Apprentice Teachers

August 1st, 2013

Apprentice teachers are inexperienced, untrained volunteers who learn how to teach by helping an experienced teacher for a specific time period. Some begin in Vacation Bible School, agree to help for a couple of months, or for a full year alongside a lead teacher.

The apprentice's duties usually require little prepara­tion. Apprentices might help children find a verse in their Bibles or organize a craft activity.  Apprentice teachers are included in planning sessions and gradually take on more responsibilities as their confidence and skills grow. By the end of their apprenticeship, most have positive experiences and are eager to teach again.

Most people are afraid to teach because they don't know what is involved. They have visions of being thrown into a room of wild children with no chance of rescue. Imagine their relief when they discover that your teachers have curriculum materials that are easy to follow. Supplies are available to plan fun activities. Children have more to do in a session than they can possibly finish. And most of them are present and eager to learn! "After only a few months, stated one apprentice "I've learned that children really listen to what I say. And I have a positive effect on them!"

By helping in a classroom and planning with an experienced teacher, apprentices learn how to organize a session. The lead shares creative ideas and problem-solving methods that have been helpful in the past. Without this opportunity for in-the-ministry training, many adults would never have discovered that they can work with children.

The Results

Lead teachers will be glad to have full-time assistants. An additional helper allows the various duties of teaching to be shared. While the lead teacher tells the Bible story to a group, the apprentice is available to set up a craft or the next activity. One teacher may help the children with an art or mission project while another plays a game with another small group. The children receive more individual attention and seem to learn more.

One teacher said that having an apprentice added an extra dimension to her own preparations for the class time. When an assistant says, ''I'll just do what you do,'' you want to prepare an even better session.

The apprentice program has created a large pool of trained teachers. Some appren­tices ask to become lead teachers; others want to continue as assistants. Some ask for time off, but agree to be substitutes. All of them are good will ambassadors for the children's ministry as they tell their friends about the positive experiences they have had.

Many persons have been enriched by this program. The children gain by building relationships with more than one Christian teacher. Adults sense an awareness of faith development and personal growth, both in the children and in themselves. As one apprentice said,

"I started the year with no teaching experience and now I enjoy it more than I ever thought I would. I feel I have a lot to share with others."

You Can, Too

How can you start an apprentice program in your church? A good beginning is to discuss the idea with your current teachers. Find one or two teachers who would feel comfortable working with an assistant. Together, outline volunteer expectations for the apprentices. Make a list of expectations for during the study or program time such as planning responsibilities and length of commitment.

Next prepare a list of potential appentices. Look for adults of any age who have the qualities of a good teacher—friendliness, openness, concern for others, and a desire to grow in faith.

After your list is ready, approach each potential apprentice with the details of the program. Don't be discouraged if some people are not interested. It will take time for the congregation to understand the benefits of this approach to teacher training. You may only begin with one apprentice, but that person's enthusiasm will elad others to try it too. Soon your teaching ministry will have a pool of confident, trained, and eager leaders to answer the call to teach.

The apprentice teacher program enables volunteers to share their faith and talents in new ways. As these teachers-in-training grow in assurance, they will draw others into teaching. And the result is a stronger, more alive teaching ministry.

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