Keeping focus while teaching makes the difference in bringing about powerful moments with those we teach.
As most of you know, I am a seminary teacher (amongst other things). There are a lot of things going on in a seminary class each day. Not only do we start with a devotional – usually student led – but there are other things which either contribute or distract from the 50 minutes we have together. Those distractions may come from off-topic questions or from a kid asking to go to the restroom. Regardless of what they are, they potentially stand in the way of powerful teaching moments.
Those are the distractions kids may cause. But as teachers, do we bring distractions to the classroom?
As gospel teachers, we have tools that are wonderful and that help us stayed focused. First and foremost, I have my scriptures which are referenced in each lesson from my teacher’s manual – and this is true, whether I’m teaching sunday school, seminary, or in any other auxiliary. It is important to remember that the actual scriptures are the most important topic/content to be used for the lesson that day. Nothing else can bring the spirit quite as quickly as simply reading the Lord’s words. What better way to stay focused each day for the lesson’s purpose, than to actually read from the scriptures suggested in the manual.
Speaking of manuals, my teacher’s manual is another excellent tool for helping me define my teaching emphasis for the day. Usually, there is too much to choose from in each teacher’s chapter/manual. This is intentional, as I’ve been told from my CES supervisor. We are given much in the manual and it is through prayer that we are to discern what to share with our specific students. Each student’s needs vary, as do that of each class.
As gospel teachers, in our manuals we typically can find headings for each section. These can additionally help clarify an inspired focus for the day. For example, as a seminary teacher, each of my manual chapters has a general heading called, “Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For.” Under that heading are listed anywhere from two to eight (or so) unique principles to be gained from the current chapter we are studying in the scriptures (there are usually many additional principles than just those listed in a manual…the ones listed in the manuals simply provide important starting points). Thus, these headings are great focusing tools!
I also have found an additional aid that very much helps me keep my focus on my teaching goal for the day…during class time itself. I call it my “blue-hangy-downy thing.” I’m sure there is a much more professional title for this teaching aid, but until I can get a picture uploaded, I will describe it. It is blue, about three feet long by four feet long. And it has about 12 lengths of horizontal plastic to hold paper strips. It is the perfect tool for use by teachers.
I use it to do the following: when I want my students to walk away with an important focus for the day, I summarize the teaching focus or portion of a scriptural phrase onto a long strip of paper. I slip it in one of the plastic areas for the kids to look at during the class hours. I use it as a backdrop during the rest of our classroom activities.
Sometimes I’ll even transfer an abbreviated version of the headings from my teacher’s manual to individual strips of paper. I place those in the appropriate places on the blue-hangy-downy-thing. This way I can know that all through the lesson, my students are having visual reinforcement as to what the lesson is for the day.
No matter what might happen during the class, I can be continually referring back to the word strips. In so doing, our lesson stays focused and I’ve used more than one body sense for learning (research shows that the more modes used in a teaching environment, the longer the retention in the mind of the learner).
Each of these tools (and there are others, of course) have helped me work towards that desired moment where the students grasp an eternally significant principle and I can see the light go on in their eyes. It’s been another day well taught. With the Lord’s help, we’ll have many!