In the USA this coming Sunday millions will be watching the Baltimore Ravens take on the San Francisco 49er's in the Superbowl. What was the last event you attended that could be described as super?
It was our annual Children's Workers' Breakfast at church where the volunteers in children and youth ministry get some further training and are shown appreciation. Since I am on the puppet team and volunteer in both our Vacation Bible School and Sports Camp weeks, I get to attend. The best part is just seeing what a big group of dedicated workers we have at our church with a heart for kids. It was awesome to see how many years of service were represented there. Over ten people had more than 40 years of service (I was at 42).
We were served a great breakfast of scrambled eggs, ham, oatmeal, fruit, grits, and sausage. I enjoyed hearing the testimonies of a high schooler and young adult who grew up in our church thanking the adults who were their Pioneer Girl leaders and youth leaders and the ones who taught the silly songs with the hand motions to help them remember the verses set to music. It was also great hearing from a seasoned volunteer about his beginnings as a helper in the 2s and 3s group many years ago.
There were 8 workshops available from which we could choose two. I chose the one on "How Important Good Helpers Are" led by our Children's Minister. I knew that would be good and I may get a better idea of how to help better during VBS and Sports Camp weeks. It was an excellent workshop with lots of teens attending which was very encouraging to me. We basically covered all kinds of little things helpers should do through brainstorming in small groups and short little skits and discussion.
The second workshop I attended was "Strategies For Teaching Special Needs Children" led by our Special Needs coordinator. I went because I know there is a need for more helpers in there and I thought perhaps if I got some training, I could help out. WRONG. Teaching these precious special needs children takes a very special, patient, sensitive, creative person. There is just too many things that would make me crazy, I am not the type to do this. Number one, you MUST be flexible and able to "go with the flow" and "think quickly." I am a planner and much too organized to be able to handle this.
They can't use food in there because of all the different allergies the children have. No candy. Playing at the water table for any lesson involving water is their favorite activity. In fact, one boy brings a change of clothes for these days! Each has an individual "reward" system for behaving well. For example, one boy gets to play with his favorite toy at the end, and another boy gets to feed the fish, etc.
They can't have playdoh, again because some of the children are allergic to one or more of the ingredients so they use shaving cream instead. I can just picture the mess which is also something that I have an aversion to.
It seems all of the children have different quirks so the workers have to be very watchful. One child likes to put stuff in his mouth all the time. One day, they were doing a craft with cotton balls and discovered this kid ate them! Whoa! One child is very sensitive to noise so if he's there, they can't use the music or sound affects that they planned to go with the lesson. Another kid really responds well to sounds but has some other thing that bothers him. The biggest challenge for the workers is getting to know how each child learns best and trying to incorporate teaching methods that cover all the different learning styles represented on any given week.
Sometimes they spend the whole first hour just trying to calm down the children so they are ready to learn something the next hour. Oh, and the age range is from 3 to 12! What is really most helpful is to have a teaching ratio of 1:1. Plus, you never know when someone is going to have a seizure or a major meltdown and they need to get the parent.
I knew this would be a tough class, but didn't realize just how challenging it was until I attended this workshop. It blew me away! Now I have resolved to pray especially for this class on Sunday mornings. I would be so on edge and stressed out working in this classroom and yet, some of the older children do come in to help with the kids. Thank God for them!