What do you do with a class of students so thrilled to see each other that they spend nearly the entire class time talking, talking, talking, talking…(you get the idea) while the teacher is trying to teach?
Well, I’ve noticed something quite interesting on the days where this happens to me versus the days when it doesn’t.
It’s a bit similar to being starving. The hungrier we are, the harder it is to concentrate. I rather think our youth are like this.
They are amongst the Lord’s brightest (we’ve been told). They have been prepared for these times which are upon us. They are quick of understanding. They are hungry for knowledge and truth. When I feed them spiritually with what they need, THEY ARE ATTENTIVE! When I don’t, they aren’t. Their bodies might physically be in attendance, but their minds sure are not. They’re not being fed with information they can retain.
I’ve heard it best explained by author Teri James Bellis, who wrote When the Brain Can’t Hear. She said oftentimes students need mental “shelves” upon which to rest new information. Those shelves essentially serve as “applicators of interest” (my words, not hers). So if there is no immediate application of knowledge, the information slips from the mind and has no value.
She gives the example of teaching about birds to younger kids and that for some kids, they need a real life example of personal experience to make sense of the new knowledge. For a kid like this, you would say, “Remember last year when we saw the geese flying up from the pond near here? Those are geese. And today we’re going to talk about a specific kind of geese.”
Voila! The child’s mind is opened up and they now have a mental “shelf” to retain the new information.
In a broad sense, we are all like this. We are continually bombarded with information in today’s world, more so than ever. Youth are no different. In fact, they’re probably suffering with more information load than we are, given their homework load. To maintain sanity, there must needs be the ability to let non-essential information slip from our minds.
But we don’t want this for them when it comes to spiritual information! So what is a teacher to do?
Easy. We notice when the talking problem is rising. It is a perfect clue that we’ve not first provided a mental “shelf” for the students, prior to giving new knowledge.
Translated, this simply means the student needs to be shown “what this means” to them.
Case in point. Yesterday my class had a severe talking problem. I tried everything I knew to “solve” the situation. Of course, my approach failed. I can’t “solve” talking problems for my students. They control their mouths, they control their lives.
Today was completely different. Why? Because the Lord helped me create a far sturdier “shelf” in the students’ minds, before talking about prophets (our seminary lesson was on D&C 23 & 24 today). Without going into too much detail (as I’ve been asked by CES not to give scripted lessons on a blog), I will say that everything in this lesson today I chose to place in a framework about “them”–the students–and what they face today.
I shared a few examples from my own life regarding choices I’ve made–and the blessings I’ve received–by hearkening to prophetic counsel. But the huge difference between yesterday’s and today’s results in class really came down to this: my students could easily apply what they were hearing into their lives today — not just speaking symbolically, but TODAY, September 19, 2006. When they walked out the door of the classroom, they had tools from today’s lesson to strengthen them for the next 24 hours. This got their attention.
And the result? They listened all through class.