Tag Archives: teaching

Notes from Elder Hales’s talk from Oct. 2016 — teaching, watching, serving


From his talk, “Come, Follow Me” by Practicing Christian Love and Service

We should not worry that we are not professionally trained gospel teachers. No training class or manual is as helpful as personally studying our scriptures, praying, pondering, and seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit will lead you along. I promise you: the calling to be a parent includes the gift to teach in the ways that are right for you and for your children. Remember, God’s power to influence us righteously is His love. “We love him, because he first loved us.”

The scriptures tell us that when some of Heavenly Father’s spirit children chose not to follow His plan, the heavens wept. Some parents who have loved and taught their children also weep when their grown children choose not to follow the Lord’s plan. What can parents do? We cannot pray away another’s agency. Remember the father of the prodigal son, who patiently waited for his son to “[come] to himself,” all the while watching for him. And “when he was yet a great way off,” he ran to him. We can pray for guidance about when to speak, what to say, and yes, on some occasions, when to be still. Remember, our children and family members already chose to follow the Savior in their premortal realm. Sometimes it is only by their own life’s experiences that those sacred feelings are awakened again. Ultimately, the choice to love and follow the Lord has to be their own.

There is another special way disciples show their love for the Savior. Today I pay tribute to all who serve the Lord as caregivers. How the Lord loves you! In your quiet, unheralded service, you are following Him who promised, “Thy Father who seeth in secret, himself shall reward thee openly.”


Revisited D&C 42:12-14


I have been revisiting my paper on D&C 42:12-14 because the volume it is in is being considered for publication soon. I had the opportunity to edit through the whole thing. I didn’t realize I had become a better writer since the last time I went through it! That was actually really good to see. I think presenting at MSH last year did a lot for that. I felt confident that the paper I presented was well written and had an academic tone and yet was my own voice. So I think that’s why when I reopened this paper, I wanted to edit through the whole thing. I’m glad I did. I think it’s a much better paper. I wish I had had more time to run over it again and again to make it tighter and have reoccuring phrases that tied things together, etc. But oh well. It’s better than it was, and has the overall voice I wanted. So that’s good!

It was really good to revisit those 3 verses. I really had learned a lot that had set me on a good path for understanding teaching. Recently, in Relief Society, we had a lesson on teaching by the Spirit and it opened up these questions again for me. It was good for me. That was a few months ago, so it was good timing to revisit my paper this past month.

I really like the idea that the Spirit can come and go to help us see which way to go in a lesson. That withdrawing a step but still being nearby is a way of communication. I wish I could think of a good metaphor for that. Any ideas? 🙂

I also struck on a way of talking about conference talks that doesn’t elevate them above scripture themselves. (Granted, if a current prophet declares a commandment or declares a change in how we interpret something, then that’s something else.) I decided to talk about them as fantastic examples of people who have studied scripture and know how to teach the principles of the gospel found in them. That is, often conference talks are a model of how to use scripture to teach. (Not all of them do, but many or most of them do!) In my paper I talk about how D&C 20 was a model of using scripture to teach, so it was natural to talk about conference talks this way. And I think it’s right.

And I have a section of the paper where I apply the whole paper to a situation where someone is training a young women leader. So the writing is more conversational. I’m not sure if it really flies, though, in an academic paper. So I’m a bit anxious to see what happens after it goes through edits. Although, technically it had been through 2 editors a while ago before the project was revisited by the Maxwell Institute for publication, and neither one of those editors made me take it out, so maybe it was ok. I think it’s a bit better now, too , so we’ll see.

Anyway, it was fun. Writing takes a long time! I was always surprised that even if I put on a show for the kids and wrote without too many distractions, I’d still only get through a few paragraphs in an hour. Between being a mom and homeschooling and hoping to get minimal cleaning done and being Relief Society president, I wasn’t sure when and how to squeeze in more time. But I did make it through the entire paper and updated the voice of it, at least! And now hopefully the editors will do the rest.

I had an email yesterday asking for it back so I sent it off, ready-or-not style, without a final read-through, so I’m a bit anxious and curious to get a response. Maybe sometime this week or next I’ll hear back.

Anyway, just blabbing my thoughts this morning.

They’re great verses on teaching, and if nothing else I’m excited about them again now!


More passages on teaching in family


My friend Kylie and I have been looking at D&C 68:25 and its warning to parents about not teaching children. We are playing with how the word “not” is being used. Is it a warning to those not teaching to believe, or to those teaching to not believe?

If it is the latter, then it would line up with 4th Nephi’s account of those who purposefully taught their families to not believe: 38 And it came to pass that they who rejected the gospel were called Lamanites, and Lemuelites, and Ishmaelites; and they did not dwindle in unbelief, but they did wilfully rebel against the gospel of Christ; and they did teach their children that they should not believe, even as their fathers, from the beginning, did dwindle. 39 And it was because of the wickedness and abomination of their fathers, even as it was in the beginning. And they were taught to hate the children of God, even as the Lamanites were taught to hate the children of Nephi from the beginning.

This is similar to 2 Nephi 4:5-6: But behold, my sons and my daughters, I cannot go down to my grave save I should leave a blessing upon you; for behold, I know that if ye are brought up in the way ye should go ye will not depart from it. Wherefore, if ye are cursed, behold, I leave my blessing upon you, that the cursing may be taken from you and be answered upon the heads of your parents.

And reminds us of Jacob 3:9-10: Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, which is the word of God, that ye revile no more against them because of the darkness of their skins; neither shall ye revile against them because of their filthiness; but ye shall remember your own filthiness, and remember that their filthiness came because of their fathers.

These passages seem to suggest that what D&C 68:25 might be warning against are just those parents who are purposefully raising up kids who won’t believe. This may give some relief to parents who are trying to teach but are always unsure that they are doing a good enough job. But, it also seems fair to say that there are parents who aren’t trying to teach either, and it would be reasonable to suggest that D&C 68:25 should be read as warning them (so, the first of the two readings of “not.”)

We noticed that Jacob 2 has this passage: 2:35 Behold, ye have done greater iniquities than the Lamanites, our brethren. Ye have broken the hearts of your tender wives, and lost the confidence of your children, because of your bad examples before them; and the sobbings of their hearts ascend up to God against you. And because of the strictness of the word of God, which cometh down against you, many hearts died, pierced with deep wounds.

And also Jacob 3:10 Wherefore, ye shall remember your children, how that ye have grieved their hearts because of the example that ye have set before them; and also, remember that ye may, because of your filthiness, bring your children unto destruction, and their sins be heaped upon your heads at the last day.

While these parents were not purposefully teaching their children to not believe, the fathers were acting in such a way that they lost of the confidence of their children, which may perhaps amount to any chance to teach them to believe. In addition, Jacob himself says that because of their actions, they might bring their children unto destruction, and their sins would be on their heads.

Another, on-the-ground way this could be interpreted (though not quite what I think Jacob is describing) is that if a parent is saying one thing but doing another (teaching honesty but being dishonest) then what the child is taught is that no one really believes that honesty is important.

I have one more scripture that may point in this direction. D&C 68:31 says: Now, I, the Lord, am not well pleased with the inhabitants of Zion, for there are idlers among them; and their children are also growing up in wickedness; they also seek not earnestly the riches of eternity, but their eyes are full of greediness.

There are two ways to read this, I think. First, that because some adults are idlers, their children are ending up full of greediness. Second, that because some adults are idlers, their children are growing up in wickedness and the adults are not earnestly seeking the riches of eternity and the adults’ eyes are full of greediness. In this case, the children’s behavior is undecided. They are simply “growing up” in wickedness, which isn’t a good start to life.

In either reading, there is a connection between the idleness of parents and the wickedness of the children.

——————————

I’ve been thinking about this passage as well, which seems odd now in comparison with the ones above. See that there was a question about the sins of parents being on the heads of children:

Moses 6:53-54: And our father Adam spake unto the Lord, and said: Why is it that men must repent and be baptized in water? And the Lord said unto Adam: Behold I have forgiven thee thy transgression in the Garden of Eden. Hence came the saying abroad among the people, that the Son of God hath atoned for original guilt, wherein the sins of the parents cannot be answered upon the heads of the children, for they are whole from the foundation of the world.

I hadn’t thought about that question for a while so it seemed jarring after all this talk of sins of children being on heads of parents (or sins of a people being on heads of priests). But, also, now see how this conversation about the sins of the parents not being on the heads of children flows into a conversation about a parent being condemned for not teaching his children:

D&C 93:38-43: Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God. 39 And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers40 But I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth. 41 But verily I say unto you, my servant Frederick G. Williams, you have continued under this condemnation; 42 You have not taught your children light and truth, according to the commandments; and that wicked one hath power, as yet, over you, and this is the cause of your affliction. 43 And now a commandment I give unto you—if you will be delivered you shall set in order your own house, for there are many things that are not right in your house.

Interesting, right?


Teaching programs are like cleaning programs


I thought of a good metaphor.

When we see teaching program after teaching program, it reminds me of something that happens in our home.

With the old manuals, there was an issue of people thinking that they couldn’t stray from them, and at times this meant that people were not seeking the Spirit when they prepared. So, ta-da!, we have new manuals with more options that you can do, so you have to make some decisions and most likely that means you will pray about what to teach.

This reminds me of the sight of a pile of jackets and shoes on the floor, not put away where they should be. I remind and remind, until finally I decide to come up with a new system. New hooks! Shoe shelf! Everything seems tidy and in its place. And, everyone seems on board with the new program, so things stay much cleaner that unusual for several weeks! Success.

But of course, the new program gets old, and it’s still work to pick up your jackets and shoes and put them away. No matter what program I come up with, it’s still work to clean up. It’s easy to leave them out when we are busy, or preoccupied with the next thing we want to do. So unless someone decides they are going to do that work, or even to figure out how to remind themselves to do it, the jackets and shoes will still be all over the floor.

Teaching programs are much the same, I think. The Spirit is supposed to guide our teaching. We remind and remind and remind, but we worry that it isn’t happening. So, we come up with a new program! It is tidier, it has new ways of organizing our thoughts on teaching. It involves people in new ways. And it works! Excitement! And even prayer. The Spirit, hopefully, is more present in our lessons.

But, then, the program gets old. The hype is gone. And we are still left with the same question: Are we, as teachers, willing to do the work to listen to the Spirit? To learn how to remind ourselves to figure out how to recognize the Spirit? Are we going to do that even when we are busy or preoccupied with other things?

The vision of teaching by the Spirit has to be opened to each person individually, I think. A program, and request, a new manual all might help keep things tidier, and may even allow a lot of good to happen, but it isn’t at the heart a conversion to teaching by the Spirit. And while there are ways to imitate good teachers, being a good teacher can only happen by learning to hear and yield to the voice of the Holy Spirit.


Latest teaching program


Elder Holland is going to address the teachers of the Church in a broadcast soon and the Church has invited questions and comments. It tempted me and I wrote up a comment, but I’ve decided not to post it. But I’ll leave it here in case I want to build on it or change it or see my own progression as I react to changes such at these.

As I watched teachers teach under the “old” manuals, problems usually arose when the teacher thought that the manual’s lesson *was* scripture (that is, inspired revelation that they had to follow exactly), rather than a “suggested lesson outline” as it called itself. The introductions clearly explained that the scriptures and the Spirit were what taught, and the outlines were simply an idea of how to do that, but most teachers didn’t seem to approach it that way. I really liked the broadcast in 2007 and how much that helped.

I see that with “Come, Follow Me”, since lessons aren’t given one lesson outline, teachers can’t confuse a manual lesson outline. That seems to be a great way around the problem.

However, I think there is a potential pitfall all over again to see the *program* as the inspired thing that will save souls, rather than the scriptures and the Spirit. I’m just worried that we’re so excited about this new program that we’ll sabotage it from the beginning.


Also, in teaching and in councils, I’m afraid that we’re so happy to get people talking that we’ve forgotten that there is a “head” to these meetings. It isn’t right that each person should say their opinion and everyone’s opinion is equal. It also isn’t right that we should leave people out or belittle. It seems to me that what the scriptures call describe is a group of people who come together, who are gathered in his name. Then as discussion proceeds, it is hoped that the Spirit will be working on each person in the group. As people share, it is hoped that the Spirit is helping them say  much more than their opinion. It may not be something we can recognize, or that we know is for sure from the Spirit, but we have that hope as we discuss. Finally, the scriptures also say that there is someone who is the “head,” who is given the responsibility and so also the spiritual gifts, to discern and listen and then put it all together. (I like the imagine of a head, because this is how a body works. A brain needs all the signals it receives from the nerves throughout the body in order to process what is going on and make a decision.) A imagine a “head” in a council as someone who can listen to people and listen to the spirit, and then make a suggestion of how to proceed and see how the Spirit responds (by listening to the Spirit, and listening to the reactions of the council). The teaching situation is similar. A teacher is still a called leader, and still has spiritual gifts to do the work they are called to do. But they also need to recognize that those in the classroom also have the Spirit, potentially, to guide them to say inspired things. But the teacher listens and thinks and ideally is able to guide the classroom discussion by the Spirit, in response both to the classmates and the Spirit. It is a “guide” sort of situation, but not stripped of the gifts and responsibility to be a “head” in the classroom.

 

 


Quote from Sis. Oscarson


“I worry that we live in such an atmosphere of avoiding offense that we sometimes altogether avoid teaching correct principles. We fail to teach our young women that preparing to be a mother is of utmost importance because we don’t want to offend those who aren’t married or those who can’t have children, or to be seen as stifling future choices. On the other hand, we may also fail to emphasize the importance of education because we don’t want to send the message that it is more important than marriage. We avoid declaring that our Heavenly Father defines marriage as being between a man and woman because we don’t want to offend those who experience same-sex attraction. And we may find it uncomfortable to discuss gender issues or healthy sexuality.

Certainly, sisters, we need to use sensitivity, but let us also use our common sense and our understanding of the plan of salvation to be bold and straightforward when it comes to teaching our children and youth the essential gospel principles they must understand to navigate the world in which they live.”


One hierarchy (teacher-student) is often actually two hierarchies


When we think about a teacher and a student, we quite naturally assume that the teacher has more knowledge and the student has less knowledge. The job of the teacher is to adequately transfer his or her knowledge to the student. This sets up a hierarchy: teacher, student. (Show slide here.) The better teachers know how to better transfer this knowledge, and in addition the better teachers are regarded has having brighter minds and  being better able to comprehend this knowledge. (Add to the slide: better able to comprehend knowledge.) I think this is a fair description of how we think about a really good teacher.

But this way of thinking about teachers reveals something to us. Rather than there being just one hierarchy – teacher over student – there are actually two hierarchies at play:

Teacher  ———— better able to comprehend knowledge = Greater intelligence

Student  ———— less able to comprehend knowledge = Weaker intelligence

In Jacques Ranciere’s book The Ignorant Schoolmaster, there is a story about a man named Joseph Jacotot who looked more closely at these two hierarchies. Jacotot was a professor who lived at the time of the French Revolution and the series of overthrows that followed it. By 1818 he had left France and was teaching in the Netherlands. He began to explore these very hierarchies – teacher over student, and greater intelligence over weaker intelligence. He found that uniting these two hierarchies often created a problem:

If a teacher believed he was of greater intelligence, then his focus was on creating better and simpler explanations. If a student believed that he was genuinely of lesser intelligence, then his focus was on waiting until the professor found a better and simpler way of explaining something. 🙂 Ranciere calls this problem “stultification.” I’ll also use the word “stagnation.” (Show slide.) Or we might also call it “learned helplessness.” When a student, over many years, gets used to his or her teachers stepping in between the students and their textbooks or whatever materials the class is using, then it is easier for the student to wait to be explained to. This can be simple laziness, but the concern Ranciere has is that many students come to believe they are actually incapable of really understanding the textbook in the “right” way, and therefore believe they must have inferior intelligence.

Maybe you had this sort of experience when you were in school. I remember being in my high school English class and being told that my interpretation of whatever book from our great world literature list was simply “incorrect.” I was pretty sure I had a good reading, but for the sake of a good grade I accepted my teacher’s reading. Fortunately I got a chance to study Humanities at BYU and had the pleasure of looking at many interpretations of great literature.

But many students aren’t confident, and don’t go on, and simply accept that their teacher is better able to comprehend and that they are less able to comprehend.

And maybe you have had another kind of experience. Maybe you, like me, have had classes where it didn’t really matter if you read the textbook or not, because the teacher spent the entire class period explaining what the book had said. Even though you knew you could understand the book on your own – why bother? The teacher was ready to explain it all to you, and it was easier to be lazy.

I also remember taking a math class at BYU with a professor who was not at all concerned with explaining math in better and better ways and we were often left more confused when we left than when we came in! But we had a great TA who taught once a week who clarified the material for us. As you can imagine, it was much easier for me to barely try to understand my professor and wait for the TA to explain it to me.

These moments, where a teacher or a TA comes in between a student and the material, communicate to a student that either they are incapable of understanding the material on their own, or that there isn’t any reason to bother to understand the material on their own.

And this results in “stultification” or “stagnation.” (Refer to slide.) Dictionaries define stultify as “to cause to appear or be stupid, foolish, or absurdly illogical” and “To cause to lose interest or feel dull and not alert” (add these to slide.)

And Ranciere argues that this is the danger whenever we combine these two hierarchies (show slide again). Of course, this doesn’t always happen, but it is a danger for the student.

There is another danger I want to mention briefly, and that is a danger to the teacher. If a teacher assumes this combined model, then what if they find themselves not actually believing they are smarter or more capable than their students? What if they believe this model, but don’t believe they fit this hierarchy over here (point to right side of slide)? Does that undermine their claim to a superior position in the hierarchy? The result is that many teachers compensate by over-confidence or strictness, hoping to cover over their insecurity. You may have had some of these teachers yourselves. They hope that by looking like they fit their position, they can continue to enjoy their place of power in the hierarchy.

Obviously, there are some problems here. Joseph Jacotot, our professor in the Netherlands, offers us a different model to consider.

(Read the next post to learn about Jacotot’s belief in the equality of intelligence.)