In 1976, while student teaching, I walked into the classroom for the student teaching group and written on the chalkboard in really LARGE letters was this: “SAY WHAT YOU MEAN AND MEAN WHAT YOU SAY.” That day, our discussion centered around classroom discipline. Along with that it became clear that no learning can take place in chaos and the importance of classroom order was critical for both the safety and learning for students. In the last many, many years I have read so much research that supports this theory and it was something I practiced in my classroom of children each and every year. My classroom was always a safe place to learn and grow.
While listening to Luke’s sermon two Sundays ago, I was reminded about what makes successful communities of learners, or, in other words, any place adults and children are being taught: our schools, Sunday School, Church, CORE Groups, Vacation Bible School, Girl Scouts, Swimming Lessons, Baseball –- these are all places where teaching is happening but LEARNING may actually not be happening!
In Sundays sermon, Pastor Luke spoke about what should be inherent to all Learning Communities, referring to our church as one for our spiritual growth. He developed his list based on his Kindergarten classroom and his wise teacher. In his Kindergarten classroom……
- Creativity was rewarded
- It was safe….failure did not lead to rejection
- Encouragement was provided to all learning levels
Thinking back to my days in the classroom I related Luke’s list to my learning communities of children and I was reminded that the safety aspect required an expectation for behavior that allowed for learning to happen for all kids.Children require boundaries and they need to know they are cared about and honored for who they are. In a safe place for learning, children will take risks, they will be engaged in the learning process, they will help each other and respect and value one another’s thoughts and work. All of that is not only expected, but also taught through discussion and modeling.
It is similar to what we do as adults in our learning community in church. We are quiet when we need to listen and learn, we normally only laugh at Luke’ jokes and not at people who worship by raising their hands or share out when led to do so by the Holy Spirit. We have boundaries in place that were taught to us at some point in our lives. When you see people going forward to receive prayer or get baptized, you know they feel safe. Church is supposed to be safe.
I’ve been in many classrooms over the years where teaching was happening but, unfortunately, not so much learning! If you have ever sat and really observed and listened you can tell if learning is happening and if kids feel safe. Kids are independent in their learning activities and they are respectful of other’s learning. If the teacher needs to speak to the class, they are listening to her or him. They are taught by modeling how to use a game, how to clean up and put things away appropriately. They have been taught boundaries and what appropriate behavior looks like. It is such a gift we can all give our children. So, “Say what you mean and mean what you say”, but do so with respect, love, understanding, and compassion. Our children count on us to teach them well and keep them safe!
By Lisa Sandberg