truthfulness (take 4)

Today’s lesson: truthfulness.

finishing touchesJuly 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.

service (take 4)

Today’s lesson: service.

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.

justice (take 3)

Today’s lesson: justice.

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.

pure, kindly, and radiant hearts (take 1)

Today’s lesson: pure, kindly and radiant hearts.

The children’s class started at 3:00pm, to give the leftover crowd time to finish their conversations and return home. We managed to make copies of the colouring pages earlier, using the Centre’s photocopier, and everything else was pretty much taken care of. After a few prayers by the parents (awesome!), we started by singing not one but two songs—”O God Guide Me” in French, and “His First Counsel Is This”, the song that goes with that particular lesson. Having practiced both songs, we presented the lesson (pure, kindly and radiant hearts) and worked on memorizing the quote of the week, and I put the words on my laptop as a memorization aid. We spent a little more time on memorization since … related to me that one of the mothers was hoping there would be more of it, for their child to practice with (she confirmed this at the end of the class).

Afterwards, we told the story of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá emptying a lady’s glass and filling it up. We quizzed the kids to make sure they understood, and they passed admirably. We had a short water break, which allowed us to segue into the game—”The Burning Thirst”, in which they used their outstretched arms to help each other drink from cups of water. Everyone loved it, I think. Finally, we ended off with colouring, having to cut things short at 4:30 (thankfully, I remembered to watch the clock this time). It seemed everyone was appreciative and happy with the progression of the class. At one of the parents’ suggestion, I said I would begin to prepare handouts for the parents to use for practice after each children’s class, to help their children learn the lessons at home. Something really tells me this is going to be the best children’s class I’ve ever taught, at least in terms of interaction with parents. I think the big clincher is that we have the strength of several people in our teaching team working with the parents, and that the job of teaching and following up doesn’t all rest on one person—we can support each other in bringing more and more people into our community of interest.

That’s it for now—glad to be able to report on such a wonderfully productive day. We go through crisis and victory, and I feel as though Saturday was a big victory for us. Here’s wishing us all blessings and confirmations from the Blessed Beauty in our continuing efforts to teach and serve.

unity (take 2)

Sorry I’m late – I’ve been trying to send out reports the day of the children’s class but this time I was lazy I think 😛

Last weekend’s children’s class went off without a hitch; we even got to the Vietnamese Centre a couple minutes after 2 PM and found that … had already come and opened the door, and that … had already arrived with her son. My co-teacher and I taught the first lesson from Book 3 again (on unity), mainly because we realized we hadn’t had time to photocopy the colouring page for the second lesson yet. As well, it gave us the chance to recap our work from the previous week, and to work on memorizing the song (“We Are Drops”) and the quote from that lesson. We played the game described in Lesson 1 together, with everyone taking their turn in the middle once. It’ll definitely be more entertaining once we have more children than adults.

An interesting and relevant observation was made: when the mother asked us if we knew of another song we could sing in French, we went ahead and sang a rendition of “O God, Guide Me” (that is, “O Dieu, Guide Moi”), explaining the French terms along the way. She seemed impressed and showed no objections to the term “God”, as we thought might have arisen from someone of her background. To end off, we sang a melody set to the quote—”So powerful is the light of unity”—again and encouraged each other to remember and practice it. Again, we encouraged both of them to invite friends and acquaintances to the class.

unity (take 1)

This Saturday’s class (Nov. 14th) was less quiet than the previous one as we got our first child in the class and were able to actually teach the class for the first time. yay! … and I arrived at about five minutes to two, and saw …’s contact walking outside with her “very mature” 4-year-old son, trying to see if the door was open (which it wasn’t). We waited a little while for the centre manager to come open the door, which he eventually did, and we passed the time by chatting and singing songs. It was raining, but thankfully we had umbrellas and a little shelter. … and … came by and shared their umbrellas with us too, and we were able to make a few more introductions.

The class was short and simple, which worked out fine. We started with a prayer for children, sang a song (“We Are Drops”) talked a little about unity. We read the story of ‘Abdu’l-Baha and the Christian merchant, which both … and his mom seemed to love. It was a great teaching opportunity for her, who asked questions about the exile of Baha’u’llah in ‘Akka, about ‘Abdu’l-Baha, and so on. Since she was present, we tried to explain the story a little more in detail than we might have otherwise. We skipped the game, but spent a long time colouring—all of us.

At the end, we discussed the class a bit and encouraged both the mother and son to invite ppl they know to come and participate in the children’s class. The son was so cute and told us he knows lots of the kids in his kindergarten class, so we told him to tell his friends in class that he goes to a really fun class where he sings songs and listens to stories and talk about unity.

Let’s hope that things keep on going like this, and that we get more and more people into the class in the coming weeks; still, this is a welcome development. Further to our great conversation this morning,  we should be able to make even greater strides. Thank God for giving us the opportunity to be part of this!