Thursday, April 12, 2012

Figurative Tap Dancing

Shortly after we returned from China, I was called to teach Sunday School to the 16- to 18-year-olds in my ward. I had this calling once before, when we lived in San Diego. I love the youth - I've just always "clicked" with them. With primary-aged children? Not so much. (Yes, it's ironic that I don't "click" with children, yet have four of them.) Admittedly, it would be really, really, really hard for me to accept a calling to teach primary. But with teenagers? It's a no-brainer for me. I love to teach. I love the gospel. I love working with the youth. So I accepted.

(What I did in conjunction with 2 Peter 1:5-7)
It's funny - they use the same manual for the youth as they do for the adult Sunday School class, and this manual can be....a little dry. I think it's just right for adults, the majority of whom want to be there in Sunday School. If you ask a question, usually, someone will raise their hand and answer it. Sometimes a great discussion can occur, and you, as a teacher, can just kind of be a facilitator as the class teaches each other. Sometimes people raise their hands and share personal experiences about the principle you're teaching.

(What I did to help teach 2 Ne. 3:6)
Do these things happen in the 16- to 18-year-old crowd? Uh...not so much. You bet some of them want to be there. But you can also bet that some don't. Even the ones that are there because they want to be are reluctant to open themselves by sharing personal experiences. Or they don't want to be too "nerdy" or "churchy" or whatever. Which I get. And I knew that from the outset.

(The "treasure" my kids found at the end of a treasure hunt we did.)
And sometimes the manual will have you ask a really deep question, like, "What do the different areas of the olive garden represent?" If you ask a question like that in a class of teenagers, you're going to get crickets. Or, if you're like, "When was a time in your life that you felt that the Lord really loves you?" Crickets. Or, if you're like, "What does it mean, that, by the law, no flesh is justified?" It's like, Thump, thump, thump, "Is this thing on?" Hahaha!

(A good way to look up a long list of scriptures - split it up and make it a puzzle.)
So I do stuff to help with these issues. I make the long, complicated questions into shorter questions, the answers of which the kids can later link together and see the deeper meaning. If there are parts of the lesson that ask for personal experiences, I call a few kids the day before and ask if they'd feel comfortable sharing a time when they blah blah blah. They usually readily agree. They'll share if they're not put on the spot.

(What I did when the class was supposed to look up like 20 scriptures.)
Then there's the issue of lessons where they have the class look up a scripture, someone reads it, you ask a question, and they're supposed to answer. Then you look up another scripture, someone reads it, you ask a question, and they're supposed to answer. Overandoverandover. Sometimes, when I see big blocks of curriculum like this, I think to myself, "No wonder a few adults I know skip Sunday School." It can get a bit dry.

(What I used to teach D&C 1:4 - I got the idea here.)
So I sometimes...jazz up...the looking up of scriptures. I do it with a visual organizer. Or I'll have an object lesson to drive a point home. I try not to make my entire lesson visual organizers or object lessons. I really do. Because I'm preparing missionaries, you know? I take my calling seriously. I want them immersed in the scriptures. I want them familiar with the scriptures. But I do try to break things up a little bit to help. I call it figurative tap dancing. It keeps their attention.

Some ideas I get from the Friend magazine archives on You may think, "Isn't that stuff a little young for the 16- to 18-year-old set?" Nope. They LOVE doing stuff from the Friend. When we had a puppet show, they were giddy with delight. When we did flannel board figures, they squealed in anticipation. And honestly, if a Relief Society teacher was to whip out a flannel board, I would be excited, too.

Some ideas I get from old F.H.E. manuals. And some ideas I get out of my little ole' head.

It's interesting, teaching kids the gospel vs. teaching kids in junior high school. For some reason, it's harder for me to be strict with the Sunday School kids. Maybe because I don't want to offend them and turn them off to the church? Maybe because I see their parents all the time and don't want to have weirdness between us? Because there have been some times that I've wanted/needed to kick a couple of them out, and I've...chickened out.

We've had some issues. We had to create a cell phone basket. The kids put their phones in the basket at the beginning of class, and they get them back at the end of class. They think it's ridiculous, but for reals. I caught one kid playing Angry Birds. I caught another texting someone. Sooo obnoxious. So we do the basket, and they all roll their eyes at me. Which I choose not to take personally.

The first time I came into the classroom after I'd been called, they were all sitting on the floor, against the wall, far, far away from the chalkboard area where I needed to be. They told me that they prefer sitting on the floor. I cheerfully told them that wasn't going to fly in my class. So I go five minutes early and arrange the chairs in a small semicircle, nice and close to me. And they have to sit in the chairs. This isn't a powwow. It's church. We need to show some respect, right? Right.

So yeah, there have been a few issues like that. Mainly, I think they haven't had a constant teacher in, like, years, so they've gotten kind of lax with their behavior and reverence. And I'm working with them. It's getting better. Slowly.

Although last week, I caught one kid who pretended to put his cell phone in my basket, and with a sleight of hand, actually keep it in his pocket. Yeah. Special times. I might have to summon up my former 8th Grade English Teacher self. It's time to kick a little butt.


Nicole said...

Karlenn, you are AWESOME! not many put so much time and thought into lessons. You're inspiring. But...I'm totally afraid of the youth. When I'm around them, all my teenage insecurities come back to haunt me. LOVE the primary kids. I can show them who's boss!! ;)

Emily Empey said...

Thats cool! I bet you are the greatest teacher! I love all your creative ideas and all the time and thought you put in it! I bet the youth love having you as a teacher!!

Patty said...

Your lessons look incredible! You always prepared the best lessons for YW too. You do connect really well with the youth.

brooke said...

I wish I had you for a teacher when I was at that age!

Layton Mom said...

I wish you were my SS teacher. I also loved teaching the youth SS when that was my calling. Now, I hang with the Cub Scouts which I think I love even more.

Barnard Family said...

You never cease to amaze me! I wish we could team teach a sunday school anyone? haha, that would be amazing! I have been doing ok, but some weeks I don't feel as prepared and then I fall on my face. But I pick myself up and just keep swimming! Thanks for your inspiration!!!

Mindy H. said...

I hope that sneaky little cell phone dork realizes how blessed he is to have you as a Sunday school teacher. I spent most of my of Sundays from ages 13 to 19 lurking in the Church kitchen trying to avoid going to Sunday school.... I would have actually shown up if you have been the teacher!

Lyndsay said...

Hey, Kar, I hope you don't mind, but I shared this post with a friend I visit teach who has this same calling and is frustrated with trying to teach straight from the manual (like you said, read a scripture answer a question - repeat 8 times). You are amazing, I wish I was as creative as you!!!

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