This week's lesson in the Primary 2 Manual is Lesson 22: Blessed Are the Peacemakers. Before we being, I'd like to share some thoughts on practical application of this lesson for US as the Primary teacher.
I'm going to preface my remarks by saying: PRIMARY TEACHER/NURSERY LEADER is (in my opinion) one of the most important callings in the church. YOU are teaching the future leaders of the church gospel principles. You may think they're not really listening, but they are. YOU have a great capacity to teach them what is true and of eternal importance. Never think of yourself as "just a Primary teacher/Nursery leader." You are creating spiritual experiences that will last a lifetime and effect the eternities.
That said, let's just tell the truth about teaching primary. It can be really hard! You are teaching a group of kids that you may or may not know and that all have extremely different personalities. I know that every week we have some type of problem arise. It's not usually a catastrophe, just something that doesn't go as I've planned. It also seems that the more important the lesson, the more Satan tries to drive the Spirit away. He does this by maybe giving you a not so nice thought in your head as you wake up on Sunday morning. Or creating the feeling that you just cannot go and teach those rowdy children one more week. Or by making YOU feel out of control, which makes you feel that you have no control over your class.
These are all lies. You were set apart to teach these children and "...with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26) You can set the tone in your class and have the capacity to do so in a Christlike manner, because that is what God expects and we know that God will NEVER give us a commandment, "save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them." (1 Nephi 3:7)
So, how do you become a peacemaker in your classroom? I believe that a peacemaker is simply a follower of Christ--peace was what He taught, and that is what we are called to teach. I also believe that no matter your situation, being a teacher of the gospel in any capacity will be the most important calling you have. I have a few tips that I have learned the *hard* way over my years in working with children and youth at church that may help you in your pursuit of becoming a better teacher. Remember, these are MY opinions--I will try to back them up with scripture and prophetic council, but these are personal lessons that I have learned. I'm sure that YOU will learn many other lessons through your experiences that benefit you personally, too!
1. Understand the importance of your calling. Pres. J. Reuben Clark once said, "As teachers you stand upon the highest peak in education, for what teaching can compare in priceless value and in far-reaching effect with that which deals with man as he was in the eternity of yesterday, as he is in the mortality of today, and as he will be in the forever of tomorrow. Not only time but eternity is your field." The things that we teach each week are of eternal importance. Therefore, our calling is one of eternal importance. Even as I write that, tears come to my eyes and I feel the truth of those statements. These children may come from homes where the gospel is not truly taught. We have the opportunity to teach them the importance of the gospel and that happiness can come from it. Happiness. For eternity. THAT is what we will teach--what is more important than that? NEVER feel that as a Primary teacher or Nursery leader that you are "not as important" as the Primary President or the Relief Society President. All callings come from the Lord and are equally important. So don't forget--YOU MATTER. Your words each week have the ability to teach a future leader of the church--you may be teaching a future prophet. Never forget that.
2. Prepare your lessons each week with the guidance of the Spirit. No calling will be successful unless you prepare. Preparation should start well before Sunday morning. Before Saturday night, as well. I begins by spiritually preparing yourself DAILY through personal and family prayer, scripture study, and staying worthy to receive promptings from the Holy Ghost. Preparation for your actual lesson should start as far in advance as you feel you need to be successful. For me, this means reading the lesson for the following week each Sunday (after I've taught the lesson that day--I get confused if I read too many lessons at once!), pondering it for the next few days, discussing it with my DH (teaching partner), praying to know how to teach the children in MY class the principles it contains, and finally preparing the lesson helps around the middle of the week. When I receive more guidance about how the Lord would have me teach, I always change my lesson accordingly. Sometimes this happens DURING the lesson. And if you are prepared, this is okay! Preparation also takes away any fears we may have about fulfilling our calling--no matter what calling we have! Doctrine & Covenants 38:30 promises us, "if ye are prepared ye shall not fear." So, what is the key to overcoming fear? All together now "PREPARATION!!!"
3. Focus on what you're good at and work on things you may not be as good at. We all have talents--there is literally not one of us who has nothing to give. You know the parable of the talents. If we work on the talents we have, more can be given to us as we need them! A short story from personal experience--I have never been one to think that I am "good" at anything. I had wonderful youth leaders who realized my potential and, along with my parents, supported me. When I graduated from high school, my Young Women president was called to be the Relief Society president in my home ward. I was going to the local singles ward at the time and didn't really think anything of it. When I got married a few short years later, I returned to my home ward. I was given two callings--Ward & Primary music leader. I loved it! I was over the moon--I was going to school for music education and this really made me happy! Until one day I was released from Primary. And I had to go back to Relief Society. I have always had a hard time going to Relief Society, and so this was really hard for me. I was sullen many weeks and didn't want to participate. Because the Lord had called my former YW president to be the RS president, she knew me and what I needed. She gave me a visiting teaching route that included herself and one of her counselors. I soon got to know them personally and came to love them, appreciate their service, and learned to love all the sisters in the RS of our ward. Shortly after this, I was called to be the first counselor in the Relief Society and work with these two amazing women and to be in charge of the teaching in the RS. I had only 1 teacher called, and had to teach the women (many years older and wiser than myself) each week. I was paralyzed with fear when this was told to me. But under the guidance of these two sisters (who I still to this day literally feel are sisters to me), I found that I had an aptitude for teaching the gospel. Because of the love and care that they showed me, I gained confidence in my ability to do so. These sisters will never truly know how this has effected my life because there is nothing I could do to repay the debt that I owe them. Because of the righteous example of these sisters, my desire to work on my talents increased and my confidence in the Lord was strengthened. Because of them, I have been able to serve in any calling that I have been giving with an ability beyond my own. I will always be grateful to them and to the Lord for that experience. President James E. Faust said, "The Lord has a great work for each of us to do. You may wonder how this can be. You may feel that there is nothing special or superior about you or your ability. . . .The Lord can do remarkable miracles with a person of ordinary ability who is humble, faithful, and diligent in serving the Lord and seeks to improve himself. This is because God is the ultimate source of power." Amen to that. If we truly humble ourselves and recognize that everything we have comes from God, He will be able to give us all that we need to accomplish what He has asked of us.
4. Love the people you serve. This is so very important. It is easy to find that you have "favorites." I used to think this was just natural. To this day I still have some children that I consider "favorites" but I have also found that as I truly get to know those I serve, I love each of them as children of God. The prophet Joseph Smith once said, "Nothing is so much calculated to lead people to forsake sin as to take them by the hand, and watch over them with tenderness. When persons manifest the least kindness and love to me, O what
power it has over my mind, while the opposite course has a tendency to harrow up all the harsh feelings and depress the human mind." You can never love someone that you do not show love towards. Find other ways to serve those you teach outside of church. When I was the Beehive counselor in Young Women, I would call my girls to see how they were doing, find out their interests and talk to them about them, and send little cards to them in the mail. As a primary teacher, I have decided to take one or two of my children each week for about an hour and spend time with them. We will make a craft and play and just talk about them. I've also found it very helpful to talk to parents about their children. They know what things help and/or are not effective when teaching their child. Getting to know someone and understanding where they come from is a sure fire way to be able to look past behaviors and see eternal potentials. Petty things will no longer matter once you truly get to know someone as a child of God.
5. Teach correct principles with the guidance of the Holy Ghost. This is SO IMPORTANT in any calling or teaching capacity you will have in the church. I have found that when teaching a lesson, the best way to invite the spirit of contention is to use opinions too much or to use non-church materials. I have found that the best way to keep the Spirit in a lesson is to teach directly from the lesson and to support lesson material with other church approved material. That poem by e.e. cummings might be nice and meaningful to you, but it's not exactly doctrine. Make sure that you use church materials--I promise that there is more than enough out there to supplement your lessons with! These will always invite the Holy Ghost--the true teacher of truth. Elder Dallin H. Oaks has told us, "If we have the Spirit of the Lord to guide us, we can teach any person, no matter how well educated, any place in the world. The Lord knows more than any of us, and if we are his servants, acting under his Spirit, he can deliver his message of salvation to each and every soul."
6. Invite all that you teach to be involved in and responsible for their own learning. This is quite hard to do with a group of 4 & 5 year olds who each learn differently. Luckily for us, the church has given us many resources to use to help us when preparing our lessons. I have found, too, that asking questions is the best way to make children responsible for their own learning. If I notice that a child hasn't participated, I may ask them specifically how they feel about what we are talking about. If they don't want to answer, I do not make them. Instead, I call on another child that may really want to answer. 95% of the time, the first child I asked will think it through while the second child is responding and will want to answer after the second child is done. I don't usually do this with adults because I don't want to offend them, but when you work with children and have a loving basis with them, they generally don't feel threatened when you "call them out" in a loving way. From Teaching, No Greater Call, "Each of us is responsible to learn the gospel through diligent effort. We are also privileged at various times to serve as teachers—to inspire and help others in their responsibility to learn the gospel. We render this important service by doing all we can to: 1. Awaken and hold the interest of those we teach. 2. Encourage their active participation in lessons. 3. Show them how to live according to the truths they learn. We are to do these things with love and by the power of the Spirit. This means that we should focus not so much on our performance as on how well we help others learn the gospel diligently and live it faithfully."
7. Do not become involved in family disputes. This is the last one and most important lesson that I've learned as a teacher. This one I learned while working with the youth. Many youth want to use their leaders as allies against their parents. I am here to tell you that NO GOOD will come of this. PARENTS have the responsibility to raise their children, not leaders. If a child or youth comes to you with a problem in general, ALWAYS encourage them to go and talk to the other person involved. If it's with another youth at church, offer to be a non-side-taking referee, but never just believe what you have been told until you hear both sides of the story. If the problem is with a parent or sibling, encourage them to talk to the person involved. The only time I would ever intervene is if I suspect abuse, and in this case I would call SRS with my concerns and leave it at that. Never think that you know better than a parent when it comes to raising a child.
Hopefully these tips help you. They are all things I wish I'd known when I was first a Primary teacher! If you want more information on helping with reverence in your class, see my previous post here. Hopefully these tips can also help you be able to magnify your calling to the best of your abilities when you adapt them to your personal situation.
Now onto the lesson! I've come up with some ways that I would teach this lesson for my class and, even though I'm not teaching this lesson, I will share them with you and maybe you can use them!
*I would use my happy/sad faces sticks (more info here) instead of the printout in the manual when singing the opening song. Since they are always in my bag, this is just easier for me!
*I would use the pictures in my file of families doing enjoyable things, turn them over, and have the children take turns choosing them and telling me what kinds of a choice it was (happy or sad) using their happy/sad face stick.
*My DH likes to take "field trips" and so instead of showing the picture of the Sermon on the Mount, we would take the children to the large painting of it in the meetinghouse, sit on the floor in front of it, and discuss this portion of the lesson there. My DH likes to do this so that the children realize they can be more aware of their surroundings and also so that they can share what they learned with their parents when they see that visual reminder in the church building.
*I would use the situation strips in my lesson helps and have the children take turns choosing one and telling me how they would resolve the situation. I like to do a lot of things that utilize turn taking so that children can learn sportsmanship in a gospel environment and then carry it into their sports venues.
I hope these ideas help you out with your lesson! :) If you'd like a copy of my lesson helps, download them by clicking here. I hope you have a restful Sabbath!