This was a class in which I left thinking A) We have all really learned something here today and B) My, do I have so much more to learn. Certainly, one of the more challenging aspects of a children's class is facilitating meaningful dialogue so that these tender, rapidly expanding minds have the opportunity to meaningfully explore spiritual concepts. Of course, it is much simpler and easier to spoon-feed a pre-determined definition of 'courage' to the group, and then move on to art. Because let's face it--when one opens the floor to a 4-year-old, the risks of getting completely sidetracked on a playmobil tangent are greatly increased. But the chances of hearing some seriously thoughtful insights? Inevitable.
Today we learned and studied the quotation:
"Armed with the power of Thy name nothing can ever hurt me, and with Thy love in my heart all the world's afflictions can in no wise alarm me." Baha'u'llah
And before I knew it, a discussion on the word 'armed' found us grappling with such issues as guns and violence, policemen and bad guys. I muddled my way through an explanation of how people can protect their physical bodies with armor and weapons, but that Baha'u'llah's power is so much greater: He can protect our souls. Our bodies still may get hurt, but our souls can never be harmed if we call on the power of His name. We do this through prayer and trusting in Him. And when we trust that Baha'u'llah will keep us safe and go ahead and do something that is scary, we are practicing courage.
The children talked about how policemen have special training to safely handle guns and that sometimes it can be necessary to protect people. I acknowledged that violence can be necessary sometimes and has been an acceptable form of problem-solving in the past, but that Baha'u'llah is now challenging us to solve our problems with peace and unity. Baha'u'llah assures us that if we arm ourselves with virtues, we can bring peace to the world. (I must admit, I didn't even come close to being this coherent in the moment.)
They had a LOT to say about this issue and it left me realizing I need to read up on the intersection of children (especially boys) and play and violence. And first and foremost, what Baha'u'llah has to say about it. Please, please, please, send me your comments, book recommendations, insights into this area.
As for the actual class, the children spelled the name of Baha'u'llah out with cloth letters, taking turns and matching them to this picture:
I didn't help them with this at all, and it was neat to see their process and self-correction.
During art, they traced the entire quotation themselves, which I had printed in outline form. They then got an envelope with all the letters in 'Baha'u'llah' and had to glue them in the proper order. I was blown away by their hard work and concentration during what amounted to a very long project. Even the younger ones did remarkably well and were SO proud of themselves for completing it. I guess the elementary school teacher in me just can't resist the literacy lessons...