Saturday, January 16, 2010

First day of school

A couple months ago I was given the calling (assignment) to teach the Young Single Adults (18-30 year old singles) Sunday school class at church. This is a wee bit daunting seeing as most of them are older than me, and since we're most of the time split into singles and marrieds (to try and pair them all up and get some weddings happening) I don't know half of them.

I told a friend my new assignment. She said something like "Ooooo. They're tough".

Apparently they don't contribute. They're a little bit participation shy. I asked a friend in the group if this would be true.

"Oh there's plenty of talking. We talk to each other, just not the teacher."

After joking that I could accept answers by text I began to really wonder what I could do to get through 45 minutes in front of this group.

My teaching experience comes from 5 years of teaching in the church. Teaching primary that is. My previous calling was a pretty perfect fit I thought, I taught the Sunbeams, the 3-year-olds (don't you love the name they give that age-group?). It was a challenge but I knew what I was dealing with. It was fun. And they're allowed food in class, games, and are not expected to sit still.

But I've been in adult classes before. There is hardly ever food. Like I could count the number of times on one hand that I've been given food. And there are plenty of people that know a lot more than me and hopefully won't wear their proud boots to class. Or what's worse would be if no one contributed at all and I talked for half an hour then ran out of lesson material. Games come in the form of splitting into groups to do readings and then reporting back. The only people that really move are the ones looking after babies that are pre-nursery age (under 18-months).

Well I know what motivates me, so this is what I came up with.

You contribute, you get a cookie. You don't, then you don't! None of this "Everyone wins" and hand them all around at the end business. I needed results.

It came time for my first lesson. I was quite nervous. They're a big group, over 20 people. I deliberately assigned a lot of people to read things out. I joked about Seinfeld and brought up President Bush (the lesson was on being a good citizen). They read things out, they answered questions, they participated in discussion. I thought they weren't that tough a crowd. Someone took down a list of contributers and at the end most of the class (7/8 maybe?) were able to have a cookie, two even because I'd made quite a pile.

Class was small over the holidays, a lot of students had travelled home, so it was easy to get everyone to contribute in a 6 person class. Numbers are picking up again and I'm losing my edge. Nerves are coming back again.

I think I'm taking brownies to class tomorrow. This time the winning team will get the batch. Participation = winning. We'll see if it makes for another "awesome lesson".


  1. When you get tired of baking, I want you to tell them that if they will not be grown-ups and participate, you will be treating them like Sunbeams, because Sunbeams is what you know. I would like you to start sentences with things like, "I want you to put your thumbs up if you think that was a goood choice". Nod slowly and smile wide at their answers. Commend certain class members for sitting nicely. Please.

  2. I actually find it frustrating that treats are the only way to get them to participate. Treats are nice and all, but church is not about getting treats, it's about learning and growing from one another.

    One thing that I've observed (I've never taught adult Sunday School) is that sometimes teachers are not patient enough to wait for an answer. Don't be afraid of a little silence if it means your class is thinking about the question. Sometimes teachers will rephrase the question over and over because the silence is terrifying. It might be worth your while to even ask the question and say, "Think about this for a minute before you answer."

    Good luck, and tell those YSAs I said to grow up. :)

  3. You are brave! I'm proud of you Mariah and I love this post! X

  4. woah! calm down everybody, your acting like children yourselves.

  5. The treats won't last forever. After the first week Nat said "We can't keep this up! You'll bake us broke!" And he's right. But it's a nice nudger sometimes.

    It's written in the teacher helps in the manual to not be afraid of silence and to leave space for people to think. I admit I'm not the best at it. And I've been in classes with people teachers that were awesome at it. I definitely need to try a bit better at that one.