Securing Good Behavior In Sunday School
By Rodney L. Pry
More and more, teachers of children are seeing an increased discipline problem within the Sunday school. In the past, the worst that most teachers had to be concerned with was a student who wouldn’t share or who found it hard to sit still.
But today vandalism, profanity, theft, violence and more are making their way into the Sunday school classroom. And, add to these a defiant attitude of many children who have no respect for authority and rebel against any attempt to correct their actions.
What is a teacher to do? Some have paddled kids who wouldn’t listen, but striking a child is against the law. Some teachers yell at the pupils, who only yell back. Still others grit their teeth, cry or quit.
In the past teachers could use the promise o rewards to get the children to be quiet or cooperate, but, more and more, such “gimmicks” are not working.
Before we take a look at what can be done, we need to think about the ways that children learn. Most children have very short attention spans. Much of their learning comes in short, entertaining “information bits” (as in “Sesame Street”). Children want to be involved in the learning process and discover things for themselves. And, they want to have an opportunity to talk and make a contribution to the lesson.
To help avoid trouble, the teacher must be totally prepared. If the teacher plans a lesson utilizing interesting teaching techniques, many discipline problems will be avoided. Students should also be given an opportunity to stand, s-t-r-e-t-c-h, and be active during the class period.
Many of the teaching methods used within the public schools can help us present better, more interesting Sunday school lessons, but remember, Sunday school and the public school are not the same. Public schools are based on the democratic process. Within the Sunday school, however, the Word of God is our authority, which means that teachers should usually handle problems differently from the way they would be handled in the public schools.
God is love and the teacher must communicate that love to all students. But, at the same time, we must remember that the Bible upholds what is right, and therefore, wrong behavior cannot be allowed to continue. For example, since the Ten Commandments prohibit taking the name of God in vain, a teacher cannot allow cursing.
The primary element in securing good behavior is to work with the parents. Since the Sunday school worker cannot touch the student in discipline, and other negative means of discipline may be misunderstood, the Sunday school must work in harmony with the home. The mother and father have the right and obligation to discipline their child. But remember that the home should be involved in the total education process of the Sunday school, not just when discipline is needed. At the same time, we must remember that Sunday school should be a place of love and acceptance, therefore negative discipline must be approached with care.
Often students are disruptive because of room conditions. If the room is too crowded, too stuffy, too cluttered, too hot or too dark, problems could develop. Adequate facilities won’t guarantee good behavior, but poor facilities often produce them.
Teachers also need to work to get to know their students. Teachers need to be in the classroom to greet each child as he or she arrives. When a child is rebellious, ask them why and remind them that Sunday school is a place to learn about Jesus. Remember, many children today find little love and concern at home. By sharing love and attention, the teacher may meet the very need that causes the child to rebel.
Remember, too, many children do not know what is considered proper behavior for the church and Sunday school. Remove some of the problems by giving instructions carefully. When pupils know what is expected of them, they will respond better.
One very important reminder to all teachers is that we must never respond to a student out of bias or prejudice. Some teachers don’t like boys with long hair, certain minorities, dirty clothes, etc. If a teacher reacts personally, behavior will only degenerate. Make sure discipline is the result of broken rules, not personality dislike.
Don’t forget to praise good behavior, make sure you have sufficient help, sit among the pupils, and use attractive visuals. These and other positive steps can help achieve good behavior. And, don’t forget concentrated prayer for problem students. But what if all of these efforts fail? What can a teacher do if there is still that one student who insists on disrupting the class? Should the teaching of the majority of the class, a class that wants to hear and learn, be sacrificed to one disruptive student?
There are times when a teacher will have no alternative other than removing a belligerent student from the class. Put the student in the secretary’s office or sit him in the hall. In doing so, he loses his platform to perform for the kids. While he is there, you can also counsel him individually. First, let him sit quietly and wait. This gives him a chance to think. When talking with the pupil, appeal to proper motives and place responsibility back on the pupil to reenter the class and practice good behavior.
The teacher’s attitude toward behavior is important and will do much to set the tone for learning within the classroom. As much as possible, use positive attitudes to create a classroom atmosphere where good behavior is seen as the ideal and a goal for all students at all times.