The room was silent...empty. I sat there waiting and worrying about what would happen next. Would the student stay attached to their parents? Will my class be big? Small? Loud? Silent? The first student arrives on my first day of teaching and I greet the parents with a smile. Before I realized it, it is me alone with 10 children, on our first day of Sunday school. My words are shaky and quiet. We all sit down at a child sized table, staring at a bin of markers and coloring sheets. Nervous of no response, I begin by asking all the students for their names and their favorite color. One brave little boy, short with blonde hair says his name is Tanner and, after asking the whole class shares their favorite colors, he begins to tell the class a story about why his favorite color is yellow. I suddenly find myself smiling as a wave of relief rushes over the classroom. The class slowly builds off of Tanner’s story. A little boy named Ethan says he has an older brother and explains how his big soccer game is next week, while Regan informs me of her gluten free allergy and what that means for snacks in the class. As the conversation moves from student to student, I realize that it's not just teaching and learning that makes me show up every Sunday, but the personal experiences and stories I get to hear from each child.
After hearing Tanner confidently speak in a loud voice about his obsession with the color yellow, I change my lesson plans on the spot. Instead of teaching the story of Adam and Eve, I pull the story of the yellow mustard seed from the shelf. The story of the smallest mustard seed that grew into the greatest of the herbs, with coloring sheets and crafts, all revolved around Tanner. The excited students began to talk and speak of their favorite colors, or the stories and experiences they had in this class last year, such as the time they performed a skit of David and Goliath, or when they had blue Jell-O and sour patch kids signifying Jesus walking on water. The quiet little girls became social butterflies, and the roaring big boys learned to listen. Reagan talked more about her two sisters while Ethan, although eager to speak, stayed quiet. My lesson plans became customized and determined by the mood and topic of conversation in class. The students created their own class and way of learning while I learned that connecting with my students is the most important aspect of teaching. Tanners favorite color was no longer yellow. Instead it was the color of a mustard seed.