Are You Teaching the Children, or the Material?

Child:Teacher:trainLife really is all about relationships, and our primary responsibility with children is to give them the skills they need to establish and maintain healthy relationships with God and people, growing “in favor with God and man.” But in order to give those skills, we must live those skills. Which means that those of us in the classroom must place a high priority on building relationships with the children we serve. I have often asked teachers, “Do you go into the classroom to teach the material or to teach the children?” There’s a big difference.  Sometimes in our efforts to cover the material, we neglect the children.

What is “age-appropriate”?
My hope is that the curricula I write will encourage teachers to build a positive relationship with children. To help teachers do this, I try to write material that is age-appropriate. For example, I know that preschoolers don’t understand the flow of time, so I don’t present the Bible stories in order. Preschoolers are very interested in preschool concepts – mommy and daddy, pets, colors, nature, food, houses and rooms, transportation. So I take preschoolers through Bible stories by using themes to drive the train.

When children start into first and second grade, they better understand “first this happened, then that.” Sequence. Time order. Chronology. So I go through the Bible stories in order.  There are still themes that relate to daily life, but the story or scripture drives the train. With older children, I do a mixture of both. I’m convinced that they need an in-depth study of Jesus’ life, the most important chronological component for upper elementary grades. But they also need thematic studies – on prayer, worship, other religions, and apologetics (why believe in Jesus).

But other factors make a curriculum age-appropriate, and those factors bring us back to relationship:

1) age-appropriate activities, and
2) the conversation or discussion that goes along with the activities.

I wrote in my last letter that I hope after teaching each quarter of my curriculum, a teacher will be better trained to teach again. That’s because as a teacher does the activities with the children and engages in the discussion included in the activities, she or he learns how to relate to children at that age level, how to talk with children, how to listen to children, and how to enjoy the company of children.

We’ll discuss talking with children in the next newsletter.  ‘Til then:  Have a happy Summer!

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