Last Sunday was my first day teaching Sunday school. I am learning not to call it “David Neidert’s class” anymore. It’s my class now. It feels like a very strange thing to say; but the feeling doesn’t make it any less true.
Alexis asked me a few times last week if I was nervous and if I felt that I was “ready.” I chose not to think about my feelings, and I chose at some point to stop looking again and again at the lesson. I would always be able to find something to “fix.” I suspected that I had too much material. I worried that I might lecture the class instead of facilitating discussion. I dreamed one night that I went off on a long monologue and no one had a chance to say anything. I almost forgot to put my shoes on and wore my slippers...
In the end, I did not shake or forget what I wanted to say, even though I had only an outline. Alexis said that I said, “um,” a lot; but I thought that this might improve with practice. I did try to cover too many topics that were difficult to fit together. December 31 is a hard week to teach out of the Lectionary.
Some things went surprisingly well. One of the things I wanted to introduce was the idea of including the children more directly in the activities we do outside the Sunday school hour. During the service, several children sang a couple of worship songs. I called attention to this and asked if people found it a positive thing. People responded with great enthusiasm; and I used this as a segway into my discussion, pointing out that our children’s programs are good at teaching some biblical facts and Christian basic but they don’t build community relationship skills. I talked about how it’s important for children and youth to learn to operate as part of the intergenerational community and that we are their links to that community and it’s important that they don’t feel like they’re just tagging along with their parents’ Sunday school class. Part of learning to operate in the community is actually taking on some responsibilities. I believe this is part of what is meant by “growing in stature.”
One of the things that I wish had gone a bit better was one of my lesson examples. I didn’t have much time to put it together, and in the future I might do it a bit differently if I do it again. I taught about the passage that speaks about Jesus going to the temple as a 12-year-old. I had a 12-year-old come in and spend about three minutes talking with me about the passage at the beginning of class. I wanted the class to see a 12-year-old in action. In the future, if I teach this passage again—and I probably will—i will probably do it entirely differently, still using a child but with an entirely different plan. Last week, I tried to combine this topic with a second topic. In the future, I would not do this but would expand this, looking at what Jewish boys of this age are capable of talking about and how they are expected to relate to their families and communities. I’m not really capable of doing this on such short notice—a lesson like this would take extensive preparation. What I can’t do is expect to stay a little step ahead of the class. I need to have ideas in my hat that I can pull out at the appropriate times. Flexibility is important, but so is being ready.
At this stage of the game, though, I have to trust God to help me and guide me because I don’t yet have a hat full of ideas... I am learning to do this and to give myself some grace.
Today, I taught about the baptism with water for repentance from sin and the baptism with the Holy Spirit. It was a very challenging thing to teach, especially considering the fact that I count it as my first “real” lesson—last week I was just “warming up,” and I think that people were gracious to endure my blunders. I think things went extremely well this week. There was a point when I became a little stumped, said a very private prayer, and realized that the verses not included in the Lectionary text were the very verses that I needed to pull things together. I left out some things that I had planned to teach on due to time constraints, and I was not terribly upset about doing this. The group was very talkative this morning, and I was glad for this. For a first teaching experience, I’m glad to have gotten a group that is not afraid to talk and explore.