Children usually learn to read by
recognizing combinations of letters. Learning to teach is similar.
Qualities and skills combine to make the teaching process
understandable and enjoyable.
So what are the ABCs of teaching? You may already have all 26
letters in your teaching primer. Or as you read this alphabet of
teaching qualities and skills, you may discover new combinations of
letters you need to be an effective teacher.
The ABCs that are foundational to teaching:
Availability: Don’t turn off when the last
“bell” rings. Kids still need hugs and attention when they see you
in the hallway. And be available for training. It’s the best way to
become a better teacher. Make it a goal to incorporate one new idea
from each training session you attend.
Boasting: Be proud of your children. They need
someone who thinks they’re special and who says so. Let your
children hear your praises of them.
Coping: Many children have difficult lives. You
need to be able to cope with what’s happening to them. Don’t avoid
children with problems, but embrace them and counsel them when
necessary. When a child makes a need known to you, pray for that
need and seek to minister to that child.
Discovery: Explore biblical truth with your
kids in every lesson. You’re an expedition guide into the most
exciting territory ever for kids: the Bible.
Encouragement: Your positive support will
encourage learners to risk new things. Pepper your speech with
comments such as, “I appreciate the way you tackled that mural” or
“You worked hard during that game.”
Flexibility: Children develop at different
rates — even children of the same age. Be patient with them while
they develop. Don’t ask them to do things beyond their physical or
intellectual capacity. Praise them for trying rather than only for
Guidance: Proverbs 22:6 says if we guide
children biblically, they’ll not depart from the training when they
get old. That’s a promise for every teacher and parent!
Hesitation: When you ask a question, wait for
children’s responses. After ample thinking time and if someone
doesn’t attempt a response, rephrase the question.
Interaction: Don’t lecture! One of the most
effective teaching methods Jesus used was dialogue. Take turns in
talking and listening. Maintain eye contact to underscore your
interest in what the child says.
Joviality: A good sense of humor that leads to
hearty laughter is good medicine for everyone. Remember to laugh
with children and not at them.
Knowledge: Learn about developmental
characteristics and effective teaching methods. Put your knowledge
into practice to develop age-appropriate lessons for kids.
Love: Your children must feel you love them by
how you act, what you say and the tone of your voice. Love costs us
nothing, but it can make all the difference to a child.
Modeling: You are Jesus to your children. Jesus
welcomed the children with open arms. He had standards and
expectations for them, but he’d forgive them without fail. Model
Naturalness: Don’t read the lesson as written
by an editor 2,000 miles away; teach the lesson in your words.
Familiarize yourself with the content, write specific questions and
don’t read the curriculum word for word.
Order: Children constantly ask non-verbally,
“Who’s in charge here?” Discipline is maintained through a loving
relationship with each child, not by authoritarian power. If a
child is misbehaving, pull the child aside, and kindly remind him
or her of the classroom rules.
Preparation: The “Saturday night scramble” can
be avoided if you start lesson planning early in the week. Begin on
Monday. Review your lesson and start gathering supplies. Through
the week the Holy Spirit will provide real situations to illustrate
the lesson objectives and provide quality learning for you and your
Question asking: Ask questions beyond who,
what, when and where. Help your children understand the causes
behind the story and make present-day applications. Encourage kids
to put themselves in a character’s shoes. Ask how they would feel
had they been that person.
Respect: Children are God’s gifts to us and are
entrusted to our care for only a short while. Give them choices and
respect their opinions.
Spirituality: Make sure your well doesn’t run
dry. Daily Bible reading and prayer will keep your pump primed to
give to the kids in your class.
Tolerance: Children will misbehave. Expect it,
deal with it appropriately and forgive it. Whatever you do, don’t
leave kids with the impression that church is a place for
Understanding: Children are unique genetically,
socially, intellectually, physically and spiritually. Appreciate
and respect their differences, and provide ways for each child to
contribute to the class.
Vitality: Teachers who bore children with the
Bible should sing in the choir instead! Enthusiasm for God’s Word
is contagious. Teachers don’t have to be cheerleaders but neither
should they be as dead as King Henry!
Warmth: Sunday school should be a good place to
be — like going to grandma’s. The classroom should be “child
friendly” with materials and resources easily accessible. The
surroundings should be pleasing to the eye, ear and touch.
XP: These Greek letters represent Christ — and
so do you. You are Christ’s ambassador. Disciple, train and teach
children as Jesus would.
Yoking Up: Don’t go it alone. You need a
partner who’ll pray for you. Teaching children is a tremendous
task, and the extra support you get from having a prayer partner
will be invaluable.
Zeal: Teachers shape the attitudes and values
of future generations. And Christian teachers have a direct impact
on children and eternity. Get a vision for the difference you’re
making in each child’s life.
Photocopy this article and give it to your
Mary Ellen Drushal is academic dean at Ashland Theological
Seminary in Ohio. She is also the author of On Tablets of Human
Hearts (Zondervan). Please keep in mind that phone numbers,
addresses, and prices are subject to change.