Monday, November 2, 2009

Children's Classes, Part 3

A few years after our cat peed on the comforter (remember, that's how it all began), we had a number of children who were regularly attending our classes, and we had gone over a wide variety of virtues. Every virtue was tied to a story about the Master, and included a quote from the Writings. Sometimes we followed a lesson from the Ruhi books, other times from Unite the Hearts, and occassionally we made a lesson up to fit a need that we saw in the children.

OK, maybe I'm exagerrating. Not every virtue was tied to a story of the Master. We missed many opportunities to teach, lost some kids, had our own struggles and difficulties, but in the end, I think it has gone fairly well. Besides, we need to focus on the strengths, and not dwell on the weaknesses. We are, after all, a community "moving from strength to strength". For now, I will try to write this in as encouraging a manner as I can and hope that we will all gain as much as possible from it.

(Aside - My cat, the same one responsible for all this, is purring contentedly behind me on the couch, while my wife is sitting there talking about this blog. She says that she sees the exageration in my description, but also realizes that it is actually a matter of your perspective. She often hears Baha'is complaining about how the kids are always bouncing around and talking, and are generally disorderly, "but", she thinks, "you have kids to talk about. Isn't that wonderful?" She speaks about the time she was disappointed and realizes, in retrspect, that all it took was for me to step back and see what we had accomplished. For my own part, I needed that, too. This reflection was a great source of encouragement to both of us.)

Now, where was I? Oh yes. Thanks.

After going through a number of virtues with the kids, I printed off a list of the ones we had covered. I asked them to consider a friend, but "don't tell anyone who it is. That would be backbiting."  I then asked them to go through the list and circle the ones that were that friend's strengths.

I love the fact that they never ask why we are doing these things.  They just accept it and do it.  They never asked why they had to tell me something good about the person that brought them; they just did it.  How can you not love that?

When they got to trustworthiness, I noticed that they all hesitated.  It was obvious that they were all asking themselves if they wanted a friend that was not trustworthy.

"Don't go there," I said.  "We don't want to judge anyone or condemn them.  Instead we want to help them.  If someone is not trustworthy, what can we do to help them become more trustworthy?"

We spoke about how everyone on the planet has each and every virtue in them, but in varying degrees.  We talked about helping someone exercise to build their musles, an that what we wanted to do was exercise their virtues to become stronger.  I'm not sure what else was said, but it worked.  They explored this idea.

For example, one of the younger kids said that she had a pair of pants with no pockets.  "I can ask him to hold my money until we get to the store."

What a great exercise!

Now these children focus on each other's virtues more easily and, as a dear friend pointed out, they are also helping each other develop their spiritual capacities.  In the end, isn't that one of the reasons why we were created?

Again, this was not anything that was conciously planned, but developed out of a natural love for these kids.  At every step, we wanted to see these kids grow and develop.  They just have grown and developed far beyond what we expected.

As another aside, the local corner store has reported 40% decrease in shoplifting over the past year, and the girls who have been in this program are among the few in their school who are not dating (or more accurately, sleeping around).

So, when planning your children's classes, have a variety of lessons prepared that you can use, depending upon the needs of the children.  Be flexible, and give them what they need when they need it.  Do regular reviews of the lessons, and see where they are going with it.  Ask around and see if others are noticing a change in behaviour, as this becomes a great source of encouragement for both you and them.

Now, if you need help starting a class of your own, I have a cat for rent.

No comments:

Post a Comment