Jesus Loves You, This We Know!
Go ahead and sing! It’s okay to burst out in song, especially when it’s about Jesus’ love for you and all people! What a glorious sound when children share the special message of love, grace, and salvation with each other by singing Jesus Love Me, This I Know! The voices of little children – all the children of the world – bring smiles to the faces of many.
It’s never too early to celebrate the diversity you have in your classroom. Today, Lutheran schools are rich and diverse, ministering to children and families of various cultures, languages, and home dynamics. What a glorious opportunity Lutheran schools are presented with!
The early childhood years are when children have an amazing opportunity to experience so many new things – including the diversity of peers, teachers, and community members. As children begin to learn about love, respect, compassion, and care, they begin to associate such values with those they surround themselves with. Early childhood teachers play a vital role in instilling the values of care, empathy, and understanding. Whether it be role modeling, engaging in conversation during play times, or explicit teaching of values, children are sponges who soak up what is presented to them.
Because young children are so impressionable, early on, they soak up what happens around them and mimic what they see and hear. Therefore, when it comes to what you do in your classroom each day, ensuring the love of Jesus is present paves the way for future learning and engagement.
Although children can subconsciously pick up on differences of others at six months of age, they’re not yet at an age where they can form opinions on their differences. However, early childhood education opens the door to having these conversations and molding minds to approach differences amongst their peers positively and with a faith-filled foundation.
Children are impressionable during early childhood and are still learning right from wrong. As their teacher, you can help them understand, accept, respect, and appreciate people’s differences – all within the context of the Gospel Message. Scripture is full of messages where gentleness, compassion, and forgiveness are the focal point of the story. (The Good Samaritan, Casting the First Stone in John 8, and Joseph and His Brothers are great examples!)
Exposing students to diversity and how to embrace it with the love that Christ modeled ultimately instills compassion, kindness, open-mindedness, and empathy and teaches children how to treat people with respect, regardless of their background. Celebrating these differences also improves their self-confidence and how they see themselves. The social and emotional growth of the early childhood years provides the foundation for a child’s peer and family engagements throughout their lives.
As an early childhood teacher, you instill morals and values daily through the use of faith-filled “Jesus Time” lessons, prayers and songs, and interactions with and amongst students. To embrace diversity in your classroom even more, consider the following ideas:
- Create activities that allow children to share details about who they are, their culture or home language, and their background. Children will be exposed to facts about the lives of their friends and classmates. This can help create an understanding and respect for differences they see amongst their friends. Children can be reminded that God made everyone different and unique, and His love is for all people.
- Provide various books, dolls, toys, and learning materials that differences they may see amongst themselves. This allows children to point out the similarities they see in themselves and teaches them how to interact with people who may not look or act like them.
- Create a sense of belonging in your classroom that is so welcoming, children are easily able to replicate the feeling to those who visit your classroom. Just as Christ welcomes all into His family, so, too, children can understand the importance of belonging. Talk about how special it is to belong to God’s family, your school, and your congregation.
- Plan celebrations and show-and-tell opportunities where children can bring in items from their family, cultural background, or interest. Being able to share and listen to others in a respectful way promotes the value of empathy.
As you embrace the diverse learners in your classroom, wrap them in prayer, knowing that, indeed, Jesus loves them. And, when your students can eagerly and excitedly share the love Jesus has for them with others, the joy it produces is contagious – a joy that leads others to the love of Jesus. And – that’s why Lutheran schools exist!