A couple sundays ago I was teaching Sunday school in our 4th and 5th grade class room. I started teaching this age group during the summer and they’re a lot of fun. The kids are smart enough to talk and interact with, but they haven’t gotten to the social anxiety stage of Jr. High.
However like any large group of kids, they can be tough to manage some days. Our childrens’ pastor, Mike, has lately been encouraging me to lead the kids with a stronger hand, saying “You do a good job teaching the Bible and you’re funny, but you can’t be afraid to take charge if the kids are acting up.”
Not long after Mike told me this, I got to practice this new discipline.
The lesson was on Psalm 23, focusing on God’s provision. From the time we sat down, a group of boys in the back were causing trouble and I kept having to quiet them down and get them back on task. I asked the question “Who is someone who provides for you?” One of the boys, who I’m pretty sure was at the church for the first time, raised his hand.
“Yeah, you in the back.” I said, eager to hear what he had to say. “Who is someone who takes care of you?”
He grinned and said “Your Mom.”
This was the last straw. I puffed up my chest and pointed my finger to let him know that I was not okay with him cracking wise during discussion. I was halfway through telling the young man that he needed to quit messing and grow up when I realized that when he said “Your Mom” he wasn’t making a crass “Yo’ Mama” joke, but he was in fact answering my question. I graciously allowed him to finish what he was saying but by this point the whole class was laughing and I struggled to maintain my composure, shaking my head at how foolishly brash I had been.
The eventually class calmed down and I was able to continue with the lesson without doing or saying anything else. I ended up having to separate the boys, moving the most talkative of the group to isolated corners of the group. I even moved one of them up to where all the girls were sitting, which still counts as punishment at that age.
Such are the growing pains of stepping outside of one’s comfort zone. I survived the class and had a good laugh at myself. I don’t regret coming down on the kid. I did what I thought was best and I willingly admitted when I was wrong (even though it was dramatically obvious to everyone else). And next time, before I lay down the law with one my students, I’ll probably take an extra moment to think before I speak, just in case.