If teaching children’s church or Sunday School was as easy as showing up and teaching a Bible story, everyone would do it! However, that’s rarely the case. We serve an awesome God but we’re all human–that includes our leaders. A recent email from a discouraged teacher has me thinking about one particular subject–when teaching styles clash. You know what I mean. You’ve got a tried and true method of teaching but someone you work with, like a supervisor, wants to take a different tack. It’s enough to make you want to drop the Crayons and walk away.
Here’s what I’m talking about. In the email I am referring to, (I’ve changed names for privacy’s sake) Jane wrote that she preferred a peaceful approach to teaching with a few solid rules and a heavy emphasis on relationship-building. She likes to work crafts with her children and sees it as an opportunity to minister to young lives. Jane’s new supervisor Carla prefers teaching with heavy focus on the positive and considers classroom rules to be negative reinforcement. To make matters more tense, Carla often visits Jane’s class and isn’t shy about sharing her point of view. As a result, Jane has noticed a decline in positive classroom behavior and feels as if Carla is too critical.
What should Jane do? Should she quit? Confront Carla? Talk to someone above Carla?
My first piece of advice to Carla is to make a list. Begin documenting the incidents that bother her, what she observes and how she feels. Whether Jane intends it or not, Carla likely feels as if she’s being attacked and at the very least under-appreciated. This list isn’t intended to be evidence in a criminal case but I find that writing things down often helps resolve conflict. At least between our own ears.
Next, I encourage Jane to talk to Carla privately. She should be direct but courteous. She should remind Carla that although their teaching styles are different they are both working towards the same goal–ministering to children. Carla’s method of being a problem finder isn’t helping. Jane needs to take on the role of problem solver and help Carla see the potential of the team effort. If that’s possible.
It goes without saying that Jane should pray. In the past when I have been in similar situations I often pray what I call the “Daniel prayer.” It goes something like this, “Dear Lord, please shut the lion’s mouths. Send your Spirit and your peace into this situation. Help us God to be mindful of your presence in all that we do.” This prayer has helped me so many times!
Lastly, if Carla won’t listen, Jane may have to talk to someone else, like the pastor. Don’t talk to other teachers. That’s never a good idea. During your discussion, consult your notes. It helps when you can be specific.
Keep up the good work, Jane. You can do this!
Read more from Mimi by following her blog at Tools for Kids Church.