The church we attend - okay, shut up, I KNOW, and NO, this sentence doesn't end with, "has been struck by lightning" - anyway, the church we attend has a semi-sorta-unofficial policy that if your kids attend Sunday school, you have to take a turn as a Sunday school teacher. Teaching school is exactly what I'd love to do on my weekend away from my job, as you can imagine. Thus, I quickly figured out which Sunday lessons required more crowd control than actual teaching, and signed myself up for those days posthaste. So far, my plan has worked brilliantly (at least from my perspective). I don't have to worry about goals, objectives, lesson planning, classroom prep, or any of that nonsense, and all I have to do is correct errant behavior, which is as natural to me as breathing. And there's a LOT of it to correct. Since Sunday school isn't "real" school, naturally the kids do not feel compelled to use their "real" school manners - which is fine and to be expected, of course. However, my fellow volunteer teachers often seem somewhat taken aback by how kids behave en masse and sans their accustomed authority figures. Then they try to intervene, but as nicely as possible - think about how you talk to your kid's friends when they're over at your house. That may be fine with one or two extra crumb crushers, but when you get twenty-plus of 'em in a room, suddenly that approach of saying would-you-please-and-thank-you in your sweetest tone of voice? Doesn't work. That's when I break out my Stern Voice, coupled with my best I-Expect-You-To stare. Let me be clear; I'm not yelling at other people's children for no reason. I'm just Setting Clear Expectations, which is effective in a way that being nice alone is not. For example:
Maddysohn is having a long, whispered convo with her BFF during Sharing Circle, when only the child sharing is supposed to be talking.
Nice Mom Volunteer: Maddysohn, can we all listen? [nothing changes]
Me: MADDYSOHN. (stern glare stern glare stern glare)
Maddysohn and her friend shrink back into their seats and pay attention.
Me: Thank You.
Girl in a momentary snit decides to curl up on the pile of carpet squares for Sharing Circle, thus inconveniencing everyone else.
Nice Parent Volunteer: Malyssah, would you please get down from there? There's a seat over there if you don't want to be part of the activity. [Malyssah doesn't move]
Me: MALYSSAH. That Is Not A Seat. Your Choice Is To Sit Over There, Or Be Part Of The Activity Over Here. Figure It Out NOW. [Malyssah gets down from the pile and sits in the chair]
All the classes are gathering together for closing of service. A Nice Parent Volunteer mentions that the kids will be blowing out candles in earshot of one little cherub who always has to be the center of attention.
Constant Attention Seeker [before anyone else has a chance to find out what's going on]: I'LL DO IT I'LL DO IT I'LL DO IT!!!!
Nice Parent Volunteer: Uhhh, welll, I guess -
Me: You Go Sit Down. You'll Get The Same Chance Everyone Else Has When It's Your Turn.
Constant Attention Seeker: [scurries off to seat silently]
Nice Parent Volunteer: (look of relief, mixed with gratitude)
The best part about this is, the other parents in the room think I walk on water - or at the very least, that I have access to some kind of magic Child Whisperer power that they don't have. And you know what? I totally don't. You'd be amazed what you can make kids do just using a firm tone of voice and a long, hard stare. Unfortunately, it doesn't work so well on your own kids in your own house when you're one-on-one (or two-on-one, three-on-one, or heaven forfend, four-on-one) with your own flesh and blood. But when they're all milling about in a big group, then it's lion-taming time. Do you think the lion tamer at the circus asks Leo to please be nice and open his mouth just a little wider so the lion tamer's head will fit inside? NO! The lion tamer tells that beast just exactly what is what, and two minutes later has his head down that cat's gullet. (Okay, this analogy might be headed a wee bit off the rails, but you get the idea.) And that, my friends, is the way it is with groups of kids, too - if you act like you believe in what you're saying, and you say it like you believe they're going to listen to you, generally speaking, they'll do what you say.
Thus endeth today's lesson.
Except for the postscript, which is, I could never ever ever not ever be a primary school teacher. And those of you who are, I bow down before you.