Karl Gallagher (selenite) wrote,
Karl Gallagher
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Adventures of a Sunday School Teacher, Part IV

When I was asked to teach the middle-schoolers I went through the middle-school curriculum to see if there were any big ideological conflicts that would keep me from presenting the material. Turns out I should've been looking for pedagogical conflicts. My current theory for dealing with middle schoolers is to keep the material coming and not leave any "dead air", because they'll fill that with their own chatter. So with my turn as lead teacher coming up I sat down with the book to look over the material and see how much I needed to add. Turns out the plan was:

1. kids work on arts & crafts project from last week
2. teacher briefly mentions that Judaism is a religion
3. kids split into three groups with handouts, each do a little craft project, and then brief the contents of their handouts to the other two groups.
4. watch 8 minute video

So I was only supposed to talk for about 5% of the class period. Talk about giving the kids room to run wild. So the handout material became lecture. Turned out the other teacher for the day had prepared some stuff to cover part of it so I didn't have to do the whole thing.

The project (making a village diorama) went reasonably well. Only one major spill, decent painting, no huge arguments. Most of the discussion was about "Here's where we'll put the pirate fort!" and such. So I started the lecture period with a digression on pirates in the time of Jesus (summary: the Romans killed them). To illustrate how Judaism is different from other religions I polled them for what kind of missionaries they'd had knocking on their doors. One student had run into Jews for Jesus but nobody had tried to make them convert to Judaism. In the overview of the religion I stressed the ten commandments, trying to show how these people had stayed distinct from their neighbors because they followed a rigid set of laws. It went reasonably well, I think I got most of the message across. Keeping the momentum of the lecture going kept them from doing much chattering or fooling around.

But they've clearly run into teachers doing that before. I was trying to get them involved by asking questions about the material and having them translate the verses of the KJV into colloquial terms, as well as taking questions from them. The problem I ran into was students tossing out "questions" that were slow, meandering speeches that went off topic and left dead air for other kids to start talking into. I wound up having to shut some down while they were still going on and not take a lot of questions. It went better than some of the earlier sessions but I like to get the class interested in the material instead of just quietly tolerating it. That might be hopeless. They didn't ask to be here and they didn't ask to hear the lecture, so even if they might've signed up for it as an elective they're not going to get enthusiastic for the mandatory class. It takes the fun out of teaching, normally if I'm lecturing it's to an audience that wants to know about this stuff. I'll have to see how the rest of the year goes but right now I don't think I'd sign up for another stint.
Tags: teaching, unitarians
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