back to class!

Not too long ago we moved to a new area, leaving our previous class in the hands of our stalwart co-teacher. The last time we shared about that class, we were shifting gears for the summer after an attempt to start a new class in a different part of the same neighbourhood. After that attempt fell through, we were back to where we started, although we did learn a lot about team coordination, the effective use of human resources, and being part of a neighbourhood. Since then, that class has continued to evolve, and has ended up migrating towards the part of the neighbourhood where we tried starting the new class, since there seem to be more families with young children in that area. We’re still in touch, and in fact, we had a great chat together at a recent gathering for children’s class teachers based in our part of the cluster (we took notes, which I’ll try to write up and post here soonish).

mooncakes on a folderAnyway, since we moved to our new neighbourhood, we’ve been spending a lot of time getting to know our new neighbours and making connections. Our son is busy making new friends up and down the street, as well as at a local playgroup and at Bahá’í events in our new community. At the same time, another Bahá’í family in the community (though not in our neighbourhood) approached us asking if we would be interested in helping out with a children’s class in their area, with a “world citizens” theme. After a little bit of back and forth, we said sure, we’d love to help out.

We just came back from a great meeting together, where our team of three teachers (wow!) planned out the first lesson together and drew up an outline of what the class would look like—age range, venue, a basic agenda and calendar, and so on. We’ll be using the newest version of Ruhi Book 3, Grade 1, with 24 lessons for the year. It’ll be my first time using the updated Grade 1 lessons, so I’m looking forward to it. Since we’re a team, we’ve divided up the work—I’ll be focusing on teaching songs and prayers, another teacher will focus on arts, crafts and stories, and the third will focus on logistics, along with presenting the lesson itself and the quotes for memorization. We’re also hoping to incorporate presentations about different cultures every other week, so that we can explore the “world citizenship” angle.

All that being said, you can look forward to reading more frequent posts about our experience with this new class in the months to come! It feels like it’s been a while since we’ve been involved in actually teaching a children’s class, so this is a welcome return to this arena of service that’s become so dear to us over the years.

consultation brings unity (take 2)

Today’s lesson: consultation brings unity.

May 30, 2014: 7 children, aged 6–10. The weather has been really beautiful lately, so when the children asked if we could sit outside for class we gladly obliged. Normally, this also helps us to attract other children who are playing outside, but this time very few people were around—as we found out later, there was a family gathering taking place, and they only came out around the end of class.

Things started out fairly well, but we had some hiccups—probably due to a combination of things: lack of coordination between teachers before the class, the general lack of a “game plan” on discipline, and the perennial issue of age gaps. First, we (as teachers) found ourselves conferring together several times during the class to discuss next steps, which led to breaks in discipline. Second, we ended up having some disruptive behaviour involving one of our young friends who joined late—the younger sibling of one of our long-time students—which we should have expected. I’m not really happy with the way I handled the situation: Although he seemed to be the source of most of the disruption, I feel like I singled him out a little too much without acknowledging that others were also involved in distracting behaviours (like tearing grass from the ground). Our preferred course of action, of course, would be to have him attend the class aimed at younger children that’s meant to begin next week, but there’s no telling whether he’ll accept to attend it, as his older brothers (including a 13-year-old who hasn’t yet shown interest in a junior youth group) will be attending class right next door to his home. We’ll see how this plays out soon, as we’re scheduled to begin the new class for younger children next week.

The positive side? Well, this is one of those times that make us appreciate having co-teachers, as we managed to get a hold of discipline while keeping activities going for the rest of the children. Things did quiet down in the end, and I did follow up with our young friend afterwards to let him know that I appreciated his effort to restrain himself during the rest of the class. After splitting into two activity stations—one for colouring and drawing, and one for a puzzle that spelled out “unity”—we released the children to play soccer/football with their cousins who had assembled outside. We took the opportunity to mingle with the families, some of whom used to live in the neighbourhood, and whom we hadn’t seen in a long time. I hung around a little longer, and spent time talking to a very pure-hearted youth about prayer, faith, patience, and growing up.

consultation

teachers at workEach of us has our own unique perspective and understanding of things. Sometimes, we disagree with someone else’s perspective, or we understand the truth of a situation differently. More often than not, each of us is partly correct. Bahá’í consultation is a way for us to explore our different perspectives together and to get closer to the truth. Bahá’u’lláh teaches us that consultation is a guiding light which leads the way to truth and bestows understanding. With consultation, we can deal with difficult situations and solve problems we could not solve on our own.

Prayers/readings for study

“Take ye counsel together in all matters, inasmuch as consultation is the lamp of
guidance which leadeth the way, and is the bestower of understanding.” (Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh Revealed after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 168.

Activities

STORY

  • The story of the Baha’is stuck in a snowstorm, from Ruhi Book 3, Grade 2, Set 7, Lesson 19.
  • The story of the King’s elephant, as told in Ruhi Book 3, Grade 2, Set 7, Lesson 19. This story, also known as the story of the blind men and an elephant, originated in the Indian subcontinent and has been retold with many different variations. The one included in Ruhi Book 3 stands out, since it models consultation: the villagers investigate, consult and come to an understanding together, and are confirmed in the end when they see the elephant with their own eyes.

SONGS

  • Consultation Means Finding Out, by Roberta Christian and Eugene Babcock. A sample mp3 is available on the Core Curriculum website. Lyrics are also available elsewhere.

ART

  • Have the children draw their impression of the story of the King’s elephant, with the villagers feeling different parts of the elephant and imagining various objects (rope, a tree trunk, a snake, etc.)

Drama

  • Have the children act out the story of the King’s elephant, each of them playing one of the villagers who went to investigate about the elephant.

Other

  • One useful way to explore consultation with children is to model a talking circle, a method used by many First Nations/Native American cultures to resolve conflicts and solve problems. Like Bahá’í consultation, participating in a talking circle is a sacred act, like saying prayers. Before starting a talking circle, the teacher should explain a few simple rules (it may be useful to write these down and display them prominently during the class):1. Only one person speaks at a time. To make it easier to tell who has the right to speak, a “speaking token” such as a stick, a feather, or some special object is used. Whoever holds the token has the right has the right to speak.2. Speak “from the heart”, i.e. frankly and openly. Everyone should feel free to fully express themselves and their ideas, keeping in mind the need to be respectful, kind, truthful and courteous.3. Listen respectfully. When one person is speaking, others show respect with reverent attention and silence.4. Each contribution is sacred. After each person has spoken, we show respect for their contribution and refrain from criticism. Outside the circle, we refrain from gossip or backbiting—what is said in the circle stays in the circle.

Reference

Consultation bestoweth greater awareness and transmuteth conjecture into certitude. It is a shining light which, in a dark world, leadeth the way and guideth. For everything there is and will continue to be a station of perfection and maturity. The maturity of the gift of understanding is made manifest through consultation. (Bahá’u’lláh, From a Tablet translated from the Persian)

Man must consult on all matters, whether major or minor, so that he may become cognizant of what is good. Consultation giveth him insight into things and enableth him to delve into questions which are unknown. The light of truth shineth from the faces of those who engage in consultation. Such consultation causeth the living waters to flow in the meadows of man’s reality, the rays of ancient glory to shine upon him, and the tree of his being to be adorned with wondrous fruit. The members who are consulting, however, should behave in the utmost love, harmony and sincerity towards each other. The principle of consultation is one of the most fundamental elements of the divine edifice. Even in their ordinary affairs the individual members of society should consult. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, From a Tablet translated from the Persian)

Regarding thy question about consultation of a father with his son, or a son with his father, in matters of trade and commerce, consultation is one of the fundamental elements of the foundation of the Law of God. Such consultation is assuredly acceptable, whether between father and son, or with others. There is nothing better than this. Man must consult in all things for this will lead him to the depths of each problem and enable him to find the right solution. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, From a Tablet translated from the Persian)

… The first condition is absolute love and harmony amongst the members of the assembly. They must be wholly freed from estrangement and must manifest in themselves the Unity of God, for they are the waves of one sea, the drops of one river, the stars of one heaven, the rays of one sun, the trees of one orchard, the flowers of one garden. Should harmony of thought and absolute unity be non-existent, that gathering shall be dispersed and that assembly be brought to naught. The second condition: they must when coming together turn their faces to the Kingdom on High and ask aid from the Realm of Glory. They must then proceed with the utmost devotion, courtesy, dignity, care and moderation to express their views. They must in every matter search out the truth and not insist upon their own opinion, for stubbornness and persistence in one’s views will lead ultimately to discord and wrangling and the truth will remain hidden. The honoured members must with all freedom express their own thoughts, and it is in no wise permissible for one to belittle the thought of another, nay, he must with moderation set forth the truth, and should differences of opinion arise a majority of voices must prevail, and all must obey and submit to the majority. It is again not permitted that any one of the honoured members object to or censure, whether in or out of the meeting, any decision arrived at previously though that decision be not right, for such criticism would prevent any decision from being enforced. In short, whatsoever thing is arranged in harmony and with love and purity of motive, its result is light, and should the least trace of estrangement prevail the result shall be darkness upon darkness…. If this be so regarded, that assembly shall be of God, but otherwise it shall lead to coolness and alienation that proceed from the Evil One…. Should they endeavour to fulfil these conditions the Grace of the Holy Spirit shall be vouchsafed unto them, and that assembly shall become the centre of the Divine blessings, the hosts of Divine confirmation shall come to their aid, and they shall day by day receive a new effusion of Spirit. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Cited in a letter dated 5 March 1922 written by Shoghi Effendi to the Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada, published in “Bahá’í Administration: Selected Messages 1922-1932”, pp. 22-23)

Experience

consultation brings unity (take 1)

Today’s lesson: consultation brings unity.

May 23, 2014: 8 children, aged 6–13(!). This was a fun, and slightly crazy, class with plenty of movement. We started a new lesson today, after having spent the past few weeks introducing the topic of consultation. The class started and ended early to accommodate our host family, who had to leave to attend a family get-together. Two girls from the neighbourhood who hadn’t attended the class in a while showed up, which was great to see. After starting with prayers, we reviewed the story of the king’s elephant from Lesson 19 in Ruhi Book 3, Grade 2, and then launched into the meat of Lesson 20, beginning with some warm-up games.

After doing our regular stretches, we asked the children to pick a role to play, one that would fit well in a village: teacher, police officer, nurse, grocer, student, etc. We then explained the scenario from the lesson, in which a village ends up in the path of a hurricane, leaving the whole place a mess. The children, in their different roles, had to come together and consult on what measures they should take to deal with the crisis and help life return to normal. As you can guess, there was delightful chaos as the children pantomimed getting blown across the room by the hurricane. With some difficulty, we managed to steer them back towards the point, asking them what problems needed taking care of in the village. At first, things seemed dire. No food! Thousands of bodies littering the streets! Zombie disease everywhere! But as we calmed down from the adrenaline rush and started to consult in earnest, we realized that, hey, the grocery store still had food, and the grocer was willing to give it away to help with the disaster relief. The nurse and doctor organized volunteers to bring injured villagers to the hospital, and the police helped to maintain calm.

Overall, it was a fun class, but a crazy one. The huge disparity in ages accentuated this, as usual. The good news is that we’ve done enough outreach to begin a new class for younger children further down the street, which, if all goes as expected, will be starting in June.