Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Getting My Sunday School Class to Behave

by Sariah S. Wilson

I don't know if your ward is like this, but in my ward we apparently believe that everyone should have a calling. So I was in Primary for a while. Just before and after I had my baby I was in the library, but now that she's a little bit older, I got called to teach in Sunday School.

Apparently my 16/17 year old class (which included one of my brothers) had quite the reputation (such as climbing out the windows during class and other general rowdiness). Even after I'd had this calling for several weeks, on my way to class after Sacrament I was routinely stopped and asked if I needed assistance. I never did. Why?

1 - I set down ground rules. I told them that when I was talking they couldn't talk (if they something to contribute to the lesson, they could raise their hand or otherwise get my attention). I explained that if I went to the effort of preparing a lesson, simple respect would dictate that they could at least be quiet even if they didn't want to listen.

2 - I gave them a couple of minutes at the beginning and end of class to talk. Teenagers like to talk, apparently.

3 - I bribed them with treats. If they misbehaved or I had to repeatedly shush them, there would be no treats. I let them pick out the treats (brownies one week, cupcakes the next, etc.). This had the effect of them policing themselves. ("Dude, shut up. I want cookies.") It's also something I can phase out as time goes on, and no treats at all on Fast Sunday so they have to be good two weeks in a row.

4 - I told them my mom would come in and smack them around if they didn't behave (wonderful, sweet, loving woman, but she is the mother of nine and doesn't take guff from anyone). (I had to edit to add: Just in case anyone takes me literally, she wouldn't actually smack them. She wouldn't have to. All she has to do is raise one eyebrow and flare her nostrils a little and everyone runs to obey. She has that command and conquer thing down. I can't tell you how many times I've seen kids that people said were uncontrollable or never behaved and within minutes they were behaving like angels for my mom. She is truly the kid whisperer.)

5 - And this is probably the most important one - I promised to do my best not to bore them, and that I would try to help them learn something they hadn't ever learned before.

When I think about my Sunday School experience as a teen, I remember only sheer and total boredom. Same with the majority of my seminary experience. I had one teacher - Sr. Hymas - who really taught me anything at all.

A lot of this came from being very familiar with the scriptures. There was little teachers could teach me that I didn't already know.

So when I approach my lessons, I remember that today's teens are even more familiar with scriptures than I was at the same age. They already know the importance of 1 Nephi 3:7. They know the story, all the ins and outs and ups and downs. They could probably tell it to me in reverse order.

I do think it's good that we have some of that repetition to keep those lessons fresh in our minds. But there will be other teachers who will be called to fulfill that purpose.

I've expressed on the blog before that in order to better appreciate the sacred, we often must first understand the secular of a culture and people totally foreign to us in almost every way imaginable. As January brought in the Book of Mormon for us to study, I promised my class that I would teach them things even their parents didn't know so that they might have the opportunity to gain a deeper spiritual appreciation when they read the Book of Mormon.

I also promised to bring in my authentic recreation Nephite/Lamanite sword if they were really, really good. I'm thinking the Ammon story might be a good time for that.

I can't even tell you how excited I am to be teaching these scriptures that I love so well and have spent so many years researching. I'm ready to do some good!

Have you ever had a particularly difficult calling? How did you handle it?


At 1/14/2008 10:08 AM, Blogger Anne Bradshaw said...

I love this post. Sounds like your class are a very, very lucky group, Sariah. Wish all teen teachers thought like you.

So your mom's the kid whisperer. How cool is that? Could have done with her in our house over Christmas :-)

I agree with everything you say here and wish you success this year. I taught the same age group a few years ago in another ward, and was sometimes successful, sometimes not. A few students don't want to know, no matter what the teacher does, or how well prepared. Mind you, I didn't try the weekly treats. Next time . . . :-)


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