* Originally written for BuildFaith.org *
Sunday, November 15, we invited a local teaching professional to lead us in a workshop on Classroom Management and Student Engagement. It was an incredible experience that left all involved feeling empowered, equipped and enabled to do the work of children’s ministry. I’m honored to be able to share this experience with the readers of Build Faith. Here is our story of how we changed the way we look at volunteer teachers and their training.
After experiencing wonderful growth which included doubling our volunteer teachers and adding a Sunday School class complete with a new curriculum, it was clear we needed a training to compliment all of our change. The question I was stuck on was, “What specifically do my volunteers need to learn?” The past two months revealed that we were having issues with classroom management and child/teacher interaction. We were seeing issues specifically with a very young Godly Play class and occasionally with the 4-5th grade boys.
In search of the “greatest training there ever was” I equipped myself with resources gathered from the FORMA forums, threw in a dash of my own knowledge and then turned to an unlikely source, Aaron Molyneux, the Blaine County School District Program Coordinator and Freelance Teacher Consultant. It was a risk to ask a non-religious educator for help with Sunday School but I had hoped that she might have an additional novel idea or two to point me in the right direction. The risk paid off in spades as our conversation ended in her agreement to lead the workshop portion of our training.
Our game plan for the training was surprisingly simple: observe – discuss – solutions – implement. Aaron joined us for Sunday School to observe our classes and identify areas of growth. Later that afternoon we gathered together as group to discuss her findings, share our frustrations, and find the solutions we desired. Together we co-facilitated a discussion that unearthed undiscovered areas of growth, practical solutions to our frustrations, a new found bond within the group, and a sense of empowerment that we are capable.
Asking a non-religious professional to consult our areas of weakness and offer up helpful solutions was beneficial and insightful. Aaron was able to give feedback that was objective and free of bias. When a area of growth was brought up by a teacher she was able to offer a sweet little nugget of help wether it be a tip, trick, or methodology. She wowed us with her educational vernacular and ease at which she talked about children’s learning styles and abilities. She was easily able to pinpoint the heart of our issues within our conversation and then quickly direct us into problem solving and solutions. She also gave us the gift of confidence by shedding light on all the ways we were doing things well. It was most wonderful to share her final words of feedback with the teachers after the training had ended. “You have an incredible group of teachers. They are professional, excellent communicators, and great team players. If only all schools could have what you do!” The teachers of St. Thomas are forever changed. We have already started planning the Spring training with Aaron. She has so many great ideas we just can’t wait to bring her back!
Friends, our communities and the people within them have so much to offer our parishes. I pray you will each find unconventional ways to connect and network outside your own doors.
SUGGESTED RESOURCES, from the FORMA Facebook group:
Classroom Management: Expectations, Structure, and Laughter by Lisa Brown (Building Faith Article)