Tips for the First-Time Teacher – Part 1
1. Continuously pray about your new responsibility. Regardless of the number of students who sit in front of you or what they do or do not already know about the Bible, what you have committed to do—with the power of the Holy Spirit—every Sunday morning is of utmost importance. And as you pray about this privilege you now have, you will find that the most change will occur not in the classroom but in your own walk with God because it will be impossible for you to be a good Sunday school teacher without the Lord’s power and guidance.
“As you pray about this privilege you now have, you will find that the most change will occur not in the classroom but in your own walk with God.”
2. Overplan your cue card.** Create a cue card and list a few too many things to do that class period. Let’s assume that you have a fifty-minute class period. On your cue card or agenda, list things that would require at least a sixty-minute class period. Why? There are several reasons: (1) many students will arrive before the beginning of the hour, (2) younger students will not be picked up right at dismissal time, (3) nerves often prompt people to speak faster, (4) you might feel led to change up activities at the last minute, etc. Remember, everything will not always go according to plan; therefore, plan excessively.
**First-time teachers, you do need to create a cue card for yourself which lists what you have planned for the entire class hour. Over time, what you do in the classroom may become so inherent that you no longer need written reminders; but for the first year or so, please consider using a cue card.
3. Figure out hundreds of different ways to say “Good Job!” During activity time or review, mentally count the number of times you say “Good (or Great) Job!” It’s probably more than the number you may be thinking right now; and while young people do appreciate praise on any level, consider being more precise with your words, thereby making what is said more special to each student.
Here are a few examples of “Good (or Great) Job!” alternatives:
- I appreciate the way that [name] is listening to this morning’s lesson.
- Wow, I’ve never heard young people sing as well as all of you!
- Thank you for raising your hand, [name], and waiting for me to call on you.
- You work so hard, [name]! Your quarterly is quite impressive.
- [Name], you know the answer to nearly every review question. I am so proud of you!
- You young people work so well together. Keep up the good work!
4. Instruct young people of the proper way to behave in class and remind them as needed. “As needed” does not mean every other minute; it means when the students need to be reminded. As they become accustomed to you and to how you expect them to behave, you’ll find that you hardly have to deal with this matter at all. Consistence is the key in classroom behavior. If the students are to be quiet during the lesson, then you should address any outbursts or whispering during the lesson every time.
- Here are a few examples how to word “proper behavior” reminders:
- When* you have a comment or question, please raise your hand.
- We must pay attention and not talk to each other during lesson time.
- We do not run or push or yell in the classroom.
- When* we have [activity name], we use our inside voices.
*When reminding the students of how to behave in class, try not to use the word if, which implies that they have a choice whether or not to follow.
5. Take advantage of teachable tangents. If an aspect of the lesson or even a song interests a student particularly, take just a moment to walk that “rabbit trail,” especially if you think doing so can help the student in his Christian walk. For example, if the opening song of the class hour is “The Unclouded Day,” it might be a good idea to take a moment to talk about the wonderful hope of Heaven. These “teachable tangents” need not be long—just a few seconds of shared insight that might challenge or encourage your students.