Saturday, May 16, 2009

Summer Time for Church Kids

CLC is over for the summer. Next we send off about 40 youth to summer church camp at Somerset Beach, MI. And have a Vacation Bible School in July. And a roller skating party. And an all-church graduation banquet. And of course, Sunday School. I promised a handful whom we are not funding for camp that I would do something special with them --maybe a swim party at my house. It is because they are too immature in their behavior (and they are young) and require one-on-one counselor/teachers --which does detract from positive experience for the majority --and typically stirs them up, too. Like the little girl who giggles during class prayer --and gets under the tables, gleefully heedless of class goals and the short time we have to accomplish them.

CLC HONOR COUNCIL ~ Seventeen of my TrailBlazers (grades 3 & 4 ) came to receive their banners with the badges they earned. One of them has Oppositional Defiance Disorder or ODD--not the same one as the girl mentioned above. She came to me in tears before the meeting because she knew she hadn't earned many badges and said she didn't want to go up front. I said I needed her to sing with the others --and I wouldn't embarrass her about the number of badges --we wouldn't make a big deal of it --and she could hold her banner facing her if she didn't want people to notice she didn't have as many as some of the others. After the Honor Council, she asked me when the next one was so she could get her badges. She actually can make up everything missed this year in order to get the 2-year award --and she can make up the first two years --to work toward the 6-year award given after 6th grade. I WAS able to commend her and her cousin for being people who often say --or write on the board --"I love CLC. I love my church." And they love us teachers too and give us hugs--as do several of the girls.

In a way, I wonder if it would be good to stop doing the badges since we are so intent on outreach. We could do the same lessons and Bible memory activities without long-term awards to keep track of. From our bus outreach, I think we only had one set of parents come who knew their girls were getting all their badges. One of their children was "pulled through" her verses by my sympathetic helper --who "walked her through" her verse recitation of 7 verses in one night--probably not really memorizing. But what is it like if your kid's lack of achievement is made noticeable by the badge ceremony? The mother told me on the phone how thrilled she was that the girls were getting their awards.

This is what it's like: "Junior Jones got all 10 of his badges. Citronella Bernstein gets a certificate of participation. Henrietta Hippensteel got 2 verses." And we clap for each one as they receive their banners --or certificates if they had only one badge.

THIS IS THE ONLY AWARD CEREMONY I KNOW OF WHERE WE RECOGNIZE and call attention to NON-ACHIEVEMENT ALONG WITH SUCCESS. We say the program is optional --something kids can choose to work for if they wish--but then they all come to the program --or don't if they don't want to be embarrassed. I wondered if some parents don't come because they fear their children won't have badges.

We're also sensitive to seeming biased if most of the white kids got their badges because their parents go to our church regularly and understand the CLC goals and badge system. The racial minority parents (we have 3 races represented plus biracial) let us have their kids on Wednesday nights but aren't as involved in the program or our church themselves --so if their kids don't self-organize, they may not have the advantage of parents who prod them and care about the badges. As it turned out, we had some Afr. American kids who got all their badges and white kids who did not --it was pretty even this year . It is the 2nd year for these children to be bussed in --so some of them know about the system and did more this year than last. And that's the good thing about it--when kids really enjoy working for badges and do get them, representing good attendance, organizing to make up for absences, and memorizing Bible verses. We also gave special division awards to 3 girls and 3 boys this year for good character and good behavior, regardless of their badge achievement or lack. I could have given those equally to 8-10 of my children who were always respectful and easy to call to attention and showed consistent good behavior.

But I nearly had an ulcer worrying about whether or not we had given all the kids good help with their badges here at the end of the year--and throughout the year. There were some classroom management and record-keeping issues involved about which I have better ideas for next year. The bottom line is that some kids are more self-organizing and achievement-oriented than others --and they managed to get badges with no extra effort on our part as teachers --and some students could care less --until we have honor council. THEN they all wish they were getting all their badges and had paid more attention about attendance, make-up activities, and saying the verses to the teachers. I telephoned some of them --but didn't reach all of them--to have them go through their handbooks with me --so they could mark the verses they still needed to say and the activities they still needed to make up. None of it is too difficult for their age or for those with at least average abilities. But they have to knuckle down enough to know which verses they have to recite to us and which activities they need to turn in or tell us about --in order to complete the badge--and then they left the books at home and did not have focus on what they still needed to make up. I'm holding the master list and having everybody barrage me with their personal issues of all sorts . And here comes a mother to wonder why her little boy was the only one blamed for standing the table on end --I sent him out to the program director after he did it--like sending a student to the principal. She comes in and notices I have 2 boys horsing around the bathroom door and wonders if I know I have kids in the hall. Yup --I assume so --since there is always a run on the bathroom during any "down time." I run a tight ship when I'm presenting a lesson--but anytime we have independent work or are in transition from one activity or one place to another --things get a little loose! and not with my permission either.

Some who came to the last club night did make-up work --and others bounced off the walls while we were trying to catch up their peers. As I mentioned above, one boy lifted one end of a long table up in the air to show he could --we were fortunate he didn't bring it down on someone's bobbing head. I was pretty upset with him. And of course, his excuse later, to his mother, was, "Someone else started it." His diligent and truly lovely and distraught mother lamented that he was always the one to get caught and punished when other people started it or were involved and did not get caught and punished. I said the boy's problem is that he's the common denominator in almost every skirmish or tattle tale event in the class: "Brucie wrote on my shirt --Brucie said my mama is fat --Brucie told me I live in a "crack house" --and "Brucie kicked me," --"Brucie called me a retard!" -- "Brucie spat on my gingerbread house," and so on. He is probably a leader type, and we all hope he will figure out that he wants to use it for good some day.

I had a little speech written out about the highlights of our year --and after we sang the song, "I am a Promise" (about potential and being what God wants me to be), I forgot to share my speech, recapping their wonderful behavior at my house and the nursing home when we went caroling, the wonderful experience of seeing the Passion Play together at Fremont Alliance Church, their preparation and serving of the Tastes of AFrica for Missions Month, the wonderful Fun nights and neat crafts and the Fall Harvest Party with all the games and candy. I wanted to say how much I really loved these kids and hoped they'd be back next year --and how I hoped to see them incorporate God's Word into their lives so they might enjoy His blessings all their lives. And I should have commended my two assistants, who have been really nice to work with.

But after the song and the badge presentations --I forgot! Imagine that!!!

"God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance and have eternal life."--the Bible

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