naw-rúz (take 2)

Today’s lesson: naw-rúz.

March 24, 2007: 2 hours, 7 children, average age 7. We had a blast with this class—and it was mainly thanks to the help of certain blessed souls who were ready and willing to give up a day or more’s worth of time and effort in preparation to help make it a reality. The day started with prayers; like last year, we sang “Blessed is the Spot”. The kids’ conduct during prayers has greatly improved since we started focusing our efforts on that part of the class. Our main activity for the day was baking cookies—what better way to make Naw-ruz a special event? The children could scarcely believe their ears when we told them; they thought we were joking. But it was not so!

I asked my mom (of course) to come help us bake cookies. She prepared individual bags of three kinds of dough for each of the children, brought cookie cutters, rollers, trays, flour, decorations (i.e. sprinkles, different colours of icing, etc.) and so on. The children spent over an hour rolling the dough, cutting out different shapes (sometimes making up their own), and, once they were fully baked and cooled, decorating their munchable masterpieces. They took home bags of cookies to share with their parents, cousins and siblings. No joke—they were genuinely proud to have made their own cookies and were looking forward to sharing with their families. Some of the children had been so industrious in making the cookies, and had amassed such a stack of them, that they started sharing their cookies with anybody they could find. Here are some photos of the whole process:

naw-ruz cookiesnaw-ruz cookiesnaw-ruz cookiesnaw-ruz cookiesnaw-ruz cookiesnaw-ruz cookies

Room for improvement? Well, we were actually expecting some parents to show up and share the afternoon with the children; lack of logistical coordination meant that didn’t happen. We didn’t spend nearly enough time reminding the parents that they were invited to stay; written invitations (instead of the verbal invites) would have helped tremendously. I had expected to give a more adult-centred presentation of Naw-Ruz, which subsequently bombed—meaning we didn’t have much of a “lesson” per se; once I noticed that the kids were getting bored of my waffling, we jumped right into washing our hands and getting ready for the cookies (which was the right thing to do, I suppose).

Kudos? Obviously, to Mom for basically planning the entire thing in about a day; she had even planned more (including making decorative bags) but we ran out of time! Many thanks go to Dad for taking photos. Also, big ups are owed to those who helped keep the class under control during transition time. One thing that was pulled off remarkably well this time was discipline. We’ve had some discipline problems with one child in particular, and it’s really taken all of us to handle him and run the rest of the class smoothly… This time around, it really seemed to work well. Not only did we avoid a tantrum (which had happened the previous week, when there were only two teachers available), we actually applied some of the lessons of Ruhi Book 3 and gave preference to the children who were showing patience and politeness. We had to do it several times, but it worked! I’m sure we’ll have to repeat the exercise in coming weeks, but it was a genuine thrill to know that yes, when you put your heads together, the lessons we’ve learned in our training actually do bear fruit!

where we now stand

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.
  1. 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:
      • preparing snacks
      • preparing activities
      • giving rides
      • co-teaching or assisting
      • etc.
    • 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.

obedience (take 1)

Today’s lesson: obedience.

April 8, 2006: 1.5 hours, 4 children, average age 6-7. This class went well – better than we had expected! It had been a while since we had revisited the topic of obedience and it was long overdue. Most of the children had just come back from a birthday party (one of them was the birthday boy) so they were a bit rowdy and undoubtedly full of sugar, so it took a little while to get them calmed down, but miraculously, it happened. We said prayers (with some difficulty) and sang some songs, after which we had a talk about obedience. I think the children were able to catch what we were saying on some level; we gave all sorts of examples, and even asked them if some of the things they were doing (for example, writhing on the floor or sitting quietly, being loud or showing reverence during prayers, etc) were examples of obedience or not. Their conduct seemed to improve during the colouring period / artistic activity, where we used the drawing from Ruhi Book 3 – of a young boy kneeling to pray. We explained the connection between the drawing and the content of the lesson. They were even sharing pencils and felt pens while colouring, and patiently waiting for their turn with certain colours (with minimal grabbing)!

The simple nature of this lesson seems to be what made it so successful (at least in our eyes). In fact, most of the lesson was taken straight from Ruhi Book 3 – you can’t get much simpler. As well as being simple, the lesson was also focused – since the Ruhi lessons are designed to reinforce the theme of each lesson in many different ways (through memorization, songs, stories, games and art).