How do you get children to grasp that giving is better than getting? Gail Owens tried using Mother Teresa as a role model
As a newly qualified teacher who attended a course called "RE for the petrified", a daunting task lay ahead. I was going to teach Mother Teresa to a Year 2 class.
I used the internet to gather information about her to make the lesson one that the children would remember, and produced a PowerPoint for use on the interactive whiteboard.
I started by displaying a picture of Mother Teresa and asking the pupils to discuss, with a partner, who they thought she was. They responded with "Mary", "an important lady", "an old lady" and "a nun".
After I revealed her name, I asked the class: "What is wrong with the world today?" to explore why someone might want to dedicate their life to doing good. We listed the responses on a flip chart:
- Too much fighting
- People being nasty
- No money
- Too many cars
- Funny weather
I continued with the PowerPoint that outlined Mother Teresa's life, stopping it at different times to get responses from the children and to ask important questions.
The children were amazed that one person would literally give up everything to help others.
I then asked them to write on individual whiteboards five items that were precious to them.
I asked the children if they would be willing to give these things up. Of course, the responses were mainly no. Some of the girls became upset, crying at the thought of having to renounce things.
When the pupils were asked: "What sort of person do you think Mother Teresa was?" The responses varied from "kind" to "she shares" to "old" and "unhappy".
I queried the "unhappy" and was told they thought she would miss her family and having nice things. I said we would return to that thought at the end of the lesson to see if they had changed their minds.
I asked my pupils what they would spend their money on if they became rich. Again, many responses: lots of toys, sweets, an Xbox and games and clothes.
I reminded them that Mother Teresa would not have done and read one of her quotes: "We do not accept anything from our parents, friends or benefactors for our personal use. Whatever is given to us is handed over to the community."
The children were asked to record the ways in which they helped people at home and at school.
Finally, I returned to the thought that Mother Teresa was unhappy. Did they still think she was sad because she missed her family and having nice things? Some decided no because she was doing something she wanted to do and was happy to help people.
As a result of this lesson, one of the girls had become upset at the thought of not being with her family anymore. When I spoke to her mother the next morning, she said her daughter had gone home, sorted out the toys she no longer played with and said to her mum that she wanted to give them to children who did not have nice things like she did. What a result.
Gail Owens is an NQT at Studfall Infant School, Corby.