AC expressed a common concern on the LDS Seminary Teacher Facebook Group: “I’m a new teacher this year, not creative at all and need desperate help. I have my two boys in my class and they both tell me I’m boring.”
Here’s what I said:
Please know that everything I’m about to say is intended to be helpful. Please read it in that context.
1) Consider the source. Your own children may be harder on you than others. They may be uncomfortable being taught in a formal setting by their own mother. They may have already seen all your tricks and heard all your stories. They may even be saying something to get a rise out of you, which unfortunately teenaged boys have been know to do sometimes.
2) Your lesson will not speak to every person every time. Two students sitting next to each other will have different experiences in class based on material, the way it’s presented, prior experience, and attitude. Accept this, and remind your students of it often. Remind them to come keep coming back, because the next lesson will probably be for them.
==Now on to the hard question. Are your lessons, in fact, boring? ==
Keep in mind what Joseph Smith said:
“Joseph Smith gave the following advice to a woman complaining of hurt feelings from malicious gossip about her. First, he gave his method of dealing with persons who accuse him of doing wrong: He would think in his mind of the time and place that the bad story had originated. Then he would seek to remember if any act or deed of his might have given rise to a building block by which the story could have been started. If he found any slight act, he then thanked his enemy for warning him of the weakness and went on his way without resentment. If the report was utterly untrue, he would think no more about it, for it could not harm him. If untrue it could not live, and the truth would survive. Joseph then gave this advice to the offended woman: In your heart you can forgive the person who had risked his own good name and his friendship to give you a clearer view of yourself.” (From the journal of Jesse W. Crosby.)
If you think that there is some genuine sentiment behind your boys’ complaint, ie, if you think that you may actually be boring — thank them for risking your wrath, and use the opportunity to see yourself a little more clearly and move to change. Here are some ideas you can think about:
3) How much would you estimate that you are talking, percentage-wise? Usually when I hear students complain that someone is *boring*, it’s because lessons are being given lecture-style. Find teaching techniques that help students talk more, and you’ll automatically seem less boring. Here’s a quote from LDS.org about talking less:
“Teachers who speak 90 percent of class time are probably talking too much. Of course, teachers need to give explanations, instructions, examples, stories, testimonies, and so forth, but their speaking should be a planned part of promoting participation. In many lessons, students can speak 40 to 60 percent of the time.” https://www.lds.org/…/increasing-participation-in…
4) Are your questions intriguing? The manual questions aren’t, generally speaking. Practice writing better questions — those that can have multiple right answers. Your SI or stake seminary coordinator will be able to help you with this. Ask for a special training at inservice, or for him/her to come observe your class and offer suggestions on question-asking.
5) Are you using a variety of teaching techniques to help students stay engaged? Try some from the collection here: http://www.mormonshare.com/come-follow-me/teaching-tips
It is unfortunate that the manual is primarily written like a script that follows the exact. pattern. with. the. same. questions. progressing. in. the. same. order. every. day. If you’re treating the manual like a script, your class may get pretty dull.
“When a teacher takes the spotlight, becomes the star of the show, does all the talking, and otherwise takes over all of the activity, it is almost certain that he is interfering with the learning of the class members.” (Teaching the Gospel: A Handbook for CES Teachers and Leaders(1994), 14.)
Criticism is a painful experience, to be sure, but lessons can only get better as we try to be an Old Dog Learning New Tricks. You can do it!
(Image courtesy of stockphotos, FreeDigitalPhotos.net)