Teacher Training: Choosing the Best Time

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Try these no-fail tips to get teachers to training
meetings.

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“Why do we need another meeting? I’m just too busy.”

“I’ve been teaching Sunday school for years. Why should I come
to teacher training meetings?”

Sound familiar?

“The biggest obstacle to training is the time people have for
it,” says Barbara Bolton, curriculum consultant and resource
specialist in Ohio. But there is hope. Bolton says, “Most people
want to do what they do as well as they can.” And that’s where
teacher training comes in.

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So how do you get teachers to training meetings? Check out these
expert teacher trainers’ ideas.

Teacher Training Basics

Use these fundamentals in your teacher training:

  • Communicate training expectations upfront.
    “When we first talk to somebody about being involved in children’s
    ministries,” says Earl Radford, children’s minister in California,
    “we talk to them about our teacher training programs that we have.
    We require that they attend at least two training sessions a year.”
    Radford’s teachers must also attend a membership class and a
    foundations of Christian doctrine class.
  • Realize that not everyone will come every
    time.
    It’s very difficult to get 100 percent attendance at
    teacher training meetings. Radford realized “that I wasn’t going to
    get everybody at the teacher training meetings. I couldn’t take
    that personally.”
  • Choose the time yourself. Don’t take a vote.
    “Don’t change your schedule for any reason because people will say,
    ‘I didn’t know when the meeting was,’ ” says Judy Wortley, author
    of The Training Remedy.
  • Make training interesting. Find out what
    teachers’ needs are. “Survey the teachers somehow to discover what
    it is that they feel they need training in,” says Bolton. And make
    the meeting time interesting. Bolton suggests, “Have a pretty high
    level of involvement so they’re not just sitting and listening.”
    Form small groups for active discussion and problem solving.
  • Build a team relationship. Acquaint teachers
    with what other teachers in other grades are doing. “If someone
    works with preschool, he or she doesn’t have a clue what’s going on
    in 5th grade,” says Wortley.
  • Love your teachers. Volunteers want to be
    appreciated. “If you don’t love them, you’ll lose your volunteers,”
    says Wortley.
  • Use experienced teachers as leaders. If your
    seasoned teachers can’t see why they should come to teacher
    training, tell them how important their role modeling is to younger
    teachers. Have them lead a part of the training, and they’ll want
    to come.
  • Start and end on time.
  • Provide child care.
  • Meet in a relaxed atmosphere such as someone’s
    home.
  • Distribute an agenda ahead of time.
  • Record the meeting. Use audio- or videotape to
    preserve the meeting for people who can’t make it.

Scheduling Tips

Okay, you’ve got the basics covered, now when do you schedule
training? Start with these ideas:

Coordinate training with other church
activities.
It’s easiest to get teachers to attend
training if they’re already at the church. Sandi Landotz,
children’s director in California, has training meetings
immediately after Sunday morning church. She keeps them short
(about 45 minutes), provides child care, and serves a light lunch
to teachers and their children.

“Everyone is already there, is hungry, and we’re making teacher
training convenient,” says Landotz. “We also invite parents and
interested adults to sit in and enjoy lunch. We get new recruits
this way.”

Betty Botz, director of children’s ministries in Texas, has
training sessions during Sunday school about every three months.
Substitute teachers fill in for that time slot. And teachers aren’t
committing to yet another meeting.

Plan all-day workshops. “We do workshops for
the day, and I feed them lunch,” says Johanna Townsend, director of
children’s ministry in California.

Have a week of general training. Steve Morris,
minister of education and administration in Tennessee, plans
“preparation week” once a year and insists that every children’s
worker attends.

Plan quarterly meetings. Judy Comstock,
Christian education director and education consultant in Michigan,
plans quarterly meetings. She provides the new quarter’s curriculum
and food.

Train during class. Radford’s teachers have
on-the-job training. New teachers observe experienced teachers in
their class for four weeks. On the fifth week, novice teachers
teach classes and “master teachers” observe. Then master teachers
train new teachers for two to three weeks until teachers get their
own class. “It really, really works,” says Radford. “I think the
equipping part is just as important or even more important than the
recruiting.”

Plan a training retreat. Twice a year, Comstock
plans a weekend training retreat at a hotel from Friday night until
midday on Saturday. Board games and other activities make Friday
night a special evening of relationship building. The next day is
filled with intense departmental training.

Plan frequent training sessions. “The only way
we found to get good participation is to have frequent training
sessions and use different approaches,” says Morris. “If we set one
time and invite all the teachers, we don’t get the most people. We
have to keep building it, keep repeating, and do it at different
times.”

*Provide flexible options. Require teachers to attend a certain
amount of training meetings over the year, and then provide many
options for them to attend. For example, if teachers are required
to attend three training sessions, lead six that they can choose
from over the year.


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