More Curriculum Challenges

Stick to It!

As a teacher, sometimes God’s Holy Spirit will give us something special for our classes such as a new presentation idea, a special craft activity, a new song or a testimony to share.  Also, people such as parents may volunteer to come to class with some type of special activity such as a child’s birthday celebration, special music or some other special event.  Also short field trips, walks, or having class out in the sunshine can break the routine and add variety to the classroom.  With an inflexible ‘stick to it’ ultimatum, we can occasionally rob our students of an added blessing.  Of course, all special activities that are brought into the classroom should be approved by leadership.

If a curriculum’s time allotments do not match the time you have scheduled for class, the teacher may end up rushing to finish the lesson material which may hinder the student’s learning.  Rushing may not allow time to fully explain a principle, include an object lesson, or do a special activity.  Structured curriculums may have too many items in their daily plan for teachers to cover.

Structured curriculums are good because they provide teachers with lesson plans to follow and ideas to help get those lessons across.  However, structure with some flexibility and freedom can be even better because they allow and/or encourage a teacher to bring their own gifts, talents and personalities into the classroom.  This can provide variety and excitement in class.  But teachers who are allowed this freedom and flexibility need to be accountable and responsible for the way they conduct their classroom and what they teach their students.

Fancy Wrapping, But What’s Inside?

I’ve seen curriculum packages that look very colorful and attractive on the outside, but the lessons inside are very boring and disappointing.  In contrast, I’ve seen curriculum packages that seem rather plain on the outside have fun, exciting lessons on the inside.  When you purchase curriculum packages, you can never be sure of what you’re getting unless you sit down and examine it closely. 

One of the most disappointing things is when you find out you have fancy wrapping on the outside and a big let down on the inside. This happened with a curriculum that I ordered for use in Children’s Church.  I had examined a curriculum package for one grade level above the ages of my students, and it had several interesting activities including object lessons, games and a wide selection of craft activities.  I could not examine the unit for my age group before purchasing it but I assumed the one for preschoolers would be similar to the one I saw.  Therefore, I ordered in the package for my students.  What a disappointment it was!

When I unpacked the curriculum, the pages were mostly black and white coloring pages.  There were little or no object lessons, games or craft ideas.  Nearly every lesson had a simple coloring page, many which did not even match the Bible story.  And guess what?  The children were tired of coloring after the first month and were always asking, “Can’t we do something different?” 

The only redeeming thing about the curriculum was that it had a short video segment that taught the children about the lesson topic for the week.  Needless to say, I was very disappointed because our church had paid a fair amount of money for that curriculum package.  Now I know to watch out for the fancy wrapping and check to see what’s on the inside.

Waste, Waste and More Waste:  

Some preprinted curriculums require the purchase of activity books, craft kits and special take-home papers for each student in the class.  These activity books can be fun and exciting for the students (which is good), but they can also be very costly.  They can also be a big waste of money. 

For example, whenever a visitor, new student or irregular attender comes to class, they need an activity book to get the daily lesson worksheets.  Thus, a teacher must either tear out a page from the book of someone who is absent or use a brand new book for the visitor.  As a result, the absent student may be unhappy to discover pages missing from their book or the teacher may end up wasting a book for a new, one-time visitor.  If you have more than one visitor, that means using extra new activity books to provide worksheets for them.  Consequently, the church may end up with an unhappy student or spending dollars for activity books that are partially used and thrown away at the end of the quarter.  The cost of this can add up quickly.

The waste could be reduced if the students’ worksheets could be copied from a master book for visitors and irregular attenders.  However, most of these curriculum materials are copyrighted and cannot be copied unless you have special permission from the author or publisher.  How many teachers have time to get special permission to copy materials for each new student or visitor that comes to class?  Most of the publishing companies are closed on Sunday and are not available.

I was given some boxes of left over Sunday School Curriculum activity books.  Some of these books were never used because the Sunday School time was used for practicing a Christmas program for the parents.  As a result, several weeks of curriculum were purchased and never used.  I tried to use some of the books, but they were predated, partially used or there were not enough of one kind of book for my class.  They could not be returned.  This added greatly to the normal amount of wasted curriculum items creating waste, waste and more waste. I believe the money spent on that curriculum could have been spent in a better way.

Copyright Chains:

Copyright can be a big problem, or should I say ‘chains’ binding teachers and other Christian workers from being able to freely use purchased materials to teach their students in class.  Many of the curriculums do not even allow teachers to copy overheads or worksheets for visitors who come to class.  Curriculum materials are designed to help teachers by providing lesson plans and activities and worksheets so they can teach the students. There is nothing more frustrating to me that to have some great teaching book or tool and not be able to use it without going through a bunch of red tape to get special permission to make a photocopy for class.

As a writer I can understand why a curriculum designer would want to protect their designs from others who might want to reproduce their creations in order to sell them and make money.  I can also understand a designer and/or writer wanting to protect their creations from someone who would want to alter, desecrate or steal them.  I would want to protect my designs from these things as well.  However, it doesn’t make any sense to design a curriculum for church classroom use and bind the church and the teacher’s hands so they cannot use it freely for ministry.  After all, wasn’t this the original reason for creating the material?  What good is the material if it can’t be used effectively for its intended purpose?

Several years ago I purchased a beautiful song book full of children’s Bible songs.  This book had the words, music and hand motions for many of the well-known children’s Bible songs.  I was excited because I thought I could use it to teach the children in children’s church some of the songs and hand motions to go with them.  I took the book with me to church one day only to discover that I couldn’t even copy it to make overheads so the children could see the words of the songs and the positions of the fingers for each hand motion.  This copyright chain kept me from using the book for children’s church and hindered me from blessing the children.  Consequently, I was so disgusted with the copyright on that book that I took it home and haven’t used it since.  The book cost me about $25 and taught me an expensive lesson.  I keep on my shelf at home as a reminder of what ‘not to do’ with the teaching materials I write.

When considering that God gave us the abilities to create Christian teaching materials to edify the church and to spread the gospel across the world, we should carefully consider the restrictions we put on our designs.  I hope this will open some eyes to the bondage that some of these copyright chains put on Christian workers and parents who want to teach their children about God.

Is it Greed?

As you look in some bookstores and catalogs from various companies, you will notice something peculiar about the pricing.  It seems that books related to the Bible, Christianity or teaching Bible are way more expensive than secular books that are similar in makeup.  Does putting God’s name or His word on a book make it justifiable to charge so much more for that book?

One example of this is the cost of activity or coloring books for children.  Generally, the Christian books cost about double the price of secular ones.  What could be the reason for the vast difference in prices?  Is it greed? Is the enemy scheming to find another way to rob God’s children?

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