Monday, October 29, 2007

Collective Teaching Makes It Happen

Dr. Penny Walker recently visited the Chicago area and spoke to Baha’is from several of the surrounding clusters about some key principles in advancing the Five Year Plan that had been identified by the International Teaching Centre (the 30 September, 2007 letter from the ITC can be found at the administrative website - One of the main areas she emphasized was the importance of collective teaching projects in achieving sustained growth. She explained (presented here in my own paraphrasing) that individual initiative teaching efforts - crucial as they are - are not enough to sustain intensive growth and that it is through carefully planned and executed collective teaching that further potential of the community can be unlocked as we (the Baha’is) then build off of one another’s strengths.

A related point that she made was that the expansion phase of a cluster’s cycle of growth should be clearly distinguished from any other phase by it’s intensity and activity. She quoted from the 27 December, 2005 letter from the Universal House of Justice that an expansion phase “demands the highest level of intensity” and “implies a level of exertion that tests the resolve of the friends.”

Both of these points - collective teaching and intensity of action - I found reflected in this report from the Wilmette, IL (A-stage) cluster. Short, sweet, and to the point, it gives a day-by-day summary of a collective teaching project - a project Badi-style initiative in a predominantly Asian neighborhood - and offers a wealth of information for other communities that might be considering such an effort.

Preliminary work

Sought support of [the Local Spiritual Assembly]. Sent prayers for assistance to friends in the Concourse. Got materials in Korean. Found an apartment. where we could use the patio and washroom if needed. Rounded up some easy reading books. Assessed and enlisted human resources. Consulted about a plan to begin this small effort.


Walked around the neighborhood and distributed 30 fliers about free Project Badi style reading and math assistance to area children for the target week from 1-2 pm. Noted that whole buildings there have Korean names on the mailboxes. Also Russian, African American, and Indian.

8/13 1st session

5 children attend, including one new to the group who is Korean. Read the Hobbit and science books with them. 1 adult friend attended; 1-1/2 hours.

8/14 2nd session

5 children, only those already part of the group. Read the illustrated Hobbit with them and science. 2 adult friends attended. Also visited 4 area Asian grocery stores in an attempt to meet people and find where they gather. 4 hours total.

8/15 3rd session

Rained, so nearly called it off. 5 children, including 1 three year-old, 1 seven year old, and a Korean parent. Had a 1 hour discussion with parent about her needs and invited her to come over Friday night and tomorrow afternoon. Also read the Hobbit and played games with soft yo-yos. 2 adult friends are astonished at the change in children. 2-1/2 hours total.

8/16 4th session

14 children (1 Baha’i), 4 community adults, 3 Korean ladies and 1 Bulgarian lady looking for a playgroup for her son. Read the Hobbit, games and soft yo-yos with children. Talked with the moms for over one hour. Invited them to come Friday night. 3 adult friends attended. Bulgarian lady invited to bring her son and visit a local library with a friend on 8/20. 3 hours total.

8/17 5th session

Friday afternoon, impromptu session because of yesterday’s success in the afternoon. 12 children from Africa, Russia, the Philippines, the US, Saudi Arabia and Persia. 3 Korean ladies, plus other adults walking by. Small bike tire repairs done for children and games. Korean ladies bring candy for the kids and later coffee and cake for the adults after the bikes are fixed. All invited to return at 6:30 Friday night. 2 adult friends. 2-1/2 hours


Regular neighborhood children’s and junior youth classes with a new class group of 3 2-4 year olds and 3 parents. 12 children. We will need to split the younger class up into 2 classes. Impromptu concert, pizza dinner and games on the lawn. One Korean lady asked to borrow the Baha’i Prayers in Korean that one of the friends had brought. The opportunity to discuss the Faith centered on that. Other neighbors stop by for a brief visit and listen to the music from their apartments. 7 friends. 2 hours.

Increase in the community of interest: 3 adults and 3 children in the children’s class. Increase in enthusiasm and confidence of the friends - immeasurable.

Next steps:

  • Ask one of the moms of the young ones if we can use her house to meet as it will be child proofed and we are out of space in the apt.
  • Find another teacher to back up the 7-11 year old age group.
  • Invite others in the parent group to other child-centered activities, e.g. library visits, field trips to parks, visit to the House of Worship, possible parenting group study circle.

Note: This effort is so intense that we cannot keep it up as a daily visit activity. It likely was easier to engage people than in a totally unknown place because of the Baha’i family in the area and the level of trust with them. We decided not to continue the grocery visit effort in order to focus on this group with our limited resources.

Consolidation, here we come!

1 comment:

Teaching blog said...

Oct 25, 2:57 PM

I love this story. I can see step by step how they did it and all of those steps are ones that i can see taking with a group of committed friends. Often we only hear about the spectacular results. This really helps me see HOW it all came together.