Do you teach Sunday School and feel like you need to nap four hours to recover? Do you find yourself constantly correcting children or teens? Are some of the students in your class so disruptive, the others have trouble learning? If so, you are experiencing problems with classroom management.
Classroom management may not be an official science or art form, but there is an art and a science for getting students to behave in such a way that everyone can learn in your class. Unfortunately, if you are inexperienced at teaching or tutoring, most programs don’t have classroom management boot camps to train you.
Luckily, there are a few simple things you can do which if done consistently, should improve classroom behavior drastically and in only a few classes.
- Classroom management is as important in Sunday school and Bible classes as it is in “regular” school. For some reason, many volunteers believe it is inappropriate to expect their Bible students to behave in class. If anything, it is more important. Obedience is one of the foundational skill sets of Christian life. Teaching your students to behave in your class will help them in their attempts to obey God in other areas of their life.
- Children and teens don’t stop attending Bible classes because they are expected to behave. There is a very important caveat here. If your idea of classroom management involves verbal abuse, mocking, scorning, yelling or embarrassment – you will indeed lose students. If you use standard classroom management techniques taught in teacher training programs, you shouldn’t lose any students. In fact, you may even find attendance improves. Some children cannot stand to be in chaotic environments and will avoid them if possible.
- Consider the idea that the problem may be the types of activities given to the students during class. As a parent and a teacher, I expect my child and my students to behave even if they are bored out of their minds. Most children don’t have that much self control. If you aren’t sure if the material or activities is the root of the problem, ask a professional teacher to come observe your class one week and give you feedback. Most churches have more than one teacher in attendance, who would probably be flattered to be asked for help.
- Be in the classroom, ready to teach before the first student arrives. It is so much easier to keep a class under control than to rein it back in from being totally out of control. With you in the room, making corrections as necessary, things will rarely get out of hand.
- Make your rules simple and easy to understand. In most cases, you will only have these students for an hour or two a week. There is no need for complex rules covering every possible form of misbehavior. Stick to rules like, “not talking while others talk” and “respecting each other’s personal space and belongings”.
- Enforce the rules you do have consistently. This is an area where many have trouble. If you make a rule, you have to enforce it every time someone breaks it. The more you fail to enforce a rule, the more it will be broken.
- When giving instructions or correcting the entire class, lower the tone of your voice and soften it. Many people tend to become high soprano voices when giving children commands. Try for a tenor or bass tone if possible, or as low as you can go without sounding silly. Yelling is also ineffective. Soft voices will get their attention. There is something in all of us, that is just a little concerned what is being said may be very important.
- End commands with a period, not a question mark. Listen to yourself the next time you tell your students to do something. Does your voice go up at the end or do you say “Okay?”. Children often think questions are optional. Make sure your voice goes down at the end of the sentence and they will know it is something they are supposed to do.
- If your class tends to get loud when working on activities, have a hand signal which tells everyone to stop talking and give attention to the person leading the activity. Seems a little silly, but it works better than yelling to make yourself heard over the noise.
- Don’t use behavior charts, stop lights, soccer cards or any behavior management program that allows a child to misbehave numerous times before consequences are given. And whatever you do, never count to make children obey. I realize Christianity is about second chances and grace. Your students only have you for a short amount of time though, and having a system in place that encourages them to misbehave more than once is not in anyone’s best interest.
- If a student misbehaves multiple times during one class period, have a private conversation with him or her after class. There is some reason this child has poor behavior. The reasons don’t excuse the child’s behavior, but will help you know how to better help the child. Mortifying a child in front of his peers is not the best technique. A private conversation will allow the child to be more open about any issues and retain his dignity at the same time.
- Don’t be afraid to involve parents. In decades of experience volunteer teaching in multiple states, I believe I have only had a handful of parents who would not support me when I asked for their help. Most parents have their children in Bible classes because they want them to learn to be more godly. Remembering you are on the same team (even if you suspect the child is allowed to run wild at home) will help you when you approach parents of children who continually misbehave.
- Pray, pray, pray. Children who continually misbehave have issues in their lives and some of them have horrible consequences. As a Bible class teacher your ultimate goal is to help these children get to Heaven. Sometimes you won’t be able to help solve their issues or undo what is done or not done in their homes. God, however, is still alive and active in this world. Ask Him to guide you and help the child find someone who can help him with the issues causing his behavior problems.
Classroom management is critical to the ultimate success of any class you teach. Taking the time and effort to work on classroom management will help transform your students and your class into a place where everyone can learn more about God.