One of the biggest concerns in our work is to maintain control of the students in our care, without going beyond allowable limits. Here are a few suggestions for principles to help us in our work with the young.
The Need for VALUATION
The Students: Perhaps it seems as though it hardly needs mentioning, but it is vital to understand how important children are. Closely linked with this is the need to demonstrate this to the children and to their parents.
In the context of Mark 10, we are introduced to parents who are seeking the Lord Jesus’ influence and blessing on their children. Those closest to the Savior (the disciples) rebuked them. The Lord Jesus was very indignant with the callousness of the disciples; He counted the children as being very precious. “He took them in His arms and blessed them, laying His hands on them!” The child is more important than our perceived importance as a teacher or guide.
The Source: If we are going to keep the attention and interest of the children, then we need to appreciate the fact that our message is the message from God that changes lives. It’s the message that’s important. It is God Who makes the difference. We have the inestimable privilege of being laborers together in the great call of the gospel.
The Subject: It is essential to know that our message contains the seed of the greatest truth they will ever hear. Therefore, the value we place on the message is going to influence and mark the character of how we present it, and this, in itself, has a powerful impact on the audience. Do you believe the message? Then speak it as if you do.
If you know your subject, speak with assurance, and those who listen will know it. It is better to be short and simple than to go on at length. Work at the essentials of your message so you are sure you have it well in hand and can express it succinctly. More words sometimes just take away from the impact. It is important to plan ahead as to how you will conclude your lesson material. If time remains, be prepared with some activity linked with the main point.
The Need to VISUALIZE
Another aspect of maintaining interest and control is found in what you expect. Armed with a message from heaven, knowing you have a mandate from God, we ought to expect them to listen. We expect them to show reverence. We expect them to behave.
In the process of teaching, it is important to get the children on your side. This can be assisted by extracurricular activities and timely visits to your home or to be involved in your interests. Assure yourself of their interest by injecting illustrations or stories when a concept or teaching point might be difficult or in order to make a strong point about an essential or central truth.
Get the idea of involving them in the message, not just speaking to them; involve them in the discovery of truth. Show them and shepherd them along in the pathway of learning.
It is so important to think as they might; to see things from their point of view; and express things in a way they might be able to see and understand.
The Need for a VELVET GLOVE
Suggestions about discipline: First of all, do not point out every infraction of the rules. Sometimes the only purpose this serves is to further divert them from seeing the lesson truth. Second, you don’t need to be constantly handing out candy or rewards for behavior or correct answers. It is disruptive and provides the wrong emphasis. However, appropriate rewards from time to time can make for a positive connotation.
Don’t make pointless rules. Don’t make threats you have no hope of keeping. They are children after all, remember? Treat them with consistent kindness. Don’t play favorites. Say what you mean and mean what you say.
The Need for VIGIL
Without question, the greatest disciplinary tool is prayer. Pray for all the children. Pray for specific children and behavioral needs. Attempt to visualize their lives, circumstances, upbringing, and limitations. It will give you a deepening persepective. Getting to know the students in their own setting will be an invaluable aid to gaining their respect, enthusiasm, and compliance.
When a child attends irregularly, try a personal talk. When children fail to pay attention, try a related lesson assignment, give the pupil special attention, or investigate their background.
When someone lacks respect, set a good example yourself, teach good examples, perhaps offer a reward for improvement, have a personal talk with the student, and set out their importance to you and the importance of behavior.
When they don’t do their homework or learn their verse, try again with clear instructions, making sure you keep your commitments. Offer a reward, and reward only for excellent effort. Make your lesson more interesting so they get more involved.
These suggestions are often helpful but, above all, the teacher’s greatest resource is prayer.