Before I say anything at all, I want to make clear that I am no all-star teacher. I do not know everything. This is just my humble opinion-got it? k, now you can read on!
So anyone that has been to an LDS church and sat in a Sunday School Class probably has noticed that it is not the easiest thing to do. You have to stand up in front of a less then enthusastic engaged crowd and try to get them excited to read some scriptures and talk about them over the grumblings of their hungry tummies. It’s tough. I’m sure the manual Teaching No Greater Calling is really helpful, I should probably read it, but I have not been given that calling in years so I have not had the chance to read it. Thus, I will stick with what I have learned so far. At BYU-I we took how to teach classes before our church started and they helped me so much! So I thought I would share some of what I learned..Cody style of course.
1) Follow the Spirit. No matter what, if you stick to that you can’t ruin everything so calm down. Christ was the master teacher-not you so it’s ok. But this is very important because the lesson can change at any minute and you have got to be able to trust The Spirit if it is egging you on in a certain direction. Just, go with the flow on that.
2) Don’t stand up and say how nervous you are. We get it, you’re nervous. First day of my Public Speaking Class my wonderful teacher hammered it into our hands not to do this. Just do yourself a favor and keep that you’re nervous to yourself. Almost everyone that gets up to public speak is nervous..you aren’t special in that category, sorry. I’m sure you have other special qualities.
3) It is a discussion-not a lecture. There is nothing worse then someone getting up and just going on and on for 45 minutes..we don’t care. We just had 3 of those in a row in Sacrament Meeting and we would like to loosen things up a bit. I don’t care how entertaining you are. Take a breather for a minute and let other people talk. You might learn something from your students. Plus, we will be more awake if we are talking.
4) Ask inspired, engaging questions. Growing up I wanted to gauge my eyeballs out with spoons with the questions I was asked in Sunday School, especially if it was just me and the teacher. *Shudder* I had a rough childhood ok? (JK) This is where the Spirit really can help. Some of the questions asked can be redundant or so basic and simple that no one wants to answer them. Now please note, I am not saying I know more then the manual questions-inspired people came up with those, and I won’t hate on them.
However, sometimes asking questions that everyone knows the answer to will be really hard to get anyone to answer them. So make those fun and interesting like “We all know this answer”, then state the question and you may have a better luck getting a response.
*Also along with this, please do not ask questions that are purposefully attacking others. I have seen one too many teachers basically ask “so who do you know that sins this way?”. Yikes folks. That is a one way ticket to the Spirit leaving, not to mention people getting offended. (Which isn’t exactly your fault but let’s not encourage it.) There are better ways to focus on how we can avoid a sin then diggin around for sinner stories. This aint bashin time! You can do that at home at the dinner table like my family does 😉
5) Never answer your own question. Do not admit defeat! Hold your ground. Let the silence seep into their souls..eventually one of them will crack (if they have a soul) and say “What was the question?” You will then repeat and that person with a soul will answer. If not, tough luck buddy.
6) Look people in the eye when they answer your questions. Sometimes it takes people a lot of nerve to raise their hand and answer a question. Please, respect them for that. They are tryin to help you out by answering the question anyways so be grateful! It is pretty awkward to answer a teacher’s question while they are looking down reading the manual or looking at the clock. (I guess I am really that boring!) They need someone to look at. Give them your eyes and ears and 100% of your attention. Thank them for their comment and if you want, comment on their comment. (That always makes them feel good) If you show sincerity then most likely, they and others will be more willing to make more comments throughout the class period.
7) If you wish to share your opinion on a Gospel Principle, be sure to make a disclaimer that it is such. So if I were to be teaching on the oh I dunno..Word of Wisdom? I wouldn’t say: “Hey folks, don’t drink anything with caffeine”, or “don’t ever eat something that has been cooked like this or this.” It’s fine to share your opinion, but make sure you say it as such. If my family doesn’t watch TV on Sundays, another family might. There are certain things that aren’t black and white like that and when you act like it is, well that’s just downright silly. Know the doctrine, teach the doctrine. Comprende?
8) Your center piece is not that important. This is most definitely my opinion. But really, don’t fret about it. If you bring one picture I say good on ya! But your lesson is the important part, or rather, the discussion at hand. It’s ok if it isn’t a frozen ice cut Salt Lake Temple like on the RM. They made fun of that for a reason..take the hint.
9) It’s ok to cry. My Mission President cried almost every time I heard him bear his testimony..he’d at least tear up. Did I think he was less of a man? No way! If you do then you are ridiculous. Crying is fine. I cry all the time and is it annoying? You betcha. But sometimes you can’t help it. So if you are gonna cry please don’t spend 10 minutes apologizing about it. Just talk through it if you can, we all understand.
10) Bear your testimony, share scriptures. I would hope that no matter what lesson you teach, there is at least one scripture you can share from it. I also hope that whatever you are teaching you can bear testimony of in some shape or form. I love it when someone closes with a testimony of what they just taught and they really mean it, they aren’t just saying words. You can always tell the difference. The difference is when you feel the Spirit burn within you that what they’re saying is true. That always makes for a great lesson.
I see nothing wrong with bringing a treat. No it doesn’t not take away from the lesson and yes it is a great way to bribe people without them knowing into thinking you are an awesome teacher. Works errytime.