Tag Archives: Tips ‘n’ Tricks

“Amuse Them”

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So, as I referred in my last post, while driving home from the Grand Canyon, a billboard in New Mexico caught my eye. It said “Amuse Them or They’ll Amuse Themselves” with a picture of a young boy and the name of some amusement park type attraction (that I honestly cannot remember as I type this). At first, though I got the irony of “amuse them” at an amusement park, I was quite offended by the message. As I’ve thought it through, I have come to realize I slightly agree with them. I have said many times “Have a plan! Have a plan because if you don’t, the children will, and you probably won’t like their plan!”  I still believe that to be true. In my experience, when a child comes into your classroom, you should be ready for the day with all the supplies needed for planned activities that day. You should have enough activities and supplies for all the children to be able to chose a variety of activities each day. You should vary activities. You should think of the children’s interests when planning activities.
However, the word “amuse” is where I take exception to the billboard’s message. I looked “amuse” up on Google.  Here are the two definitions given:

  1. cause (someone) to find something funny; entertain.
    “he made faces to amuse her”
  2. provide interesting and enjoyable occupation for (someone).
    “the hotel has planned many activities to amuse its guests”

With some exceptions (long, unavoidable waits is the only one I can think of off hand), it is not a parent’s or teacher’s job to amuse a child. In fact, we should be teaching children to amuse themselves! Yes, we need to provide opportunities for the children to entertain and occupy themselves. Yes, we have to help expand their attention spans. Yes, especially in group care, there needs to be close supervision. Yes, there are times of adult-child interaction that are not only necessary but good. However, as adults, we should be conversing, reading, playing, interacting with children not for them. When I think “amuse,” the key word I think of is “for.” Doing something for someone else. Purely for their entertainment. But the vast majority of time spent with a child needs to be a two way conversation. And children need to learn how to amuse themselves , and they need time to amuse themselves! But it takes effort to teach a child to amuse himself within acceptable bounds.

When I teach about discipline, I teach about the 3 types of authority: Passive, Authoritarian, and Authoritative. Authoritative is what we want to be: the adult is in charge and sets the boundaries but the child is able to make choices within those bounds. And it is hard to be authoritative. Being Passive, letting the child be in charge, is easier in the short term. Being Authoritarian, “my way or the highway,” with the child never able to make choices, is easier (with a compliant child) in the short term. But, in the long term, setting boundaries and teaching the child to make choices within those boundaries, and take responsibility for those choices, or being Authoritative, gives a child the best chance to become a responsible, productive member of society. When an authority (parent, teacher, or otherwise) has taken the time to set and solidify the boundaries, a child can be trusted to make choices and “amuse” themselves!  And if they cannot amuse themselves, well that’s OK sometimes, too.  Being bored can lead to creative thinking.  And if we’ve set and solidified those appropriate boundaries, the creative thinking won’t get them into too much trouble…

I talk about discipline in PreService, Back to the Basics, and Child Development in the Bible.  I have some ideas floating around in my head for an entire training on discipline.  If you’d like me to teach on any of these topics, please Contact Me.

Branalyn

***Edited to add: I couldn’t find a picture of the billboard, but I did some searching and figured out the name of the park and then found a picture of the shirts the employees wear:

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Proverbs 17:17a

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When I was a three year old lead teacher, I had a brilliant (if I do say so myself!) idea. My classroom was utterly blank with gray walls. I did several things to brighten it up, but the best thing I put on the walls was a verse.

A friend loves at all times.
Prov. 17:17a

It was perfect because when we had trouble in our classroom, I could point up to that verse and say “a friend loves at all times.”  Soon, when I was talking to a child about his or her behavior, the child could tell me what the wall said. Eventually, when children were having arguments among themselves or when a child was hurt by another, the children would tell each other “what does the wall say? It says ‘a friend loves at all times!'”

Sometimes, the children would fling out the words in a very unloving manner. And it did disturb me a little that they seemed to think the wall said the verse and not the Bible. I did try to emphasize that it was a Bible verse after that particular incident.

But still amazes me today how that one verse put up on the wall with some pre-cut bulletin board letters and Command strips, purposely a little crooked and wonky so it wouldn’t bother me that I didn’t get it straight, could have such an impact on my discipline.  This is the same class where my friend “Bryan” caused me so much distress.  Looking up at that verse on the wall reminded me to love that little boy, and all the kids, even when I didn’t want to.

Today, I read and Pinned an article about simple rules and natural and logical consequences.  Her simple rule is “love.” She goes on to say “love up and love out.”  I interpret that as a take on the greatest commandments.  (Side note I find interesting: I went to a Christian college and Old and New Testament were required classes.  For some reason, I’d never thought of this before the professor pointed it out, but the first half of the commandments are basically summed up in “Love God” and the second half in “Love Others.”  I feel like it shouldn’t have been as much of a light bulb moment as it was!)  I think if I had to boil my rules down, I’d say “Love God.  Love Others.”  Its simple, it is the heart of what Jesus says in Matthew 22, its the heart of the Ten Commandments.  It also reminds me of something we talked about in education classes-have simple, positive, easy rules and not many of them.  The rest may be “procedures” but not rules.

I think, if I currently had a classroom, I’d put “Love God. Love Others.” on my wall.  I might put “A friend loves at all times” up to “proof text” Love Others.”  And maybe something from 1 John or the Matthew text above to “proof text” Love God.  In fact, I may choose to put those up in my house!

Keep in mind that simply putting the verses or ‘rules’ up on the wall doesn’t automatically change the classroom!   You have to incorporate the verses and sayings into your discipline.  You have to talk about them when you aren’t disciplining.  And you have to live them for the children!

Whew!  That was longer than I intended it to be!  Go check out the article I reference above and think of what verses and simple rules you’d like to incorporate into your classroom!

Branalyn

Lessons from Youth Camp

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I wish that this were a funny post about the lessons one can learn at church youth camp, but its not.  I do have a great piece of advice though-if you are going to camp on a college campus and staying in the dorms, there is a good chance there will be laundry facilities so take some detergent and use them!  We came back with no piles of dirty laundry!  It was a stroke of brilliance!

I also had some personal growth and I think my husband, the youth pastor, and the youth came back refreshed and with a new zeal.

But none of that is why I started writing this post.

You see, we took the youth to Super Summer, a camp that neither my husband, the youth, or I had ever been to.  And, unlike most other youth camps, the adults go off and do their own thing while the youth are with “Team Leaders.”  Many youth pastors choose to go as team leaders, but some choose to attend the Leadership Forum.  Having never been and being incapable of going down early to be a Team Leader, my husband chose for the two of us to attend the Leadership Forum. So there we are, at basically a very small training for youth pastors, and what do I start noticing?  Child development themes, of course!

I remember leaning over to my husband at one point and excitedly saying “that’s scaffolding!” The leader was talking about making disciples, using the way Jesus made disciples as an example, and it was very clearly scaffolding.  So I started really paying attention at this point!

I already know about the areas of child development being the same as the areas in which Luke says Jesus grew, now I had scaffolding, and, by the end of the week, I had thought through discipline, modeling, planning, and more!  It was rather a silly revelation, really, because I had already made some of the connections, but suddenly, that light bulb just clicked and I realized how much child development and best practices could be backed up with the Bible!

So, in addition to the Breaking Out of Survival training that I have in the works, I now am planning a Child Development in the Bible training.  Both ideas are still mostly in my head, but as  soon as we are finished with the insanity that is June and July around here, I plan to get these trainings on “paper!”

Also, I took the time today to improve the Back to the Basics page in my Portfolio (I added the words to the pictures if you hadn’t seen it before) and will try to have the other Portfolio pages similarly updated within a week!

Branalyn