a lot of the words. Perhaps that’s actually normal for kids of their age (~6-7 years), and I’ve been coddled by only having gifted children to teach in the past. Well, whatever. This makes for great teaching experience. The second half of the class, after a healthy snack, consisted of putting together a house out of wooden stir-sticks—illustrating how virtues can be a “foundation” for human spiritual life—and a dramatic presentation of the day’s story, which was a retelling of the Boy Who Cried Wolf. It was actually my first time successfully “doing” drama with the kids in a children’s class; we did it by eschewing a script and instead giving the children their roles and lines verbally, with extensive narration by one of the teachers. We had two children playing the mother and father, and one playing the titular character. The children took their cues from the narrator, acting out whatever the story said. The whole thing worked out well, I had my directorial debut, and they got a real kick from acting out the story.
The next two classes dealt with slightly more abstract themes, and I noticed that we had a tougher time getting the message across to all of the kids. During both the lesson on steadfastness and the lesson on humility, they seemed to have trouble understanding the theme, and I had to explain it a few times, leaving me wondering what they had come away with. I found that the description of Book 3 seemed to go a little over their heads, so I tried to explain humility to the children the following way: God is big and powerful, and we, on the other hand, are so small and weak by comparison. Humility is just remembering how big and powerful God is, and how small and weak we are. When we remember that we depend on God for everything, we stop thinking that we’re better than anyone else around us. It took us most of the class time to get to that point of understanding, though. I think we got it by the end, but of course, as suggested in Book 3 itself, we’ll have to repeat it later on to be sure.
Regarding steadfastness, I was pleased to see that nobody came away with nightmares from the story of Ruhu’llah and his father, which I decided to tell in its entirety, though as non-graphically as I could. I’ve heard Baha’is express misgivings about telling a story in which the main character, a young boy dedicated to teaching and spreading God’s message, watches his father die before him only to die himself after refusing to recant his faith—but, besides having to make certain disclaimers, I’ve never heard either parents or children object to the story. On one occasion, a child reacted with anxiety to think that children could be killed in such a way, at which point the parent on hand explained that, while such things may have happened in that place at that time (19th-century Persia), we don’t have to worry about it happening to us here in Canada, which seemed to bring the anxiety level down. I made sure to give the same disclaimer this time, and nobody even made a peep—which, again, made me wonder whether they had understood what I was saying… oh well.
After our team meeting this morning, we quickly drove over to the centre to find several of the parents already waiting for us inside with their children—a total of eight kids right off the bat. Some of the newer parents stayed at the side during the class. So many kids arriving early meant we had little time to prepare before the class; we may have to re-evaluate our preparation habits to compensate… we’d love to hear your experiences with preparing for children’s classes and any tips you may have to share.
We started with a few prayers; …. and I recited one, and one of the children did too. Since we had so many new faces present, we went around and introduced ourselves by giving our name, our age and what languages we spoke. Many of the children said they spoke mainly English and Tagalog, and I told them that we were counting on them to teach us how to speak Tagalog properly. Then we practiced the prayer we began learning last week, using the step method (adding a little at a time, and repeating). Next, we taught them the song “Look At Me” and sang it together; it’s an easy song that everyone seemed to pick up rapidly. After the song, we asked them if they remembered who ‘Abdu’l-Baha was, and used that to introduce the topic of service, which led into memorizing the quote and then into the story of ‘Abdu’l-Baha sending Lua Getsinger to visit the sick man. Everyone went quiet at the end, so I’m guessing it touched them.
After the story, we played the game noted in Book 3, “Help the Sick”, which involved locking wrists together and carrying each other across the floor to the “hospital”, which they all loved. I felt we were rushing through it a little, but at least we ended up with enough time to do the colouring at the end of class. We limited the number of colouring pens again, to test how well the children could share the colours, and they all seemed to do quite well. I took some time during the colouring to pass handouts to the parents, asking them to use them to study the material from the class (the song, quote, etc) with the children to help them remember. We ended the class by getting back together and singing “Look At Me” one more time.
Overall, it was obvious that the home visits we’ve been doing with the parents have made a big difference; our interactions with them seem to be warm and loving (if still a little unfamiliar), and they already seem to be getting comfortable with us, and with taking their children to the class. It really seems to be a boon to us to be holding the class somewhere that’s already a hub of activity for them; they know exactly where it is and are comfortable with bringing their kids over. It truly does feel like a neighbourhood class.
Thanks to all of you for walking with us and serving with us. This truly is a captivating and exciting journey to be on.
Everyone was on time again. Today we had two children present. … joined us for part of the class, and spent some time talking to one of the Vietnamese friends who dropped by to do some photocopying.
Class began with prayers as usual; the children are calm and respectful during this time. We continued by memorizing the French version of “O God Guide Me” (even though I got the tune wrong this time); both children seem to know it very well now, and one said he had been practicing it at home. We continued on with memorization, again using the laptop for visual aids; we explained justice (the theme of the lesson) so that both children had a basic understanding of it, giving plenty of examples of both justice and injustice. The story of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá taking the less expensive coach helped to cement this concept in their minds. We then took a short break for stretches and a game, and returned to the table to finish the drawings we began last time and begin new ones. I was able to print out handouts with the quote, the song and another picture for the parents to take home, so that they would have a way to practice their lessons during the week. We walked home with one of the parents after class; she invited us in, but we politely declined this time, assuring her that we would come another time. Personally, I felt we shouldn’t necessarily impose and that she might have felt obligated—but any thoughts from others on this? Should we have jumped at the chance anyway? [Note that other members of our teaching team have also been having home visits with the parents.]
My co-teacher and I went for tea afterwards and discussed how we wanted to divide the tasks in the class, and shared some teachers’ resources. We also discussed a few other things, including the idea (which I wrote about in last week’s report) of bringing some of our new contacts into an English Corner run by local Bahá’ís. … had also suggested that we may want to change the class time, perhaps to Friday afternoon or evening, to better accomodate the director’s availability, seeing as he’s had to bail us out all the way from … more than once. He assured us that it was no problem at all though, and, besides that, the parents indicated that the weekend timing was better for them as well, and that Friday afternoon would be problematic.
All in all, a good class; each week we find ourselves more prepared, more organized and more ready to deal with whatever comes. Thank you to everyone for being part of this amazing team.