Pursuing Church School Success: Evaluate the Environment

In this series, we will feature resources and ideas that can increase the learning success of a Church school classroom. In each post, we will share some tips for classroom management and/or ideas for increased student participation. What we share is not a comprehensive list by any stretch of the imagination: there are many more ideas available. It is our hope that what we proffer can act as a starting point toward enhancing the learning that takes place in our Church school classroom. 


We will begin our look at classroom success by considering the environment that your students step into when they arrive. The hospitable classroom climate that we referred to in our last post is influenced by the both the physical environment and the teacher therein. Your room and your influence as a teacher are foundational to the success of your class, so we encourage you to start by evaluating both.

Begin by taking a moment to think about your classroom. Is it welcoming? Is it interesting to look at? Is there adequate seating, or room to otherwise accommodate your students? Is this a room you want to come to? If you were your students’ age, would you feel the same way? What is working well in your room setup? What could you improve in order to better serve your students?

Now take a moment and think about yourself,  from the perspective of your students. What do they like best about you? What do they not like, and how can you work on that? Are they able to understand what you are telling them? Are you speaking and acting in ways that help to get your message across? How well does your body language support what you are trying to communicate with them? Do you treat them in a way that you would want to be treated? Do you remember that they are icons of Christ, and treat them as such?

We have gathered a number of general hints and tips from other teachers, ranging from classroom practice to student management. Most of these are not specifically written to a Sunday Church school teaching audience, but we are confident that you will find them helpful. We will share some links of ideas that teachers have shared about their own classrooms. We will also add a few links that can help you to think a bit more about your own teaching style.

Our goal with this series is to help your students succeed. Crafting a success-inducing environment which is led by a caring and communicative teacher, is a very important place to begin, in pursuit of student success. It is our hope that some of these tips and suggestions will be helpful to that end.


Here are some links on the subject that you may find helpful. What has worked for you? What related resources would you recommend to the community? Please share them below!


At this link, you will find a pictoral list of 35 helpful tips and tricks tried by teachers. Included are suggestions for classroom organization, classroom displays, ways to help students who need to move, and even suggestions of ways to help students manage their phones during class. The article is written for a general classroom, so while many of the ideas here are applicable to a Sunday Church school class, some may not be. https://www.buzzfeed.com/nataliebrown/brilliant-classroom-ideas-from-real-life-teache?utm_term=.mpXbY3nw3#11610181


This teacher suggests reviewing procedures by writing questions about your class’ daily procedures on separate pieces of paper, passing one of those out to each student, and one at a time during class, asking that one be read and answered. This is a painless way to review the classroom procedures with your class, with everyone having a turn to read and answer. This method could be applied to other things besides daily procedures, as well. https://teacherthrive.com/2017/07/simple-way-teach-classroom-procedures-expectations.html


Here is a teacher’s description of how she organizes parts of her classroom. Again, some of the ideas will work for a Sunday Church school class, and others may not. We especially liked the code word for movement idea, the two-helper job chart, and the hand signals. Check them all out here: https://www.primarily-speaking.com/2018/05/11-practical-classroom-management-tips.html


“When discussing class values with my students, I obviously have values that I want our class to embody, but I also let my kids choose. We create the list together. We sign a class contract. These values become a part of who we are and who we will strive to be each day.” Read more about this from the teacher who does not have class rules, only class values, here: http://www.building-brilliance.com/2018/03/why-i-teach-class-values-instead-of.html


“Children crave someone to guide them so that everyone can feel safe, secure, loved and wanted. When you take the time to work on the structure of your group (and sometimes your own heart!) you will achieve a learning environment that works.” Read the rest of this article to find some Sunday-Church-school-specific ideas for classroom management: https://buildfaith.org/classroom-management-sunday-school-style/


Find colorful, beautiful, and inspiring classroom setup ideas here: https://chaylorandmads.com/2019/08/03/classroom-ideas/


Many of these secondary-student classroom setup ideas will not necessarily apply to a Sunday Church school classroom, but they are all inspirational and a few of them would work! We especially liked the flexible seating and the agenda/but why? ideas. https://www.readingandwritinghaven.com/classroom-setup-ideas-for-secondary/


“In my childhood (in the world of the pledge), there was often talk of living a ‘Christ-like life.’ This was largely portrayed as a highly moralistic life. It also seemed completely boring and unlike anyone I had ever met or admired. The virtues cannot be acquired through models that hold no attraction. Mere morality can never be virtue… As a priest, I’ve never expected children to be ‘little adults.’ However, I want them to see the love of God in the adults around them in such a way that they are not repelled… If you want a child to pray, they should see you pray. If you want them to love God, they should see you love God. If you want them to be able to ask forgiveness, they need to see you do it first.”~ Fr. Stephen Freeman encourages us Orthodox adults to model more than we teach in this blog post: ttps://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory2godforallthings/2019/08/28/whos-minding-the-kids/


Are you a great Sunday Church school teacher? You may find it helpful to weigh yourself against these 8 qualities of an effective Church School teacher: https://disciplr.com/8-qualities-great-sunday-school-teacher


“I learned that it was up to me to be happy. It wasn’t up to my students to make me happy, or my coworkers, or anybody else. Being happy was my job. So what if this year was a little tough? I needed to roll with it, continue to love my students, and move on. I needed to CHOOSE to be happy.” ~ Read more about teacher Teresa Kwant’s tough students, one year, and how she chose to face their time together, including 5 practical choices in which you can choose happiness, here: https://teresakwant.com/choose-to-be-happy-teacher/


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