I took this lesson straight from the manual again with a few alterations. I drew the little stickmen on the board with the scriptures and had 4 kids come up and write who each represented. Then I erased all the stickmen except the one for Joseph Smith, and I had assigned students come up and write the things they discovered about Joseph Smith using the following verses Chalk Talk style:
After explaining about the Bible and Book of Mormon will grow together, I used the questions on page 84 in the manual. Read the BY and GBH quotes from the manual, and then asked the kids to bear their testimonies of JS. Several of my kids were really passionate about the prophet. I think they were especially thoughtful about what they posted because of our investigators.
I had to cut the kids off when we went over because the previous day’s activity carried over (all of group 4 presented first), but it worked out nicely overall. I’m glad they have so much to say about Joseph Smith.
Flex Day – Double Devotional
We began work on two more devotionals this day. I showed some videos on how to be a more effective public speaker, and then we wrote talks for most of the class period. We didn’t get finished, so I promised students time later to work on their devotionals.
I have been really anxious about this lesson for some reason, but I had planned well and it went pretty great.
I should mention before I get started that today the Bishop and the counselor over Seminary came to class at my request. I have been worried — I mean EXTREMELY worried — that the size of my class was affecting my ability to reach students. My ideal class size is about 10. Last year I did 16, but it was hard, and this year I’ve got 22 plus two investigators meeting in my basement. It’s been rough. I texted the Bishop on Tuesday asking him to come in and see if I was hurting the kids by having such a big class, and he came by on Friday.
Some good things happened between my text Tuesday and Friday. I went to inservice on Wednesday. I don’t want to offend anyone, but inservice is so much more helpful for me now. The new guy opens up for questions at the beginning of class. As it turns out, the Stake coordinator person has been concerned about having large classes like mine. One class has 33 students (but 3 teachers). Ah! That’s a lot of kids! I’m the only one flying solo with this big of a group, though. Anyway, I explained to our SI guy that I was worried that I wasn’t able to reach the big group and asked how I could know if I was being effective. He talked a good bit about the topic, and I felt a lot better afterwards.
Among the ideas he shared is that this is common feeling among religious educators — this lack of ability to tell if we are reaching students. We don’t have a test or metric we can use to judge our effectiveness. Sometimes though, you’ll teach a lesson and think a kid is not paying attention, but they will bring up what they learned later. They were affected by the words, even though they didn’t seem to be from the teacher’s point of view. He also described how for himself he comes into a large classroom of students, and the class “chemistry” feels different from day to day. Students come tired, anxious, worried, excited, and many other emotions. It’d be one thing if you were dealing with just one or two kids, but each kid could be feeling something totally different every day, which changes what he called the “chemistry” of the classroom.
One way we might asses our effectiveness as teachers is to use the measure found in D&C 5:24 : “… he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together”. For some reason this scripture struck a chord with me, and I felt better almost immediately. Certainly we do a lot of rejoicing together in Seminary, and while I may not reach every student every day, we are indeed rejoicing together in our study of the scriptures. Several other teachers offered their wisdom and experience, too.
Anyway, I left inservice feeling better about the situation and more confident. What a joy it is to not feel inservice is a waste of time!
Another thing contributed to the general feeling of peace I’m getting about our class: in preparation for 2 Nephi 3’s videos I rearranged the tables and chairs to go around the television. Holy Hannah — what a relief! Everyone could see the TV! The kids were not crowded! I could walk around almost comfortably! The chaos factor was almost nil! Now, my one wish that each person can see every other faces is not met, but other than than, every criterion that’s important to me in a classroom set up was met! Here’s how it looks now:
This worked out so well, I decided to test it again on 2 Nephi 4 with that video. It worked fantastically. Over the weekend I rearranged the zones so that now instead of six zones of 4, I now have four zones of 5 and one zone of 4 students. I’ve taught now four days in this configuration, and the relief is almost palpable. I put up tables around the backside of the couches, which makes it a lot more convenient for students to work and eat. I can’t tell you what a relief this has been. The classroom set up is a stressful thing each year, and now I’ve actually got room to spare. I could squeeze in another 10 or so if it were necessary.
But please don’t ask me to do it. :D
Anyway, for this lesson I decided to hit Lehi’s promise to his grandchildren and Nephi’s psalm pretty hard. I explained to the class that Lehi made a promise to his grandchildren that affected them from then — 570BC — all the way to now. It’s found in 2 Nephi 4:3–7. I spent some time explaining that Lehi knows that his grandchildren would be righteous if they were taught the right way, but Lehi knows that Laman, Lemuel, and others will not. He promises them they will be preserved, and their parents will be cursed for failing to teach them the right way.
I had to be a little careful here. The lesson manual suggested a discussion on the role of parents, but because of my investigators, I didn’t want to get into a debate or hurt any feelings saying that THEIR parents might be cursed for not teaching them the gospel. You must have the gospel in order to be held accountable for not teaching it. It’s a qualifier that weakens the message, so I decided to put the emphasis on the effect of false teachings rather than the condemnation of wicked parents.
I used a worksheet that I based on the ideas in Teaching the Book of Mormon Part One to help the students study the Psalm of Nephi and personalize it to themselves. I explained that we wouldn’t necessarily share the things they wrote unless they wanted to share. Here’s a link to the worksheet. Basically it groups the Psalm into three sections and has the kids apply it to their own lives.
After the worksheet, I wrapped up by teaching the kids that when I was young that section was called Nephi’s Lament. Now they call it Nephi’s Psalm, which really does fit it better. We don’t have any proof or evidence that Nephi set his words to music, but the BYU Men’s Chorus has done so in a beautiful arrangement called I Love the Lord. I was confident it would touch them, and it did:
The kids were very solemn after hearing this and a few teared up. Even my own son got a little bleary eyed. This was a song I heard about on the LDS Seminary Teacher’s Facebook group — I can’t say how grateful I am for the ideas I get there.
I wrapped up early and talked with the Bishop. I was glad to tell him I was feeling better, and it was good for him to come see our class himself to appreciate what we are doing and how.
My first investigator got baptized the day after this lesson. As luck would have it (or maybe my class president chose wisely) he got to give his first prayer during class this morning. I was really proud of him. After talking with his stepmom at the baptism, there is no question that there are angels working behind the scenes to get this kid into the church. He is very excited to get the priesthood, and he even went on a temple trip with our ward on Columbus day even though he just hung out in the Visitor’s Center. Cool kid.