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KScience

Advice for a Gospel Doctrine Teacher

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So having moved to a new ward I have been called as Sunday School teacher. I am a little alarmed because firstly I will have to deal with adults (I do much better in primary or YW) and secondly although I love the scriptures I am by no means a scriptorian.

I know that whoever is called is qualified, and see this as a great learning opportunity for me. I almost feel that my first address to my class should be an apology for my lack of expertise.   My employment history is in education, so planning and delivering a lesson is not my worry - My style is very much to facilitate talking and group exploration of subjects.  Not having been in a whole SS lesson in this ward yet (meeting with Bishop first week then conference) I am not sure what style of teacher they are used to, or the level of discussion which usually takes place (I  personally get bored by the SS lesson which just summarises everything that was read).  

So any hints or tips??

This is what happens when you pray for help (I have just returned to university and am struggling to manage my time between part time work and full time study, and was beginning to worry that my scripture study was not as in depth as it has been). The answer to that prayer was obviously to ensure that I change my priorities!!!  :blush:

 

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2 minutes ago, KScience said:

So having moved to a new ward I have been called as Sunday School teacher. I am a little alarmed because firstly I will have to deal with adults (I do much better in primary or YW) and secondly although I love the scriptures I am by no means a scriptorian.

I know that whoever is called is qualified, and see this as a great learning opportunity for me. I almost feel that my first address to my class should be an apology for my lack of expertise.   My employment history is in education, so planning and delivering a lesson is not my worry - My style is very much to facilitate talking and group exploration of subjects.  Not having been in a whole SS lesson in this ward yet (meeting with Bishop first week then conference) I am not sure what style of teacher they are used to, or the level of discussion which usually takes place (I  personally get bored by the SS lesson which just summarises everything that was read).  

So any hints or tips??

This is what happens when you pray for help (I have just returned to university and am struggling to manage my time between part time work and full time study, and was beginning to worry that my scripture study was not as in depth as it has been). The answer to that prayer was obviously to ensure that I change my priorities!!!  :blush:

 

Read/Study use the Teaching in the Savior's Way manual.   https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/teaching-in-the-saviors-way/teaching-in-the-saviors-way?lang=eng

Use the Come Follow Me Manual for Sunday School manual. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/come-follow-me/sunday-school?lang=eng

Those are the official resources and responses to answer your questions.  Everything else is spiritually lead adjustments the Lord will have you make as you study and plan.

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5 minutes ago, estradling75 said:

Read/Study use the Teaching in the Savior's Way manual.   https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/teaching-in-the-saviors-way/teaching-in-the-saviors-way?lang=eng

Use the Come Follow Me Manual for Sunday School manual. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/come-follow-me/sunday-school?lang=eng

Those are the official resources and responses to answer your questions.  Everything else is spiritually lead adjustments the Lord will have you make as you study and plan.

Thanks I have already studied the Teaching the Saviours way manual for my last calling, but will review again - thanks for the reminder, and the CFM Manual was of course my first port of call.

SS is the only calling I have not yet had (that I could technically hold as a woman) at ward level, so I suppose I am just looking for some insights from people who have held the calling -  ideally the "DONT DO THIS" kinda stuff.

Edited by KScience
SPAG and tone

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43 minutes ago, KScience said:

Thanks I have already studied the Teaching the Saviours way manual for my last calling, but will review again - thanks for the reminder, and the CFM Manual was of course my first port of call.

SS is the only calling I have not yet had (that I could technically hold as a woman) at ward level, so I suppose I am just looking for some insights from people who have held the calling -  ideally the "DONT DO THIS" kinda stuff.

I have never been a Gospel Doctrine teacher, but I am currently a Sunday School President... Alot of what you want and need to know is going to depend on your class and that is not something we can advise you on when we do not know it either.

Ideally you should be able to write on the Board all the CFM topics covered since the last Gospel Doctrine Class and ask of these topics which one do we want to discuss first and off you go.  With you only needed to guide a bit to keep on topic, to move to the next topic, and to make sure they do not talk over each other.  That is the ideal.  Many classes are far from ideal.

So it is very hard to give useful advise with such a large unknown.  Once you start getting to know the class and start seeing what issues it has... then we might be better able to address those.

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1 hour ago, KScience said:

So any hints or tips??

A few ideas:

  • "Scriptorian" is a made-up word used to describe someone who appears to be more educated in scripture than you are. It's purely a comparison thing. Don't think twice about it. If you love the scriptures, that will make you a "scriptorian" compared with many in your class who have never yet developed that love.
  • Don't apologize to your class for your lack of expertise. You have not wronged them, so have nothing to apologize for. (In fact, an apology might be seen by some as an indictment of the bishop for calling you to that position.) Don't cut yourself off at the knees in an ill-considered attempt at humility. We're all ignorant; that's the nature of our lives here. No need to apologize for the fact.
  • By the same token, don't be shy in sharing that maybe you're ignorant about this or that. It's not an apology, but a factual assertion. Your lesson should not be a series of proclamations that you don't know anything; if that's the case, you haven't prepared for the class. But there is no shame in saying, "I really don't know what this here specific passage is referring to."
  • Amplifying on the above: In general, do not broadcast your ignorance or bring up topics you can't explain. That is not what gospel doctrine class is for. Gospel doctrine class is for teaching gospel doctrine, not for speculating about non-doctrinal topics, bringing up questions you can't answer, or proclaiming your ignorance.
  • Have fun! Teaching gospel doctrine class is, in my opinion, the funnest calling in the Church. Preparation involves reading the scriptures, something you already enjoy and want to do anyway. You have no great responsibilities other than teaching. You don't have to spent three hours on Tuesday at the meetinghouse. You don't have to interview anyone. No one comes to you with problems about temple recommends or personal challenges in their marriage (or if they do, you get to quickly and kindly suggest they talk to the bishop). And people are so gracious and thankful for your little efforts at illuminating the scriptures. The enjoyment-to-work ratio is very high.

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1 minute ago, Jane_Doe said:

You're not there to be an expert.

You're not there to lecture.

You're there to encourage discussion as everyone brings the shards of what they know together.  Those are the best teachers.  

I don't really agree. Facilitating discussion is a good trait, obviously, one that all teachers should develop. But I am not alone in enjoying a good, well-thought-out, carefully prepared lecture. Opening the gospel doctrine class with a ten-minute mini-lecture about the past couple of weeks' readings is a good way to grab people's attention and get them involved.

The Church's teaching manuals and guidelines are written at a very basic level so that even the newest member can successfully teach. But if you have more teaching ability and knowledge, then by all means use it. Don't limit yourself just because the teacher's manuals sometimes offer kindergarten-level instructions. They are a resource and a starting point, not a definitive guide to how to run your class.

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3 hours ago, KScience said:

So having moved to a new ward I have been called as Sunday School teacher. I am a little alarmed because firstly I will have to deal with adults (I do much better in primary or YW) and secondly although I love the scriptures I am by no means a scriptorian.

I know that whoever is called is qualified, and see this as a great learning opportunity for me. I almost feel that my first address to my class should be an apology for my lack of expertise.   My employment history is in education, so planning and delivering a lesson is not my worry - My style is very much to facilitate talking and group exploration of subjects.  Not having been in a whole SS lesson in this ward yet (meeting with Bishop first week then conference) I am not sure what style of teacher they are used to, or the level of discussion which usually takes place (I  personally get bored by the SS lesson which just summarises everything that was read).  

So any hints or tips??

This is what happens when you pray for help (I have just returned to university and am struggling to manage my time between part time work and full time study, and was beginning to worry that my scripture study was not as in depth as it has been). The answer to that prayer was obviously to ensure that I change my priorities!!!  :blush:

 

As someone who greatly values the time I spend in my classrooms at church, I have some strong opinions on what makes a good teacher and what makes a TERRIBLE teacher.

how to avoid being a bad teacher:

- Teach the doctrines and principles as found in The scriptures and manual

- Don’t share something that is simply cool but doesn’t fit in the lesson

- Don’t teach historical context if you aren’t planning on connecting it to principles taught in the lesson

- Don’t play “read my mind”. Instead of saying “What is the most important thing in scriptures?” (The Atonement/Restoration/Fall of Adam/the actual record keeping). Instead say “The Fall of Adam was an immensely important  event and brought agency into the world. 2 Nephi 2:27 reads...  Now why is Agency so important to our life here in earth?”

- Remember to bear your testimony.

We have one gospel doctrine teacher that breaks all these rules. I once went through an entire class and wrote down every principle taught. He had a little line here explained revelation, but the rest of the discussion (more like lecture) was obscure historical context hullabaloo. At one point he explained something historically fascinating, but also gave a HUGE spiritual insight on a certain principle in the lesson. I fully expected him to capitalize on it... but he didn’t. He shared the rid bit, there was a short argument about the distance between two separate cities, and then he went on to talk about how Jewish law worked at the time. And he ended the lesson with no testimony... but I guess if you don’t teach any principles, there is nothing to near testimony of.

Don’t do that. If you follow those instructions on how to avoid being a bad teacher, I would likely thoroughly enjoy your lessons.

 

Now...

How to impress Fether with your teaching ability:

- Put effort into the lesson prep. This is a no brained and probably should be in the previous list.

- don’t ask “who knows” questions and focus on insight based questions. Instead of asking “Now how many times did Peter dent Christ before the rooster crowed?”. Instead ask “Peter denied Christ 3 times prior to the rooster crowing, fulfilling what Christ prophesied. Even after being warned of this, why do you suppose Peter still denied Christ?”

The big thing is that you should never ask a question that has one answer. If it has only one answer, just skip the question and is it to set up an open ended question that can lead to discussion or quiet pondering. These questions will also get the class to talk a lot more and make your job so stinking easy.

- Use scripture. It’s incredible how often teachers forget to use and quote scripture.

- Reference recent GC talks

- Don’t set low expectations. Don’t ever say “I didn’t have time to prepare...” or “I’m  it great at teaching so...” or anything like unto it. Just teach the lesson 👍

- People laughing does NOT mean your lesson is good. You are not there to entertain, you are there to inspire. Feel free to use jokes, but don’t use humor as your gauge of how successful your lesson was. You will be forever below mediocre if you do that

- Don’t be old... old people are just the worst in classroom settings cause they break all the rules I’ve mentioned. If you’re old, then stop.

 

 

But you know... if you can master the types of questions you ask, you have mastered teaching. Your calling is important and I would take it seriously, but remember 2 Nephi 25:23. By grace we are saved after all we can do. Do your best, and once lesson time comes, accept that the time for preparation is over and do your best. If you bomb, them figure out why and prepare for your next lesson 👍.

I would second @Vort in that it is a  fun calling and I would add that it is immensely satisfying as well. I request to be a teacher everywhere I go. I have had a teaching calling in my last 3 wards over the last 5 years since my mission.

Its hard to be a bad teacher. Easy to be a good teacher, and it only takes time and humility to be a great teacher. You will be great (unless, of course, you’re old...)!

Edited by Fether

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All Adults are, really, are older kids.  They are kids that are just a little older.  Many time what works for kids also works for adults, at least in some situations.  Obviously you wouldn't want to do some things such as have everyone make paper cutouts to make paper dolls and such, or most likely, but adults seem to like candy just as much as kids do (bribery), activities seem to keep their attention a little more than simply reciting to them without any other interaction, and like many kids, many of them try to hide in the back of the class where they can't be seen.

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6 hours ago, Fether said:

- Don’t be old... old people are just the worst in classroom settings cause they break all the rules I’ve mentioned. If you’re old, then stop.

[...]

You will be great (unless, of course, you’re old...)!

I'm missing the meaning here. I guess I don't understand the usage of the word. What is wrong with being "old"?

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10 hours ago, Vort said:

I'm missing the meaning here. I guess I don't understand the usage of the word. What is wrong with being "old"?

I’m mostly kidding, but also mostly not. The older members of my ward are just the worst in the classes. However my previous ward had some very wise older members.

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Thank you all for your words of encouragement and advice. I will take some time to look over your comments again and digest them.

I had the chance to participate in the class today (called and set apart today ready to teach in 2 weeks time) so was able to see how the class interacts. Feeling more positive in as much as they are a very active class and looking forward to getting to know the members of my ward better.

 

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On 10/19/2019 at 10:36 AM, KScience said:

So having moved to a new ward I have been called as Sunday School teacher. I am a little alarmed because firstly I will have to deal with adults (I do much better in primary or YW) and secondly although I love the scriptures I am by no means a scriptorian.

I know that whoever is called is qualified, and see this as a great learning opportunity for me. I almost feel that my first address to my class should be an apology for my lack of expertise.   My employment history is in education, so planning and delivering a lesson is not my worry - My style is very much to facilitate talking and group exploration of subjects.  Not having been in a whole SS lesson in this ward yet (meeting with Bishop first week then conference) I am not sure what style of teacher they are used to, or the level of discussion which usually takes place (I  personally get bored by the SS lesson which just summarises everything that was read).  

So any hints or tips??

This is what happens when you pray for help (I have just returned to university and am struggling to manage my time between part time work and full time study, and was beginning to worry that my scripture study was not as in depth as it has been). The answer to that prayer was obviously to ensure that I change my priorities!!!  :blush:

 

Under the new approach, facilitate sharing and discussion rather than instruct.

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Maybe to second some of what already has been said. Questions make the lesson. If you can come to class with well thought out questions you are 75% of the way to a great lesson. The questions should fall into two categories: 1. doctrinal or theory and 2. practical or how does this apply to your life. The second helps get people to share their experiences which keeps people awake and gets them to ask themselves "I wonder if that would work for me?" This is especially important as class members should have already been studying and living the principles taught during the previous week and have something to share.

One of the best teachers I have come across in a long time was a young guy (still in college) but who came to class so well prepared that for him it was no longer about the lesson but the people. He would ask great questions and then as people would respond he would often place one arm across his midsection and rest his other elbow on that arm with his hand on his chin and would listen very intently to what was being said and then ask great follow up questions to help flesh out their insights, often starting with doctrine and ending with the person sharing an experience or bearing witness of its truthfulness. If you can make that transition from at church and in the scriptures to at home and in our lives you will have had a very meaningful class.

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First, engage the class with with what is called a learner readiness.

Second, as has been taught for some time now teachers are there to teach people and not to teach a lesson. Teacher's are not there to "stand and deliver" (lecture) the class. Stand and deliver should be used sparingly. If you find you are the only one speaking for a long period of time you are missing the purpose of the Come Follow Me program.

Third, study the material and be prepared to follow the Spirit, not a well planned lesson (stand and deliver). If teachers are thinking to themselves, "I want to teach this," then teachers might be in a position to quench the Spirit. There is a difference between following the Spirit and following a lesson. Have a plan, but follow the Spirit.

Fourth, discover the principles that will apply to the class and then have them ready should the discussion lead that way.

Fifth, remember teachers do not have to get through the "whole" lesson that was planned. If teachers find themselves thinking, "I have to get through my whole lesson plan," then you are teaching a lesson not people. The purpose is discussion. The purpose is to follow the Spirit. That means someone might make a comment that needs more time, or might take the discussion into a different direction that might be more beneficial to the class than the planned lesson.

Edited by Anddenex

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On 10/19/2019 at 10:21 AM, Jane_Doe said:

You're not there to be an expert.

You're not there to lecture.

You're there to encourage discussion as everyone brings the shards of what they know together.  Those are the best teachers.  

This is exactly what we have been encouraged to do.

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Thanks everyone,

Had a bit more time to digest your advice.

I am not the type of teacher to deliver a lecture - so I am glad that many of you have given the advice which matches  my preferred teaching style. I am much more predisposed to get people active and doing things (too many years of teaching practical subjects)

In order to facilitate a class discussion which focuses on the doctrine and its application to individuals, I believe that I will need to be well versed in the doctrine covered in the reading; so am spending my time identifying the doctrines covered and making sure I have plenty of sources to keep the conversation on track.

I know the importance of use good questioning skills to ensure that everyone can participate and contribute no matter what their level of understanding, so again am preparing a range of questions that may be useful to get things going.

Of course this fortnights reading covers BOTH the second coming and the fall........ plenty of room for speculation and going off topic; so will make sure that the discussion stays on what is discussed by Paul at this time (is it time to start preparing for Revelation already???) and make sure we focus on the positive messages in the reading.

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