Monday, January 15, 2007

Lesson 16: Dividing the Promised Land

Yesterday, in our class, we got out all the maps and added a piece of tracing paper to each one. Amanda and Lachlan are newer editions to our class, so we had to start new maps for them. The boys (David and Joshua) knew the drill, but we had to explain it all to the girls from scratch. "Why are we writing on tracing paper instead of on our maps?" they all asked. We explained that it was so they could have a lot of different information about the same area, and they could see how things fit together. "Like, on this map of where Abraham went, if we overlay it with Jacob's travels, we see that they lived in the same places sometimes, and that this city's name changed," JC showed her.

We showed them how to put all twelve tribes on their maps (writing so small is tough for nine-year-olds!), along with a few of the surrounding peoples (Philistines, Moabites, etc.). We also added to our family tree. "Does anyone remember the name of the woman who rescued Joshua's spies?" I asked, as they were all clamoring to be the person who would write the next name. None of them remembered, despite the fact that we had studied Rahab only the week before. Lachlan and Joshua both ran for their Bibles when we told them that they could look it up if they wanted to. They both at least remembered the book that we had been studying last week, and JC gave them a hint, saying that the story was pretty early in the book. Lachlan found the name, and so she got to add it to the family tree.

That's really all we did in our class this week. We had planned to go into the story of Ruth, but the map and family tree updates took us longer than I had expected. That's ok, we'll catch Ruth next time around.

We've taken to quizzing the kids about random Bible things, some of which they would know if they had paid attention in previous classes, and others they would know if they had paid attention in church or their previous years of Sunday school. This week, it was, "How many books of the Bible are named after women?" The guesses were wild, and when they finally settled on two, I asked them to name them. Ruth was easy, as we had just written her name on the family tree. Esther was harder for them to come up with. Lachlan was the one who got it. Of all the kids, she's the one who knows the Bible best; she's also the least likely to volunteer an answer.

It was a pretty odd Sunday for us, in that they were a hyper bunch. Usually they're pretty zombified. Yesterday, Amanda was in a hyper mood and being pretty loud, and the other kids just picked it up. The room has no carpet, and it's awfully echoey, so when only one kid is being loud, it sounds like there are five loud kids in there with us. That loudness only escalates, because the kids who aren't being loud initially feel like they need to compete, and before long, my ears are ringing. I need to come up with some activity that I can pull out when they're being like that, something that will just chill everyone out a notch. I don't know anything like that, though. I tried to get them to pray with us. Amanda asked if we could do the kind of prayer where you go around the circle and each person prays for something, and I said that would be fine. "What if you don't want to pray?" David said.
"Just tap the next person on the shoulder, gently," I said. So we started the prayer, and when it got to David, he shouted, "SKIP!" just as you would shout "FORE!" on a golf course. Of course, lots of giggles. Joshua was the only kid left to pray after him, and he did his best, but it was difficult to focus with all the giggles. Maybe prayer, with its inherent solemnity, is not the best thing to try at those times. Also, I hate the idea of using religion as a tool to make children behave, which I guess is what asking them to pray so that we could get a bit of quieter time is.

In addition to being hyper, they were all obsessed with "bad words" this week, for some reason. JC was telling them the tribes and where to put them on the map (utterly failed Bible trivia quesiton of the week: "How many sons did Jacob have?"), and when he read out, "Dan," Amanda said, "Awwwwww, you said a bad word!" So JC wrote it on the board. Then he went on to elaborate that "dam" is ok, it's a word for an object that holds back water, like the Hoover Dam. And then he shared that, when used in context, "damn" is not a bad word either, as in, "In the day of Judgement, some will be saved and some will be damned." Let's just say, they weren't exactly following this argument.

We moved on, from South to North, filling in the tribes and talking a little about them. Then we got to "Manasseh." Yeah, you saw that one coming. Amanda said, "There's a bad word in that, see?" and she got up and underlined the relevant letters where I had written them on the board. JC was, I think, getting kind of annoyed by this point, and tried again to explain that it's more about context than the words themselves.

JC wants us to do a class on what "bad words" are, the reasons, both societal and Biblical, that they are considered "bad," and the reason that you could read in your Bible about Samson killing a bunch of people with the jawbone of an ass, and that's ok. I think he's right, that these kids should understand this stuff, rather than just the transgressive power of "bad words." That said, this comes down again to what we can or cannot say to other people's children. The kids only hear about forty percent of what we tell them, and I'm always concerned about them reporting our comments to their parents without context. When we did our lesson about clean and unclean foods, I'm sure that none of them were paying attention by the time we got to the part about how this legalism is not relevant to Christianity. I had strange visions of them telling their mothers that they were all going to Hell because they had eaten bacon with their pancakes that morning. No irate mothers called me, so I guess that turned out alright. If we were going to do such a class, we would need to talk with all of the parents first, and explain what we were planning.

Le sigh. Fourth graders are weird. However, despite their hyper and giggly energy, I think they got what we were talking about in class and followed along well, so I would actually call this a pretty good class.

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