Laid back Friday

Today we kicked back and just had a fun day. I didn’t assign any reading. To start off I read an article about a couple that died after 72 years of marriage holding hands. I just used it as a little devotional kick off for the day, reminding them of yesterday’s lesson (which apparently I didn’t blog about…). Mentioned that the key to success for this couple was not how long they dated or how long they were engaged — which was about 12 hours, incidentally — but that even when they were uncomfortable and dying, their thoughts were of each other. They were unselfish.

The boys separated out and wrote a Plan of Salvation outline for their Duty to God. This was mildly humorous to watch. :) The boys wanted to be with the girls, who were working on personal progress and scripture mastery. LOL. I love having both genders in class. It’s just so funny to watch them together.

After the boys were done, everyone returned to the couches and we worked some more on memorizing the 10 commandments. 10 more minutes in class, and they’ll all be ready to pass that off. The video was key. The kids learned the 10 commandments using the hand signs, first. Then we practiced the actual scripture language today. I used the “memorize” link at http://seminary.lds.org/ under scripture mastery to block out the verses they knew well already, like “Thou shalt not kill” and “thou shalt not covet”. To cover up those scriptures, you just click on them. Then I clicked on the First Letters’ button on the left and they practiced the two longer verses with the first letters of the word. The kids were dazzled, to my surprise. We even listed to the audio with the Utah-lady accent and the booming scripture guy voices. The kids reacted so positively to the online thing, I’ll probably use it again with them.

Honor thy father and thy MOTHER. LOL.

They went to the bus, after I let them watch a rugby video they’ve been wanting to share with each other. I was righteous enough to make them wait until after the closing prayer, at least.

I remembered before the prayer that I wanted them to name some hymns that they could sing, but I put it off and forgot about it. I had asked my husband what songs they sung in priesthood. He mentioned We Thank Thee O God for Prophet. Sang that one yesterday and it went very well. Did How Firm a Foundation today — that one wasn’t so great. Monday’s lesson is Jacob and Esau, so maybe I can fit in some time to have them choose some songs.

Genesis 24: Rebekah

Yesterday was Rebekah. This story repeats itself halfway through, so I didn’t really want to spend a whole lot of time on the story today. The class was unusually chatty yesterday, and it took me several attempts to get them to settle down enough to even begin our opening exercise. I had the kids write down what they wanted in a spouse first for 2 minutes. Then for 2 minutes, I had them write down what characteristics Abraham wanted for Isaac’s spouse.

Now if you’ve ever taught teenage boys, you know that you NEVER ask them what they want in a spouse, because you get the same tired old sexist “makes me a sandwich” jokes. I was not dumb enough to go around the circle and have them make their jokes, but instead we all made a list of what Abraham wanted for Isaac. We had a long, very thoughtful list, with number one being Born in the Covenant. Then I asked the kids not to speak out loud, but to compare what they wrote down on their lists with what Abraham wanted for Isaac. The girls were all “yeah — same list” but the boys were like “oh.” I told them that this list was what their parents wanted for them in a spouse and what I hoped they wanted for themselves. I hope I said that these characteristics would lead to a successful marriage, but I can’t remember…..

Next I had the class president summarize the story. I asked the kids why Abraham didn’t go to get the wife himself. “He’s old,” was the answer they all had. I reminded them about the last time Abraham was in his home country : that his family was trying to sacrifice him to a false god. I told them we don’t know for sure why Abraham didn’t go himself, but that he did trust his servant to do a good job. Then I made a chart with what the world describes as love and what we describe as love.

One of our RS teachers taught this lesson some weeks ago, and I took down notes knowing I could use it in my class later. I did have a brief moment of panic when I realized I had no idea how to teach this exactly. You can ask adults what does the world say about love and expect great responses. But teenagers — probably not so much. So I just wrote the list myself describing some of the fallacies of what the world describes as love. Then we talked about what Heavenly Father believes about love.

We wrapped up by reading the verses in 1 Corinthians 13 about Charity. I asked them to substitute the word love for charity when they read. These verses are so beautiful, even the boys were touched. I re-read them after they finished, with a little commentary. I flipped the chart back to our list of things that Abraham wanted for Isaac and said something about this being love that lasts and that they are characteristics they should be looking for in their future spouse and in their friends.

Other Stuff

So yesterday I didn’t blog because I took a friend to the doctor. After that we went shoe shopping and had lunch with a group of girls from the old ward for a baby shower. It was fun.

After that I got my haircut. I know. Terribly intriguing, eh?

Dinner, mutual. You know how it goes.

I had a talk with Brother Dingess last night about Seminary. Two priesthood leaders have asked me about the same kid in my class this week — one that I’ve been thinking about myself. I guess I’m just not in tune enough to know what’s going on. I wish I were one of those people that gets words from the spirit instead of impressions.

Anyway, he asked me if I could feel the spirit in my class. I can’t say that I have an overwhelming spiritual experience during class. Sometimes I do feel the spirit, but it’s never like when I study the scriptures myself. I am focused in on what are the kids feeling and how are they reacting and what do I need to say next that I don’t really dwell on those feelings. I don’t want to make the class heavy either. I can see the messages getting across to those kids. I don’t try to force or push the holy ghost into them. I just teach the material, point out why it’s relevant, and try to get them to see why it matters to them. I can see those little stabbing impressions — you know the ones — the “I can do better at that” or the “I believe that, too.” Those are what I see and what I aim for. What I feel when I teach is more of a family home evening type spirit. That’s true, yes. Did they get it? Can the spirit tell them the message they need instead of me trying to tell them the message I’m feeling that may or may not relate?

He actually started to tell me he was “concerned” and then backed off a bit. What he almost said was he was worried that the kids were having too much fun in class and not getting enough spiritual messages. He’s a former Seminary teacher, and he’s intense. I love him. But intense is not my style. I will push a message home, but I don’t feel like I have to teach with pressure or lecture.

So anyway I’ve been thinking about it. I wish he’d come to class — then he could give me some more relevant feedback. I’m not sure that his daughter is capable of articulating all that’s going on in class. Yes, our activities are engaging. Everyone of them has a learning purpose. I never choose activities based on how they will entertain — only on how well they will engage and teach.

I don’t know what that means really: “teach with the spirit”? I always think of that as contriving a way to induce emotion. You know — sappy stories or terrifying accounts of how whatever-political-leader is about to destroy the world as we know it and bring on the apocalypse. I just don’t do that. Emotion does not equate to inspiration. I teach the truth. We rely HEAVILY on the scriptures — the words of the prophets. The spirit testifies to those kids every day with the message they need to hear, just because they’re looking at the scriptures. One could teach straight from the Seminary manual, and the kids would never even open their Old Testament. Too many lessons teach about the Old Testament without utilizing it. I want these kids to look in their scriptures and see what’s awesome and share it with each other. My approach is less “themed lesson” and more let’s get into our scriptures. Less lecture. More exploring.

I do suppose that I could do a better job pointing out when I feel the spirit or when something hit home to me. I have been trying to decide when I’ll point out to these kids that the reason they’re so enjoying Seminary is not because of anything their teacher is doing or because of any activity we’re having in class, but because of the work they’re doing to really read their scriptures and come share those messages with each other.

I really believe the gospel is joyful. I don’t think Seminary need be painful for us to gain from it. I subscribe, I suppose, to a more EFY-style approach to Seminary — more hands-on. I guess the conversation just made me doubt myself. I really think I’ve got it right. At least, it seems to be working for me so far.

At mutual last night I had two kids tell me they were coming to my class either “next year” or for a visit. *sigh* I think the problem is that when my students describe what happens in our class they are not likely to talk about the spiritual things we do. They are telling the silly joke that a kid made or about the goofy 10 commandments video or Delilah. They aren’t saying, “Sister Smith made us verbally summarize Genesis 18 as a group. Then she made us read the whole Gen 19 JST appendix. Then we had to mark it in our scriptures,” or “Sister Smith made us read and write for 35 minutes about how Jesus and Isaac were similar”. I did do those things. And it was during the times that I could tell when kids were touched. The ‘silly’ portions of our class are a tiny part of what we do. But that’s not what they’re talking about to their friends, and it makes me a little sad — sad that it’s becoming a comparison of teachers.

There’s certainly a possibility that “fun” could outweigh the lesson. I really, really don’t think that’s going on for us, but I understand why people might perceive it that way, especially if they haven’t been to our class. Some are contrasting teaching styles, when that’s not what it’s about. They’re neglecting that we’re both teaching the same material. It’s the same holy ghost. Same message. IT’S NOT A COMPETITION.