We Are Valiant!

I’m trying not to be too enthusiastic about this but to be honest, by the end I was so tired and burnt out I was pretty much just showing the kids videos.  They were church videos and I did try to come up with questions or activities to go with them but I’d had it.  I’d gone from “if there’s somebody else who needs this, Lord, I’d be happy to hand it over” to “I really hope there’s someone else who can do this, Lord, because I can’t anymore.  I’m done.  I quit.”  I hated having to be the Bad Cop so often.

The funny thing is that I’d about managed to work my way past that.  I was determined to be a good teacher for those kids.  When I say my prayers at night, I tend to thank God for my dear husband and dwell fondly for a bit on the things I love about him or was most especially grateful for that day.  (Like him canceling an appointment with the financial-type people when I told him that the Prophet had passed on because he thought I needed the stress off my plate.)   One day it occurred to me that despite seeing less of each other these days than we’d used to, my feelings of attachment to him had kept growing.  “Hey,” I thought, “maybe it’s because of that thing I do when I pray — it reinforces the good vibes or something.”  So then I tried being grateful for the class and the kids and y’know, it rather worked.  I wasn’t eager to face those challenges but I at least felt able to.

So of course  one day shortly into the new year the second counselor asked to talk to me before church and released me.  I don’t wanna get too specific here but just let me say that I think the new teacher’s military experience will be a great help to him.  I really think he can be good for the kids and I mean “good for them” as in “will be able to command their respect and attention and be a good role model” not “will beat them into shape.”

There’s an amusing little addendum to this.  One child evidently thought that they had driven me to resign.  I called them that afternoon and let them know that I had not quit but had been released.

We have two new occasional students in my class.  I say “occasional” because custody issues make their attendance necessarily periodic.

I don’t know much about David.  I’ve only seen him three times so far.  He can only come once a month.  He seems older, so I’d say maybe he’s about ten.  He’s a model student; sits quietly, raises his hand (mostly) to ask questions, and responds to questions with appropriate (thoughtful, even!) answers.

Durendal comes twice a month.  I’ve only seen him twice so far.  He seems younger, so I think he’s about eight or nine.  He’s also a helpful student so far but seems a little overwhelmed by the others when they get going.  (I don’t blame him; so am I!)

Opening Prayer.

Attention Activity: Brainstorm. Subject: Temptations

Scripture puppet show. (Made two puppets, Jesus and Satan. Also drew scenery on the blackboard.)

Discussion questions to listen for:

Why did Jesus go into the wilderness?

How do you think fasting and being with God helped prepare Jesus to resist temptation?

How did studying the scriptures help Jesus resist?


Narrator: The Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be with God. He fasted for forty days and forty nights. When he was done he was hungry. Then Satan came to him.

Satan: If you are the Son of God, command these rocks to be bread.

Jesus: Mankind does not live only on food but also on the words of God.

Narrator: Then the Spirit took Jesus to the holy city and put him on the top of the temple. Satan followed them.

Satan: If you are the Son of God, throw yourself off. The scriptures say that the angels will save you.

Jesus: Do not test the Lord God.

Narrator: Next the Spirit took Jesus to the top of a very high mountain. Satan followed them there too. He showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.

Satan: I will give you everything you see if you will kneel and worship me.

Jesus: Get away from me; the scriptures say “Worship the Lord your God and only serve Him.”

Narrator: Then the devil left.

Answer discussion questions.

Decide, Pray, Listen to the Holy Ghost — how can doing these things help us resist temptation?

Role Play resisting a temptation from the earlier Brainstorming activity.

This lesson did not go smoothly. I was expecting 6 or more students and I only got 4. That meant three students to do the puppet show and one to watch. If I’d thought faster I’d’ve taken the role of narrator myself but I’d planned it with one particular student in mind and it didn’t occur to me to change things at the time. Alvin put up a fuss about not getting to read anything; in vain I pointed out that he’d read the last time we acted the scriptures out. Stephen was willing to trade places but Alvin just doesn’t have the reading ability the activity required. In the end Alvin refused to watch. It was not our best effort.

I had to send Stephen out to find his dad later; I’d paired the boys up for an activity and when I refused to let Stephen and Alvin pair up (because they’re out of control together), Stephen sat back in his chair and pretended to sleep. I asked him to participate; he refused. I asked if he needed to go see his dad; he didn’t respond. So I sent him to find his dad. In normal circumstances I would have sent him to the Primary President but she was out of town and we were too shorthanded that day.

This lesson ended in a bit of a muddle but the scripture reading/puppet show went pretty well. I’m pleased with that at least.

Opening Prayer.

Attention Activity: 2 groups — who can finish the verse first?

_____ came to John the ____ in Judea ____ ago and was baptized by ______ in the river ______’s flow.

Question: What does it mean “baptized by immersion?”

Scripture reading: two students do a mini-play.

Jesus: I want to be baptized.

John: I can’t do it. I need to be baptized by you; why come to me?

Jesus: this is how it must be for now; this way we do everything right.

John: Then I’ll do it.

Discussion question and activity: Jigsaw.

Break students into two groups.  Give them two minutes to discuss and decide why we need to be baptized.  Tell them you want reasoning, not just “because God says so.”  When two minutes are up, combine them into one group.  Tell them to compare and discuss their answers and come back to you with an answer they all agree on.

Enrichment activity: categorze the following strips into the things we promise God when we are baptized and the things He promises us.

Give us eternal life.

Stand as witnesses of Heavenly Father at all times and in all places.

Give us daily guidance through the Holy Ghost.

Help others.

Give us many blessings.

Serve Heavenly Father and keep his commandments.

Forgive our sins.

Become members of Jesus’ church.

Share testimony.

Closing prayer.

Things went pretty well today, in large part thanks to the support I’m getting from the new Primary Presidency.  Nikolai and Stephen were being disruptive and rude so I sent them to see the Primary President.  I expected her to keep them for a few minutes and send them back; she just kept them.  This lessened my numbers, which made the groups more difficult to arrange, but also upped the atmosphere by quite a lot.  The kids still tended to silliness but it was at managable levels.

I actually ended up with five minutes left over at the end of class.  I improvised and asked if anyone could recite the Fourth Article of Faith.  John searched his scriptures for it (totally on his own initiative) and read it out to the rest of us.  We then wrote it on the bookmarks I made to remind them of their reading assignment.  This was a mixed success; John did well but the others either have writing difficulty or are still too new at it.  Almost no one finished and few were legible.  Oh well, we tried.

Does anyone have any suggestions for what to do with class clowns?  Stephen isn’t a bad student, just full of energy and a need to be the center of attention.  When I make him our “chalk man” (he gets to do the writing on the board) he does well with that and is more focused in class but I can’t do that every single time.

This is what I did (with some help in planning from my husband who is in teacher’s college) for lesson number one from the Primary 7 manual. Lesson title is “Becoming Familiar with the New Testament.” (See here to “meet” my students.)

Opening Prayer.

Attention Activity: Book Scramble. (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.) Questions to ask: What are these? Where do we find them?

Brainstorm (5 Minutes) : How scriptures can change our lives. (Example: when I need comfort, I read the scriptures.) Assign a student to list everyone’s ideas on the chalkboard.

Scriptures: Ask for a volunteer to read 2 Timothy 3:16 &17.

Questions: What does Paul say the scriptures are good for? What does he mean?

Game: Four Corners. Hand out four pieces of paper and pens. Ask one group to write “Doctrine,” and “Correction” the other to write “Reproof” and “Instruction.” (Write the words on the board for them to copy if necessary.) (Note: these categories came from the scripture reading.)

Have the children clear the room of obstacles. Tape the papers in different corners of the room. Have the children stand in the center. Explain to the children that you are going to point to items on the list they made during the Brainstorming Section and you want them to run to the corner they think applies best. Compare and discuss eachother’s decisions.

Share your testimony of the scriptures.

Closing Prayer.

This lesson went very well; the kids really enjoyed the game and actually asked to keep playing at the end of class. They were interested, involved and interacting. Most importantly, they were thinking! Yay thinking!

Things I would do differently next time: I would ask the Scripture question BEFORE I had them read the verses so they’d know what to listen for. Isn’t it always the little, basic things that trip you up? As it was, they had to read the verses three times and still didn’t really get it, even though by the second reading I’d asked them the question. I’m thinking of doing a mini-lesson at some point on how to read Biblical English; perhaps I’ll pair it with a mini-lesson on methods for studying the scriptures.

The Valiant Femmes are femmes no more. Or, more correctly, not only femmes any more. I suppose it’s only to be expected in a small, transient ward like mine but still I find myself caught a little flatfooted and a little sad. Lynette’s family will be moving out of our ward in spring and Natalie will be joining Young Women’s this year. This leaves only Anna in the class. The teacher for the boy’s class has moved away. So we have a teacher without a class and a class without a teacher. I don’t think you need to have a degree in economics to figure out the same thing the Primary Presidency did.

So, starting in the New Year, I’ll be teaching a class of about six children. Other than looking for a larger room to teach them in, I don’t really know where to start. The girls responded well to the structure of the lessons in the Primary manual. I don’t think the boys will as much, especially the one who seems to have ADD. By the same token, I don’t want Anna to feel overpowered, buried and ignored as the only girl.

Meet the new class:

Nikolai: About 10 years old. Anna’s older brother who possibly has ADD. It’s hard to keep him focused.

Stephen: Eight or nine years old. Doesn’t like to participate.

Benjamin: About 10 years old. Pretty good at understanding and participation but easily distracted by his new step-brother.

Alvin: Eight years old. Youngest boy in the class and Benjamin’s new step-brother. Bilingual with some reading difficulties. His wheelchair is one reason I need a bigger classroom. He also likes to scoot around in it so I need to do something about getting him to stay still.

John: About 10 years old. Son of one of my VT ladies. Well-behaved, thoughtful and always brings his scriptures… so far, the ideal Sunday School student.

So, Bloggernacle, please share with me your thoughts, tips and suggestions for herding boys in Sunday School. I do have a cattle prod on order. ;)

Edit:  Here’s a refresher on the girl’s info:

First is Anna, age 8.  She used to refuse to read even the shortest verse but recently she volunteered and read her way through a good chunk. She was doing well with the other girls in class but she doesn’t seem as happy with a class full of rowdy boys.

Lynette is 9 and the bossiest little thing you’ve ever seen.  She loves new ideas and projects and always volunteers to give a prayer.

Natalie is 11 and struggling with a number of challenges.  She seems quiet and sensitive when she’s on her own and understands gospel principles easily.

No wonder so many educators and others are lamenting the lack of knowledge our children exhibit.

Lynette: Do people dress up for Pioneer Day or would it be weird?

Me: My mom used to dress me up for Pioneer Day.

Lynette: Were you embarassed?

Me: (thinking about the cape and elfboots I wore to church in my teens) No–

Lynette: (interupting) But that’s right, you were IN the pioneer days.

Me (and the other teachers): *die*

Teacher next to me in an aside to me: Then I must be from the Dark Ages!

Telling myself that I wouldn’t be allowed to watch “Fantastic Four” and eat pizza with my husband until I’d planned my lesson, I hauled out my Sunday School bag and scriptures.

To my joy and relief tomorrow’s lesson is a simple, straight forward one on keeping the Sabbath as illustrated through the miracle of the manna in the desert.  Some lessons I find easier to connect to the specified scriptures than others.  Thank God for prayer and inspiration!  So I planned this one out easily and with confidence.  (Oooh, confidence!  What’s that?  I sure don’t have much of it!)  I just hope the girls don’t fight over and break the pitcher and glass I’m bringing to help illustrate the spiritual resevoir metaphor from one of the enrichment activities.  (On the other hand, my husband who hates the set of tulips hand painted on glass that we got as a gift, kind of hopes they do…)

Then I sat there and wondered what else I could do to make the lesson seem special.  I usually reward (ie, bribe) them with a treat at the end of the lesson if they’ve been good.  I’d been planning on making a cake/brownie thing with chocolate chips but inspiration of some variety or the other struck.  The scriptures describe manna as tasting like a wafer made with honey.  So I looked up “honey” in my cookbook and found a recipe for honey cake.  Perfect, right?  Even more perfect when I read the part that said the recipe was based on an Eastern European one called “lekach” in Yiddish.  Yiddish?!  Was I on the right trail or what??  That is, until I came to the part about two cups of coffee.  Heh heh.  No.  I could have used decaff I suppose but I’m not sure how I feel about that and I sure don’t want to confuse the girls.  So I hit the internet and googled “honey cake” and “lekach.”  It took a lot of looking– they all seemed to either call for coffee, brandy or spices I didn’t have and wasn’t willing to buy for an untried recipe.  Eventually my husband helped me substitute some of the spices for ones we do have.

So tomorrow, my students (of course, I may be assuming a lot with that plural) will have manna.  So that your students may also have manna, should you wish, I’ll share the recipe.  It came from here but I’m putting it in my post just in case the other site ever goes down.

  • 1/2 cup (125g) soft margarine
  • 1/2 cup (125g) soft brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (125g) honey
  • 1 egg 2 cups plain flour
  • 2 level teaspoons ground ginger (er… I forgot the ginger…)
  • 1/2 teaspoon mixed sweet spice (I used cinnamon and nutmeg)
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) warm water
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in the warm water
  1. Preheat the oven to Gas No. 5 (375F / 190C). Arrange 24 greaseproof baking cases in patty tins.
  2. Put the margarine, sugar, honey or syrup and egg into a bowl or food processor. Beat until smooth. Finally, add the flour sifted with the spices alternately with the bicarbonate of soda dissolved in the water. The batter will be thin. Put a level tablespoon of the mixture into each case.
  3. Bake for 20 minutes until a rich brown and spongy to gentle touch.

If your oven hates you as mine does me, keep an eye on them.  They’re very small and might not need the full time.

The Stake Teacher’s Training held a month ago was interesting and fun but in the end didn’t really give me any new teaching tools.  Lots of great ideas for props and ways to make the classroom a more homey, comfortable environment but unforutnately not much discussion on how to handle students who appoint themselves each other’s keepers or how to deal with disparate age, knoweldge and skills in the classroom.  To be fair, the person doing the “Valiant” class session had to leave early and so I missed about half of the opening session.  I may simply have missed that part.

Anyway, I’ve been applying the “Come Alive Classroom” principles.  I hit the dollar store and bought a little lacy valance for the window, just to dress it up a bit.  I got a green tablecloth (no lace) from the same place but I’ll probably try to replace it with something cloth.  The plastic is just too crinkly.  I also bought a bunch of foam paper and made a sign that says “Valiant Girls” in blue and has a green-and-white CTR shield in the middle.  I just got that up today– not that the girls commented on it.  *sigh*

On the other hand, they may not have seen it.  I chose to simulate the curse of darkness that the Lord inflicted on Egypt so I turned out all the lights in the hallway and the light in the room.  The girls loved it.

I’m not sure how much of the lesson they got– but then I’m never sure how much they get.  I just look back on my own Sunday School experiences (I was no model child) and pray.  Today’s lesson focus was the power of the priesthood and I tried to focus on that.  Unfortunately, I’d rather expected them to ask sharp questions about why the priesthood was given to males and not females.  They didn’t and all my careful preperations for that went out the window and I had to make the rest of it up as I went along.

Children that age are so fickle.  Sometimes it’s a good thing.  I had to come down pretty hard on Natalie and Lynette and Lynette was pouting.  Class was pretty much over so I told them to tell me one thing they appreciated about the priesthood and I’d give them their last star and their treat.

For their treat I’d made challah bread and as Lynette munched away she beamed at me.  “You rock!” she said.  Yeah, fickle is good.  Sometimes.  heh.

Obviously I’m not going to tell you their real names.  I respect their privacy.  However, to understand the challenges this class faces you need to know a little bit about them.

Three of these girls have no contact with their father.  Two of these girls have no paternal prescence at all.  One of these girls has a step-father who seems less than supportive of the rest of her family’s involvment with the church.  As near as I can tell, none of the girls has a Sealed family. 

First is Anna, age 7.  Too young for the class but the other class available is the Sunbeams.  She used to refuse to read even the shortest verse but recently she volunteered and read her way through a good chunk.  I made sure to praise her.

Lynette is 8 and the bossiest little thing you’ve ever seen.  She loves new ideas and projects and always volunteers to give a prayer.

Sharice is 9.  We actually haven’t seen her in a while.  It seems she’s going to a different church now but I can’t find out if it’s a different church or just a different ward.

Natalie is 10 and struggling with a number of challenges.  She seems quiet and sensitive when she’s on her own and understands gospel principles easily.

Class time and issues: 

I had Natalie by herself again recently.  Fortunately I noticed the lack of the other girls in time to rethink my lesson.  Instead of retelling the scripture story myself, a tactic I had chosen before because of how varied the girls’ reading levels are, I selected out the most relevant verses (which were still a lot) and had her read them instead.  This made for a very quiet lesson but one in which I think she was more engaged.  I think I rather like having her one-on-one; I just wish I knew the class size in advance so I could really make the most of each situation.

I made an accidental discovery a few weeks ago.  The attention activity had had me make a ring out of paper.  Once it had served its purpose it ended up broken into pieces and I, deciding it wasn’t worth fighting the girls over, let them play with the pieces.  While there were still issues (like Natalie and Lynette bolting from the room to yell at the boys who kept banging on the wall our classrooms share) the girls were the quietest and most attentive I’ve seen them in a long time.  I am sorely tempted to teach them to knit.  I discovered in University that with my hands busy making a friendship bracelet it was easier to focus on what my professors were saying and it would be nice if the same principle applied to my Sunday School class.

That said though, I don’t have the materials and I can’t afford to buy them.  Oh, the things I would do for those girls if I had the money!  I want to make a sign for the room.  I want to get a nice picture of Jesus and a nice picture of the temple and hang them on the walls.  I want to make a window for each girl.  Not a real window but a nice picture of some place that makes them feel peaceful and happy.  A curtain for the window we do have would be nice.  It’s huge and looks into the hallway.  The girls are always getting distracted by someone walking by.  I’d also like some colored pencils or some such for making the class materials.  When I was Coordinator of the Kids’ Program at Nova, I always printed out the new flashcards, colored them in, glued them to card stock and laminated them (usually this meant covering them with clear packing tape) because I believe that students can sense the effort you’ve put into class.

I think I’ll ask the primary leader if we have a budget that can help.

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