Unlike most Slicers, I am not a teacher by trade. But every other week, I play one at Sunday School. My class consists of anywhere between 6 and 14 of the cutest 3 and 4 year olds on earth, most of which I’ve known since before they were born. To anyone who teaches 3 and 4 year olds full time: Let me buy you a drink some time. You must surely need it.
I know as teaching goes, I’ve got very light duty. I’m provided with a lesson booklet and leaflets for all the children, and I’ve only got them for one hour. Each Sunday’s lesson begins with the children sitting down with a coloring sheet of some kind and an attendance chart on which they are supposed to add a sticker to the dated square that corresponds with their name. Or wherever else they feel moved to put a sticker. No one checks the attendance chart. I’m not really sure why we do it. It’s just part of our routine.
From there, we move over to the carpet in the center of the room where we have a paper altar on which the children take turns sticking paper altar cloths, paper flower arrangements, a paper Jesus, and paper flames for the candles. The boys love to stick on the flames - probably because I dramatically warn them not to burn their fingers. Some days they think that is riotously funny; other times, they clearly think I’m an idiot.
After we’ve got our altar set up, the children take turns praying in front of the class. One boy with a voice so sweet it makes you want to hug him always volunteers first and thanks God for his parents, his grandparents, his Sunday School classmates, and his Sunday School teacher. He really knows what he’s doing. It’s clear he prays at home every night. This is followed by 5 to 13 other prayers for exactly the same things. Three and four year olds are good followers.
I strongly believe that teachers have a very special gift – a gift which was not apportioned me. So I am really happy if I can keep their attention and maintain some semblance of control for 15-20 minutes out of our hour together. Last week was Transfiguration Sunday. Our lesson was about the time Jesus went up a mountain with Peter, James and John and His face became as bright as the sun and his clothes as white as snow. I like to teach the kids one big word every time I teach, because, seriously, it’s fun to hear little kids say big words. So this week’s word was TRANS-FIG-UR-A-TION. I read them the Bible story, we practiced the word a few times, and I started to lose their attention in a big, loud way. I usually hold off on the snack until the end of class, but it was really time to reign these kids in, plus the snack was lesson-based. I showed them a bag of popcorn kernels, which then transfigured into bags of white-as-snow popcorn. I really think they got it.
The next part of our lesson is always my favorite. Crafts. The lesson booklet comes with a suggested craft which usually leaves me feeling meh, so I pay frequent visits to Pinterest and the craft store to come up with something a little more memorable. More often than not what results is a big mess and yet another craft fail. I have learned to keep glitter out of the room at all costs. Anything with small pieces results with me on my hands and knees after class. Anything with glue results in a lot of scrubbing. I try to keep it simple. And while the kids are working on something their parents will hide in Monday morning’s trash, I try to reinforce the Bible lesson. I don’t use a rubrics or scaffolding. I don’t even know what those are. I just try to get them to tell the story back to me, and to repeat that day’s big word.
Even though our lessons generally correlate with what the adults just learned in church, when parents come to pick up their kids from Sunday school, they almost always ask what we learned about. This is like having instant standardized testing. I can see right away if my lesson worked or not. Last Sunday, one particularly lively father entered the room and asked “Kids! What day is today?” to which they all responded “Transportation Sunday!” Missed it by that much.