Sunday, June 2, 2013

Learning to Teach

Wherefore, I the Lord ask you this question—unto what were ye ordained?

To preach my gospel by the Spirit, even the Comforter which was sent forth to teach the truth.

Doctrine and Covenants 50:13-14

I have had very unique opportunities in the past year that have helped me to learn a little bit about how to teach. As a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I will teach people the restored Gospel and help them to "come unto Christ." 

At the end of my senior year of high school, I opted to join the Relief Society instead of continuing in the Young Women's program. However, in April I was called to teach Primary. I was asked to teach the 10 and 11-year-old class (of which my little sister, Maren was a part). I had only six weeks left in Kansas before leaving to work in Jackson Hole, but I accepted the calling anyway. 
That year, the children were learning the teachings of the Book of Mormon, and when I started teaching they were already in the book of Mosiah. This opportunity was a little bit challenging. First, I was used to teaching boys how to swim, not teaching almost-teenagers doctrines of the Church. Second, the age that I was assigned to teach is an in-between period where you can't teach them like children or adults. Lastly, I was not fully prepared. At. All. 
I tried so hard to be the "cool" teacher that sometimes I don't think my class fully grasped the doctrinal concepts that I was attempting to teach. I focused a lot on hand-outs and games. The one thing I did learn was how to adapt lessons for different ages. Pre-teens are hard to teach. The scriptures use difficult language for them to understand, but they need to get used to it. I used a mixture of scripture reading and using the Book of Mormon videos online to show them what they read. My lessons were definitely for audio-visual learners. 
My second opportunity came not as a teacher, but as a learner. When I went to the Teton High Adventure Base in Jackson Hole, I had never been in a canoe in my entire life. Period. However, sometimes the best ways to teach someone is hands-on. At least that's how it was for canoeing and later C.O.P.E-ing. I watched and listened and failed, but kept going until even I was amazed at how far I had come. Watching and listening are two of the most important aspects of teaching, whether you're the teacher OR the learner. 
In my adventures as a C.O.P.E instructor, I learned another valuable lesson. Not everyone learns the way that I do. I am an audio-visual learner. Others are not. I can't tell you how many times I would talk through and show a group how to do a certain obstacle and then they would just stare at me like "Huh?" Most of the time I had groups that would just jump right in and try it without giving much thought as to how to work things out. This usually didn't work. I also had groups that would talk things to death. This. Was. The. Worst. In relation to the gospel, over-thinking and getting in over your head are super common when first starting the conversion process. However, some people learn this way. We can't force anyone to learn in a way that is not conducive for them.
Lastly, I worked as a paraprofessional at Wasatch Elementary school during this past school year. I got to work with two different age groups: first and fourth graders. I was in charge of helping the under-performing first graders with their reading and math. This was soooooooo hard. Some days I just wanted to say to the kid: "Let's just quit while we're ahead." Other days I was so excited about their progress I couldn't contain it. 
The most important lesson I learned is summed up in the following conference talk by President Thomas S. Monson:

Isn't that great?! Everyone has the capacity to change into a wonderful person. I saw this in my first graders and even in some of my punky fourth graders (I still love them). It was hard sometimes to remind myself of this fact: Everyone is a child of God and has the potential to become like Him. This is true for the worst reader to the snarkiest fourth grader.

The best part of all of this is that even though I've learned a lot about teaching, I know I still have a long way to go. But, if I put my faith in the Lord and teach what and how He would have me teach, I know that I will not fail in His eyes.

Job 23:10

Sister Abbie Hills 


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