For many in the northern hemisphere, it is time to prepare to go back to school for another year. It can be difficult to transition from the carefree days of summer vacation to the rigorous schedule of a school year. But with a little planning and preparation as well as a lot of love, we who work with children can help them make that transition in a healthy way!
First and foremost, we need to pray for our students, not just for when they’re with us in Sunday Church School, but also in their daily schooling. Here is an Orthodox prayer for a child’s first day at school, which we can pray for each of our Church School students:
“Dear God, here are (names), ready for their first day at school. They have been counting the days. They are so thrilled. Be with them today when they go into unfamiliar rooms, when they see new faces (make them kind faces!), when they stand in the lunch line, when they are on the playground. Keep them close to You as they learn and grow and make friends. Protect them from harm. Watch over them on the way to and from school. And as they become part of a larger world, help me to let them go and gain experience that they will need to become a responsible part of Your creations. Amen.”
Secondly, as we have opportunity to do so, let us talk with our students. Before school begins, we can ask them what they’re looking forward to, if they have any fears related to the school year, and how we can best pray for them as they begin the year. We may need to jot ourselves notes to help us remember what each child said, so we can better pray. As the school year progresses, we can check in with them on those items. We also will continue to talk with our students throughout the year about their faith: it is the nature of our Sunday Church School classes to do so! Orthodox Christian children in America are in the Christian minority, and so our job, helping them to stay strong in their faith even while they’re around others who believe very differently, is very important. Here’s a great podcast (and its transcript) to that end:http://www.ancientfaith.com/specials/episode/teaching_children_about_keeping_their_faith_in_the_context_of_being_a_minor.)
We can also help our students to physically prepare for the school year. Small gifts can be excellent reminders to children that someone cares and is praying for them! Here are a few ideas:
- bundle of pencils with a note: “Praying that you’ll learn and do the write things during this school year!”
- a notebook or tablet decorated like this:http://www.theorthodoxchildrenspress.com/diy-kids/tocp-diy-kids-back-to-school-icon-notebook/
- small cross or icon pin for their backpack
- small magnetic icon for their locker
- pocket prayer book for them to keep in their backpack or locker (here’s a nice printable one if you wish to make your own:http://michelle.themccallums.org/2014/02/03/orthodox-prayer-book-for-children-2/)
Let us do everything possible for our Sunday Church School students’ success during this school year! Let us pray for them, talk together, and do all that we can to help them to be ready to begin the new school year with peace and an awareness of God’s presence with them! May God bless us all as we grow together towards Him throughout this school year.