Sunday, January 4, 2009

The (Self-)Importance of the Gospel Teacher (Svithe)

(Following Theric's lead, here's my weekly svithe).

Sitting through Sunday School and Elders' Quorum today, watching the clock as each of the teachers plowed through all of their lesson material, taking no thought (really) for most of what anyone else had to say and breezing over some things that, in my opinion, may have deepened the discussion, President Hinckley came to mind. In a 1969 leadership meeting (no, I wasn't there--well before my time), he said this:
Effective teaching is the very essence of leadership in the Church. Eternal life will come only as men and women are taught with such effectiveness that they change and discipline their lives. They cannot be coerced into righteousness or into heaven. They must be led, and that means teaching. (Source.)

As his words came to mind, I thought about the pedagogical goal of a decentered classroom, a learning environment in which the activities and the focus revolve around the students' and their needs rather than remaining forever on the teacher and their particular (self-)importance in the classroom.

As I see it, the most effective teachers are those that set the tone for students' personal inquiry and class discussion by asking questions that initiate extended conversations and that move students beyond superficial understandings by pushing them to clarify their responses and to think deeply and critically about culturally, historically, and spiritually relevant ideas. And the most effective students are those that come to class prepared (having read and considered the material at hand) and willing to participate.

When this last thought about student readiness came to mind (yes, I was holding a conversation with myself during class), I had an epiphany: I've been a terrible student at Church lately. I've been neither prepared nor willing to get outside of myself and, as such, I've come away with a very negative view of the teachers in our new ward.

And so, I'm going to take President Hinckley's oft repeated advice and try to be a little better--to prepare myself a bit more to commune with the Saints, realizing that there will also be times when I've just got to suck up my pride and endure.