Articles From the December 1995 Unification News


How to Start a Sunday School... Evaluation and Reward

by Vicki Henry-Minneapolis, MN

By now your Sunday School should be modestly equipped, a curriculum in place, have organized classes and a teaching schedule and method. What else is left? In order for all the above to grow and develop, as well as have credibility in the eyes of leaders and parents alike, a systematic evaluation is necessary. The evaluation should be for both students and teachers.

Teacher Evaluation

Since almost all of our Sunday schools are staffed by well-meaning and involved parents who, more than likely, have no formal education in teaching, it is necessary for the principal of the Sunday school to help the staff recognize their good points and find ways to improve where needed.

There are two important aspects in doing this evaluation which all parties must keep in mind. One is that we cannot judge by the external aspect alone. Clean and organized classrooms and bulletin boards displayed with children's work, although an integral part and reflection of care and concern for religious education, does not show a teacher's rapport with his/her students. Test scores and projects do not reflect whether a child socialized or not. And they do not show whether the child is having a religious experience and journey. The other is that, in evaluating ourselves as teachers, we must keep in perspective that teaching and learning are never done. There is no end point in one's life where we can say "I'm finished." Also no teacher can reach all children. All children are different-learning in different ways and at different speeds, having characters which may meld better with one particular teacher than another. Please note that just because a student may not "jibe" with a particular teacher does not mean it is necessarily bad. Part of learning is developing a well- rounded character which can embrace and work well with all kinds of people. A child and teacher who encounter this situation should take it as a personal challenge which will affect a basic core part of their character growth.

The insert shows a self check list for teachers. If your Sunday school has a consistent staff, this is something you may have them use at least once or twice a year. Have them fill it out and give you (the principal) a copy. Try to arrange private meetings with each one of your staff to discuss it. If you have a constantly revolving teaching staff of parents volunteering a certain number of Sundays, a more informal group meeting once or twice a year to discuss concerns may be more fitting. This could even take the form of a one-day teachers' workshop.

Student Evaluation

Secular schools have run the gamut of different types of evaluation. Most of us grew up with the "A through F" grading system and that was that. Today, as a product of outcome-based education, we see evaluation of students' performance by means of a portfolio of work done in the classroom. Terms such as "meets expectations," "needs improvement," etc., are used. Using only one of these two methods can be misleading and may work to the detriment of any growth. The outcome-based approach fails to set any absolute standards, and by doing so fails not only the high achiever but all students. It promotes mediocrity and frustration at the same time. One can never "get ahead" but must be equal to others. However, using the traditional "A through F" grading scale arbitrarily does not show the more subtle forms of learning. I feel a system using both techniques gives a truer indication of what and how a child is learning.

Keeping a portfolio of students' work for a class which only meets once a week may or may not be feasible. In one sense it is nice to have everything neatly kept by the teacher so parents may be able to view it at certain points throughout the year, thereby getting a clearer picture of their child's progress. Personally, I can empathize with this desire, for I have seen some Sunday school projects which were worked on with great fervency and dedication get crumpled, torn or left on the floor by their creators. On the other hand, parents do like to see immediate results and, especially if you are a new Sunday school, this is going to be a priority. If you do choose to do portfolios, make sure all of your parents know this is happening and that a day will be scheduled when they may discuss it with their child's teacher or principal and take the work home. Another offshoot of using a portfolio can be periodic exhibitions of projects around the church or in a certain area. This way, the entire congregation and guests can see the children's religious education in progress.

Having specific grades for specific categories is a good way to communicate that you do have certain expectations and goals for the children to accomplish. These should be in keeping with their particular level of development. The following is a list I have used in Minneapolis for K-6th grade. The children are given a rating of excellent, good, average, poor, not applicable or in progress in each of the following categories: 1. retains lesson; 2. participates in class; 3. listens w/o interrupting; 4. follows rules; 5. plays/works well with others; 6. adequate attention span; and 7. responsible for materials and property. I then have a section for any special comments.

Our 7th-12th grade class is the only one which has tests each Sunday on the previous week's lesson. Their report cards show the following: 1. percentage scored on each test; 2. preparation for class (did they have a notebook and pen?); 3. class participation; 4. behavior/attitude; and 5. comments. On items 2-4 they are rated as exceptional, satisfactory, or needs improvement.

As much as possible, try to set up specific times of the year when evaluations are sent out or parent/teacher conferences given.

Graduation and Reward

Every August before the new school year begins, we hold a graduation and teacher recognition ceremony. Since our classes are mostly divided into groups (1st-2nd, 3rd-6th grade, etc.), we only give a certificate of advancement when they leave one group and go on to the next. It may be nice to arrange something for all the students-perhaps two different kinds of certificates or a special pin or prize to those actually advancing, or maybe a party in class or after service.

Always publicly recognize your teachers, too. They are often the unsung heroes and heroines of our church. They need to feel appreciated and the rest of the congregation needs to know who they are and what they have given. Perhaps it will inspire and motivate others to take on this responsibility as well. In Minneapolis anyone who has taught during the school year gets a Certificate of Appreciation presented during the graduation ceremony. This is always immediately after service on the last Sunday in August.

This is the end of my series on Sunday service development. I hope it has been of service to all those concerned with religious education. My intent for this series was to offer a starting point in Sunday school organization, to present ideas, information and tools, and to motivate. This series was aimed not only at parents and Sunday school teachers but at church leaders as well. May your Sunday school be the initiator and innovator of our church's development; may it have vision and be creative.

Self Check Sheet For Sunday School Teachers

Manner and Appearance:

Am I courteous in speech and action?
Am I well-groomed?
Could my grooming be improved upon?
Am I self-assured?
Do I give the impression of having feelings of inferiority?
Do I give the impression of feeling superior?
Am I happy and usually optimistic?
Do I frequently appear dissatisfied?


Is my voice mellow, well-modulated?
Is my voice harsh?
Is my voice weak?
Is my enunciation poor?


Do I exhibit discretion and tact?
Do I gain the confidence and respect of others?
Do I work constructively with all school personnel?
Do I offer warmth, protection, unspoken understanding?


Am I resourceful and often begin new work for myself?
Am I alert to opportunities to interest children?
Am I reluctant to go ahead unless directed?


Am I able to assume responsibility readily?
Am I reluctant to assume responsibility?
Do I appear to be insecure?
Am I able to maintain control based on understanding of children?


Am I prompt?
Am I frequently late?
Do I have the ability to carry through (stick-to-it-iveness)?
Do I assume my share of responsibility for materials, supplies and equipment?


Am I planful-both long-term and daily?
Do I need assistance in organizing groups of children?
Do I know how to "set the stage" for effective teaching?


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