I just finished one of the most wonderful and challenging weeks of my life. There was a need at our church for a grade 1 and 2 teacher for the Vacation Bible School. My thoughts were: “I like kids and kids like me. This will be fun!” I now realize how incredibly naive I was. Babysitting and having fun with a group of 15 children is a very different thing than maintaining order and teaching a group of 15 children. Very different indeed!
Teachers spend years in university learning how to conduct an orderly classroom. I had never even been a helper in a classroom setting and didn’t ask anyone experienced how they managed.
After my first day I felt very humbled and a little frightened and overwhelmed at the thought of the week ahead of me. Could I manage? It wasn’t a bad group, but I felt responsible to teach and that required order.
I prayed and decided to do something similar to my coin jar idea (Taking Note of the Good). There was a pattern for a cardboard parking meter in my teaching supplies, so I put it together to use as a tool to reward good behaviour.
The following day I informed the class that when they were quiet and listened well they could put coins in the parking meter and at the end of the week I would give them a small gift. I then brought out my timer and told them that they would need to sit quietly for 1 minute without a peep. One minute can actually seem quite long under these circumstances, but it worked! Silence reigned for 1 minute and I asked one of the students to put 5 pennies in the box.
We practiced lining up at the door and walking quietly to the next activity (though we never actually succeeded in walking quietly!) I told them that they needed to be quiet when I raised my hand, and found that it works even better when I asked them to respond by raising their own hand.
Overall we had quite a good week. The children picked me flowers one day and one little guy told me that every minute he wasn’t at VBS he wanted to be there. I learned so much, but I know there is so much more to learn.
Every child that was there is so very precious and I was surprised at how dear they became to me in just one week. I stayed up late on Thursday night to make cards for all the children and woke up at 5:30 on Friday to finish them. For our last class on Friday I gave them their cards and the gift that I’d promised (mechanical pencils). I was a little sad that it was all over, but thankful for the opportunity to spend this week with them.
I think that I would like to teach again next year, but I will be spending a lot of time learning about how the pro’s manage their classrooms. I hope to return a more prepared, wiser and better teacher.