My three-year-old working with the baptism story during Godly Play.
I wrote recently about a Faces of Easter story in Godly Play that got a little hectic. It’s been a little hectic in our classroom lately, and I’ve been praying about it and trying to figure out what is wrong. I’ve talked to our priest about dividing the kids by age (a preschool group and a elementary age group) when we move into our new space, but choosing which group I’d do Godly Play with makes me a little sad. I chose this curriculum for my girls, and they’d be in two different classes, then, and chances are, the other class, the one I don’t teach, will use a different curriculum, due to the expense of the materials, the training involved, finding a volunteer willing to be trained, etc. And I believe that a few parents in our church aren’t Godly Play fans (though, in my opinion, they don’t know enough about the program first-hand.)
Last Sunday, I had four kiddos — my two and two other boys, sons of our theologian-in-residence. One of the boys, who has recently started on a behavior chart at home and in children’s chapel, asked me if I’d make him a chart for Godly Play and write down if he “is good.” I didn’t think much before my response, but I said, “I’ll think about making you a chart, but you know what? You are GOOD! God make you, so you are good!” (I could have parralleled that with the creation story, but I didn’t think of that on the spot.) So, I agreed to write his mom a letter about what he did during our time together and told all the kids that this would be a good time to sit together and decide what “good behavior” looks like. As we had our feast, we talked about that, taking some examples from our real-time moment together (like use good manners — prompted by the above pictured three year old putting her pretzels into her water glass, which she had seen another bigger kid do a few weeks ago.) We came up with a nice list, and I rewrote it during response time and had each kid sign it. We were missing quite a few kids, but that will give us the opportunity to revisit our list over the next few weeks and have them sign it. It’ll hang in our room on the wall.
One of the items on our list is “Follow our routine.” And I think that is going to be most helpful to kids who attend sporadically or are new. I included our routine as well.
1. Prepare for feast
6. Put materials back in place
7. Be blessed
I hope I am not bringing too much of my teacher training in to our room. I want us to work together well, but I don’t want to recreate school. School is different for pretty much every family in our church — we have public schoolers, homeschoolers, charter schoolers, private schoolers (and preschoolers!) I want our time together to be fun, something the kids look forward to and learn from.
I love the conversations God has with me when I seek and listen. As I worried over all of this Sunday evening and Monday morning, Monday afternoon, I watched a friend’s kids. I had five kids in my backyard, ranging in ages from almost two to eight — similar to the age range and numbers on a typical week in Godly Play. We were talking and laughing and learning and growing together. It was truly fun and special, and in that moment, I realized that is what I want in our Godly Play classroom, that is what the kids want. How did it happen? I had a prepared environment set up, we had enough space (we were outside), we talked authentically (not scripted), and I had no preconceived expectations about how the kids responded. I realized that I have been unconsciously turning response time in to an evaluation. Did I get the story across? Do the kids understand it? Are they reflecting thoughtfully? That zaps the fun, for sure!
So, what can I take away? I need to make sure I throughfully and prayerfully prepare our environment. We need to have enough space (working on that one!). I need to let go of my teacher-brain and let the Holy Spirit work through me and the kids and the materials — let those seeds fall on the fertile ground and do what I can to keep the birds away.