Is that the sound of butterflies in your stomach I can hear? Feeling anxious about your new SRE class? It's normal to feel this way. Take comfort, the students are feeling the same way! We all do when we are facing new things.
Even if you have been teaching for a while there are uncertainties with every new class. We’re never quite sure what students we are going to have. Will they be loud and hard to manage? Or so frozen it’s like pulling teeth trying to get their honest opinions about anything. Maybe you’ll have the dreamy class of perfect students who are all super keen to learn more about their saviour Jesus?!
SRE teaching is both hard and rewarding. Every class is a mixed bag. I don’t think this will ever change. There is wisdom we can glean from those with experience. Here are my top tips for starting your SRE classes well.
There is nothing worse than that feeling of not knowing what to do. Thankfully we have a curriculum and resources that give us plenty to work with, so we do need to set aside time to prepare our lessons.
Make sure you plan your classes for your own circumstances. The timing of the curriculum most likely won’t perfectly match the time you have in your class. Remember the curriculum is your servant not your master. You’ll need to be making decisions about what activities to include or exclude.
What things will you need to adapt or only do briefly? What areas of the lesson do you want to have your students slowing down and dwelling deeply on? In your first week, know that you won’t get as much Bible time as you normally will. There are things you will do in your first week that you won’t need to do as much in future weeks – like…
Establish classroom rules
It’s best practice to align with your school's Discipline Policy. Not sure about the school rules? Ask your school’s SRE liaison person.
You will want to know if there is a reward and discipline system in place, and learn how to use it. Know who and where you are to send misbehaving students. (These are the students you have warned several times, perhaps moved away from their friends but are still distracting the class from learning). I write this teacher’s name and room number at the top of my class roll so I don’t forget.
Remind students of expected behaviour, so they know that SRE class rules are no different to any other class. Classrooms often have signs up reminding students what is expected. Use them.
'Respect' is the keyword often used. I often say something like, “The class needs to show respect for God, respect for me (the teacher), respect for others, and possessions.” Using hands up to indicate a question or answer for order in class discussions is also common practice and courtesy.
Get to know your students
Straight after a quick reminder of expectations of behaviour and learning, let students know that apart from learning about Jesus, we also want to get to know each other and have some fun along the way. God made us for relationships, so spend time getting to know each other.
Now is the time to play a fun game. This is to learn names and get to know one another. Don’t undermine this, it is so important in setting up your classroom culture and an opportunity for the students to know you more personally and you them.
The curriculum often suggests a way to do this. You can also find lots of ice-breakers and get-to-know-you games for classrooms by searching online. You might find something better than suggested in the curriculum and suits your personality or demographic.
Learning students’ names means they feel really valued by you, so work hard at remembering students’ names—it really pays off.
When sharing something about yourself, open the Bible and share a favourite verse or one that really influenced you, or why you want to teach SRE. This helps establish a healthy understanding of our learning together from the Bible. It has changed your life and can change theirs also. Explain that is why you look forward to seeing them each week with Bibles open, and hearts open.
When asking questions to get to know them, a friend of mine uses the question, ‘“Who lives in your house?” to ask about their family. I think this is a great question because it doesn’t assume anything, and it’s open to the student’s interpretation (pets sometimes get included too!).
Help orient students to the term ahead
Help your students to get excited about what they will be learning this term. Use the first lesson to explain to them where they will be heading, what book of the Bible or topics you'll be getting stuck into, and why you love it. This will help enthuse students for a term of learning about Jesus.
Have a great term and enjoy yourself! Remember your training, especially Module 4 / Group management. Our God is with us.