Learning to Teach

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Written November 25, 2006 in my philosophy journal. Updated April 2012.

    I love to teach! I’ve had lots of wonderful opportunities in my life to teach. I worked at the Boys Ranch as a counselor for at-risk children. I worked at Alta View Elementary as a preschool teachers aid for developmentally delayed kids. I have had lots of opportunities to teach in church as a relief society, gospel doctrine teacher, primary teacher, as the young women’s president and also as a missionary in Argentina. I especially love to teach about the gospel truths. I feel like I am the one who learns the most from teaching. One of the biggest lessons that I learned on my mission, was how to teach.

     My patriarchal blessing says that “[I] will be responsible to teach the gospel throughout [my] life”. I want to become a really effective teacher, like Jesus Christ was. I still have a lot to learn but these are some things that I’ve learned from my experience about how to be a good teacher.

  1. To be a great teacher you need to be sincere and teach what you know. At the Boys Ranch, while learning to tie knots, Dave taught us that first you see, then you do, then you teach. This is the process of learning to tie knots and also how we learn the gospel. We have to know and experience what we are teaching and as we teach we will learn and grow more in our knowledge of it and so will others. You cannot convert people beyond your own conversion. My mission president, President Avila, taught us not to be actors. If we don’t feel it, then don’t teach it. It’s important to be perfectly sincere in what you say and it’s important to live what you teach.
  2. Teach the person. Not the lesson. It’s important to teach what the person needs to hear according to what they are going through in their lives at that time. It’s not about getting through the entire lesson. It’s really about helping the person learn and progress.
  3. Get rid of the fluff! Don’t water down your teaching with unnecessary and extra words. Teach clearly and precisely so that the spirit can testify more powerfully. The Holy Ghost can’t testify of untrue things so be careful not to go on a tangent. Teach pure truth. “To be known, the truth must be stated and the clearer and more complete the statement is, the better the opportunity will the Holy Spirit have for testifying to the souls of men that the work is true.” -B.H. Roberts. Thais why it’s so powerful to teach from the scriptures and to share pure testimony.
  4. Participation is key! Elder Richard G. Scott, an apostle, taught me this very important lesson in the Missionary Training Center. In the devotional, he told us that as we would respond to his questions, the spirit would teach us through our answers. The spirit testified so strongly to me as I raised my hand to give an answer to one of his questions. As we allow others to speak and find the answers to our questions, God will teach them through their answers by the power of the Holy Ghost. He who speaks the most . . . learns the most. Which brings me to my next point.
  5. Ask thought-provoking questions. Jesus often taught by asking thought-provoking questions to help people ponder and apply gospel principles. His questions prompted thought and led to soul-searching and commitment. Questions help us to understand other people better and it helps us to discover their needs. As stated earlier, those who we teach will learn through their own answers.
  6. LISTEN! Elder Holland said. “More important than speaking is listening. Theses are not lifeless objects disguised as baptismal statistics. They are children of God, our brothers and sisters, and they need what we have. Be genuine. Reach out sincerely. Ask these friends what matters most to them. What do they cherish and what do they hold dear? And then listen. If the setting is right, you might ask them what their fears are, wha they yearn for, or what they feel is missing in their lives. I promise you that something in what they say will always highlight a truth of the gospel about which you can bear testimony and about which you can then offer more . . . If we listen with love, we won’t need to wonder what to say. It will be given to us by the spirit and by our friends.” Also, learn to listen to the spirit as you teach as teach what you feel prompted to teach even if it’s different from what you planned.
  7. Rely on the Spirit. The most important thing is that the learner learns by the spirit. “If it be by some other way, it is not of God.” (Doctrine and Covenants 50:18) The spirit is the key. He is the one who should lead the discussion. Say what he tells you to say. He is the one who will consecrate your words and will carry the message to their hearts (2 Nephi 33:1). He softens them and helps them to understand. When he enters in, hearts are changed, minds are enlightened, souls are healed, and lives are changed. The Holy Ghost testifies of the reality of the Savior and of our Heavenly Father. He teaches pure truth and leads those who are lost to repent and come to Christ.

     I’m grateful for the opportunities that I’ve had to teach in my life because I know that I am the one who has learned the most. I want to become a great teacher like the Savior and teach with parables and questions. I want to teach my children all that I know and learn from them and everyone that I meet. The mind is an incredible thing. It’s an amazing thing when the Spirit teaches us in our mind and in our heart.

“You can’t teach what you don’t know any more than you can come back from somewhere that you’ve never been.” 

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