The first few sessions of a class establish a frame for all that follow. The maxim, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression,” applies in education as much as social settings. Getting off on the right foot can help both teacher and student. Toward that end, I offer here the acrostic STEP to help teachers set out on the right foot in a new class.
SING. I begin here because it might be good for you to as well. Singing spiritual songs and hymns at the outset of a class provides a worshipful atmosphere for the information to come. Singing also helps folks to let down their guard a bit. Few folks are eager to sing aloud, so by having the class sing with you forces everyone to feel a bit awkward, together. If someone in the class sings well, ask them (in advance) to lead in an opening song each class session.
TESTIMONY. Since the gospel is the core message of any class, begin with it. Share what God has done in your life, briefly taking the class through your pre-Christian days, the circumstances surrounding your conversion, and how He has worked in your life in recent days. This will provide an opportunity to share with the class how God led you to teach that particular class and subject. By connecting the dots between the gospel, your conversion, and the particular class in view, those in the class will be able to have a framework for the gospel working through you as a teacher. Building a relational framework for the class will give you greater influence over those you are teaching. In short it will help you to engage those in the class.
ENGAGE. Students learn best when they connect with the material. How do they connect with the material? Very often through the teacher. So, work to engage the students with the ideas being presented in each class. What methods might you employ? What I have done twice in this paragraph: ask questions. At the beginning of class each week, ask review questions. This will allow everyone to recalibrate and focus on the themes of the class. after reviewing, pre-view, share with the class what you hope to accomplish that day. Imagine giving the class compartmented basket that you intend to fill as the clock ticks. And share relevant stories–both personal and objective. Providing illustrations of how the concepts of a lesson play out in Monday-Saturday routines, marriage, work, etc. will help the students grasp the ideas in view. Asking those in the class to read scripture or materials aloud will assist the whole class in reflecting upon the ideas of a particular lesson. And if you can share some of the teaching load here and there? Yes, mission accomplished. One last note, make sure any visuals are visual: if students cannot read or clearly see slides projected on a screen, these become a distraction.
PRAY. This is the last word in my acrostic here, but it should be your first task every time you begin to prepare a lesson and every time you begin to teach it. I once heard a penetrating question asked at a teacher training meeting: “Are you making it a point to speak to God about men before speaking to men about God?” At the end of the day, we need God to help us communicate well and those in the class to grasp the ideas of the class.
More could be said but I will stop here for now. I trust that singing, testifying, engaging, and praying will set you and the class up for success. Bon Voyage!