Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Lesson From My Students

This semester is the beginning of my tenth year teaching religion at BYU. I have loved every minute of it. I love working with the students. I love getting to know them. I love their enthusiasm and their zest for life. I love studying the gospel deeply on a daily basis and then walking into the classroom and discussing gospel topics with my students. They teach me so much!

I have also learned a great deal from some of the more subtle things that occur in teaching. For example, I require my students to read from the scriptures ½ hour a day and to then write a journal entry about the thoughts, feelings, and insights they had while reading. In addition, I end class a few minutes early and have them write a journal entry about the things we discussed in class that day. The intent is that they capture the things the Spirit is teaching them. Over the years I've watched how some students do exactly what I ask and when they do amazing things happen. I know I am limited as a teacher. I know that the true teacher is the Spirit and those who allow time for the Spirit to teach them receive many insights and epiphanies and learn so much.

But there are other students who see the journal as a task to get done. They write their classroom journal entry while we are discussing and then sit during the journal writing time with their book bags in their lap waiting for the bell to ring so they can bolt from the classroom. Their daily reading entries are mundane and short. "Nephi is a good guy," or "I don't really understand this Isaiah dude." They write a journal entry, but there is no learning taking place. It is very frustrating as a teacher to see the difference in those who do what I ask them to do and receive such incredible blessings and those who go through the motions but don't quite do it right and therefore receive nothing. Sometimes I want to shake them and say, "You are missing out on so much!!! You don't realize what could be yours!"

Well, as I listened to conference this weekend, I found myself wondering how much I have missed out on by not always following the instructions given me in conference exactly. I heard about dressing properly for Sacrament Meeting, about being reverent before the meeting, about praying more about what I am grateful for and less about what I think I need, about being more positive about my life experiences. As I heard these things, I wondered how often in the past I have rationalized my behavior and because of that missed out on the blessings like some of my students do.

My resolve this conference is to do better at doing what I am asked to do—not just doing part of it, but all of it. I've seen the difference sincere obedience makes in my students' lives; it is like night and day. So I am making a list of the things I need to do and committing myself to do them to the very best of my ability because I want more of that glorious light in my life!


Knowles Family said...

I had those same thoughts come to me as I listened to conference yesterday - and this morning. Thank you for your blog! I love your entries. I'd love to be back at BYU and take one of your classes! Do they ever let people "audit" classes like they used to?

Jayne said...

I want more of that "glorious light" too! What I'm trying to do is to be more loving, kind, tolerant, and grateful for each day's many splendid blessings. As a consequence of President Monson's talk about living each day instead of stacking up a lot of empty yesterdays, I persuaded my husband to travel to the mountains of NC this weekend to enjoy some of autumn's colors.

Carissa May said...

I really enjoyed the journal writing you had us do in the Book of Mormon class I took from you last fall. Now that I'm not required to do it, I'm not always so good at writing down impressions as I study. I think I will have to start doing that again. Thank you for reminding me about it in this post!
-Carissa Wainwright-