7 Secrets of a Super Sunday School Teacher
by Heidi Weber and Neil MacQueen.
View an updated version of this article in its new location at Rotation.org
Bet you could come up with an eighth secret! We stopped at "lucky 7." Please 'reply' and share your insights into what you think makes a Sunday School teacher "super."
1. Super Teachers are prepared.
Lack of advance preparation and unfamiliarity with the lesson plan is the #1 cause of teacher anxiety and wasting the students' time. We know because we've made this mistake before!
Heid adds: I like to start my prep early in the week so I have time to think about how to make my lesson better and get everything in advance.
2. Super Teachers don't settle for less-than-super lesson ideas.
Super Teachers know that super lesson activities improve attendance, attention, retention, and student attitudes. Super Teachers have never met a good idea they couldn't make better after wrestling with it.
Heidi says: This is one of the things I like about Rotation Model. You get to improve lessons each week instead of always having to do a new lesson each week.
Neil adds: "Super" doesn't just mean "creative" or "fun." "Super" can also mean activities that get to the heart of the lesson, not just fill time.
3. Super Teachers know the power of structure and how to create it.
Structure is like a ship. It's something you create that lets your crew know where they are going, how they're going to get there, what they will be doing, what's expected of them, and why they're not going to sink. Built right, they'll gladly come aboard structure and help you get where you want to go. Poor preparation, muddled lesson plans, and boring activities will sink even the most well-intended ship.
Heidi says: Structure is not a list of rules or a teacher's "control." It's something the teacher can project through leadership and energy.
Neil adds: I like to begin class by telling them exactly what we'll be doing, what I hope they'll learn from it, and what big questions I'll be asking. It's amazing how much anxiety that relieves, especially among older kids.
4. Super Teachers embrace the opportunity to model Christ to their students.
Super Teachers realize they are a Christ-figure, and not just a friendly face. For better or worse, a teacher's attitude and faith "rubs off" on our student's feelings and expectations about God. Model joy, sharing, listening, forgiveness, how to talk about and how to talk to Jesus.
Neil says: To put it theologically, Super Teachers are incarnational.
Heidi adds: Would Jesus show up late, dour, and unprepared?
5. Super Teachers know some kids need disciplined, and aren't afraid to lovingly apply it.
Super Teachers are not afraid to appropriately and lovingly discipline children who are causing a distraction to others (and to themselves). Super Teachers handle it quietly, gently, and don't take it personally, ...but Super Teachers don't let one student's problem ruin the lesson for others (or make kids not want to come back). Super T's realize that a student's acting out may be the sign of a deeper problem. Super T's are not afraid to strongly suggest to the certain parents that they should stay and help out with their child's class (it works wonders).
Heidi says: I try to give potential disrupters things to do and help me lead something.
Neil adds: Some of my favorite students over the years had discipline problems at one time or another. I would frequently approach them ahead of class to let them know I needed their help to make the lesson work. It's also an opportunity to discover what might be bugging them.
6. Super Teachers know how to have fun, especially fun that teaches.
Super Teachers laugh out loud, don't take themselves too seriously, and are playful with their students. "Fun" attracts their focus and is a great memory maker. It puts kids at ease and gives them a reason to come back. Model and encourage joy.
Neil says: This is probably my biggest "secret" weapon. I love goofin' with kids. It builds relationships, breaks down walls, and can be a powerful way to get a point across.
Heidi adds: And "fun" doesn't have to mean "three-ring circus." It can mean gentle humor and having fun participating in every activity, not just leading them.
7. Super Teachers know the true secret of why they teach.
Super Teachers teach so that their faith will grow too. Super-teachers have figured out that evangelizing children is an awesome opportunity to spend time in the Word and God's favorite people, the children.
Heidi: I do not lead Sunday School, Sunday School leads me, you know what I'm saying?
3 Things Super Teachers Never Say to Their Students
- "Where is everyone today?" (Nothing like feeling like your being there isn't enough.)
- "Where have you been? I haven't seen you in a while." (Guilt isn't Christ-like.)
- "You're late, glad you could make it." (Kids don't drive themselves to church.)
View an updated version of this article in its new location at Rotation.org. That version also has the article in PDF format.
Heidi Weber has been a Christian Educator for the past ten years at First UMC in Slidell La. Neil MacQueen is a Presbyterian minister serving the Church from Westerville Ohio.