Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"Our hope is that the children's classes will continue for many years into the future"

This story from Contra Costa County East, CA (A) is so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes. In many clusters throughout the country, the friends are reporting that children’s classes become more sustainable when the teachers connect with the parents of the students. It sounds good in abstract, but what does it look like in reality. Read on! What is so precious about this experience? First, the teachers have a clear, long-term vision for the classes. Second, the teachers share with the families the vision of how these classes are a foundation for transforming their community. Third, the families are themselves empowered to begin actively supporting the classes. Fourth, the community is then identifying additional human resources from within their ranks to expand the range and influence of the classes. This is what the Five Year Plan is all about. This is a glimpse into the future.

For over three months, our team had been teaching children’s classes in a Concord neighborhood. The class was going strong, and we were looking for a way to reach out to the parents. One day, a perfect opportunity revealed itself. After class on that hot Saturday afternoon, a mother approached us. We had a friendly relationship with her because she had participated in the class before with her two sons. She asked, “How much longer will these classes continue?” . . .

We happily responded, “Our hope is that they will continue for many years into the future!” This brought a smile. We continued to explain our vision for the class—that through the moral and spiritual education of children, an opportunity could be provided for the friends in her community to transform their neighborhood. She liked the idea a great deal and together we decided to have a parent-teacher meeting the following Thursday evening so that we could present this vision to the other parents.

When Thursday night approached, 8 parents were seated in folding chairs under the same tent that their children visit weekly for their classes. The meeting began with a prayer which was followed by a brief introduction to the fundamental verities of the Bahá’í Faith. We explained to the parents that our belief in Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings regarding the education of children was the propelling force behind our motivation to teach the class. We also clarified that we were not there to indoctrinate our beliefs on their children. The parents listened intently as we shared our vision for the class. One teacher pointed to a little girl who had accompanied her mother to the meeting. “My dream is that 10 years from now I can return to this neighborhood and see __ teaching this class,” the teacher lovingly commented. The child responded with a shy giggle.

By the end of the meeting all the parents were eager to offer their help. One group of mothers coordinated to bring snacks and drinks to the class. Another parent suggested that the class be held more than once a week so that their children would have more time to learn these valuable virtues. Together the parents agreed that they would help us find youth in the neighborhood who could receive the teacher training and offer the classes on different days of the week. All in all, the experience was a great success! It was beautiful to see the parents offering their ideas and contributing to the spiritual well-being of their children as well as the betterment of their community.

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