Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I have cider in my ear

“On the day I left home to make my way in the world, my daddy took me to one side. ‘Son,' my daddy says to me, 'I am sorry I am not able to bankroll you to a large start, but not having the necessary lettuce to get you rolling, instead, I'm going to stake you to some very valuable advice. One of these days, a guy is going to show you a brand-new deck of cards on which the seal is not yet broken. Then this guy is going to offer to bet you that he can make the jack of spades jump out of this brand-new deck of cards and squirt cider in your ear. But, son, you do not accept this bet because, as sure as you stand there, you're going to wind up with an ear full of cider.’”

Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls

As some of you may or may not know, my church is composed of a lay ministry. This means that people from the congregation get “called” (i.e. asked) to fulfill certain responsibilities such as teachers, youth leaders, etc. My calling until last week consisted in teaching a lesson once a month during the last hour of our three-hour church. It was a great, low stress, easy job. That itself should have been a sign that I wouldn’t have that calling for very long.


I saw it coming. Something was up. People (those certain individuals in leadership positions who make calling decisions) kept asking me too frequently when I was going to defend my thesis. It was like they were waiting till I was free from my academic bondage to spring something on me. Rope me into another sort of bondage before I had a chance to really taste freedom.

Yup. Sure enough, not two weeks after I defended, I get asked if I could “meet” with someone after church. That someone then proceeded to ask me whether or not I would be willing to teach Primary (the church program for kids ranging from 3-12), specifically, those kids turning 5 this year. To tell you the truth, he did an excellent job selling me the position. They (both the Primary leaders and the bishopric) felt very strongly about my teaching this class. They had even held open the position for me until I was free to take it. “I was the one for the job,” they said.

I was convinced.

I had visions of me teaching angelic children. I saw them sitting quietly with rapturous upturned faces while I imported spiritual truths to them. I imagined that years later they would look back to this time in their life as a time of enlightenment.


I now know, to quote Guys and Dolls, that I took a “sucker bet.”

I went in last week to observe the class that I will be teaching. Three of the five children are great. They sit in their seats; they answer questions; and they have an attention span larger than a gnat.

The other two though.

Oh my goodness gracious. Those two were all over the place. They had a two-second attention span and then they were off running, destroying, annoying……whatever they could do. There were two adults in the classroom (I was just observing this week, not teaching) and it was all we could do to not have complete nuclear fallout. I finished church absolutely exhausted and completely overwhelmed.

I had a whole butt-load of cider in my ear, and I wanted to cry.

So if any of you have any recommendations on how to successfully teach a class of five 5-year-olds without loosing my sanity in the process, I would be all ears. Seriously, I could use any and all help.


Retail Worker #48721093 said...

I don't know how this works exactly, but can you quit? Or ask to be reassigned? I would think that the leaders wouldn't want you to be uncomfortable with your assignment. Or stressed out.

Do you at least get a helper?

Personally, after they have been sitting in a chair for 2+ hours, I would probably let them run amok so they can blow off the pent up energy. Or do easy craft projects. Yeah, you should be teaching them something, but at that point I don't think they are gonna be paying that much attention to the message.

Lin said...

It's all about routine and consequences. I taught the 5-6 year olds (8 of them!) for 10 months and was most successful at keeping them reverent when we followed the same routine. When we left to go to class or back to the primary room, we walked in line. line leaders were chosen based on reverence during the lesson or whoever was most well behaved or who raised their hand and actually answered the question that was asked (as opposed to "I want a pet tiger for my birthday"). we shared a room and to keep them from barging in on the other class' closing prayer, I had them line up against the wall, fold their arms and wait for the door to open. when they had a substitute, they still all did that because it was the routine.

Also, pay attention to how the each interact with each other and keep the wild ones apart. I had one boy who was very well behaved as long as he wasn't sitting anywhere near a particular other boy. there was also two girls who were always well behaved if they sat next to me or on my lap during primary exercises.

finally, they told us when i started that we weren't allowed to have snacks (actually snacks were allowed once a quarter) which meant i had to figure out positive re-enforcement. so i used stickers. we had a sticker chart for those who brought their scriptures to class or i put them on their coloring projects if they were reverent or well behaved that day.

those are my tips. it's a hard age because they can't really sit for two hours. doing a wiggle song before you have an opening prayer could also help. head shoulders knees and toes or do as i'm doing - let them wiggle before they have to sit and listen again.

k. i'm done now. good luck!! i'm sure you'll do a great job!

Ange said...

My advice: don't take them or yourself too serious. Always remember that they are 5 years old. Prepare your lessons with one objective in mind, i.e. what is the one thing you want them to really get out of the lesson and focus on that the whole time. Make it fun. Sugardoodle I think that's the name of it but it has a lot of ideas for church stuff.

If you really want to learn how to help their behavior, check out "The Power of Positive Parenting." I realize you arent' their parent but there's some great stuff in there for teachers. Esentially don't pay any attention to the bad behavior and really emphasize any good behavior that you see in them.

Washington Hills said...

Oh, man, Lady S! I have no advise. Just wanted to tell you that I was cracking up reading this! Sigh, perhaps we all need moments of outside-influenced birth control, smile.

Emily said...

I too found this funny. Not because it is causing you pain - but because my calling as primary chorister is causing me pain & well misery loves company. Seriously though, I feel the same way every week after church & I ask myself why oh why did I say yes???? I think you will be fabulous though. good luck. :)

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