The reader may recall in a previous column my appeal to the church to assist the schools with training school-age children in desirable Christian-like character and behavior that can be displayed appropriately and non-imposingly toward peers in the school environment.
The exhibition of good manners and respect for and toward authority and fellow students would be a very good place to start. The church can design the curriculum that could be taught to churchgoing youngsters at Wednesday evening Bible study. Or, the curriculum could be taught during Sunday school, or during a church-sponsored function.
Schoolchildren who do not attend church would put a wrinkle in this approach, one may say. Well, here is an easy fix: A number of churches have Beyond-the-Walls Outreach Ministries. Led by visionary church leaders, a delegation of church members identify young people within the school and church community and invite them to be a part of church activities, or church-sponsored activities that are planned and held out in the community. Such an outreach requires dedication and commitment, as well as a philosophical buy-in that a confluence of this nature is for the all-encompassing common good.
Years ago, when I was a student in school, I remember seeing certain members from my church and reputable members from the neighborhood navigating the hallways and lunchrooms of the schools I attended. A student did not want these visitors to report back to parents any inappropriate behavior. This reflection begs for an extension topic: effective parenting skills, and how the church and the school can partner to help parents accordingly.
My sincere desire is that this column will have the potent capacity to influence positive interaction among educators, families, the church and civic leaders. The reason I am reflecting on this subject so soon on the heels of the previous column is because of observing a very distraught Sunday school superintendent recently. She was visibly concerned about children’s behavior and their demand to be entertained during Sunday school. The children found Sunday school unbearably boring, and had aggressively broadcast their feelings.
What should the response be to accommodate a generation of young people (and unfortunately their parents – not intended to be disrespectful to parents by an measure) who have been brought up on a self-gratification and entertainment-influencing minute-by-minute behavioral and social diet?
The particular children at the center of this topic are frequent attendees at Sunday school. The brilliant idea I had entertained was that the Sunday school environment was the perfect setting to include a session on the components of a purpose-prayed prayer, and the appropriate display of behavior for churchgoing students. I do not plan to abandon that idea.
Apparently, the Sunday school teacher inquired among the students to discover from their perspective what could be done to gain their sincere attention to give the appropriate reverence to the lesson. The attendees gave the teacher a firm-sounding assessment and recommendation. They wanted to insert some excitement into the class, and some anti-boring features. (The reader may use his or her creative cognition to suggest a few anti-boring features to the Sunday school and regular-school teacher.)
The Sunday school superintendent was visibly disturbed about this display of levity among the Sunday school pupils.
Everyone now stands in a state of perplexity – the student, the school, the church and the parent.
The student doesn’t understand (or get) that the adults cannot see the situation from their perspective. The school does not understand why parents do not send their children from home into the public better trained. The church cannot comprehend the appearance that parents would dare to send their children away from home so ill-mannered and disrespectful.
I think confluence (the coming-together of all entities with some responsibility for assisting with the growth and development of children) is the appropriate remedy, influenced by the primary belief that it really does take a village to raise a child.
To achieve this confluence, and put reality to the village philosophy, each partner would need to designate a representative to sit at the “confluence table” to chart an appropriate plan of action. This plan would be like no other plan. It actually would be executed, and reports on its success made public.
A very important postscript: One of the partner-representatives would need to raise his or her hand and call the first confluence meeting to action.
(The writer – a former superintendent of schools for the Richmond County Board of Education – is executive director of Horse Creek Academy charter school in Aiken, S.C.)