Word Magazine September 1984 Page10
THE TEACHING GROUP
By John Boojamra
Church-school teachers are one of the links in the teaching community which is composed of the church school, the home and the church. The child learns through relationships with his friends, his parents, and his teacher. Every person in the child’s world contributes either positively or negatively to the overall quality of the learning community. Each member of the group has a function upon which the others rely for the effectiveness of the learning process. Thinking in these terms, in terms of the teaching group, allows the teachers and the church-school director to plan for the fuller participation of parents in this group effort of introducing children into the life of the Church. This parental involvement is more vital than that of the teacher in the child’s growth.
Parents are the teachers’ allies. They are, in fact, sharing with the teachers the duty and privilege of nurturing their children. The parents have to feel good about the teacher, especially the parents of the very young who have had short experience with formal schooling. Likewise the parents have to feel the teacher respects them and their importance in the learning process. There are some resources that help the teacher suggest ways that the parent can participate in the education of the child — the preschool manual of the OCEC has suggestions for application of the manual’s content in the home, and the Orthodox children’s magazine, YOUNG LIFE, has regular features on family activities based on specific Orthodox themes and geared to the liturgical year.
One of the teacher’s jobs as part of the teaching group is to get to know the parents of the students. Informal meetings with parents is one way to do this. Teachers might try, instead of individual meetings, a group meeting. Teachers can use this opportunity to explain the curriculum — its subject matter and content to the parents. Parents should also be given the opportunity to express what they want for their children in the church-school experience. This might be done with a graffiti wall where parents will be able to express their feelings. This project might be introduced (and perhaps the meeting) with the question:
“What are the hopes and desires that you have for your child as he/she goes to church school?” Ask each parent to list his/her hopes and desires. Then on another sheet of paper have each one state in his/her own way an answer to the question. Remember, you are not looking for right or wrong answers, but expressions of the parent’s actual feelings. Allow the answer to take any form the parent chooses —have available all of the creative arts materials available to your church school. The answer might be given in words — prose or poetry — written in any form desired, in pictures, colors, collages, chalk, etc. When all of the answers are completed, hang them up around the room or on one large wall — a graffiti wall. The participants can walk around the room, look at the responses, and discuss them in groups of two.
After the parents have expressed their hopes and desires and the curriculum of the grade has been explained to them, the parents should be asked what they think they could do in the home to help reinforce the goals and ideas. Here the parents are being asked to involve themselves as primary educators — their full and appropriate value as parents is being recognized. Only they can help their children make the jump from church school learning to actual living of the Christian way in the home and beyond it. The teacher can act as a resource person for some suggestions about home religious education but should try to allow the parents to discover ways. The teacher might try turning questions back on the parents, e.g., “You know your child’s talents, what do you think he/she would enjoy doing?” Or, “How can you use your child’s talents to reinforce this idea?”
The goals of this teaching group interaction are: (1) to get parents and teachers together and acquainted with each other, (2) to help parents realize their importance in the education of their children, (3) to help parents find support for their task in the home, (4) to help teachers find support for their task in the school, (5) to get parents interested in the Christian education of their children.
None of these goals, of course, can be accomplished in one session, but this initial session should be worked into an ongoing program that can begin to accomplish these goals.
—OCEC Newsletter Dr. John Boojamra is Director of Christian Education of our Archdiocese.