A thought inspired by Aquinas’ review, which focuses on the teacher, instead of the manual. If I had any Photoshop skills, I’d have put the manual in the middle of that ring. Reference comes from Aquinas’ post.
I taught the Teacher Training course for a few months earlier this year, which meant I spent a lot of time with Teaching:No Greater Call. I discovered an important and surprisingly subversive story p. 214-15, presented below with minor editorializing in brackets and bolding.
“In our new ward my husband and I discovered that the Gospel Doctrine class [read: the teacher] wasn’t very effective. As the teacher talked, some class members read their scriptures; others just kept their heads down. I could tell that this bothered the teacher. Once he even asked, ‘Is anybody listening?’
Soon we learned that a number of people in the ward attended the Gospel Principles class instead of Gospel Doctrine [or just hung out in the hallway.] We heard that the teacher of that class was excellent. We attended the class and found it to be lively, insightful, and rewarding. But walking home from Church one day, we confided to each other that we both felt that what we were doing wasn’t quite right. We needed to support our bishop by supporting the teacher he had called to teach us. So we began talking about what we could do to enrich the Gospel Doctrine class. We realized that we had placed all the responsibility for a good class experience on the teacher, as if we were daring him to get our attention and hold our interest.
We prayed for guidance during the week and went to the Gospel Doctrine class on Sunday with a different spirit. A few minutes into the lesson, my husband asked a question, and the teacher invited other class members to offer answers. A good discussion ensued, to which several class members contributed. Later in the lesson, the teacher made a point that wasn’t clear to me, so I asked him to help me understand. He responded by pointing out a scripture that I had never noticed before. Then a sister told a story that reinforced his point, and another class member offered another scripture. We felt the influence of the Spirit in that classroom. The teacher became more relaxed. I could see him gain strength and confidence from our simple gestures of interest and participation. The lesson concluded with a prayer of gratitude and a resounding ‘Amen’ from the class. “Since that day most class members have been participating with great interest. Our teacher seems energized by their enthusiasm, and he often expresses gratitude for the support he feels. Sunday School keeps getting better and better.”
We’re not given a lot of info about the class or the teacher, but the problem apparently lay with an uncomfortable and uninspiring teacher. The moral of the story, put bluntly, appears to be “if the teacher is doing a crummy job, hijack the lesson with a good question.” Obviously, this raises the issue of what constitutes “a crummy job” and “a good question” but regardless, I find it encouragingly subversive, in a constructive way, and it offers some advantages.
A teacher, regardless of background, carries a duty of reflecting the manual and representing official teachings. Someone in the audience, lacking that calling, is under no such compulsion. (And Correlation has not gone so far as to dictate student responses.) Don’t feel the teacher/manual approach/question is relevant? Ask a relevant question; Obviously, these need to be productive, non-gotcha questions, but there are plenty that can be asked.
In other words, if your Gospel Doctrine class is lame, take some personal responsibility, stop sitting on your hands, and make a good comment and ask a good question.