Tips for the First-Time Teacher – Part 3
- Name your Sunday school class. “Apples of His Eye” may not be the best class name for a tenth grade boys’ Sunday school class; “David’s Mighty Men” or “Fishers of Men” might be better alternatives.
- Take a class picture. There really is no wrong day to take a class picture, but you may want to consider taking one when you know that the majority of your class will be present—like on Easter, Mother’s Day, a class anniversary, a special church day, etc. Keep a copy for yourself and use it as a prayer reminder. (If you have the privilege of having your own Sunday school room, consider enlarging the picture, framing it, and then hanging it on a wall.) Give a copy to each of your students and one to your pastor. On the back of each picture, include the name of the class and the date that the picture was taken.
- Remember and recognize birthdays. Next month, we’ll cover the importance of keeping records of your students. One of the records that must be kept is birthday dates. Some people might have you believe that a birthday is just another date on the calendar or hardly worth mentioning at all—DO NOT believe any of that! A student may be temporarily embarrassed when the class sings “Happy Birthday” or sees his name in the class bulletin under “Birthdays of the Week”; but imagine how he would feel if nothing happened that class hour—if no one wished him a happy birthday, not even his Sunday school teacher.
- Consider planning in quarters. There are four quarters in a year: January – March, April – June, July – September, and October – December. (Some split the quarters according to the natural divisions of the seasons, which is fine.) When planning for your Sunday school class—i.e., lessons, special days, campaigns and competitions, activities, etc.—consider planning in quarters. Dividing up the year into these four quadrants of time and planning for quarters during preceding quarters allow you (1) to plan and organize in large segments, subsequently seeing the “big picture” of what you are trying to do, and (2) to set a direction and goals for your class more realistically.
- Remember to smile. In the hustle and bustle of preparing for your class hour or running from one ministry to the next, you might forget to do just that—smile. Even if you spent the last fifty minutes making sure that leak in the church restrooms did not overflow into your classroom or scrambling around to find someone to unlock your classroom doors, your students need to walk into a room and see someone who has looked forward to and sincerely enjoys teaching his Sunday school class. They should know that, for that class hour, they have someone in front of them who would rather be teaching the Bible more than doing anything else in the world.
Having a class name encourages the students to identify with the class itself, more so than with the age bracket in which they randomly fall. Think of the difference between attending a Sunday school class for adults—and it is known as just that—and attending the “Homebuilders Sunday School Class.” Think of the difference between attending a Sunday school class for third grade girls and attending the “Daughters of the King Sunday School Class.” There IS a difference, one that allows the students to recognize that they are part of a purpose or a team or a ministry, rather than an organized configuration.
When choosing a class name, perhaps you could involve your students in it. Though you, your superintendent, or your pastor may ultimately decide the name of the class, your students might enjoy coming up with possible class names: “Helpful Hannahs,” “Eager Explorers,” “The Launching Pad,” “The Clubhouse,” “Word Warriors,” “Lord’s Little Lambs,” “Vessels of Mercy,” etc.
You may want to also consider filing a picture from each year, perhaps in a special album. That way, years and years down the road when you’ve taught Sunday school seemingly for a lifetime, you can look back and remember all that the Lord allowed you to do in His name in that one Sunday school class.
Perhaps you might consider stocking up on birthday cards to mail or to give in class on the Sundays closest to the students’ birthdays. You might also consider purchasing small gifts to accompany those cards. Though a gift is not entirely necessary, remembrance and recognition certainly are.
For example, if you want to teach about the parables of the Bible during Quarter 2, determine which parables you want to teach well before Quarter 2 even begins—perhaps at the beginning of Quarter 1 or before. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you must study your lessons months upon months before you teach them, which would be wonderful if you had the time; it simply means that you are setting your direction early, thereby providing you ample time to effectively study for the subject matter, to further develop the lessons, and to fine tune your methods of delivery. Imagine how much more confident and excited you would be to teach a Bible lesson that has been simmering in your heart for four Sundays as opposed to one that you had decided upon the week before.
Planning activities well in advance helps you figure out early what exactly you need to do to make those activities happen. For example, if you want to hold a harvest party, you probably want to include as many students in its preparation as possible. Who wants to open their home for this event? Will this party be a potluck, or will it be catered? Who will be in charge of games? Who will take care of the music, the chairs and tables, etc.? Who will take care of decorations? Who will take care of setup and cleanup? (You will usually find volunteers more willing when you ask early.) How far in advance do you need to promote the activity so that everyone may attend?
Greet your students with a smile, reserve kind words for each of them, praise and encourage them, interact with them, and maintain a positive, upbeat spirit, even when last night’s rainstorm has resulted in a leaky roof right above you.